Background: In resource-constrained settings of developing countries, promotion of community-based health interventions through community health workers (CHWs) is an important strategy to improve child health. However, there are concerns about the sustainability of such programmes owing to the high rate of CHW attrition. This study examined factors influencing retention of volunteer CHWs in a cluster randomised trial on community management of under-5 fever in a rural Ghanaian district.
Methods: Data were obtained from structured interviews (n=520) and focus group discussions (n=5) with CHWs. Factors influencing CHWs' decisions to remain or leave the programme were analysed using a probit model, and focus group discussion results were used to elucidate the findings.
Results: The attrition rate among CHWs was 21.2%. Attrition was comparatively higher in younger age groups (25.9% in 15-25 years group, 18.2% in 26-45 years group and 16.5% in ≥46 years group). Approval of a CHW by the community (p<0.001) and the CHW's immediate family (p<0.05) were significant in influencing the probability of remaining in the programme. Motivation for retention was related to the desire to serve their communities as well as humanitarian and religious reasons.
Conclusion: The relatively moderate rate of attrition could be attributed to the high level of community involvement in the selection process as well as other aspects of the intervention leading to high community approval and support. Attention for these aspects could help improve CHW retention in community-based health interventions in Ghana, and the lessons could be applied to countries within similar settings.
Keywords: Attrition; Community health workers; Community management; Fevers; Ghana; Retention.
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