Community-Based Health Workers in Burkina Faso: Are they ready to take on a larger role to prevent malaria in pregnancy?

Community Based Health Worker (CBHW) opinions were sought prior to establishing community delivery of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pr4egnancy in Burkina Faso. Bill Brieger, Danielle Burke, Justin Tiendrebeogo, Ousmane Badolo, Mathurin Dodo, Yacouba Savadogo, and Susan Youll report on the findings from the CBHWs at the 7th Multilateral Initiative for Malaria Meeting in Dakar.

In 2012 and 2013, World Health Organization recommended that a minimum of three doses—rather than two doses—of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp). This three-dose recommendation has made it more challenging to achieve the 85% national coverage target in Burkina Faso. Existing health services in other endemic countries have also had difficulty achieving the two-dose target. Using a formative approach, this study tested if the 85% target could be achieved by having IPTp delivered to the community through trained community-based health workers (CBHWs) who are supervised by the health system.

Existing training materials for these CBHWs outline a basic role in promoting antenatal care (ANC) and guiding communities to use curative and preventive malaria services. The question was to what extent are the CBHWs practicing what they were taught, and could training in community delivery of IPTp build on their existing roles.

Because of continuous malaria transmission, these three districts in the southern part of Burkina Faso were chosen for the intervention study: Batie, Po, and Ouargaye. Also in these three districts, community health workers have been involved in the implementation of other programs, such as immunization, malaria, nutrition, and family planning.

As part of this formative study to design the community-based IPTp intervention, semi-structured interviews were conducted with CBHWs in three health districts (Batie, Po, and Ouargaye) with a high malaria burden. In general, the Directorate of Health Promotion in the Ministry of Health encourages communities to select one male and one female CBHW, although the actual CBHWs chosen would depend on availability and literacy of the CBHW.

In each district, four centre de santé et de promotion sociale (health and social promotion centers [CSPS] were selected, and their catchment areas were divided among intervention and control groups. Effort was made to reach all CBHWs currently practicing in these 12 catchment areas. Numerical and narrative data were entered in a database and analyzed by gender based on major themes relating to ANC, pregnancy, and malaria services. Interview transcripts were manually reviewed for themes.

Of the CBHWs interviewed, a total of 62 were male and 42 were female.  Both female and male CBHWs provide advice and education to women in their villages, which may include advising women to go to the CSPS for pregnancy or ANC, family planning, immunization, or illness. Some CBHWs stated that they remind women about follow-up ANC appointments. As one female CBHW explained, “on their return [from CSPS for care], I ask [the pregnant woman] what has been said and I shall ensure they practice this.”

A male CBHW noted that he “direct[s] women, in case of amenorrhea, [to] go to CSPS to check for pregnancy, to [receive] follow[-up] care, and be in good health.” Many male CBHWs were likely to mention malaria-related activities, including education about causes and prevention of malaria. A few male CBHWs talked about helping people recognize malaria, seek treatment, and comply with recommended medicine regimens.

A few male and female CBHWs specifically mentioned encouraging women to take sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for IPTp. Some reported involvement in distributing bed nets. In contrast to the male CBHWs, some female CBHWs may even accompany women to ANC to ensure that the women receive services.

Some challenges were faced by CBHWs. At least a third of the CBHWs noted difficulties in carrying out their work, but they also had encouragements: “Acceptance by the community of my activities facilitates the task.” “Nothing is easy, but with the understanding of people, there are no problems.” While officially, CBHWs were to receive a stipend, one CBHW explained that “nothing is easy, especially that I am not paid for all these activities.” Others also noted that “for the moment, there is nothing that is easy as we lack the tools [for the job].”

CBHWs report being active in promoting the health of pregnant women and encouraging women and the community to prevent and treat malaria. Although their training stresses postnatal care, this area was not mentioned during interviews. Likewise, CBHWs did not address the danger signs of malaria in pregnancy during the interviews, which is in their training. Female CBHWs were more likely to encourage pregnant women to attend ANC at CSPS and follow up with them after the visit, while the male CBHWs were more focused on providing health information. Logistical challenges and payment of stipends need to be addressed before adding more duties for the CBHW to complete. Overall, CBHWs are positioned to deliver IPTp under the supervision of CSPS staff.

This poster was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of the Cooperative Agreement AID-OAA-A-14-00028. The contents are the responsibility of the Maternal and Child Survival Program and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, PMI, or the United States Government.

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