Mobilizing community action to improve maternal health in a rural district in Tanzania: lessons learned from two years of community group activities

Andrea Solnes Miltenburg, Sandra van Pelt*, Willemijn de Bruin, Laura Shields-Zeeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Community participation can provide increased understanding and more effective implementation of strategies that seek to improve outcomes for women and newborns. There is limited knowledge on how participatory processes take place and how this affects the results of an intervention.
Objective: This paper presents the results of two years of implementing (2013–2015) community groups for maternal health care in Magu District, Tanzania.
Method: A total of 102 community groups were established, and 77 completed the four phases of the participatory learning and action cycle. The four phases included identification of problems during pregnancy and childbirth (phase 1), deciding on solutions and planning strategies (phase 2), implementation of strategies (phase 3) and evaluation of impact (phase 4). Community group meetings were facilitated by 15 trained facilitators and groups met monthly in their respective villages. Data was collected as an ongoing process from facilitator and meeting reports, through interviews with facilitators and local leaders and from focus group discussions with community group participants.
Results: The majority of groups prioritized problems related to the availability of and accessibility to health services. The most commonly actioned solution was the provision of health education to the community. Almost all groups (95%) experienced a positive impact on the community as results of their actions, including increased maternal health knowledge and positive behaviour changes among health care workers. Facilitators were positive about the community groups, stating that they were grateful for the gained knowledge on maternal health, and positively regarded the involvement of men in community groups, which are traditionally women-only.
Conclusion: The process of establishing and undertaking community groups in itself appeared to have a positive perceived impact on the community. However, sustained behaviour change, power dynamics and financial incentives need to be carefully considered during implementation and sustaining the community groups.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1621590
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Health Action
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Community participation
  • community group intervention
  • participatory learning and action cycle
  • reproductive health
  • maternal health
  • CARE

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