Background: We assessed overall annual and unit cost of delivering package of services and specific services at sub-centre level by CHWs and cost effectiveness of Government of India's policy of introducing a second auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) at the sub-centre compared to scenario of single ANM sub-centre.
Methods: We undertook an economic costing of health services delivered by CHWs, from a health system perspective. Bottom-up costing method was used to collect data on resources spent in 50 randomly selected sub-centres selected from 4 districts. Mean unit cost along with its 95% confidence intervals were estimated using bootstrap method. Multiple linear regression model was used to standardize cost and assess its determinants.
Results: Annually it costs INR 1.03 million (USD 19,381), or INR 187 (USD 3.5) per capita per year, to provide a package of preventive, curative and promotive services through community health workers. Unit costs for antenatal care, postnatal care, DOTS treatment and immunization were INR 525 (USD 10) per full ANC care, INR 767 (USD 14) per PNC case registered, INR 974 (USD 18) per DOTS treatment completed and INR 97 (USD 1.8) per child immunized in routine immunization respectively. A 10% increase in human resource costs results in 6% rise in per capita cost. Similarly, 10% increment in the ANC case registered per provider through-put results in a decline in unit cost ranging from 2% in the event of current capacity utilization to 3% reduction in case of full capacity utilization. Incremental cost of introducing 2nd ANM at sub-centre level per unit percent increase ANC coverage was INR 23,058 (USD 432).
Conclusion: Our estimates would be useful in undertaking full economic evaluations or equity analysis of CHW programs. Government of India's policy of hiring 2nd ANM at sub-centre level is very cost effective from Indian health system perspective.