How to optimize health facilities and community linkage in order to enhance immunization service? The case of West Amhara Region, Ethiopia
Background: Health facility-community linkages are important in designing community-level interventions, appropriate immunization service provision modalities, and changing unhealthy behaviors. However, there is limited evidence on the influence of community and facility linkage on vaccination services in Ethiopia.
Aim: This study aimed to explore how the linkage between health facilitiesa and the community could be optimized in order to enhance immunization services.
Methods: A Phenomenological study design, using an explanatory approach was applied in the two districts (Shebele Berenta & South Achefer district) of the Amhara region for the month of June , 2020. Forty-six key informants were interviewed using an interview guide and data was analyzed using open code version 4.02. The data was coded, and thematic analysis was applied.
Results: The finding revealed that there were community platforms to facilitate community and health facility linkage. Respondents also perceived that the community to health facility linkage was an effective strategy for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) service provision. The study revealed that perception of health care providers, health care providers attitude and practices, shortages of stock (medication and supplies), distance from main road and transportation, irregularity in the implementation of rules and regulations, lack of incentives, inadequate counseling and support, lack of awareness, shortages of human resources and lack of training support for health care workers were barriers for effective community-health facility linkage.
Conclusion: The linkage of community and facilities were not approached in the same manner within districts and facilities. Therefore, strengthening a common system for community-health facility linkage and community engagement is critical during immunization services. Establishing a strong strategy of incentivizing mechanisms is vital for the effective implementation of immunization services. An advocacy strategy to mobilize engagement among policy and decision-makers, and other key stakeholders was an important strategy for improving the program. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2021; 35(SI-3):75-85]
Keywords: Community, Facility linkage, EPI, Amhara Region, Ethiopia