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1.  Bridging the gaps between research, policy and practice in low- and middle-income countries: a survey of researchers 
Background
Many international statements have urged researchers, policy-makers and health care providers to collaborate in efforts to bridge the gaps between research, policy and practice in low- and middle-income countries. We surveyed researchers in 10 countries about their involvement in such efforts.
Methods
We surveyed 308 researchers who conducted research on one of four clinical areas relevant to the Millennium Development Goals (prevention of malaria, care of women seeking contraception, care of children with diarrhea and care of patients with tuberculosis) in each of 10 low- and middle-income countries (China, Ghana, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, Pakistan, Senegal and Tanzania). We focused on their engagement in three promising bridging activities and examined system-level, organizational and individual correlates of these activities.
Results
Less than half of the researchers surveyed reported that they engaged in one or more of the three promising bridging activities: 27% provided systematic reviews of the research literature to their target audiences, 40% provided access to a searchable database of research products on their topic, and 43% established or maintained long-term partnerships related to their topic with representatives of the target audience. Three factors emerged as statistically significant predictors of respondents’ engagement in these activities: the existence of structures and processes to link researchers and their target audiences predicted both the provision of access to a database (odds ratio [OR] 2.62, 95% CI 1.30–5.27) and the establishment or maintenance of partnerships (OR 2.65, 95% CI 1.25–5.64); stability in their contacts predicted the provision of systematic reviews (OR 2.88, 95% CI 1.35–6.13); and having managers and public (government) policy-makers among their target audiences predicted the provision of both systematic reviews (OR 4.57, 95% CI 1.78–11.72) and access to a database (OR 2.55, 95% CI 1.20–5.43).
Interpretation
Our findings suggest potential areas for improvement in light of the bridging strategies targeted at health care providers that have been found to be effective in some contexts and the factors that appear to increase the prospects for using research in policy-making.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.081164
PMCID: PMC2882466  PMID: 20439449
2.  The Impact of Clinical Social Franchising on Health Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60669.
Background
The private sector plays a large role in health services delivery in low- and middle-income countries; yet significant gaps remain in the quality and accessibility of private sector services. Clinical social franchising, which applies the commercial franchising model to achieve social goals and improve health care, is increasingly used in developing countries to respond to these limitations. Despite the growth of this approach, limited evidence documents the effect of social franchising on improving health care quality and access.
Objectives and Methods
We examined peer-reviewed and grey literature to evaluate the effect of social franchising on health care quality, equity, cost-effectiveness, and health outcomes. We included all studies of clinical social franchise programs located in low- and middle-income countries. We assessed study bias using the WHO-Johns Hopkins Rigour Scale and used narrative synthesis to evaluate the findings.
Results
Of 113 identified articles, 23 were included in this review; these evaluated a small sample of franchises globally and focused on reproductive health franchises. Results varied widely across outcomes and programs. Social franchising was positively associated with increased client volume and client satisfaction. The findings on health care utilization and health impact were mixed; some studies find that franchises significantly outperform other models of health care, while others show franchises are equivalent to or worse than other private or public clinics. In two areas, cost-effectiveness and equity, social franchises were generally found to have poorer outcomes.
Conclusions
Our review indicates that social franchising may strengthen some elements of private sector health care. However, gaps in the evidence remain. Additional research should include: further documentation of the effect of social franchising, evaluating the equity and cost-effectiveness of this intervention, and assessing the role of franchising within the context of the greater healthcare delivery system.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060669
PMCID: PMC3634059  PMID: 23637757
3.  Assessing emergency medical care in low income countries: A pilot study from Pakistan 
Background
Emergency Medical Care is an important component of health care system. Unfortunately it is however, ignored in many low income countries. We assessed the availability and quality of facility-based emergency medical care in the government health care system at district level in a low income country – Pakistan.
Methods
We did a quantitative pilot study of a convenience sample of 22 rural and 20 urban health facilities in 2 districts – Faisalabad and Peshawar – in Pakistan. The study consisted of three separate cross-sectional assessments of selected community leaders, health care providers, and health care facilities. Three data collection instruments were created with input from existing models for facility assessment such as those used by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals and the National Center for Health Statistics in USA and the Medical Research Council in Pakistan.
Results
The majority of respondents 43/44(98%), in community survey were not satisfied with the emergency care provided. Most participants 36/44(82%) mentioned that they will not call an ambulance in health related emergency because it does not function properly in the government system. The expenses on emergency care for the last experience were reported to be less than 5,000 Pakistani Rupees (equivalent to US$ 83) for 19/29(66%) respondents. Most health care providers 43/44(98%) were of the opinion that their facilities were inadequately equipped to treat emergencies. The majority of facilities 31/42(74%) had no budget allocated for emergency care. A review of medications and equipment available showed that many critical supplies needed in an emergency were not found in these facilities.
Conclusion
Assessment of emergency care should be part of health systems analysis in Pakistan. Multiple deficiencies in emergency care at the district level in Pakistan were noted in our study. Priority should be given to make emergency care responsive to needs in Pakistan. Specific efforts should be directed to equip emergency care at district facilities and to organize an ambulance network.
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-8-8
PMCID: PMC2464585  PMID: 18598353
4.  Global initiatives for improving hospital care for children: state of the art and future prospects 
Pediatrics  2008;121(4):e984-e992.
Deficiencies in the quality of health care are major limiting factors to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for child and maternal health. Quality of patient care in hospitals is firmly on the agendas of Western countries, but has been slower to gain traction in developing countries, despite evidence that there is substantial scope for improvement, that hospitals have a major role in child survival and that inequities in quality may be as important as inequities in access. There is now substantial global experience of strategies and interventions that improve the quality of care for children in hospitals with limited resources. WHO has developed a toolkit containing adaptable instruments, including a framework for quality improvement, evidence-based clinical guidelines in the form of the Pocketbook of Hospital Care for Children, teaching material, assessment and mortality audit tools. These tools have been field-tested by doctors, nurses and other child health workers in many developing countries. This collective experience was brought together in a global WHO meeting in Bali in 2007. This article describes how many countries are achieving improvements in quality of paediatric care, despite limited resources and other major obstacles, and how the evidence has progressed in recent years from documenting the nature and scope of the problems to describing the effectiveness of innovative interventions. The challenges remain to bring these and other strategies to scale, and to support research into their use, impact and sustainability in different environments.
doi:10.1542/peds.2007-1395
PMCID: PMC2655645  PMID: 18381526
Children; Quality of health care
5.  Drivers of Inequality in Millennium Development Goal Progress: A Statistical Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000241.
David Stuckler and colleagues examine the impact of the HIV and noncommunicable disease epidemics on low-income countries' progress toward the Millennium Development Goals for health.
Background
Many low- and middle-income countries are not on track to reach the public health targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We evaluated whether differential progress towards health MDGs was associated with economic development, public health funding (both overall and as percentage of available domestic funds), or health system infrastructure. We also examined the impact of joint epidemics of HIV/AIDS and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which may limit the ability of households to address child mortality and increase risks of infectious diseases.
Methods and Findings
We calculated each country's distance from its MDG goals for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality targets for the year 2005 using the United Nations MDG database for 227 countries from 1990 to the present. We studied the association of economic development (gross domestic product [GDP] per capita in purchasing-power-parity), the relative priority placed on health (health spending as a percentage of GDP), real health spending (health system expenditures in purchasing-power-parity), HIV/AIDS burden (prevalence rates among ages 15–49 y), and NCD burden (age-standardised chronic disease mortality rates), with measures of distance from attainment of health MDGs. To avoid spurious correlations that may exist simply because countries with high disease burdens would be expected to have low MDG progress, and to adjust for potential confounding arising from differences in countries' initial disease burdens, we analysed the variations in rates of change in MDG progress versus expected rates for each country. While economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure did not explain more than one-fifth of the differences in progress to health MDGs among countries, burdens of HIV and NCDs explained more than half of between-country inequalities in child mortality progress (R2-infant mortality  = 0.57, R2-under 5 mortality  = 0.54). HIV/AIDS and NCD burdens were also the strongest correlates of unequal progress towards tuberculosis goals (R2 = 0.57), with NCDs having an effect independent of HIV/AIDS, consistent with micro-level studies of the influence of tobacco and diabetes on tuberculosis risks. Even after correcting for health system variables, initial child mortality, and tuberculosis diseases, we found that lower burdens of HIV/AIDS and NCDs were associated with much greater progress towards attainment of child mortality and tuberculosis MDGs than were gains in GDP. An estimated 1% lower HIV prevalence or 10% lower mortality rate from NCDs would have a similar impact on progress towards the tuberculosis MDG as an 80% or greater rise in GDP, corresponding to at least a decade of economic growth in low-income countries.
Conclusions
Unequal progress in health MDGs in low-income countries appears significantly related to burdens of HIV and NCDs in a population, after correcting for potentially confounding socioeconomic, disease burden, political, and health system variables. The common separation between NCDs, child mortality, and infectious syndromes among development programs may obscure interrelationships of illness affecting those living in poor households—whether economic (e.g., as money spent on tobacco is lost from child health expenditures) or biological (e.g., as diabetes or HIV enhance the risk of tuberculosis).
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2000, 189 countries adopted the United Nations (UN) Millennium Declaration, which commits the world to the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015. The Declaration lists eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 21 quantifiable targets, and 60 indicators of progress. So, for example, MDG 4 aims to reduce child mortality (deaths). The target for this goal is to reduce the number of children who die each year before they are five years old (the under-five mortality rate) to two-thirds of its 1990 value by 2015. Indicators of progress toward this goal include the under-five mortality rate and the infant mortality rate. Because poverty and ill health are inextricably linked—ill health limits the ability of individuals and nations to improve their economic status, and poverty contributes to the development of many illnesses—two other MDGs also tackle public health issues. MDG 5 sets a target of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters of its 1990 level by 2015. MDG 6 aims to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases such as tuberculosis by 2015.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although progress has been made toward achieving the MDGs, few if any of the targets are likely to be met by 2015. Worryingly, low-income countries are falling furthest behind their MDG targets. For example, although child mortality has been declining globally, in many poor countries there has been little or no progress. What is the explanation for this and other inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs? Some countries may simply lack the financial resources needed to combat epidemics or may allocate only a low proportion of their gross domestic product (GDP) to health. Alternatively, money allocated to health may not always reach the people who need it most because of an inadequate health infrastructure. Finally, coexisting epidemics may be hindering progress toward the MDG health targets. Thus, the spread of HIV/AIDS may be hindering attempts to limit the spread of tuberculosis because HIV infection increases the risk of active tuberculosis, and ongoing epidemics of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) may be affecting the attainment of health MDGs by diverting scarce resources. In this study, the researchers investigate whether any of these possibilities is driving the inequalities in MDG progress.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated how far 227 countries were from their MDG targets for HIV, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality in 2005 using information collected by the UN. They then used statistical methods to study the relationship between this distance and economic development (GDP per person), health spending as a proportion of GDP (health priority), actual health system expenditures, health infrastructure, HIV burden, and NCD burden in each country. Economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure explained no more than one-fifth of the inequalities in progress toward health MDGs. By contrast, the HIV and NCD burdens explained more than half of inequalities in child mortality progress and were strongly associated with unequal progress toward tuberculosis goals. Furthermore, the researchers calculated that a 1% reduction in the number of people infected with HIV or a 10% reduction in rate of deaths from NCDs in a population would have a similar impact on progress toward the tuberculosis MDG target as a rise in GDP corresponding to at least a decade of growth in low-income countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by the quality of the available data on health indicators in low-income countries and, because the researchers used country-wide data, their findings only reveal possible drivers of inequalities in progress toward MDGs in whole countries and may mask drivers of within-country inequalities. Nevertheless, as one of the first attempts to analyze the determinants of global inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs, these findings have important implications for global health policy. Most importantly, the finding that unequal progress is related to the burdens of HIV and NCDs in populations suggests that programs designed to achieve health MDGs must consider all the diseases and factors that can trap households in vicious cycles of illness and poverty, especially since the achievement of feasible reductions in NCDs in low-income countries could greatly enhance progress towards health MDGs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals website provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress towards the MDGs
The World Health Organization provides information about poverty and health and health and development
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241
PMCID: PMC2830449  PMID: 20209000
6.  Health needs assessment for medical genetic services for congenital disorders in middle- and low-income nations 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;4(3):297-308.
Medical genetic services for the care and prevention of congenital disorders have received little attention in most middle- and low-income countries to date. In 2010, the World Health Organisation prioritized services for the care and prevention of birth defects in these nations, emphasising their importance in assisting such countries to reach their Millennium Development Goals. Health Needs Assessment is an inclusive, rational, epidemiological-assisted approach for providing information to plan, introduce and beneficially change health care services to improve the health of populations. It is intrinsic to much of the development of health care systems in industrialised nations. Its use by middle- and low-income countries to introduce and develop medical genetic services commensurate with their needs and circumstances would be beneficial. An approach to applying Health Needs Assessment in these circumstances is described.
doi:10.1007/s12687-013-0150-4
PMCID: PMC3739852  PMID: 23794314
Medical genetic services; Health Needs Assessment; Middle- and low-income countries; Congenital disorders
7.  Non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries: context, determinants and health policy 
Summary
The rise of non-communicable diseases and their impact in low- and middle-income countries has gained increased attention in recent years. However, the explanation for this rise is mostly an extrapolation from the history of high-income countries whose experience differed from the development processes affecting today’s low- and middle-income countries. This review appraises these differences in context to gain a better understanding of the epidemic of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Theories of developmental and degenerative determinants of non-communicable diseases are discussed to provide strong evidence for a causally informed approach to prevention. Health policies for non-communicable diseases are considered in terms of interventions to reduce population risk and individual susceptibility and the research needs for low- and middle-income countries are discussed. Finally, the need for health system reform to strengthen primary care is highlighted as a major policy to reduce the toll of this rising epidemic.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2008.02116.x
PMCID: PMC2687091  PMID: 18937743
chronic diseases; developing countries; epidemiology; health transition; non-communicable diseases; population; public health; risk factors; urbanisation; world health
8.  An assessment of opportunities and challenges for public sector involvement in the maternal health voucher program in Uganda 
Background
Continued inequities in coverage, low quality of care, and high out-of-pocket expenses for health services threaten attainment of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 in many sub-Saharan African countries. Existing health systems largely rely on input-based supply mechanisms that have a poor track record meeting the reproductive health needs of low-income and underserved segments of national populations. As a result, there is increased interest in and experimentation with results-based mechanisms like supply-side performance incentives to providers and demand-side vouchers that place purchasing power in the hands of low-income consumers to improve uptake of facility services and reduce the burden of out-of-pocket expenditures. This paper describes a reproductive health voucher program that contracts private facilities in Uganda and explores the policy and implementation issues associated with expansion of the program to include public sector facilities.
Methods
Data presented here describes the results of interviews of six district health officers and four health facility managers purposefully selected from seven districts with the voucher program in southwestern Uganda. Interviews were transcribed and organized thematically, barriers to seeking RH care were identified, and how to address the barriers in a context where voucher coverage is incomplete as well as opportunities and challenges for expanding the program by involving public sector facilities were investigated.
Results
The findings show that access to sexual and reproductive health services in southwestern Uganda is constrained by both facility and individual level factors which can be addressed by inclusion of the public facilities in the program. This will widen the geographical reach of facilities for potential clients, effectively addressing distance related barriers to access of health care services. Further, intensifying ongoing health education, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and integrating the voucher program with other services is likely to address some of the barriers. The public sector facilities were also seen as being well positioned to provide voucher services because of their countrywide reach, enhanced infrastructure, and referral networks. The voucher program also has the potential to address public sector constraints such as understaffing and supply shortages.
Conclusions
Accrediting public facilities has the potential to increase voucher program coverage by reaching a wider pool of poor mothers, shortening distance to service, strengthening linkages between public and private sectors through public-private partnerships and referral systems as well as ensuring the awareness and buy-in of policy makers, which is crucial for mobilization of resources to support the sustainability of the programs. Specifically, identifying policy champions and consulting with key policy sectors is key to the successful inclusion of the public sector into the voucher program.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-38
PMCID: PMC3853937  PMID: 24139603
Challenges; Maternal health; Opportunities; Output-based approach; Public sector engagement; Reproductive health; Vouchers
9.  Impact of Increasing Capacity for Generating and Using Research on Maternal and Perinatal Health Practices in South East Asia (SEA-ORCHID Project) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23994.
Background
Maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity remain unacceptably high in many low and middle income countries. SEA-ORCHID was a five year international collaborative project in South East Asia which aimed to determine whether health care and health outcomes for mothers and babies could be improved by developing capacity for research generation, synthesis and use.
Methods
Nine hospitals in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand participated in SEA-ORCHID. These hospitals were supported by researchers from three Australian centres. Health care practices and outcomes were assessed for 1000 women at each hospital both before and after the intervention. The capacity development intervention was tailored to the needs and context of each hospital and delivered over an 18 month period. Main outcomes included adherence to forms of care likely to be beneficial and avoidance of forms of care likely to be ineffective or harmful.
Results
We observed substantial variation in clinical practice change between sites. The capacity development intervention had a positive impact on some care practices across all countries, including increased family support during labour and decreased perineal shaving before birth, but in some areas there was no significant change in practice and a few beneficial practices were followed less often.
Conclusion
The results of SEA-ORCHID demonstrate that investing in developing capacity for research use, synthesis and generation can lead to improvements in maternal and neonatal health practice and highlight the difficulty of implementing evidence-based practice change.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023994
PMCID: PMC3168479  PMID: 21915274
10.  Need for Global Partnership in Cancer Care: Perceptions of Cancer Care Researchers Attending the 2010 Australia and Asia Pacific Clinical Oncology Research Development Workshop 
Journal of Oncology Practice  2011;7(5):324-329.
Cancer research globally faces significant barriers, many of which are magnified in the developing country setting.
Purpose:
To understand the diversity of issues and the breadth of growing clinical care, professional education, and clinical research needs of developing countries, not typically represented in Western or European surveys of cancer care and research.
Methods:
A cross-sectional survey was conducted of the attendees at the 2010 Australia and Asia Pacific Clinical Oncology Research Development workshop (Queensland, Australia) about the most important health care questions facing the participant's home countries, especially concerning cancer.
Results:
Early-career oncologists and advanced oncology trainees from a region of the world containing significant low- and middle-income countries reported that cancer is an emerging health priority as a result of aging of the population, the impact of diet and lifestyle, and environmental pollution. There was concern about the capacity of health care workers and treatment facilities to provide cancer care and access to the latest cancer therapies and technologies. Although improving health care delivery was seen as a critical local agenda priority, focusing on improved cancer research activities in this select population was seen as the best way that others outside the country could improve outcomes for all.
Conclusions:
The burden of cancer will increase dramatically over the next 20 years, particularly in countries with developing and middle-income economies. Cancer research globally faces significant barriers, many of which are magnified in the developing country setting. Overcoming these barriers will require partnerships sensitive and responsive to both local and global needs.
doi:10.1200/JOP.2011.000230
PMCID: PMC3170067  PMID: 22211131
11.  Health and Economic Benefits of Improved Injury Prevention and Trauma Care Worldwide 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91862.
Objectives
Injury is a significant source of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and often disproportionately affects younger, more productive members of society. While many have made the case for improved injury prevention and trauma care, health system development in low- and middle-income countries is often limited by resources. This study aims to determine the economic benefit of improved injury prevention and trauma care in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods
This study uses existing data on injury mortality worldwide from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study to estimate the number of lives that could be saved if injury mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries could be reduced to rates in high-income countries. Using economic modeling – through the human capital approach and the value of a statistical life approach – the study then demonstrates the associated economic benefit of these lives saved.
Results
88 percent of injury-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. If injury mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries were reduced to rates in high-income countries, 2,117,500 lives could be saved per year. This would result in between 49 million and 52 million disability adjusted life years averted per year, with discounting and age weighting. Using the human capital approach, the associated economic benefit of reducing mortality rates ranges from $245 to $261 billion with discounting and age weighting. Using the value of a statistical life approach, the benefit is between 758 and 786 billion dollars per year.
Conclusions
Reducing injury mortality in low- and middle-income countries could save over 2 million lives per year and provide significant economic benefit globally. Further investments in trauma care and injury prevention are needed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091862
PMCID: PMC3953529  PMID: 24626472
12.  Systems thinking in practice: the current status of the six WHO building blocks for health system strengthening in three BHOMA intervention districts of Zambia: a baseline qualitative study 
Background
The primary bottleneck to achieving the MDGs in low-income countries is health systems that are too fragile to deliver the volume and quality of services to those in need. Strong and effective health systems are increasingly considered a prerequisite to reducing the disease burden and to achieving the health MDGs. Zambia is one of the countries that are lagging behind in achieving millennium development targets. Several barriers have been identified as hindering the progress towards health related millennium development goals. Designing an intervention that addresses these barriers was crucial and so the Better Health Outcomes through Mentorship (BHOMA) project was designed to address the challenges in the Zambia’s MOH using a system wide approach. We applied systems thinking approach to describe the baseline status of the Six WHO building blocks for health system strengthening.
Methods
A qualitative study was conducted looking at the status of the Six WHO building blocks for health systems strengthening in three BHOMA districts. We conducted Focus group discussions with community members and In-depth Interviews with key informants. Data was analyzed using Nvivo version 9.
Results
The study showed that building block specific weaknesses had cross cutting effect in other health system building blocks which is an essential element of systems thinking. Challenges noted in service delivery were linked to human resources, medical supplies, information flow, governance and finance building blocks either directly or indirectly. Several barriers were identified as hindering access to health services by the local communities. These included supply side barriers: Shortage of qualified health workers, bad staff attitude, poor relationships between community and health staff, long waiting time, confidentiality and the gender of health workers. Demand side barriers: Long distance to health facility, cost of transport and cultural practices. Participating communities seemed to lack the capacity to hold health workers accountable for the drugs and services.
Conclusion
The study has shown that building block specific weaknesses had cross cutting effect in other health system building blocks. These linkages emphasised the need to use system wide approaches in assessing the performance of health system strengthening interventions.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-291
PMCID: PMC3734193  PMID: 23902601
13.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
Background
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Conclusions
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
14.  The growing caseload of chronic life-long conditions calls for a move towards full self-management in low-income countries 
Background
The growing caseload caused by patients with chronic life-long conditions leads to increased needs for health care providers and rising costs of health services, resulting in a heavy burden on health systems, populations and individuals. The professionalised health care for chronic patients common in high income countries is very labour-intensive and expensive. Moreover, the outcomes are often poor. In low-income countries, the scarce resources and the lack of quality and continuity of health care result in high health care expenditure and very poor health outcomes. The current proposals to improve care for chronic patients in low-income countries are still very much provider-centred.
The aim of this paper is to show that present provider-centred models of chronic care are not adequate and to propose 'full self-management' as an alternative for low-income countries, facilitated by expert patient networks and smart phone technology.
Discussion
People with chronic life-long conditions need to 'rebalance' their life in order to combine the needs related to their chronic condition with other elements of their life. They have a crucial role in the management of their condition and the opportunity to gain knowledge and expertise in their condition and its management. Therefore, people with chronic life-long conditions should be empowered so that they become the centre of management of their condition. In full self-management, patients become the hub of management of their own care and take full responsibility for their condition, supported by peers, professionals and information and communication tools.
We will elaborate on two current trends that can enhance the capacity for self-management and coping: the emergence of peer support and expert-patient networks and the development and distribution of smart phone technology both drastically expand the possibilities for full self-management.
Conclusion
Present provider-centred models of care for people with chronic life-long conditions are not adequate and we propose 'full self-management' as an alternative for low-income countries, supported by expert networks and smart phone technology.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-7-38
PMCID: PMC3206408  PMID: 21985187
15.  Cardiovascular disease prevention in rural Nigeria in the context of a community based health insurance scheme: QUality Improvement Cardiovascular care Kwara-I (QUICK-I) 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:186.
Background
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a leading contributor to the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Guidelines for CVD prevention care in low resource settings have been developed but little information is available on strategies to implement this care. A community health insurance program might be used to improve patients' access to care. The operational research project "QUality Improvement Cardiovascular care Kwara - I (QUICK-I)" aims to assess the feasibility of CVD prevention care in rural Nigeria, according to international guidelines, in the context of a community based health insurance scheme.
Methods/Design
Design: prospective observational hospital based cohort study.
Setting: a primary health care centre in rural Nigeria.
Study population: 300 patients at risk for development of CVD (patients with hypertension, diabetes, renal disease or established CVD) who are enrolled in the Hygeia Community Health Plan.
Measurements: demographic and socio- economic data, physical and laboratory examination, CVD risk profile including screening for target organ damage. Measurements will be done at 3 month intervals during 1 year. Direct and indirect costs of CVD prevention care will be estimated.
Outcomes: 1) The adjusted cardiovascular quality of care indicator scores based on the "United Kingdom National Health Services Quality and Outcome Framework". 2) The average costs of CVD prevention and treatment per patient per year for patients, the clinic and the insurance company. 3) The estimated net health care costs of standard CVD prevention care per quality-adjusted life year gained.
Analysis: The primary outcomes, the score on CVD quality indicators and cost data will be descriptive. The quality scores and cost data will be used to describe the feasibility of CVD prevention care according to international guidelines. A cost-effectiveness analysis will be done using a Markov model.
Discussion
Results of QUICK-I can be used by policy makers and professionals who aim to implement CVD prevention programs in settings with limited resources. The context of the insurance program will provide insight in the opportunities community health insurance may offer to attain sustainable chronic disease management programs in low resource settings.
Trial registration
This protocol has been registered at ISRCTN, ID number: ISRCTN47894401.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-186
PMCID: PMC3073902  PMID: 21439057
16.  Baseline status of paediatric oncology in ten low-income or mid-income countries receiving My Child Matters support: a descriptive study 
The lancet oncology  2008;9(8):721-729.
Summary
Background
Childhood cancer survival remains dismal in low-income [A4] countries, but initiatives for treating paediatric cancer have substantially improved care in some of these countries. The My Child Matters programme was launched to fund projects for controlling paediatric cancer in low-income and mid-income countries. We aimed to assess the baseline status of paediatric cancer in ten countries that were receiving support (Bangladesh, Egypt, Honduras, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam). [A5]
Methods
Qualitative face-to-face interviews with clinicians, hospital managers, health officials, and others were done by a multidisciplinary public-health research company. Estimates of paediatric cancer from population-based data were used to project the number of current and future patients for comparison with survey-based data. 5-year survival was postulated on the basis of interviews with health-care professionals. Field survey data were statistically compared with demographic, health, and socioeconomic data from global health organisations. The main outcome was to assess baseline status of paediatric cancer in the countries. [A6]
Findings
The baseline status of paediatric oncology varied substantially between the countries. The number of patients reportedly receiving medical care (obtained from survey data [A7]) differed markedly from the number predicted by population-based incidence data. Postulated 5-year survival was directly proportional to several demographic, economic, and health indicators, and most substantially, annual government healthcare expenditure per capita [ADD DATA] [A8].
Interpretation
Management of paediatric cancer and access to care are poor or deficient (ie, nonexistent, unavailable, or inconsistent access for most children with cancer [A48]) in seven of the ten countries studied, and accurate baseline data on incidence and outcome are very sparse [A10]. Alliances between public, private, and international agencies can rapidly improve the outcome of children with cancer in these countries.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70194-3
PMCID: PMC3554242  PMID: 18672210
17.  Bridging the gaps between research, policy and practice in low- and middle-income countries: a survey of health care providers 
Background
Gaps continue to exist between research-based evidence and clinical practice. We surveyed health care providers in 10 low- and middle-income countries about their use of research-based evidence and examined factors that may facilitate or impede such use.
Methods
We surveyed 1499 health care providers practising in one of four areas relevant to the Millennium Development Goals (prevention of malaria, care of women seeking contraception, care of children with diarrhea and care of patients with tuberculosis) in each of China, Ghana, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, Pakistan, Senegal and Tanzania.
Results
The proportion of respondents who reported that research was likely to change their clinical practice if performed and published in their own country (84.6% and 86.0% respectively) was higher than the proportion who reported the same about research and publications from their region (66.4% and 63.1%) or from high-income countries (55.8% and 55.5%). Respondents who were most likely to report that the use of research-based evidence led to changes in their practice included those who reported using clinical practice guidelines in paper format (odds ratio [OR] 1.54, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03–2.28), using scientific journals from their own country in paper format (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.26–2.28), viewing the quality of research performed in their country as above average or excellent (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.16–3.22); trusting systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.08–2.35); and having easy access to the Internet (OR 1.90, 95% CI 1.19–3.02).
Interpretation
Locally conducted or published research has played an important role in changing the professional practice of health care providers surveyed in low- and middle-income countries. Increased investments in local research, or at least in locally adapted publications of research-based evidence from other settings, are therefore needed. Although access to the Internet was viewed as a significant factor in whether research-based evidence led to concrete changes in practice, few respondents reported having easy access to the Internet. Therefore, efforts to improve Internet access in clinical settings need to be accelerated.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.081165
PMCID: PMC2882467  PMID: 20439448
18.  The role of Clinical Officers in the Kenyan health system: a question of perspective 
Background
Despite the increasing interest in using non-physician clinicians in many low-income countries, little is known about the roles they play in typical health system settings. Prior research has concentrated on evaluating their technical competencies compared to those of doctors. This work explored perceptions of the roles of Kenyan non-physician clinicians (Clinical Officers (COs).
Methods
Qualitative methods including in-depth interviews (with COs, nurses, doctors, hospital management, and policymakers, among others), participant observation and document analysis were used. A nomothetic-idiographic framework was used to examine tensions between institutions and individuals within them. A comparative approach was used to examine institutional versus individual notions of CO roles, how these roles play out in government and faith-based hospital (FBH) settings as well as differences arising from three specific work settings for COs within hospitals.
Results
The main finding was the discrepancy between policy documents that outline a broad role for COs that covers both technical and managerial roles, while respondents articulated a narrow technical role that focused on patient care and management. Respondents described a variety of images of COs, ranging from ‘filter’ to ‘primary healthcare physician’, when asked about CO roles. COs argued for a defined role associated with primary healthcare, feeling constrained by their technical role. FBH settings were found to additionally clarify CO roles when compared with public hospitals. Tensions between formal prescriptions of CO roles and actual practice were reported and coalesced around lack of recognition over COs work, role conflict among specialist COs, and role ambiguity.
Conclusions
Even though COs are important service providers their role is not clearly understood, which has resulted in role conflict. It is suggested that their role be redefined, moving from that of ‘substitute clinician’ to professional ‘primary care clinician’, with this being supported by the health system.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-11-32
PMCID: PMC3724708  PMID: 23866692
19.  Designing a theory-informed, contextually appropriate intervention strategy to improve delivery of paediatric services in Kenyan hospitals 
Background
District hospital services in Kenya and many low-income countries should deliver proven, effective interventions that could substantially reduce child and newborn mortality. However such services are often of poor quality. Researchers have therefore been challenged to identify intervention strategies that go beyond addressing knowledge, skill, or resource inadequacies to support health systems to deliver better services at scale. An effort to develop a system-oriented intervention tailored to local needs and context and drawing on theory is described.
Methods
An intervention was designed to improve district hospital services for children based on four main strategies: a reflective process to distill root causes for the observed problems with service delivery; developing a set of possible intervention approaches to address these problems; a search of literature for theory that provided the most appropriate basis for intervention design; and repeatedly moving backwards and forwards between identified causes, proposed interventions, identified theory, and knowledge of the existing context to develop an overarching intervention that seemed feasible and likely to be acceptable and potentially sustainable.
Results and discussion
In addition to human and resource constraints key problems included failures of relevant professionals to take responsibility for or ownership of the challenge of pediatric service delivery; inadequately prepared, poorly supported leaders of service units (mid-level managers) who are often professionally and geographically isolated and an almost complete lack of useful information for routinely monitoring or understanding service delivery practice or outcomes. A system-oriented intervention recognizing the pivotal role of leaders of service units but addressing the outer and inner setting of hospitals was designed to help shape and support an appropriate role for these professionals. It aims to foster a sense of ownership while providing the necessary understanding, knowledge, and skills for mid-level managers to work effectively with senior managers and frontline staff to improve services. The intervention will include development of an information system, feedback mechanisms, and discussion fora that promote positive change. The vehicle for such an intervention is a collaborative network partnering government and national professional associations. This case is presented to promote discussion on approaches to developing context appropriate interventions particularly in international health.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-39
PMCID: PMC3620707  PMID: 23537192
20.  A conference report on prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries 
Objective
To evaluate the evidence for prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries and to make recommendations regarding implementation and further research.
Methods
Studies and meta-analyses on prenatal corticosteroids relevant to low- and middle-income countries were identified and reviewed at the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Project (MCHIP) Antenatal Corticosteroid Conference held in Washington on October 19, 2010.
Results
There is strong evidence regarding the effectiveness of prenatal corticosteroid use in hospitals in high- and middle-income countries, usually in settings with high-level newborn care. For births occurring in hospitals in low-income countries without high-level neonatal care or for births outside hospitals, no studies have been conducted to evaluate prenatal corticosteroid use. The efficacy and safety of prenatal corticosteroid use in these settings must be evaluated.
Conclusions
The conference working group recommended expanding the use of prenatal corticosteroids in hospitals with high-level newborn care in low-income countries. For other low-income country settings, further research regarding efficacy and safety should precede the widespread introduction of prenatal corticosteroids.
doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.07.017
PMCID: PMC3910250  PMID: 21930269
Low-resource countries; Prenatal corticosteroids; Preterm birth
21.  A Multifaceted Intervention to Implement Guidelines and Improve Admission Paediatric Care in Kenyan District Hospitals: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001018.
Philip Ayieko and colleagues report the outcomes of a cluster-randomized trial carried out in eight Kenyan district hospitals evaluating the effects of a complex intervention involving improved training and supervision for clinicians. They found a higher performance of hospitals assigned to the complex intervention on a variety of process of care measures, as compared to those receiving the control intervention.
Background
In developing countries referral of severely ill children from primary care to district hospitals is common, but hospital care is often of poor quality. However, strategies to change multiple paediatric care practices in rural hospitals have rarely been evaluated.
Methods and Findings
This cluster randomized trial was conducted in eight rural Kenyan district hospitals, four of which were randomly assigned to a full intervention aimed at improving quality of clinical care (evidence-based guidelines, training, job aides, local facilitation, supervision, and face-to-face feedback; n = 4) and the remaining four to control intervention (guidelines, didactic training, job aides, and written feedback; n = 4). Prespecified structure, process, and outcome indicators were measured at baseline and during three and five 6-monthly surveys in control and intervention hospitals, respectively. Primary outcomes were process of care measures, assessed at 18 months postbaseline.
In both groups performance improved from baseline. Completion of admission assessment tasks was higher in intervention sites at 18 months (mean = 0.94 versus 0.65, adjusted difference 0.54 [95% confidence interval 0.05–0.29]). Uptake of guideline recommended therapeutic practices was also higher within intervention hospitals: adoption of once daily gentamicin (89.2% versus 74.4%; 17.1% [8.04%–26.1%]); loading dose quinine (91.9% versus 66.7%, 26.3% [−3.66% to 56.3%]); and adequate prescriptions of intravenous fluids for severe dehydration (67.2% versus 40.6%; 29.9% [10.9%–48.9%]). The proportion of children receiving inappropriate doses of drugs in intervention hospitals was lower (quinine dose >40 mg/kg/day; 1.0% versus 7.5%; −6.5% [−12.9% to 0.20%]), and inadequate gentamicin dose (2.2% versus 9.0%; −6.8% [−11.9% to −1.6%]).
Conclusions
Specific efforts are needed to improve hospital care in developing countries. A full, multifaceted intervention was associated with greater changes in practice spanning multiple, high mortality conditions in rural Kenyan hospitals than a partial intervention, providing one model for bridging the evidence to practice gap and improving admission care in similar settings.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42996612
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, nearly 10 million children died in early childhood. Nearly all these deaths were in low- and middle-income countries—half were in Africa. In Kenya, for example, 74 out every 1,000 children born died before they reached their fifth birthday. About half of all childhood (pediatric) deaths in developing countries are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. Deaths from these common diseases could be prevented if all sick children had access to quality health care in the community (“primary” health care provided by health centers, pharmacists, family doctors, and traditional healers) and in district hospitals (“secondary” health care). Unfortunately, primary health care facilities in developing countries often lack essential diagnostic capabilities and drugs, and pediatric hospital care is frequently inadequate with many deaths occurring soon after admission. Consequently, in 1996, as part of global efforts to reduce childhood illnesses and deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) introduced the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) strategy. This approach to child health focuses on the well-being of the whole child and aims to improve the case management skills of health care staff at all levels, health systems, and family and community health practices.
Why Was This Study Done?
The implementation of IMCI has been evaluated at the primary health care level, but its implementation in district hospitals has not been evaluated. So, for example, interventions designed to encourage the routine use of WHO disease-specific guidelines in rural pediatric hospitals have not been tested. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers develop and test a multifaceted intervention designed to improve the implementation of treatment guidelines and admission pediatric care in district hospitals in Kenya. In a cluster randomized trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in different “clusters” of patients are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a district hospital.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned eight Kenyan district hospitals to the “full” or “control” intervention, interventions that differed in intensity but that both included more strategies to promote implementation of best practice than are usually applied in Kenyan rural hospitals. The full intervention included provision of clinical practice guidelines and training in their use, six-monthly survey-based hospital assessments followed by face-to-face feedback of survey findings, 5.5 days training for health care workers, provision of job aids such as structured pediatric admission records, external supervision, and the identification of a local facilitator to promote guideline use and to provide on-site problem solving. The control intervention included the provision of clinical practice guidelines (without training in their use) and job aids, six-monthly surveys with written feedback, and a 1.5-day lecture-based seminar to explain the guidelines. The researchers compared the implementation of various processes of care (activities of patients and doctors undertaken to ensure delivery of care) in the intervention and control hospitals at baseline and 18 months later. The performance of both groups of hospitals improved during the trial but more markedly in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. At 18 months, the completion of admission assessment tasks and the uptake of guideline-recommended clinical practices were both higher in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. Moreover, a lower proportion of children received inappropriate doses of drugs such as quinine for malaria in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that specific efforts are needed to improve pediatric care in rural Kenya and suggest that interventions that include more approaches to changing clinical practice may be more effective than interventions that include fewer approaches. These findings are limited by certain aspects of the trial design, such as the small number of participating hospitals, and may not be generalizable to other hospitals in Kenya or to hospitals in other developing countries. Thus, although these findings seem to suggest that efforts to implement and scale up improved secondary pediatric health care will need to include more than the production and dissemination of printed materials, further research including trials or evaluation of test programs are necessary before widespread adoption of any multifaceted approach (which will need to be tailored to local conditions and available resources) can be contemplated.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001018.
WHO provides information on efforts to reduce global child mortality and on Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI); the WHO pocket book “Hospital care for children contains guidelines for the management of common illnesses with limited resources (available in several languages)
UNICEF also provides information on efforts to reduce child mortality and detailed statistics on child mortality
The iDOC Africa Web site, which is dedicated to improving the delivery of hospital care for children and newborns in Africa, provides links to the clinical guidelines and other resources used in this study
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001018
PMCID: PMC3071366  PMID: 21483712
22.  Staffing remote rural areas in middle- and low-income countries: A literature review of attraction and retention 
Background
Many countries in middle- and low-income countries today suffer from severe staff shortages and/or maldistribution of health personnel which has been aggravated more recently by the disintegration of health systems in low-income countries and by the global policy environment. One of the most damaging effects of severely weakened and under-resourced health systems is the difficulty they face in producing, recruiting, and retaining health professionals, particularly in remote areas. Low wages, poor working conditions, lack of supervision, lack of equipment and infrastructure as well as HIV and AIDS, all contribute to the flight of health care personnel from remote areas. In this global context of accelerating inequities health service policy makers and managers are searching for ways to improve the attraction and retention of staff in remote areas. But the development of appropriate strategies first requires an understanding of the factors which influence decisions to accept and/or stay in a remote post, particularly in the context of mid and low income countries (MLICS), and which strategies to improve attraction and retention are therefore likely to be successful. It is the aim of this review article to explore the links between attraction and retention factors and strategies, with a particular focus on the organisational diversity and location of decision-making.
Methods
This is a narrative literature review which took an iterative approach to finding relevant literature. It focused on English-language material published between 1997 and 2007. The authors conducted Pubmed searches using a range of different search terms relating to attraction and retention of staff in remote areas. Furthermore, a number of relevant journals as well as unpublished literature were systematically searched. While the initial search included articles from high- middle- and low-income countries, the review focuses on middle- and low-income countries. About 600 papers were initially assessed and 55 eventually included in the review.
Results
The authors argue that, although factors are multi-facetted and complex, strategies are usually not comprehensive and often limited to addressing a single or limited number of factors. They suggest that because of the complex interaction of factors impacting on attraction and retention, there is a strong argument to be made for bundles of interventions which include attention to living environments, working conditions and environments and development opportunities. They further explore the organisational location of decision-making related to retention issues and suggest that because promising strategies often lie beyond the scope of human resource directorates or ministries of health, planning and decision-making to improve retention requires multi-sectoral collaboration within and beyond government. The paper provides a simple framework for bringing the key decision-makers together to identify factors and develop multi-facetted comprehensive strategies.
Conclusion
There are no set answers to the problem of attraction and retention. It is only through learning about what works in terms of fit between problem analysis and strategy and effective navigation through the politics of implementation that any headway will be made against the almost universal challenge of staffing health service in remote rural areas.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-19
PMCID: PMC2259330  PMID: 18215313
23.  Are doctors and nurses associated with coverage of essential health services in developing countries? A cross-sectional study 
Background
There is broad policy consensus that a shortage of doctors and nurses is a key constraint to increasing utilization of essential health services important for achieving the health Millennium Development Goals. However there is limited research on the quantitative links between health workers and service coverage rates. We examined the relationship between doctor and nurse concentrations and utilization rates of five essential health services in developing countries.
Methods
We performed cross-national analyses of low- and middle-income countries by means of ordinary least squares regression with coverage rates of antenatal care, attended delivery, caesarean section, measles immunization, tuberculosis case diagnosis and care for acute respiratory infection as outcomes. Doctor, nurse and aggregate health worker (sum of doctors and nurses) concentrations were the main explanatory variables.
Results
Nurses were associated with utilization of skilled birth attendants (P = 0.02) and doctors were associated with measles immunization rates (P = 0.01) in separate adjusted analyses. Aggregate health workers were associated with the utilization of skilled birth attendants (P < 0.01) and measles immunization (P < 0.01). Doctors, nurses and aggregate health workers were not associated with the remaining four services.
Conclusion
A range of health system and population-level factors aside from health workers influences coverage of health services in developing countries. However, it is also plausible that health workers who are neither doctors nor nurses, such as clinical officers and community health workers, may be providing a substantial proportion of health services. The human resources for health research agenda should be expanded beyond doctors and nurses.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-7-27
PMCID: PMC2670260  PMID: 19335911
24.  Optimizing Clinical Operations as part of a Global Emergency Medicine Initiative in Kumasi, Ghana: Application of Lean Manufacturing Principals to Low Resource Health Systems 
Academic Emergency Medicine  2012;19(3):338-347.
Background
Although many global health programs focus on providing clinical care or medical education, improving clinical operations can have a significant effect on patient care delivery, especially in developing health systems without high-level operations management. Lean manufacturing techniques have been effective in decreasing emergency department (ED) length of stay, patient waiting times, numbers of patients leaving without being seen, and door-to-balloon times for ST-elevation myocardial infarction in developed health systems; but use of Lean in low to middle income countries with developing emergency medicine systems has not been well characterized.
Objectives
To describe the application of Lean manufacturing techniques to improve clinical operations at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana and to identify key lessons learned to aid future global EM initiatives.
Methods
A three-week Lean improvement program focused on the hospital admissions process at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital was completed by a 14-person team in six stages: problem definition, scope of project planning, value stream mapping, root cause analysis, future state planning, and implementation planning.
Results
The authors identified eight lessons learned during our use of Lean to optimize the operations of an ED in a global health setting: 1) the Lean process aided in building a partnership with Ghanaian colleagues; 2) obtaining and maintaining senior institutional support is necessary and challenging; 3) addressing power differences among the team to obtain feedback from all team members is critical to successful Lean analysis; 4) choosing a manageable initial project is critical to influence long-term Lean use in a new environment; 5) data intensive Lean tools can be adapted and are effective in a less resourced health system; 6) several Lean tools focused on team problem solving techniques worked well in a low resource system without modification; 7) using Lean highlighted that important changes do not require an influx of resources; 8) despite different levels of resources, root causes of system inefficiencies are often similar across health care systems, but require unique solutions appropriate to the clinical setting.
Conclusions
Lean manufacturing techniques can be successfully adapted for use in developing health systems. Lessons learned from this Lean project will aid future introduction of advanced operations management techniques in low to middle income countries.
doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2012.01311.x
PMCID: PMC3313457  PMID: 22435868
25.  Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing Integrated Mental Health Care: A District Level Situation Analysis from Five Low- and Middle-Income Countries 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88437.
Background
Little is known about how to tailor implementation of mental health services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to the diverse settings encountered within and between countries. In this paper we compare the baseline context, challenges and opportunities in districts in five LMICs (Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa and Uganda) participating in the PRogramme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME). The purpose was to inform development and implementation of a comprehensive district plan to integrate mental health into primary care.
Methods
A situation analysis tool was developed for the study, drawing on existing tools and expert consensus. Cross-sectional information obtained was largely in the public domain in all five districts.
Results
The PRIME study districts face substantial contextual and health system challenges many of which are common across sites. Reliable information on existing treatment coverage for mental disorders was unavailable. Particularly in the low-income countries, many health service organisational requirements for mental health care were absent, including specialist mental health professionals to support the service and reliable supplies of medication. Across all sites, community mental health literacy was low and there were no models of multi-sectoral working or collaborations with traditional or religious healers. Nonetheless health system opportunities were apparent. In each district there was potential to apply existing models of care for tuberculosis and HIV or non-communicable disorders, which have established mechanisms for detection of drop-out from care, outreach and adherence support. The extensive networks of community-based health workers and volunteers in most districts provide further opportunities to expand mental health care.
Conclusions
The low level of baseline health system preparedness across sites underlines that interventions at the levels of health care organisation, health facility and community will all be essential for sustainable delivery of quality mental health care integrated into primary care.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088437
PMCID: PMC3928234  PMID: 24558389

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