Supervision and trust in community health worker programmes at scale: Developing a district level supportive supervision framework for ward-based outreach teams in North West Province, South Africa
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National community health worker (CHW) programmes are to an increasing extent being implemented in health systems globally, mirrored in South Africa in the ward-based outreach team (WBOT) strategy. In many countries, including South Africa, a major challenge impacting the performance and sustainability of scaled-up CHW programmes is ensuring adequate support from and supervision by the local health system. Supervisory systems, where they exist, are usually corrective and hierarchical in nature, and implementation remains poor. In the South African context, the absence of any guidance on CHW supportive supervision has led to varied practices across the country. Improved approaches to supportive supervision are considered critical for CHW programme performance. However, there is relatively little understanding of how this can be done sustainably at scale, and effective CHW supervisory models remain elusive. Research to date has mostly positioned supervision as a technical process rather than a set of relationships, with the former testing specific interventions rather than developing holistic approaches attuned to local contexts.