Barriers and enablers to intervention uptake and health reporting in a water intervention trial in rural India: A qualitative explanatory study

Sarah L. McGuinness, Joanne O'Toole, Darshini Ayton, Asha Giriyan, Chetan A. Gaonkar, Ramkrishna Vhaval, Allen C. Cheng, Karin Leder

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Consumption of unsafe drinking water contributes to the global disease burden, necessitating identification and implementation of effective, acceptable, and sustainable water interventions in resource-limited settings. In a quantitative stepped-wedge cluster randomized trial of a community-based water intervention in rural India, we identified low rates of intervention uptake and reported diarrhea. To better understand and explain these findings, we performed a qualitative study examining barriers and enablers to intervention uptake and health reporting using the COM-B model, where capabilities, opportunities, and motivators interact to generate behavior. We conducted 20 focus groups and one semi-structured interview with participants and four focus groups with data collectors. Multifactorial barriers to intervention uptake included distorted perceptions of water-related health effects, implementation issues that reduced treated water availability; convenience of, and preference for, alternative drinking water sources; delivery of water to plastic storage tanks (perceived as affecting water quality and taste); and resistance to change. Enablers included knowledge of water-related health risks, proximity to tanks, and social opportunity. Barriers to health reporting included variability in interpretation of illness, suspicion regarding the consequences of reporting disease, weariness with repeated questions, and perceived inaction on health data already provided; low survey implementation fidelity was also important. Enablers included surveyor initiatives to encourage reporting and a sense of social responsibility. This qualitative explanatory study allowed better understanding of our quantitative results. It also identified obstacles and facilitators to implementing and evaluating community water interventions, providing insight on how to achieve better intervention uptake and health reporting in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalThe American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

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