Unlocking Trust in Community Health Systems: Lessons From the Lymphatic Filariasis Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Pilot Project in Luangwa District, Zambia

Int J Health Policy Manag. 2021 Sep 20. doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2021.133. Online ahead of print.


Background: Surgery for hydrocele is commonly promoted as part of morbidity management and disability prevention (MMDP) services for lymphatic filariasis (LF). However, uptake of these surgeries has been suboptimal owing to several community level barriers that have triggered mistrust in such services. This study aimed at documenting mechanisms of unlocking trust in community health systems (CHSs) in the context of a LF hydrocele management project that was implemented in Luangwa District, Zambia.

Methods: Qualitative data was collected through in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) (n=45) in February 2020 in Luangwa District. Thirty-one IDIs were conducted with hydrocele patients, community health workers (CHWs), health workers, traditional leaders and traditional healers. Two FGDs were also conducted with CHWs who had been involved in project implementation with seven participants per group. Data was analyzed using a thematic analysis approach.

Results: The use of locally appropriate communication strategies, development of community driven referral systems, working with credible community intermediaries as well as strengthening health systems capacity through providing technical and logistical support enhanced trust in surgery for hydrocele and uptake of the surgeries.

Conclusion: Implementation of community led communication and referral systems as well as strengthening health services are vital in unlocking trust in health systems as such mechanisms trigger authentic partnerships, including mutual respect and recognition in the CHS. The mechanisms also enhance confidence in health services among community members.

Keywords: Community Health Systems; Disability Prevention; Hydrocele; Morbidity Management; Trust; Zambia.