Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), established by the National Rural Health Mission during 2005, played a key role in increasing the access to primary health care for rural villagers, particularly the women and children. ASHA strengthened the link between health sector and community and is working towards catalyzing behavioural change in rural and tribal areas of the state as well as of the country.
In order to gain acceptance, and indeed, in some cases to overcome the prejudice and status barriers, an ASHA worker must demonstrate the expertise and confidence in health matters that lends legitimacy to her information and advice, especially when it runs counter to traditional beliefs and practices.
In keeping with their key role of promoting behaviour change, there is need for supply of teaching and audio visual aids to ASHAs to develop strong interpersonal and persuasive communications skills that extend beyond information provision.
Mobiles phones can be a useful teaching aid to increase effectiveness of ASHAs in counselling the pregnant mothers. ASHA-Assist is a software application that runs on mobile telephones. It enables an ASHA to select and play short movies from a collection of clips covering various maternal health care topics. The ASHAs can play back these movies to help teach her clients. The mobile phone was chosen as a platform for several reasons. Mobile phones are in common use by ASHAs for making telephone calls as the network coverage is good, even in rural India.
The mobile phones can receive and store updated educational information and are more portable than books or computers for home visits where counselling sessions are conducted with expectant mothers and often with family members such as mothers-in-law and husbands. Digital media (audio or movie files) are an appropriate medium to convey required information because they are effective at all levels of literacy. They assure that information is conveyed with consistency and completeness.
In order to access the effectiveness of various teaching aids during counselling to pregnant women by ASHA , a randomized control pilot study-ASHA Assist was initiated .
The project started its activities in September 2013. During the year 2014-15 ,a total of 98 ASHAs under the coverage area of 6 PHCs (Rahada, Manitara, Alasu, Pandripada, Baranga and Goudagotha) run by HDF & Karuna Trust in Ganjam district were recruited and trained on improved methods.The ASHAs were randomly assigned 4 arms with 23- 25 ASHAs to each arm.