Background: Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) can be effective in improving pregnancy and newborn outcomes through community education. Inadequate supervision of CHVs, whether due to poor planning, irregular visits, or ineffective supervisory methods, is, however, recognized as a weakness in many programs. There has been little research on best practice supervisory or accompaniment models.
Methods: From March 2014 to February 2015 a proof of concept study was conducted to compare training alone versus training and supportive supervision by paid CHWs (n = 4) on the effectiveness of CHVs (n = 82) to deliver education about pregnancy, newborn care, family planning and hygiene. The pair-matched cluster randomized trial was conducted in eight villages (four intervention and four control) in Budondo sub-county in Jinja, Uganda.
Results: Increases in desired behaviors were seen in both the intervention and control arms over the study period. Both arms showed high retention rates of CHVs (95 %). At 1 year follow-up there was a significantly higher prevalence of installed and functioning tippy taps for hand washing (p < 0.002) in the intervention villages (47 %) than control villages (35 %). All outcome and process measures related to home-visits to homes with pregnant women and newborn babies favored the intervention villages. The CHVs in both groups implemented what they learnt and were role models in the community.
Conclusions: A team of CHVs and CHWs can facilitate families accessing reproductive health care by addressing cultural norms and scientific misconceptions. Having a team of 2 CHWs to 40 CHVs enables close to community access to information, conversation and services. Supportive supervision involves creating a non-threatening, empowering environment in which both the CHV and the supervising CHW learn together and overcome obstacles that might otherwise demotivate the CHV. While the results seem promising for added value with supportive supervision for CHVs undertaking reproductive health activities, further research on a larger scale will be needed to substantiate the effect.
Keywords: Accompaniment; CHVs; CHWs; Community Health Volunteers; Community Health Workers; Empowerment; Maternal and Newborn Health; Neonatal health; Pregnancy; Supportive supervision.