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Enhancing Behavior Change Skills in Health Extension Workers in Ethiopia: Evaluation of an Intervention to Improve Maternal and Infant Nutrition

Published: 10 June 2021
 by  MDPI AG
Nutrients , Volume 13; doi:10.3390/nu13061995

Abstract: Maternal and infant nutrition are problematic in areas of Ethiopia. Health extension workers (HEWs) work in Ethiopia’s primary health care system, increasing potential health service coverage, particularly for women and children, providing an opportunity for health improvement. Their roles include improving maternal and infant nutrition, disease prevention, and health education. Supporting HEWs’ practice with ‘non-clinical’ skills in behavior change and health communication can improve effectiveness. This intervention study adapted and delivered a UK-developed training intervention for Health Extension Workers (HEWs) working with the United Nations World Food Programme in Ethiopia. The intervention included communication and behavioral training adapted with local contextual information. Mixed methods evaluation focused on participants’ reaction to training, knowledge, behavior change, and skills use. Overall, 98 HEWs were trained. The intervention was positively received by HEWs. Pre-post evaluations of communication and behavior change skills found a positive impact on HEW skills, knowledge, and motivation to use skills (all p< 0.001) to change women’s nutritional behavior, also demonstrated in role-play scenarios. The study offered substantial learning about intervention delivery. Appropriate cultural adaptation and careful consideration of assessment of psychological constructs are crucial for future delivery.
Keywords: food security / food intake / eating behaviour / low- and middle-income countries / infant nutrition / behavioral intervention / staff training / health extension workers

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