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Perspect Public Health. 2014 Sep;134(5):276-82. doi: 10.1177/1757913914543446.

Community health worker programs in India: a rights-based review.

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Ashavani, Greeshma Residency II, Opposite Dyana Sadhana School, Thane, Maharashtra, India


This article presents a historical review of national community health worker (CHW) programs in India using a gender- and rights-based lens. The aim is to derive relevant policy implications to stem attrition and enable sustenance of large-scale CHW programs. For the literature review, relevant government policies, minutes of meetings, reports, newspaper articles and statistics were accessed through official websites and a hand search was conducted for studies on the rights-based aspects of large-scale CHW programs. The analysis shows that the CHWs in three successive Indian national CHW programs have consistently asked for reforms in their service conditions, including increased remuneration. Despite an evolution in stakeholder perspectives regarding the rights of CHWs, service reforms are slow. Performance-based payments do not provide the financial security expected by CHWs as demonstrated in the recent Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) program. In most countries, CHWs, who are largely women, have never been integrated into the established, salaried team of health system workers. The two hallmark characteristics of CHWs, namely, their volunteer status and the flexibility of their tasks and timings, impede their rights. The consequences of initiating or neglecting standardization should be considered by all countries with large-scale CHW programs like the ASHA program.


Accredited Social Health Activists; Community health workers; performance-based payments; rights; service reforms

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