The Promise And Challenges Of Local Health Governance In Cambodia
Village Malaria Workers (VMWs) play an important role in the prevention and treatment of malaria as frontline volunteers in Cambodia, a nation implementing decentralisation initiatives and that is reliant on task shifting to address health worker shortages. Studying the performance of VMWs and understanding the social capital that they are able to mobilise, including enabling and reinforcing factors while fighting malaria in Cambodia’s Pailin province, will benefit performance enhancement and program scale up. This dissertation examines the factors associated with the perceived performance of VMWs, which has the potential to provide practical guidance for Cambodian health system managers and local health practitioners to capitalize on locally-available human resources to implement their health initiatives as per the country’s decentralisation plans. The study was done in 2 districts of Pailin province in Cambodia. The findings were based on 35 semi-structured surveys, 13 key informant interviews, 6 focus group discussions, 3 group interviews and 2 in-depth interviews covering VMWS and stakeholders from the commune council, village health support groups, health center management committee, provincial health offices, a referral hospital, a pharmacy, village chiefs, and administrative officials. The interviews and discussions were conducted using set guides, which allowed for flexibility and asking for follow-up questions as well as probing for more information and clarification. Pre-determined themes were used in designing the instruments, and data from the survey, focus groups, and interviews were thematically coded for manual data analysis. This study showed that VMWs’ performance is affected by a variety of factors that emerge from the complex context in which they work. These include socio-demographic variables; their health system knowledge; access to enabling and reinforcing factors, including family and social support; personal motivation; resource availability, including budget, supplies, and equipment; ways of being selected; access to learning, training and capacity-building opportunities; and institutional communication and implementation of decentralised health program. Factors such as perceived corruption also were seen to affect VMW’s performance. The participants suggested various ways to address these challenges. In order to improve the performance of VMWs, people’s participation in all local governance arms, including the CC, VHSG, HCMC and the HC, needs to be strengthened. The roles and expectations regarding citizen participation need to be clarified using simple messages. Training and capacity-building support needs to be made available for learning key new skills as relevant. The equipment and supplies necessary for work as well as adequate reimbursement of transportation allowances need to be provided along with instilling a proper system of VMW supervision and mentoring that adequately recognises those that are high performing. Targeted capacity assessments for VMWs and the VHSG, HC and HCMC need to be undertaken followed by needed training and mentoring in order to address areas that need further support to enhance productivity. A volunteer selection process needs to follow the rules described in the CPP policy ensuring deliberate attempts to open up entry points for public service to those that have been excluded on the basis of formal qualifications, lack of kinship, or political affiliation.