The potential of market based approach in distributing health products including, micronutrient powder (MNP), through community health volunteers has been recognized. BRAC, the largest non-government organization (NGO) in Bangladesh, uses Sasthya Shebikas asfrontline volunteerhealthworkers to sell MNP to promote optimum home fortification (HF) for children under-5. We aimed to understand the opportunities and challenges of BRAC’s market-based approach in promoting HF with MNP.
We conducted a qualitative assessment through in-depth interviews with purposively selected Sasthya Shebikas and with caregivers of children under-5 in four selected districts of Bangladesh. We performed thematic analysis of the data.
We found the Sasthya Shebika network to play a critical role in the access of MNP among caregivers of children under-5 at the community level, allowing those caregivers to seek primary advice about the product, and also informally identifying undernourished children, so that they can be given special attention in regards to MNP use. However, low profit margins, over-due payments for sold sachets, poor collaboration with and free distribution of MNP by other NGOs, and inadequate training of Sasthya Shebikas on marketing of MNP created major challenges in them performing as true’ sales agent of the product.
BRAC’s market based approach for promoting HF with MNP is likely being influenced by a number of opportunities and challenges. Careful consideration of these factors could be crucial to making the Sasthya Shebika network a sustainable platform for marketing MNP and promoting HF to ensure optimum infant and young child feeding practices.