Community Health Workers in Diabetes Prevention and Management in Developing Countries

Ann Glob Health. 2017 May-Aug;83(3-4):661-675. doi: 10.1016/j.aogh.2017.10.009. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Background: There is limited evidence regarding the effect of community health worker (CHW) interventions for prevention and management of the burgeoning epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The objective of this review was to critically appraise evidence regarding the effectiveness of CHW interventions for prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in LMICs.

Methods: To identify studies that reported the effect of CHW interventions for prevention and management of T2DM in LMICs, Medline/PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science (Science and Social Science Citation Indices), EBSCO (PsycINFO and CINAHL), POPLINE, the Cochrane Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders Group's Specialized Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Grey literature (Google, Google Scholar), and reference lists of identified articles were searched from inception to May 31, 2017.

Findings: Ten studies were included (4 pre- and post-studies, 2 randomized controlled trials, 2 cohort studies, 1 cross-sectional study, and 1 case-control study). The role of CHWs consisted of patient education, identification and referral of high-risk individuals to physicians, and provision of social support through home visits. Positive outcomes were reported in 7 of 10 studies. These outcomes included increased knowledge of T2DM symptoms and prevention measures; increased adoption of treatment-seeking and prevention measures; increased medication adherence; and improved fasting blood sugar, glycated hemoglobin, and body mass index. Three studies showed no significant outcomes.

Conclusions: CHWs have the potential to improve knowledge, health behavior, and health outcomes related to prevention and management of T2DM in LMICs. Given the limited number of studies included in this review, robust conclusions cannot be drawn at the present time.

Keywords: community health worker; diabetes; diabetes management; diabetes prevention; low-and middle-income countries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Professional Role*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Support*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human