Characteristics of effective Village Treatment Assistants: The Kongwa Trachoma Project

Janet O'Connor, Matthew Lynch, Susan Vitale, Sheila West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Mass treatment of entire communities with tetracycline eye ointment is one method for treatment of hyperendemic trachoma. Village Treatment Assistants (VTAs) are often recruited to implement mass treatment in their neighborhoods. We determined characteristics of these volunteers that were associated with effective treatment outcomes. METHODS. Three villages received mass treatment with tetracycline ointment daily for four weeks as part of a clinical trial. Community members selected VTAs to administer the ointment. Trachoma status was assessed by grading photographs of the tarsal conjunctiva in a sample of children randomly selected from households in each village. Change in trachoma status was determined from baseline to one month post treatment. VTA performance outcome was 'good' if there was improvement in the majority of the children treated by the VTA, 'poor' if the majority worsened, and 'neutral' if there was neither improvement nor worsening on average. Trained interviewers administered a questionnaire measuring socioeconomic and demographic variables to 82% of all VTAs. RESULTS. A total of 280 VTAs (229 with questionnaire) were evaluated: 36.8% had good outcomes and 12.5% had poor outcomes. Those VTAs with poor outcomes tended to be unmarried females (OR = 11.73) and those who used a bicycle to carry out treatment activities (OR = 4.16). Formal education or prior experience as a health worker were not predictors of performance. CONCLUSION. Community selection and effective, non-formal, training are key components for the use of VTAs in mass treatment campaigns. Prior education or health training does not play a major role in effectiveness. The possible effects of gender roles in the community need to be considered in program design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalOphthalmic Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Mass treatment
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Tanzania
  • Tetracycline
  • Trachoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Ophthalmology


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