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1.  More than a checklist: a realist evaluation of supervision of mid-level health workers in rural Guatemala 
Mid-level health workers (MLHWs) form the front-line of service delivery in many low- and middle-income countries. Supervision is a critical institutional intervention linking their work to the health system, and it consists of activities intended to support health workers’ motivation and enable them to perform. However its impact depends not only on the frequency of these activities but also how they are carried out and received. This study aims to deepen understanding of the mechanisms through which supervision activities support the performance of auxiliary nurses, a cadre of MLHWs, in rural Guatemala.
A multiple case study was conducted to examine the operation of supervision of five health posts using a realist evaluation approach. A program theory was formulated describing local understanding of how supervision activities are intended to work. Data was collected through interviews and document review to test the theory. Analysis focused on comparison of activities, outcomes, mechanisms and the influence of context across cases, leading to revision of the program theory.
The supervisor’s orientation was identified as the main mechanism contributing to variation observed in activities and their outcomes. Managerial control was the dominant orientation, reflecting the influence of standardized performance criteria and institutional culture. Humanized support was present in one case where the auxiliary nurse was motivated by the sense that the full scope of her work was valued. This orientation reflected the supervisor’s integration of her professional identity as a nurse.
The nature of the support health workers received was shaped by supervisors’ orientation, and in this study, nursing principles were central to humanized support. Efforts to strengthen the support that supervision provides to MLHWs should promote professional ethos as a means of developing shared performance goals and orient supervisors to a more holistic view of the health worker and their work.
PMCID: PMC3973852  PMID: 24602196
Mid-level health worker; Supervision; Performance; Motivation; Realist evaluation; Guatemala
2.  Assessing the technical efficiency of health posts in rural Guatemala: a data envelopment analysis 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.23190.
Strengthening health service delivery to the rural poor is an important means of redressing inequities. Meso-level managers can help enhance efficiency in the utilization of existing resources through the application of practical tools to analyze routinely collected data reflecting inputs and outputs. This study aimed to assess the efficiency and change in productivity of health posts over two years in a rural department of Guatemala.
Data envelopment analysis was used to measure health posts’ technical efficiency and productivity change for 2008 and 2009. Input/output data were collected from the regional health office of Alta Verapaz for 34 health posts from the 19 districts comprising the health region.
Technical efficiency varied widely across health posts, with mean scores of 0.78 (SD=0.24) and 0.75 (SD=0.21) in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Overall, productivity increased by 4%, though 47% of health posts experienced a decline in productivity. Results were combined on a bivariate plot to identify health posts at the high and low extremes of efficiency, which should be followed up to determine how and why their production processes are operating differently.
Assessing efficiency using the data that are available at the meso-level can serve as a first step in strengthening performance. Further work is required to support managers in the routine application of efficiency analysis and putting the results to use in guiding efforts to improve service delivery and increase utilization.
PMCID: PMC3901389  PMID: 24461356
data envelopment analysis; efficiency; Malmquist; primary health care; health services management; Guatemala
3.  Translating Community Connectedness to Practice: A Qualitative Study of Midlevel Health Workers in Rural Guatemala 
ISRN Nursing  2012;2012:648769.
Background. The performance of midlevel health workers is a critical lever for strengthening health systems and redressing inequalities in underserved areas. Auxiliary nurses form the largest cadre of health workers in Guatemala. In rural settings, they provide essential services to vulnerable communities, and thus have great potential to address priority health needs. This paper examines auxiliary nurses' motivation and satisfaction, and the coping strategies they use to respond to challenges they confront in their practice. Methods. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 auxiliary nurses delivering health services in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Results. Community connectedness was central to motivation in this rural Guatemalan setting. Participants were from rural communities and conveyed a sense of connection to the people they were serving through shared culture and their own experiences of health needs. Satisfaction was derived through recognition from the community and a sense of valuing their work. Auxiliary nurses described challenges commonly faced in low-resource settings. Findings indicated they were actively confronting these challenges through their own initiative. Conclusions. Strategies to support the performance of midlevel health workers should focus on mechanisms to make training accessible to rural residents, support problem-solving in practice, and emphasize building relationships with communities served.
PMCID: PMC3477764  PMID: 23097715
4.  ‘It’s the sense of responsibility that keeps you going’: stories and experiences of participation from rural community health workers in Guatemala 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):18.
In 1978, the Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care (PHC) recognized that the world’s health issues required more than just hospital-based and physician-centered policies. The declaration called for a paradigm change that would allow governments to provide essential care to their population in a universally acceptable manner. The figure of the community health worker (CHW) remains a central feature of participation within the PHC approach, and being a CHW is still considered to be an important way of participation within the health system.
This study explores how the values and personal motivation of community health workers influences their experience with this primary health care strategy in in the municipality of Palencia, Guatemala. To do this, we used an ethnographic approach and collected data in January-March of 2009 and 2010 by using participant observation and in-depth interviews.
We found that the CHWs in the municipality had a close working relationship with the mobile health team and with the community, and that their positions allowed them to develop leadership and teamwork skills that may prove useful in other community participation processes. The CHWs are motivated in their work and volunteerism is a key value in Palencia, but there is a lack of infrastructure and growth opportunities.
Attention should be paid to keeping the high levels of commitment and integration within the health team as well as keeping up supervision and economic funds for the program.
PMCID: PMC3464661  PMID: 22958409
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration

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