Community participation to improve health services for children: a methodology for a community dialogue intervention in Uganda
Background: Like other developing countries, Uganda still struggles to meaningfully reduce child mortality. A strategy of giving information to communities to spark interest in improving child survival through inducing responsibility and social sanctioning in the health workforce was postulated. By focusing on diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria, a Community and District Empow- erment for Scale up (CODES) undertaking used “community dialogues” to arm communities with health system performance information. This empowered them to monitor health service provision and demand for quality child-health services.
Methods: We describe a process of community dialoguing through use of citizen report cards, short-text-messages, media and post-dialogue monitoring. Each community dialogue assembled 70-100 members including health workers and community leaders. After each community dialogue, participants implemented activities outlined in generated community contracts. Radio messages promoted demand for child-health services and elicited support to implement accepted activities.
Conclusion: The perception that community dialoging is “a lot of talk” that never advances meaningful action was debunked since participant-initiated actions were conceived and implemented. Potential for use of electronic communication in real-time feedback and stimulating discussion proved viable. Post-dialogue monitoring captured in community contracts facilitated pro- cess evaluation and added plausibility for observed effects. Capacitated organizations during post-dialogue monitoring guaran- teed sustainability.
Keywords: Community dialogues, post-dialogue monitoring, sustainability, strategy, community, child survival.