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1.  The role of health extension workers in improving utilization of maternal health services in rural areas in Ethiopia: a cross sectional study 
Background
Community health workers are widely used to provide care for a broad range of health issues. Since 2003 the government of Ethiopia has been deploying specially trained new cadres of community based health workers named health extension workers (HEWs). This initiative has been called the health extension program. Very few studies have investigated the role of these community health workers in improving utilization of maternal health services.
Methods
A cross sectional survey of 725 randomly selected women with under-five children from three districts in Northern Ethiopia. We investigated women’s utilization of family planning, antenatal care, birth assistance, postnatal care, HIV testing and use of iodized salt and compared our results to findings of a previous national survey from 2005. In addition, we investigated the association between several variables and utilization of maternal health services using logistic regression analysis.
Results
HEWs have contributed substantially to the improvement in women’s utilization of family planning, antenatal care and HIV testing. However, their contribution to the improvement in health facility delivery, postnatal check up and use of iodized salt seems insignificant. Women who were literate (OR, 1.85), listened to the radio (OR, 1.45), had income generating activities (OR, 1.43) and had been working towards graduation or graduated as model family (OR, 2.13) were more likely to demonstrate good utilization of maternal health services. A model family is by definition a family which has fulfilled all the packages of the HEP.
Conclusions
The HEWs seem to have substantial contribution in several aspects of utilization of maternal health services but their insignificant contribution in improving health facility delivery and skilled birth attendance remains an important problem. More effort is needed to improve the effectiveness of HEWs in these regards. For example, strengthening HEWs’ support for pregnant women for birth planning and preparedness and referral from HEWs to midwives at health centers should be strengthened. In addition, women’s participation in income generating activities, access to radio and education could be targets for future interventions.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-352
PMCID: PMC3496586  PMID: 23043288
Health extension workers; Community health workers; Utilization; Maternal health services; Income generating activities
2.  Missed opportunities for participation in prevention of mother to child transmission programmes: Simplicity of nevirapine does not necessarily lead to optimal uptake, a qualitative study 
Background
The objective of this study was to examine missed opportunities for participation in a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme in three sites in South Africa. A rapid anthropological assessment was used to collect in-depth data from 58 HIV-positive women who were enrolled in a larger cohort study to assess mother-to-child HIV transmission. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the women in order to gain an understanding of their experiences of antenatal care and to identify missed opportunities for participation in PMTCT.
Results
15 women actually missed their nevirapine not because of stigma and ignorance but because of health systems failures. Six were not tested for HIV during antenatal care. Two were tested but did not receive their results. Seven were tested and received their results, but did not receive nevirapine. Health Systems failure for these programme leakages ranged from non-availability of counselors, supplies such as HIV test kits, consent forms, health staff giving the women incorrect instructions about when to take the tablet and health staff not supplying the women with the tablet to take.
Conclusion
HIV testing enables access to PMTCT interventions and should therefore be strengthened. The single dose nevirapine regimen is simple to implement but the all or nothing nature of the regimen may result in many missed opportunities. A short course dual or triple drug regimen could increase the effectiveness of PMTCT programmes.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-4-27
PMCID: PMC2211501  PMID: 18034877

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