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Hum Resour Health. 2012 Aug 13;10:20. doi: 10.1186/1478-4491-10-20.

A systematic review of the effectiveness of alternative cadres in community based rehabilitation.

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  • 1Centre for Global Health & School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.



The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim to improve population health and the quality and dignity of people's lives, but their achievement is constrained by the crisis in human resources for health. An important potential contribution towards achieving the MDGs for persons with disabilities will be the newly developed Guidelines for Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), launched in 2010. Given the global shortage of medical and nursing personnel and highly skilled rehabilitation practitioners, effective implementation of the CBR guidelines will require additional health workers, with improved distribution and a new skill set, allowing them to work across the health, education, livelihoods, social, and development sectors.


We conducted a systematic review to evaluate existing evidence regarding the effectiveness of alternative cadres working in CBR in low and middle income countries. We searched the following databases: PUBMED, LILACS, SCIE, ISMEAR, WHOLIS, AFRICAN MED IND. We also searched the online archive of the Asia Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal (available from 2002 to 2010), which was not covered by any of the other databases. There was no limit set on inclusion with regard to how recent a publication was in the general search.


The search yielded 235 abstracts, only 6 of which addressed CBR through some type of evaluative component. Three of the studies explored the effects of CBR interventions, mainly related to physical disabilities, while three explored issues concerned with the work performance of rehabilitation workers. Altogether the studies covered four different countries.


All six studies related to specific service delivery in local contexts, using outcome measures that were not comparable across studies. We do not, therefore, feel that the current results provide adequate methodology or evidence for reliably generalizing their results. Due to the dearth of evidence regarding the effectiveness of alternative cadres in CBR, systematic research is needed on the training, performance and impacts of rehabilitation workers, including their capability of working across sectors and engaging with and making use of health systems research.

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