Aims: We evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of utilising government health supervisors to train and supervise primary health care workers (HWs) in community clinics to deliver parenting sessions as part of their usual duties.
Methods: We randomly allocated 16 unions in the Mymensing district of Bangladesh 1:1 to an intervention or control group. HWs in clinics in the eight intervention unions (n=59 health workers, n=24 clinics) were trained to deliver a group-based parenting intervention, with training and supervision provided by government supervisors. In each of the twenty-four intervention clinics, we recruited twenty-four mothers of children aged 6-24 months to participate in the parenting sessions (n=576 mother/child dyads). Mother/child dyads attended fortnightly parenting sessions at the clinic in groups of four-to-five participants for six months (13 sessions). We collected data on supervisor and HW compliance in implementing the intervention, mothers’ attendance and the observed quality of parenting sessions in all intervention clinics and HW burnout at endline in all clinics. We randomly selected 32 clinics (16 intervention, 16 control), and 384 mothers (192 intervention, 192 control) to participate in the evaluation on mother-reported home stimulation, measured at baseline and endline.
Results: Supervisors and HWs attended all training, 46/59 health workers (78%) conducted the majority of parenting sessions, (only two HWs (3.4%) refused), and mothers’ attendance rate was 86%. However, supervision levels were low: only 32/57 (56.1%) of HWs received at least one supervisory visit. Intervention HWs delivered the parenting sessions with acceptable levels of quality on most items. The intervention significantly benefitted home stimulation (effect size=0.53SD, 95% confidence interval: 0.50, 0.56, p<0.001). HW burnout was low in both groups.
Conclusion: Integration into the primary health care service is a promising approach for scaling early childhood development programmes in Bangladesh, although further research is required to identify feasible methods for facilitator supervision.