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Malawi Medical Journal

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Volunteer infant feeding and care counselors: a health education intervention to improve mother and child health and reduce mortality in rural Malawi

M Rosato, S Lewycka, C Mwansambo, P Kazembe, T Phiri, H Chapota, S Vergnano, M-L Newell, D Osrin, A Costello

Abstract


The aim of this report is to describe a health education intervention involving volunteer infant feeding and care counselors being implemented in Mchinji district, Malawi.
The intervention was established in January 2004 and involves 72 volunteer infant feeding and care counselors, supervised by 24 government Health Surveillance Assistants, covering 355 villages in Mchinji district. It aims to change the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of women to promote exclusive breastfeeding and other infant care practices. The main target population are women of child bearing age who are visited at five key points during pregnancy and after birth. Where possible, their partners are also involved. The visits cover exclusive breastfeeding and other important neonatal and infant care practices. Volunteers are provided with an intervention manual and picture book. Resource inputs are low and include training allowances and equipment for counselors and supervisors, and a salary, equipment and materials for a coordinator.
It is hypothesized that the counselors will encourage informational and attitudinal change to enhance motivation and risk reduction skills and self-efficacy to promote exclusive breastfeeding and other infant care practices and reduce infant mortality. The impact is being evaluated through a cluster randomised controlled trial and results will be reported in 2012.



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