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Introduction: Worldwide, a shortage of skilled health workers has prompted a shift toward community-based health workers taking on greater responsibility in the provision of select maternal and newborn health services. Research in mid- and high-income settings suggests that coworker collaboration increases productivity and performance. A major gap in this research, however, is the exploration of factors that influence teamwork among diverse community health worker cadres in rural, low-resource settings. The purpose of this study is to examine how sociodemographic and structural factors shape teamwork among community-based maternal and newborn health workers in Ethiopia.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with health extension workers, community health development agents, and traditional birth attendants in 3 districts of the West Gojam Zone in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. Communities were randomly selected from Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership (MaNHEP) sites; health worker participants were recruited using a snowball sampling strategy. Fractional logic modeling and average marginal effects analyses were carried out to identify the influential factors for frequency of work interactions with each cadre.
Results: One hundred and ninety-four health workers participated in the study. A core set of factors trust in coworkers, gender, and cadre—were influential for teamwork across groups. Greater geographic distance and perception of self-interested motivations were barriers to interactions with health extension workers, while greater food insecurity (a proxy for wealth) was associated with increased interactions with traditional birth attendants.
Discussion: Interventions that promote trust and gender sensitivity and improve perceptions of health worker motivations may help bridge the gap in health services delivery between low- and high-resource settings. Inter-cadre training may be one mechanism to increase trust and respect among diverse health workers, thereby increasing collaboration. Large-scale, longitudinal research is needed to understand how changes in trust, gender norms, and perceptions of motivations influence teamwork over time.