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Ethiopia has been deploying specially trained new cadres of community based health workers in urban areas of the country known as urban health extension professionals since 2009. At present, relatively little work has focused on understanding to what extent this new program is accepted and used by the community.
Both qualitative and quantitative surveys were performed from March 10, 2012 to March 25, 2012 to explore the utilization of urban health extension services in Bishoftu Town, Oromia regional state, Central Ethiopia using a cross sectional study design. Qualitative data were collected using a total of 4 focus group discussions and 26 in-depth interviews. Quantitative data were collected from 418 randomly selected households using pre-tested, structured, interviewer-administered questionnaires. Data entry and analysis were done using SPSS version 16.0. Qualitative data were analyzed thematically.
Of the 418 interviewed households, 72.8% of them had at least one service related contact with urban health extension professionals in the previous 6 month. The mean frequency of service related contact with Urban Health Extension Professionals was found to be 2.24 (±1) contacts per 6 months. The total number of households graduated as a model family in the study area was 3974 (14.3%). Though participants felt that urban health extension professionals faced community resistance at program implementation, its acceptability greatly improved in this study. Despite this, individual competencies of urban health extension professionals, availability of supply and logistic system, and the level of support from kebele officials were reported to influence the program acceptability and utilization.
The introduction of urban health extension professionals positively changed the attitude of the majority of the households involved and improved the acceptability of the program. All stake holders, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, should have supportive systems to increase the acceptability and utilization of urban health extension services.