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Enhancing the capacity and effectiveness of community health volunteers to improve maternal, newborn and child health: Experience from Kenya

Lisa S. Avery, Elsabé du Plessis, Souradet Y. Shaw, Deepa Sankaran, Peter Njoroge, Ruth Kayima, Naomi Makau, James Munga, Maureen Kadzo, James Blanchard, Maryanne Crockett


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a simple monitoring and tracking tool, Mwanzo Mwema Monitoring and Tracking Tool (MMATT), would enable community health volunteers (CHVs) in Kenya to 1) plan their workloads and activities, 2) identify the women, newborns and children most in need of accessing critical maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) interventions and 3) improve key MNCH indicators.

METHODS: A mixed methods approach was used. Household surveys at baseline (n = 912) and endline (n = 1143) collected data on key MNCH indicators in the four subcounties of Taita Taveta County, Kenya. Eight focus group discussions were held with 40 CHVs to ascertain their perspectives on using the tool.

RESULTS: Qualitative findings revealed that the CHVs found the MMATT to be useful in planning their activities and prioritizing beneficiaries requiring more support to access MNCH services. They also identified potential barriers to care at both the community and health system levels. At endline, previously pregnant women were more likely to have received four or more antenatal care visits, facility delivery, postnatal care within two weeks of delivery and a complete package of care than baseline respondents. Among women with children under 24 months, those at endline were more likely to report early breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. These results remained after adjustment for age, subcounty, gravida, mother’s education and asset index.

CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate that simple tools enable CHVs to identify disparities in service delivery and health outcomes, and to identify barriers to MNCH care. Tools that enhance CHVs’ ability to plan and prioritize the women and children most in need increase CHVs’ potential impact.


Community health workers; maternal health; child health; Kenya; program evaluation

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