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The Indian National Program for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Cancer and Stroke (NPCDCS) was introduced to provide non-communicable disease (NCD) care through primary healthcare teams including Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs). Since ASHAs are being deployed to provide NCD care on top of their regular work for the first time, there is a need to understand the current capacity and challenges faced by them.
A desktop review of NPCDCS and ASHA policy documents was conducted. This was followed by group discussions with ASHAs, in-depth interviews with their supervisors and medical officers and group discussions with community members in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. The multi-stakeholder data were analysed for themes related to needs, capacity, and challenges of ASHAs in providing NCD services.
This study identified three key themes—first, ASHAs are unrecognised as part of the formal NPCDCS service delivery team. Second, they are overburdened, since they deliver several NPCDCS activities without receiving training or remuneration. Third, they aspire to be formally recognised as employees of the health system. However, ASHAs are enthusiastic about the services they provide and remain an essential link between the health system and the community.
ASHAs play a key role in providing comprehensive and culturally appropriate care to communities; however, they are unrecognised and overburdened and aspire to be part of the health system. ASHAs have the potential to deliver a broad range of services, if supported by the health system appropriately.
The study was registered with “Clinical Trials Registry – India” (identifier CTRI/2018/03/012425).