Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Community Health Workers as a Strategy to Tackle Psychosocial Suffering due to Physical Distancing: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Version 1 : Received: 1 March 2021 / Approved: 2 March 2021 / Online: 2 March 2021 (14:31:40 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Vanden Bossche, D.; Lagaert, S.; Willems, S.; Decat, P. Community Health Workers as a Strategy to Tackle Psychosocial Suffering Due to Physical Distancing: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3097. Vanden Bossche, D.; Lagaert, S.; Willems, S.; Decat, P. Community Health Workers as a Strategy to Tackle Psychosocial Suffering Due to Physical Distancing: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3097.

Journal reference: Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3097
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18063097

Abstract

Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic some family physicians were overburdened and experienced difficulties reaching vulnerable patients and meeting the increased need for psycho-social support. This randomized controlled trial (RCT) tested whether a primary healthcare (PHC) based community health worker (CHW) intervention could tackle psychosocial suffering due to physical distancing measures in patients with limited social networks. Methods: CHWs provided 8 weeks of tailored psychosocial support to the intervention group. Control group patients received ‘care as usual’. The impact on feelings of emotional support, social isolation, social participation, anxiety and fear of COVID-19 were measured longitudinally using a face-to-face survey to determine their mean change from baseline. Self-rated change in psychosocial health at 8 weeks was determined. Results: We failed to find a significant effect of the intervention on the prespecified psychosocial health measures. However, the intervention did lead to significant improvement in self-rated change in psychosocial health. Conclusions: This study confirms partially the existing evidence on the effectiveness of CHW in-terventions as a strategy to address mental health in PHC in a COVID context. Further research is needed to elaborate the implementation of CHWs in PHC to reach vulnerable populations during and after health crises.

Keywords

Community health workers; Primary healthcare; Mental health; Psychosocial support; Vulnerable populations; COVID-19; Health crisis

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