Global progress in reducing maternal mortality requires improving access to maternal and child health services for the most vulnerable groups. This article reports results of implementation research that aimed to increase the acceptability of village-based ethnic minority midwives (EMMs) by local communities in Vietnam through implementing an integrated interventions package.
The study was carried out in 2 provinces in Vietnam, Dien Bien and Kon Tum. A quasi-experimental survey with pretest/posttest design was adopted, which included 6 months of intervention implementation. The interventions package included introductory “launch” meetings, monthly review meetings at community health centers, and 5-day refresher training for EMMs. A mixed-methods approach was used involving both quantitative and qualitative data. A structured questionnaire was used in the pre- and posttest surveys, complemented by in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with EMMs, relatives of pregnant women, community representatives, and health managers.
Introductions of EMMs to their local communities by local authorities and supervision of performance of EMMs contributed to significant increases in utilization of services provided by EMMs, from 58.6% to 87.7%. Key facilitators included information on how to contact EMMs, awareness of services provided by EMMs, and trust in services provided by EMMs. The main barriers to utilization of EMM services, which may affect sustainability of the EMM scheme, were low self-esteem of EMMs and small allowances to EMMs, which also affected the recognition of EMMs in the community.
Providing continuous support and integration of EMMs within frontline service provision and ensuring adequate local budget for monthly allowances are the key factors that should allow sustainability of the EMM scheme and continued improvement of access to maternal and child health care among poor ethnic minority people living in mountainous areas in Vietnam.