Background. Coverage of vulnerable groups with insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) in Ghana, as in the majority of countries of sub-Saharan Africa is currently low. A voucher scheme was introduced in Volta Region as a possible sustainable delivery system for increasing this coverage through scale-up to other regions. Successful scale-up of public health interventions depends upon optimal delivery processes but operational research for delivery processes in large-scale implementation has been inadequate.
Methods. A simple tool was developed to monitor numbers of vouchers given to each health facility, numbers issued to pregnant women by the health staff, and numbers redeemed by the distributors back to the management agent. Three rounds of interviews were undertaken with health facility staff, retailers and pregnant women who had attended antenatal clinic (ANC).
Results. During the one year pilot 25,926 vouchers were issued to eligible women from clinics, which equates to 50.7% of the 51,658 ANC registrants during this time period. Of the vouchers issued 66.7% were redeemed by distributors back to the management agent. Initially, non-issuing of vouchers to pregnant women was mainly due to eligibility criteria imposed by the midwives; later in the year it was due to decisions of the pregnant women, and supply constraints. These in turn were heavily influenced by factors external to the programme: current household ownership of nets, competing ITN delivery strategies, and competition for the limited number of ITNs available in the country from major urban areas of other regions.
Conclusion. Both issuing and redemption of vouchers should be monitored as factors assumed to influence voucher redemption had an influence on issuing, and vice versa. More evidence is needed on how specific contextual factors influence the success of voucher schemes and other models of delivery of ITNs. Such an evidence base will facilitate optimal strategic decision making so that the delivery model with the best probability of success within a given context is implemented. Rigorous monitoring has an important role to play in the successful scaling-up of delivery of effective public health interventions.
Malaria Journal (2007) 6:14 [doi:10.1186/1475-2875-6-14]