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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Task-shifting impact of introducing a pilot community health worker cadre into Zambia’s public sector health workforce
Volume 12
Issue 8
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers e0181740
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0181740

The Zambia Ministry of Health (MOH) recruited and trained a new cadre of Community Health Assistants (CHAs) as part of its National Community Health Strategy. The inaugural class of 307 CHAs completed one year of training in July 2012 and deployed to their communities.


The impact of the CHA program on the volume and type of health services provided at health posts and their respective referral health centers was measured with a non-randomized difference-in-differences design. Monthly health service provision data was collected for 12 months before and after CHA deployment at 8 health posts along with 8 referral health centers. The analysis controlled for seasonality, changes in non-CHA staffing, and periodic regional child health campaigns, and used facility-level fixed effects.


Deploying two CHAs to a health post did not lead to a statistically-discernible increase in services at the intervention facilities. Health services provided at referral health centers increased by 697.9 services per month (95% CI: 131.4 to 1,264.3, p = .016), and combined services (at health posts and referral health centers) increased by 848.6 services per month (95% CI: 178.2 to 1,519.1, p = .013).


In this pilot, the addition of CHAs in rural areas increased health service provision at referral health facilities and at facilities overall, shifting the burden of basic health services away from more highly trained health workers. Shifting tasks to lesser-trained, less-expensive cadres like the CHAs, policymakers can rapidly improve access to care with constrained budgets. Evaluations measuring the direct impact of lower level cadres without accounting for task-shifting may underestimate their contribution to the health workforce.

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