Validation of community health worker identification of maternal puerperal sepsis using a clinical diagnostic algorithm in Bangladesh and Pakistan

Amnesty E. LeFevre, Fatima Mir, Dipak K. Mitra, Shabina Ariff, Diwakar Mohan, Imran Ahmed, Shazia Sultana, Peter J. Winch, Sadia Shakoor, Nicholas E. Connor, Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Shams El-Arifeen, M. A. Quaiyum, Abdullah H. Baqui, Michael G. Gravett, Mathuram Santosham, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Anita Zaidi, Samir K. Saha, Saifuddin D. AhmedSajid Soofi, Linda A. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Puerperal sepsis (PP sepsis) is a leading cause of maternal mortality globally. The majority of maternal sepsis cases and deaths occur at home and remain undiagnosed and under-reported. In this paper, we present findings from a nested case-control study in Bangladesh and Pakistan which sought to assess the validity of community health worker (CHW) identification of PP sepsis using a clinical diagnostic algorithm with physician assessment and classification used as the gold standard. Methods Up to 300 postpartum women were enrolled in each of the 3 sites 1) Sylhet, Bangladesh (n = 278), 2) Karachi, Pakistan (n = 278) and 3) Matiari, Pakistan (n = 300). Index cases were women with suspected PP Sepsis as diagnosed by CHWs clinical assessment of one or more of the following signs and symptoms: temperature (recorded fever >38.1°C, reported history of fever, lower abdominal or pelvic pain, and abnormal or foul-smelling discharge. Each case was matched with 3 control women who were diagnosed by CHWs to have no infection. Cases and controls were assessed by trained physicians using the same algorithm implemented by the CHWs. Using physician assessment as the gold standard, Kappa statistics for reliability and diagnostic validity (sensitivity and specificity) are presented with 95% CI. Sensitivity and specificity were adjusted for verification bias. Results The adjusted sensitivity and specificity of CHW identification of PP sepsis across all sites was 82% (Karachi: 78%, Matiari: 78%, Sylhet: 95%) and 90% (Karachi: 95%, Matiari: 85%, Sylhet: 90%) respectively. CHW-Physician agreement was highest for moderate and high fever (range across sites: K = 0.84-0.97) and lowest for lower abdominal pain (K = 0.30-0.34). The clinical signs and symptoms for other conditions were reported infrequently, however, the CHW-physician agreement was high for all symptoms except severe headache/ blurred vision (K = 0.13-0.38) and reported “lower abdominal pain without fever” (K = 0.39-0.57). Conclusion In all sites, CHWs with limited training were able to identify signs and symptoms and to classify cases of PP sepsis with high validity. Integrating postpartum infection screening into existing community-based platforms and post-natal visits is a promising strategy to monitor women for PP sepsis - improving delivery of cohesive maternal and child health care in low resource settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04039
JournalJournal of Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Validation of community health worker identification of maternal puerperal sepsis using a clinical diagnostic algorithm in Bangladesh and Pakistan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this