Community health worker intervention improves early childhood vaccination rates: results from a propensity-score matching evaluation

Patrick Wightman, Kelly McCue, Samantha Sabo, Rebecca Annorbah, Dulce Jiménez, Vern Pilling, Matthew Butler, Martín F. Celaya, Sara Rumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Arizona’s Health Start Program is a statewide community health worker (CHW) maternal and child health home visiting intervention. The objective of this study was to test if participation in Health Start during 2006–2016 improved early childhood vaccination completion rates. Methods: This retrospective study used 11 years of administrative, birth certificate, and immunization records. Propensity score matching was used to identify control groups, based on demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic characteristics. Results are reported by historically disadvantaged subgroups and/or with a history of low vaccine uptake, including Hispanic/Latinx and American Indian children, and children of low socioeconomic status and from rural areas, children with teen mothers and first-born children. The average treatment-on-the-treated (ATT) effect estimated the impact of Health Start on timely completion of seven early childhood vaccine series: diphtheria/tetanus toxoids and acellular/whole-cell pertussis (DTaP/DTP), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B (Hep. B), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), poliovirus, and varicella. Results: Vaccination completion rates (by age five) were 5.0% points higher for Health Start children as a group, and on average 5.0% points higher for several subgroups of mothers: women from rural border counties (ATT 5.8), Hispanic/Latinx women (ATT 4.8), American Indian women (ATT 4.8), women with less than high school education (ATT 5.0), teen mothers (ATT 6.1), and primipara women (ATT 4.5), compared to matched control groups (p-value ≤ 0.05). Time-to-event analyses show Health Start children complete vaccination sooner, with a hazard rate for full vaccination 13% higher than their matches. Conclusion: A state-operated home visiting intervention with CHWs as the primary interventionist can effectively promote early childhood vaccine completion, which may reduce the incidence of preventable diseases and subsequently improve children’s health. Effects of CHW interventions on vaccination uptake is particularly relevant given the rise in vaccine-preventable diseases in the US and globally. Trial registration: Approved by the University of Arizona Research Institutional Review Board (Protocol 1701128802), 25 January 2017.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1854
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Community health worker
  • Early childhood
  • Propensity score matching
  • Vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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