Increasing utilisation of skilled facility-based maternal healthcare services in rural Zambia: the role of safe motherhood action groups

Cephas Sialubanje*, Karlijn Massar, Larah Horstkotte, Davidson H. Hamer, Robert A C Ruiter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: Community-centred health interventions, such as Safe Motherhood Action groups (SMAGs), have potential to lead to desired health behavioural change and favourable health outcomes. SMAGs are community-based volunteer groups that aim to reduce critical delays that occur at household level with regard to decision-making about seeking life-saving maternal care at health facilities. The aim of this study was to explore perspectives, roles, achievements and challenges of the SMAG programme in Kalomo, Zambia.

METHODS: In-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted in 7 health centres in Kalomo district between 1st April and 20th May, 2015 with 46 respondents comprising 22 SMAG members, 5 headmen, 10 mothers, 3 husbands, 5 nurses, and 1 district maternal and child health coordinator. Perspectives on the selection, training, roles, achievements and challenges of the SMAG programme were explored.

RESULTS: Respondents were aware of the presence, selection, training and roles of the SMAG members and had a positive attitude towards the programme. They believed that the SMAG programme led to an increase in women's risk perception about pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. Further, participants believed that the programme resulted in increased utilisation of facility-based antenatal, delivery and postnatal care, and improvement in maternal and newborn health outcomes. However, various challenges affected implementation of the SMAG programme. Among these were insufficient material and financial support to the programme, lack of refresher training for SMAG members, poor quality of care in health care facilities due to a lack of maternity waiting homes, low staffing levels in health facilities, the poor state and small size of the labour wards, and lack of equipment to handle obstetric emergencies.

CONCLUSION: The SMAG programme has potential to be an important community intervention for increasing utilisation of facility-based skilled care and improving maternal and newborn health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
Number of pages10
JournalReproductive Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Community interventions
  • Safe Motherhood Action Groups
  • Zambia
  • Maternal health
  • Kalomo

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