Background: In Uganda, community services for febrile children are expanding from presumptive treatment of fever with anti-malarials through the home-based management of fever (HBMF) programme, to include treatment for malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia through Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM). To understand the level of support available, and the capacity and motivation of community health workers to deliver these expanded services, we interviewed community medicine distributors (CMDs), who had been involved in the HBMF programme in Tororo district, shortly before ICCM was adopted.
Methods: Between October 2009 and April 2010, 100 CMDs were recruited to participate by convenience sampling. The survey included questionnaires to gather information about the CMDs' work experience and to assess knowledge of fever case management, and in-depth interviews to discuss experiences as CMDs including motivation, supervision and relationships with the community. All questionnaires and knowledge assessments were analysed. Summary contact sheets were made for each of the 100 interviews and 35 were chosen for full transcription and analysis.
Results: CMDs faced multiple challenges including high patient load, limited knowledge and supervision, lack of compensation, limited drugs and supplies, and unrealistic expectations of community members. CMDs described being motivated to volunteer for altruistic reasons; however, the main benefits of their work appeared related to 'becoming someone important', with the potential for social mobility for self and family, including building relationships with health workers. At the time of the survey, over half of CMDs felt demotivated due to limited support from communities and the health system.
Conclusions: Community health worker programmes rely on the support of communities and health systems to operate sustainably. When this support falls short, motivation of volunteers can wane. If community interventions, in increasingly complex forms, are to become the solution to improving access to primary health care, greater attention to what motivates individuals, and ways to strengthen health system support are required.
Keywords: Malaria; Uganda; case management; community health; community health volunteers; community health workers; community medicine distributors; health workers; motivation.
Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine © The Author 2014.