What is the impact of removing performance-based financial incentives on community health worker motivation? A qualitative study from an infant and young child feeding program in Bangladesh

BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Sep 17;21(1):979. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-06996-y.


Background: Community health worker (CHW) motivation is an important factor related to health service quality and CHW program sustainability in low- and middle-income countries. Financial and non-financial motivators may influence CHW behavior through two dimensions of motivation: desire to perform and effort expended. The aim of this study was to explore how the removal of performance-based financial incentives impacted CHW motivation after formal funding ceased for Alive and Thrive (A&T), an infant and young child feeding (IYCF) program in Bangladesh.

Methods: This qualitative study included seven focus groups (n = 43 respondents) with paid supervisors of volunteer CHWs tasked with delivering interpersonal IYCF counseling services. Data were transcribed, translated into English, and then analyzed using both a priori themes and a grounded theory approach.

Results: Results suggest the removal of financial incentives was perceived to have negatively impacted CHWs' desire to perform in three primary ways: 1) a decreased desire to work without financial compensation, 2) changes in pre- and post-intervention motivation, and 3) household income challenges due to dependence on incentives. Removal of financial incentives was perceived to have negatively impacted CHWs' level of effort expended in four primary ways: 1) a reduction in CHW visits, 2) a reduction in quality of care, 3) CHW attrition, and 4) substitution of other income-generating activities.

Conclusions: This study provides new evidence regarding how removing performance-based financial incentives from a CHW program can negatively impact CHW motivation. The findings suggest that program decision makers should consider how to construct community health work programs such that CHWs may continue to receive performance-based compensation after the original funding ceases.

Keywords: Child health; Community health worker; Financial incentives; Health systems; Health workforce; Motivation.

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh
  • Child
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Motivation*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Volunteers