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Can community health workers increase coverage of reproductive health services?

Abstract

Background Health services were severely affected during the many years of instability and conflict in Afghanistan. In recent years, substantial increases in the coverage of reproductive health services have been achieved, yet absolute levels of coverage remain very low, especially in rural areas. One strategy for increasing use of reproductive health services is deploying community health workers (CHWs) to promote the use of services within the community and at health facilities.

Methods Using a multilevel model employing data from a cross-sectional survey of 8320 households in 29 provinces of Afghanistan conducted in 2006, this study determines whether presence of a CHW in the community leads to an increase in use of modern contraceptives, skilled antenatal care and skilled birth attendance. This study further examines whether the effect varies by the sex of the CHW.

Results Results show that presence of a female CHW in the community is associated with higher use of modern contraception, antenatal care services and skilled birth attendants but presence of a male CHW is not. Community-level random effects were also significant.

Conclusions This study provides evidence that indicates that CHWs can contribute to increased use of reproductive health services and that context and CHW sex are important factors that need to be addressed in programme design.

  • Community health worker
  • multilevel analysis
  • Afghanistan
  • reproductive health
  • health impact assessment
  • measurement
  • international health
  • access to healthcare
  • environmental health
  • epidemiology
  • primary healthcare
  • public health
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