"Lay health workers have no formal professional education, but they are usually provided with job-related training. They can be involved in either paid or voluntary care. They perform diverse functions related to health care delivery and a range of terms are used to describe them including village health workers, community volunteers and peer counsellors among others." This summary is based on a 2006 systematic review of lay health workers in primary and community health care, by Simon Lewin et al
This document updates a systematic review produced in 2005 by Lewin. It focuses on on the effects of lay health worker interventions in improving maternal and child health and in addressing key high burden diseases such as tuberculosis in low and middle income countries. The study concludes that; "the use of lay health workers in health programmes shows promising benefits, compared to usual care, in promoting immunisation and breastfeeding uptake; in reducing mortality and morbidity from common childhood illnesses; and in improving TB treatment outcomes. Little evidence is available regarding the effectiveness of substituting lay health workers for health professionals or the effectiveness of alternative training strategies for lay health workers"
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