Background: Malaria continues to be a prominent global public health challenge. This study tested the effectiveness of two service delivery models for reducing the malaria burden, e.g. supportive supervision of community health workers (CHW) and community mobilization in promoting appropriate health-seeking behaviour for febrile illnesses in Odisha, India.
Methods: The study population comprised 120 villages from two purposively chosen malaria-endemic districts, with 40 villages randomly assigned to each of the two treatment arms, one with both supportive supervision and community mobilization and one with community mobilization alone, as well as an observational control arm. Outcome measures included changes in the utilization of bed nets and timely care-seeking for fever from a trained provider compared to the control group. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.
Results: Significant improvements were observed in the reported utilization of bed nets in both intervention arms (84.5% in arm A and 82.4% in arm B versus 78.6% in the control arm; p < 0.001). While overall rates of treatment-seeking were equal across study arms, treatment-seeking from a CHW was higher in both intervention arms (28%; p = 0.005 and 27.6%; p = 0.007) than in the control arm (19.2%). Fever cases were significantly more likely to visit a CHW and receive a timely diagnosis of fever in the combined interventions arm than in the control arm (82.1% vs. 67.1%; p = 0.025). Care-seeking from trained providers also increased with a substitution away from untrained providers. Further, fever cases from the combined interventions arm (60.6%; p = 0.004) and the community mobilization arm (59.3%; p = 0.012) were more likely to have received treatment from a skilled provider within 24 hours than fever cases from the control arm (50.1%). In particular, women from the combined interventions arm were more likely to have received timely treatment from a skilled provider (61.6% vs. 47.2%; p = 0.028).
Conclusion: A community-based intervention combining the supportive supervision of community health workers with intensive community mobilization and can be effective in improving care-seeking and preventive behaviour and may be used to strengthen the national malaria control programme.