Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The retention rates of community health worker volunteers in Dhaka

Community Health Worker in Bangladesh
SPHPM’s Khurshid Alam and Elizabeth Oliveras from FHI 360 have co-authored a study examining the retention rate of female community health workers working in Dhaka. The study sought to determine the factors leading to high dropout rates within urban slums.

Community health workers play a critical role in health services operating in developing regions with their work being crucial in meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as working to handle the workforce shortage in the healthcare sector. The volunteers work with impoverished communities where the current system is unable to address and assist the needs of the population. These programs have limited efficacy due to high dropout rates, creating a financial burden due to the need for frequent training programs for new volunteers.

Alam and Oliveras make note of a previous case-control study in Bangladesh, where female community health workers were deployed in a health based initiative in urban slums. The study identified approval from the community, monetary rewards and household responsibilities were a cause of early retention in a project.

The researchers in this study employed a prospective cohort design to determine the factors relating to community health volunteers retention in the same study following its development. They identified the remaining volunteers in the existing Bangladesh project. These workers were surveyed in December 2008 and after one year, the same group was visited and those who had since left the program were interviewed to identify the reasons for dropping out of the project.

The results indicated that 120 individuals had left after one year, a common reason being their departure from the slums. Volunteers who had the community’s support or positive feedback had a higher likelihood of remaining with the project. The researchers conclude that the reasons for retention amongst the volunteers can vary, given the time periods. Reasons that may be crucial in the initial years may no longer be relevant following the development of the initiative. They suggest that to improve retention of the community health workers, the current factors affecting program length could be altered.

Read the study in full here.

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