Lay Health Workers’ Experiences in Task-Sharing (LETS)

Funding agency: Fulbright Program, USA
Duration: January 2017 to August 2017
Research investigator: Ms Sheena Wood
Supervisors: Dr Abhijit Nadkarni, Ms Urvita Bhatia, and Ryan McBain (Partners In
Health, USA)
Host institute: Sangath, Goa (India)

Throughout the developing world, there is an overwhelming shortage of highly trained mental healthcare workers (e.g. psychiatrists, psychologists) who can deliver evidence-based mental health interventions. Sangath has been an innovator in the model of care known as “task-sharing,??? in which lay health workers (LHWs, community members with no prior training or qualifications in mental health) are trained to deliver basic mental healthcare in a range of settings. Studies examining this model often measure success or impact through data such as the number of patients identified and change in clinical outcomes, and rarely explore the day-to-day experiences of LHWs. Wherever qualitative data is collected in such studies, the focus is often on the experiences of delivering the particular intervention rather than on the lived experience of being a LHW in a culture where healthcare remains dominated by medical professionals. Yet, these men and women (LHWs) are the backbone of mental healthcare delivery in many low-resource settings and will continue to remain so at least in the near future. Hence, we need to know more about their experiences of being a point of first and often-repeated contact for people with mental illnesses.

The LETS project aims to explore the challenges and facilitators that LHWs experience in their role through a qualitative study. LHWs and key stakeholders will be interviewed across programs that use lay health workers to deliver mental health interventions in Sangath and other organisations across India.

This project has the potential to lay the groundwork for further research in evaluating lay health workers’ experiences in task-sharing. Overall, the information gained from this project could lead to enhancing LHWs’ work experiences and consequently ensuring that the highest quality of care is delivered to patients.

For more information contact arg@sangath.in