Listening to community health workers: how ethnographic research can inform positive relationships among community health workers, health institutions, and communities

Am J Public Health. 2014 May;104(5):e5-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301907. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Many actors in global health are concerned with improving community health worker (CHW) policy and practice to achieve universal health care. Ethnographic research can play an important role in providing information critical to the formation of effective CHW programs, by elucidating the life histories that shape CHWs' desires for alleviation of their own and others' economic and health challenges, and by addressing the working relationships that exist among CHWs, intended beneficiaries, and health officials. We briefly discuss ethnographic research with 3 groups of CHWs: volunteers involved in HIV/AIDS care and treatment support in Ethiopia and Mozambique and Lady Health Workers in Pakistan. We call for a broader application of ethnographic research to inform working relationships among CHWs, communities, and health institutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy
  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Career Choice
  • Community Health Workers / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Workers / psychology*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Ethiopia
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Motivation
  • Mozambique
  • Pakistan
  • Policy
  • Professional-Patient Relations