Responding to the maternal health care challenge: The Ethiopian Health Extension Program
AbstractBackground: Responding to challenges in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the Ethiopian government initiated the Health Extension Program in 2003 as part of the Health Sector Development Program (HSDP) to improve equitable access to preventive, promotive and select curative health interventions through paid community level health extension workers.
Objective: To explore Ethiopia’s progress toward achieving MDG 5 that focuses on improved maternal health through the Health Extension Program.
Methods: This paper reviews available survey data and literature to determine the feasibility of reaching the targets specified for MDG 5 and for HSDP.
Important findings: Achieving the set targets is a daunting task despite reaching the physical targets of two health extension workers per kebele. The 2015 MDG target for the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is 218 while the 2005 MMR estimate is 673. The HSDP target is 32% skilled birth attendant use by 2010 but only about 12% use was found in the four most populated regions of the country in 2009.
Conclusions: Accelerating progress towards these targets is possible through the Health Extension Program at the worker level through improved promotion of family planning and specific maternal interventions, such as misoprostol for active management of third stage of labor, immediate postpartum visits, and improved coordination from community to referral level. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2010;24 Special Issue 1:105-109]