Health extension workers' and mothers' attitudes to maternal health service utilization and acceptance in Adwa Woreda, Tigray Region, Ethiopia

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Background The maternal health system in Ethiopia links health posts in rural communities (kebeles) with district (woreda) health centres, and health centres with primary hospitals. At each health post two Health Extension Workers (HEWs) assist women with birth preparedness, complication readiness, and mobilize communities to facilitate timely referral to mid-level service providers. This study explored HEWs’ and mother’s attitudes to maternal health services in Adwa Woreda, Tigray Region. Methods In this qualitative study, we trained 16 HEWs to interview 45 women to gain a better understanding of the social context of maternal health related behaviours. Themes included barriers to health services; women’s social status and mobility; and women’s perceptions of skilled birth attendant’s care. All data were analyzed thematically. Findings There have been substantial efforts to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality in Adwa Woreda. Women identified barriers to healthcare including distance and lack of transportation due to geographical factors; the absence of many husbands due to off-woreda farming; traditional factors such as zwar (some pregnant women are afraid of meeting other pregnant women), and discouragement from mothers and mothers-in-law who delivered their children at home. Some women experienced disrespectful care at the hospital. Facilitators to skilled birth attendance included: identification of pregnant women through Women’s Development Groups (WDGs), and referral by ambulance to health facilities either before a woman’s Expected Due Date (EDD) or if labour started at home. Conclusion With the support of WDGs, HEWs have increased the rate of skilled birth attendance by calling ambulances to transfer women to health centres either before their EDD or when labour starts at home. These findings add to the growing body of evidence that health workers at the community level can work with women’s groups to improve maternal health, thus reducing the need for emergency obstetric care in low-income countries.




Jackson, R., Tesfay, F. H., Godefay, H., & Gebrehiwot, T. G. (2016). Health extension workers’ and mothers’ attitudes to maternal health service utilization and acceptance in Adwa Woreda, Tigray Region, Ethiopia. PLoS ONE, 11(3).

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