Towards Promotion of Community rewards to Volunteer Community Health Workers? Lessons from Experiences of Village Health Teams in Luwero, Uganda

Emmanueil Benon Turinawe, Jude T. Rwemisisi, Laban K. Musinguzi, Marije de Groot, Denis Muhangi, David K. Mafigiri, Daniel H. de Vries, Robert Pool


In the debate regarding volunteer Community Health Workers (CHWs) some argue that lack of remuneration is exploitation while others caution that any promise to pay volunteers will decrease the volunteer spirit. In this paper we discuss the possibility of community rewards for CHWs. Ethnographic fieldwork that lasted 18 months utilised methods including participant observation, FGDs, in-depth interviews and key informant interviews to gain insight into the dynamic relationship between volunteer CHWs known as Village Health Teams (VHTs) and the community. Contextual transcription was done and data was thematically analysed. Findings show that community members are willing to reward volunteer CHWs with cash, material and symbolic rewards in appreciation for their help. Factors crucial for this gesture included: care and recognition of the VHTs’ work by medical staff, fulfilment of the promises made to the community by government and exemplary behaviour by CHWs. Therefore, effort should be made to facilitate volunteer CHWs to be seen as helpful to their communities. Especially, there needs to be a smooth operation at the intersection between the VHTs, local government and medical structures. Community rewards could be a more sustainable way of motivating CHWs while a solution to health personnel shortage is sought.

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