For thousands of people living in rural Bangladesh, Health Assistants (HAs) and Family Welfare Assistants (FWAs)—collectively called field workers—are the first line of health care, and for many, the only cadre of health professional they have access to for health, population and nutrition (HPN) information and services. It therefore becomes very important that these field workers have the necessary skills and confidence to provide quality counseling services.
The Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative (BKMI) implemented an eHealth pilot whereby 300 field workers (150 HAs and 150 FWAs), mostly women, received netbook computers loaded with digital resources (brochures, flipcharts, videos, job aids, etc.) and eLearning courses to facilitate HPN counseling and also improve their own knowledge. The results are in, and knowledge levels for both FWs and mothers in communities increased dramatically across HPN during the short 3.5 month implementation period.
Just as important, and not a finding we necessarily expected, is that the netbooks empowered the field workers. During our routine monitoring, the research team conducted interviews with FWs and found that having the technology and a wealth of information at their fingertips made them feel proud, confident, and important. In fact, the elevated confidence observed from having the netbook actually changed how members of the community perceived them. Their improved social status resulted in more people seeking out HPN services from them.