Andrea Katryn Blanchard, Tim Colbourn, Audrey Prost, Banadakoppa Manjappa Ramesh, Shajy Isac, John Anthony, Bidyadhar Dehury, Tanja A J Houweling
India’s National Health Mission has trained community health workers called Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) to visit and counsel women before and after birth. Little is known about the extent to which exposure to ASHAs’ home visits has reduced perinatal health inequalities as intended. This study aimed to examine whether ASHAs’ third trimester home visits may have contributed to equitable improvements in institutional delivery and reductions in perinatal mortality rates (PMRs) between women with varying education levels in Uttar Pradesh (UP) state, India.
Cross-sectional survey data were collected from a representative sample of 52 615 women who gave birth in the preceding 2 months in rural areas of 25 districts of UP in 2014-2015. We analysed the data using generalised linear modelling to examine the associations between exposure to home visits and education-based inequalities in institutional delivery and PMRs.
Third trimester home visits were associated with higher institutional delivery rates, in particular public facility delivery rates (adjusted risk ratio (aRR) 1.32, 95% CI 1.30 to 1.34), and to a lesser extent private facility delivery rates (aRR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.13), after adjusting for confounders. Associations were stronger among women with lower education levels. Having no compared with any third trimester home visits was associated with higher perinatal mortality (aRR 1.18, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.28). Having any versus no visits was more highly associated with lower perinatal mortality among women with lower education levels than those with the most education, and most notably among public facility births.
The results suggest that ASHAs’ home visits in the third trimester contributed to equitable improvements in institutional deliveries and lower PMRs, particularly within the public sector. Broader strategies must reinforce the role of ASHAs’ home visits in reaching the sustainable development goals of improving maternal and newborn health and leaving no one behind.
Citation: Blanchard AK, Colbourn T, Prost A, Ramesh BM, Isac S, Anthony J, Dehury B, Houweling TAJ. Associations between community health workers’ home visits and education-based inequalities in institutional delivery and perinatal mortality in rural Uttar Pradesh, India: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 12;11(7):e044835. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044835. PMID: 34253660; PMCID: PMC8276308.
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