Glob Health Sci Pract. 2022 Jun 29;10(3):e2100413. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-21-00413. Print 2022 Jun 29.
INTRODUCTION: Although community health workers (CHWs) are effective at mobilizing important health behaviors, there is limited evidence on how financial incentive systems can best be designed to drive their effectiveness. This study intends to bridge this evidence gap by analyzing the compensation model of India’s accredited social health activist (ASHA) program and identifying areas of improvement in the system’s design and implementation.
METHODS: We analyze the ASHA program in Uttar Pradesh, India. ASHAs receive compensation through a mix of program-linked, performance-based, and routine activity-based incentive structures. Using multiple data sources, including a novel linked household and ASHA survey, we estimate ASHA performance-linked incentive earnings under different scenarios of ASHA actions and household behaviors. Juxtaposing statistical projection models and actual government payments, we identified which incentives promised the highest payments, which were claimed or not, which could be claimed more by increasing ASHA actions, and which were paid despite not meeting payment criteria. We also report findings on ASHA awareness of and experiences with claiming incentives.
RESULTS: We find crucial gaps and implementation challenges in the ASHA incentive structure. ASHAs could double their earnings by completing certain tasks within their control. ASHAs may also be paid for partial completion of activities, as incentives are paid in lump sums for a series of activities rather than for each activity. Family planning incentives have the largest gap between potential and actual earnings. Incentivizing ASHAs for achieving certain health outcomes is inefficient, as no clear linkage was found between the achievability of such health outcomes and the claim amounts.
CONCLUSION: There are several opportunities for improving CHW compensation, from improving the incentive claims process to shifting focus to achievable outcomes. Optimizing incentive system designs can further enhance CHW effectiveness globally to affect key health behaviors.