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Glob Health Sci Pract. 2015 Sep 15;3(3):370-81. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-15-00052. Print 2015 Sep.

Care Groups II: A Summary of the Child Survival Outcomes Achieved Using Volunteer Community Health Workers in Resource-Constrained Settings.

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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
ICF International (Maternal and Child Survival Program), Washington, DC, USA.
Feed the Children, Oklahoma City, OK, USA.
Food for the Hungry, Washington, DC, USA.
Concern Worldwide/US, New York, NY, USA.
World Relief/Mozambique, Chokwe, Mozambique.


The Care Group approach, described in detail in a companion paper in this journal, uses volunteers to convey health promotion messages to their neighbors. This article summarizes the available evidence on the effectiveness of the Care Group approach, drawing on articles published in the peer-reviewed literature as well as data from unpublished but publicly available project evaluations and summary analyses of these evaluations. When implemented by strong international NGOs with adequate funding, Care Groups have been remarkably effective in increasing population coverage of key child survival interventions. There is strong evidence that Care Groups can reduce childhood undernutrition and reduce the prevalence of diarrhea. Finally, evidence from multiple sources, comprising independent assessments of mortality impact, vital events collected by Care Group Volunteers themselves, and analyses using the Lives Saved Tool (LiST), that Care Groups are effective in reducing under-5 mortality. For example, the average decline in under-5 mortality, estimated using LiST, among 8 Care Group projects was 32%. In comparison, among 12 non-Care Group child survival projects, the under-5 mortality declined, on average, by an estimated 11%. Care Group projects cost in the range of US$3-$8 per beneficiary per year. The cost per life saved is in the range of $441-$3,773, and the cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted is in the range of $15-$126. The Care Group approach, when implemented as described, appears to be highly cost-effective based on internationally accepted criteria. Care Groups represent an important and promising innovative, low-cost approach to increasing the coverage of key child survival interventions in high-mortality, resource-constrained settings. Next steps include further specifying the adjustments needed in government health systems to successfully incorporate the Care Group approach, testing the feasibility of these adjustments and of the effectiveness of Care Groups in pilot programs in government health systems, and finally assessing effectiveness at scale under routine field conditions in government health programs.

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