Purpose: There is a lack of trained rehabilitation professionals, especially in the small towns and rural areas of low and middle income countries. In India, a cadre of mid-level rehabilitation workers, the Rehabilitation Therapy Assistants (RTAs), are being trained by Mobility India, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). This paper aims to assess impact of their training and experiences after the training.
Method: Data were collected from 3 different initiatives connected with the trained RTAs: an impact assessment of their training; interviews with RTAs during an evaluation; and a survey of 188 RTAs trained between 2002 and 2019.
Results: RTAs were shown to have good skills to provide rehabilitation interventions in the field and are appreciated by clients and other stakeholders. Most of the RTAs work for NGOs in CBR programmes, and in private hospitals and clinics. There does not seem to be a role for them in government services in most countries. The number of trained RTAs remains small in spite of the large needs. This may be due to lack of an accreditation system for RTAs and the low priority given to rehabilitation services in general in some countries.
Conclusions: The results provide useful information to strengthen RTA training courses. Training RTAs to provide rehabilitation services in smaller towns and rural areas of low and middle income countries can have a good impact through CBR programmes. However, this impact remains circumscribed to small areas where NGOs are active. Changes are needed in health systems for the inclusion of mid-level rehabilitation workers in primary health care services.