Do Incentivised Community Workers in Informal Settlements Influence Maternal and Infant Health in Urban India?
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JournalPublic Health Action
AbstractSetting: The introduction of accredited social health activists (ASHAs, community workers) in the community is encouraged by the Government of India as being of universal benefit for maternal and infant health. Objectives: In two informal settlements in Chandigarh, India, one with ASHAs and the other without, we assessed 1) whether ASHAs influenced certain selected maternal and infant health indicators, and 2) perceptions among women who did not contact the ASHAs. Design: This was a mixed-methods study conducted from April 2013 to March 2016 using quantitative (retrospective programme data) and qualitative (free-listing) components. Results: The increase in institutional deliveries from 2013 to 2015 was marginal, and was similar in both areas (86-99% in the settlement with ASHAs and 88-97% in the settlement without). Bacille Calmette-Guérin and pentavalent vaccination coverage were close to 100% in both areas during the 3 years of the study. Antenatal registration in the first trimester increased from 49% to 52% in the settlement with ASHAs and from 53% to 71% in the settlement without. Between 18% and 35% of women did not complete at least three antenatal visits. 'Not knowing ASHAs' and 'not feeling a need for ASHAs' were the main reasons for not using their services. Conclusion: While success has been achieved for institutional deliveries and immunisation coverage even without the ASHAs, their presence plays an important role in improving antenatal indicators.