ASHAs can help address lifestyle diseases with training & incentive: study

A new study has highlighted that Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), the grassroots level health workers, can deliver care for non-communicable diseases if they were provided with appropriate training and paid adequately.

At present, though ASHAs are identified as part of the National Program for Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes, Cancer and Stroke at the policy level, they are not recognized as part of its formal service delivery team on the ground.

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The study found that ASHAs feel overburdened, as they work as part-time volunteers in the health system and deliver several activities under the programme on top of their routine primary care workload, without receiving remuneration for the non-communicable disease-related activities. The George Institute for Global Health conducted the study in Andhra Pradesh.

The lead author of the study, Marwa Abdel-All, said the study has also highlighted the importance of monitoring and support, with evaluation and career development options for ASHAs. “We found adequate recognition and integration of the community health workers into the health system, functional infrastructure, and clear role description to be key enablers to optimize their efficiency. The central government should commit itself towards the development and capacity building of ASHAs for non-communicable disease control,” she added.

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Prof Vivek Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute India, said, “As the range of services provided by ASHAs expands, there will be a debate on whether to increase their numbers or to create a separate cadre specific to non-communicable diseases. However, in empowering ASHAs for more responsibilities, knowledge, and skills, it is important that they get remunerated for the services and continue to be embedded in the community so that they leverage the strong relationship that is necessary to effectively provide healthcare across the life course.”

The study results have been published in the journal Human Resources for Health.

Read the full study here: What do Accredited Social Health Activists need to provide comprehensive care that incorporates non-communicable diseases? Findings from a qualitative study in Andhra Pradesh, India.

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Sunderarajan Padmanabhan is a contributor at India Science Wire.

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