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The Malian Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health and Action Against Hunger tested the feasibility of integrating treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) into the existing Integrated Community Case Management package delivered by community health workers (CHWs). This study assessed costs and cost-effectiveness of CHW-delivered care compared to outpatient facility-based care.
Activity-based costing methods were used, and a societal perspective employed to include all relevant costs incurred by institutions, beneficiaries and communities. The intervention and control arm enrolled different numbers of children so a modelled scenario sensitivity analysis was conducted to assess the cost-effectiveness of the two arms, assuming equal numbers of children enrolled.
In the base case, with unequal numbers of children in each arm, for CHW-delivered care, the cost per child treated was 244 USD and cost per child recovered was 259 USD. Outpatient facility-based care was less cost-effective at 442 USD per child and 501 USD per child recovered. The conclusions of the analysis changed in the modelled scenario sensitivity analysis, with outpatient facility-based care being marginally more cost-effective (cost per child treated is 188 USD, cost per child recovered is 214 USD), compared to CHW-delivered care. This suggests that achieving good coverage is a key factor influencing cost-effectiveness of CHWs delivering treatment for SAM in this setting. Per week of treatment, households receiving CHW-delivered care spent half of the time receiving treatment and three times less money compared with those receiving treatment from the outpatient facility.
This study supports existing evidence that the delivery of treatment by CHWs is a cost-effective intervention, provided that good coverage is achieved. A major benefit of this strategy was the lower cost incurred by the beneficiary household when treatment is available in the community. Further research is needed on the implementation costs that would be incurred by the government to increase the operability of these results.