Performance of volunteer community health workers in implementing home-fortification interventions in Bangladesh: A qualitative investigation

  • Authors: Sarma H Jabeen I Luies SK Uddin MF Ahmed T Bossert TJ Banwell C.


"Introduction BRAC, an international development organisation based in Bangladesh, uses female volunteer community health workers called Shasthya Shebika (SS), who receive small incentives to implement its home-fortification interventions at the community level. This paper examines the individual, community and BRAC work environment factors that exert an influence on the performance of SS. Methods This qualitative study was conducted between the period of June 2014 to December 2016 as part of a larger evaluation of BRAC’s home-fortification programme. Data were collected through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews and analysed thematically. The participants were SS and their supervisors working for BRAC, caregivers of children aged 6–59 months, husbands of SS, village doctors, and Upazila Health and Family Planning Officers. Results Younger, better educated and more experienced SS with positive self-efficacy were perceived to have performed better than their peers. Social and community factors, such as community recognition of the SS’s services, social and religious norms, family support, and household distance, also affected the performance of the SS. There were several challenges at the programme and organisational level that needed to be addressed, including appropriate recruitment, timely basic training and income-generation guidance for the SS. Conclusion BRAC’s volunteer SS model faces challenges at individual, community, programme and organisational level. Importantly, BRAC’s SS require a living wage to earn essential income for their family. Considering the current socio-cultural and economic context of Bangladesh, BRAC may need to revise the existing volunteer SS model to ensure that SS receive an adequate income so that they can devote themselves to implementing its home-fortification intervention."