Original Research

The roles, training and knowledge of community health workers about diabetes and hypertension in Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Lungiswa P. Tsolekile, Helen Schneider, Thandi Puoane
Curationis | Vol 41, No 1 | a1815 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v41i1.1815 | © 2018 Lungiswa P. Tsolekile, Helen Schneider, Thandi Puoane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2017 | Published: 26 March 2018

About the author(s)

Lungiswa P. Tsolekile, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Helen Schneider, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa; SAMRC Health Services to Systems Unit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Thandi Puoane, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

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Background: The current roles and capacity of community health workers (CHWs) in the management and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) remain poorly understood.
Objectives: To assess CHWs’ current roles, training and knowledge about diabetes and hypertension in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 150 CHWs from two non-governmental organisations contracted to provide NCD care as part of a comprehensive package of services was conducted. An interviewer-administered closed-ended questionnaire was used to determine the roles, training, in-service support, knowledge and presence of NCDs. Descriptive analyses of these domains and multivariate analyses of the factors associated with CHWs’ knowledge of hypertension and diabetes were conducted.
Results: The vast majority (96%) of CHWs were female, with a mean age of 35 years; 88% had some secondary schooling and 53% had been employed as CHWs for 4 years or more. Nearly half (47%) reported having an NCD. CHWs’ roles in NCDs included the delivery of medication, providing advice and physical assessment. Only 52% of CHWs reported some formal NCD-related training, while less than half of the trained CHWs (n = 35; 44%) had received follow-up refresher training. CHWs’ knowledge of diabetes and hypertension was poor. In the multivariate analyses, higher knowledge scores were associated with having an NCD and frequency of supervisory contact (≥1 per month).
Conclusions: The roles performed by CHWs are broad, varied and essential for diabetes and hypertension management. However, basic knowledge about diabetes and hypertension remains poor while training is unstandardised and haphazard. These need to be improved if community-based NCD management is to be successful. The potential of peer education as a complementary mechanism to formal training needs as well as support and supervision in the workplace requires further exploration.


diabetes; hypertension; non-communicable disease management; prevention; training; community health workers


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