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1.  Lifestyle physical activity among urban Palestinians and Israelis: a cross-sectional comparison in the Palestinian-Israeli Jerusalem risk factor study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:90.
Background
Urban Palestinians have a high incidence of coronary heart disease, and alarming prevalences of obesity (particularly among women) and diabetes. An active lifestyle can help prevent these conditions. Little is known about the physical activity (PA) behavior of Palestinians. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of insufficient PA and its socio-demographic correlates among urban Palestinians in comparison with Israelis.
Methods
An age-sex stratified random sample of Palestinians and Israelis aged 25-74 years living in east and west Jerusalem was drawn from the Israel National Population Registry: 970 Palestinians and 712 Israelis participated. PA in a typical week was assessed by the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) questionnaire. Energy expenditure (EE), calculated in metabolic equivalents (METs), was compared between groups for moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA), using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test, and for domain-specific prevalence rates of meeting public health guidelines and all-domain insufficient PA. Correlates of insufficient PA were assessed by multivariable logistic modeling.
Results
Palestinian men had the highest median of MVPA (4740 METs-min*wk-1) compared to Israeli men (2,205 METs-min*wk-1 p < 0.0001), or to Palestinian and Israeli women, who had similar medians (2776 METs-min*wk-1). Two thirds (65%) of the total MVPA reported by Palestinian women were derived from domestic chores compared to 36% in Israeli women and 25% among Palestinian and Israeli men. A high proportion (63%) of Palestinian men met the PA recommendations by occupation/domestic activity, compared to 39% of Palestinian women and 37% of the Israelis. No leisure time PA was reported by 42% and 39% of Palestinian and Israeli men (p = 0.337) and 53% and 28% of Palestinian and Israeli women (p < 0.0001). Palestinian women reported the lowest level of walking. Considering all domains, 26% of Palestinian women were classified as insufficiently active versus 13% of Palestinian men (p < 0.0001) who did not differ from the Israeli sample (14%). Middle-aged and elderly and less educated Palestinian women, and unemployed and pensioned Palestinian men were at particularly high risk of inactivity. Socio-economic indicators only partially explained the ethnic disparity.
Conclusions
Substantial proportions of Palestinian women, and subgroups of Palestinian men, are insufficiently active. Culturally appropriate intervention strategies are warranted, particularly for this vulnerable population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-90
PMCID: PMC3311574  PMID: 22289260
2.  “Working the System”—British American Tobacco's Influence on the European Union Treaty and Its Implications for Policy: An Analysis of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000202.
Katherine Smith and colleagues investigate the ways in which British American Tobacco influenced the European Union Treaty so that new EU policies advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health.
Background
Impact assessment (IA) of all major European Union (EU) policies is now mandatory. The form of IA used has been criticised for favouring corporate interests by overemphasising economic impacts and failing to adequately assess health impacts. Our study sought to assess how, why, and in what ways corporations, and particularly the tobacco industry, influenced the EU's approach to IA.
Methods and Findings
In order to identify whether industry played a role in promoting this system of IA within the EU, we analysed internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT) that were disclosed following a series of litigation cases in the United States. We combined this analysis with one of related literature and interviews with key informants. Our analysis demonstrates that from 1995 onwards BAT actively worked with other corporate actors to successfully promote a business-oriented form of IA that favoured large corporations. It appears that BAT favoured this form of IA because it could advance the company's European interests by establishing ground rules for policymaking that would: (i) provide an economic framework for evaluating all policy decisions, implicitly prioritising costs to businesses; (ii) secure early corporate involvement in policy discussions; (iii) bestow the corporate sector with a long-term advantage over other actors by increasing policymakers' dependence on information they supplied; and (iv) provide businesses with a persuasive means of challenging potential and existing legislation. The data reveal that an ensuing lobbying campaign, largely driven by BAT, helped secure binding changes to the EU Treaty via the Treaty of Amsterdam that required EU policymakers to minimise legislative burdens on businesses. Efforts subsequently focused on ensuring that these Treaty changes were translated into the application of a business orientated form of IA (cost–benefit analysis [CBA]) within EU policymaking procedures. Both the tobacco and chemical industries have since employed IA in apparent attempts to undermine key aspects of European policies designed to protect public health.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which all EU policy is made by making a business-oriented form of IA mandatory. This increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health, rather than in the interests of its citizens. Given that the public health community, focusing on health IA, has largely welcomed the increasing policy interest in IA, this suggests that urgent consideration is required of the ways in which IA can be employed to undermine, as well as support, effective public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The primary goal of public health, the branch of medicine concerned with the health of communities, is to improve lives by preventing disease. Public-health groups do this by assessing and monitoring the health of communities, by ensuring that populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective health care, and by helping to formulate public policies that safeguard human health. Until recently, most of the world's major public-health concerns related to infectious diseases. Nowadays, however, many major public-health concerns are linked to the goods made and marketed by large corporations such as fast food, alcohol, tobacco, and chemicals. In Europe, these corporations are regulated by policies drawn up both by member states and by the European Commission, the executive organ of the European Union (EU; an economic and political partnership among 27 democratic European countries). Thus, for example, the tobacco industry, which is widely recognized as a driver of the smoking epidemic, is regulated by Europe-wide tobacco control policies and member state level policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Since 1997, the European Commission has been required by law to assess the economic, social (including health), and environmental consequences of new policy initiatives using a process called an “impact assessment” (IA). Because different types of IA examine the likely effects of policies on different aspects of daily life—a health impact assessment, for example, focuses on a policy's effect on health—the choice of IA can lead to different decisions being taken about new policies. Although the IA tool adopted by the European Commission aims to assess economic, environmental and social impacts, independent experts suggest this tool does not adequately assess health impacts. Instead, economic impacts receive the most attention, a situation that may favour the interests of large businesses. In this study, the researchers seek to identify how and why the EU's approach to IA developed. More specifically, the researchers analyze internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT), which have been disclosed because of US litigation cases, to find out whether industry has played a role in promoting the EU's system of IA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed 714 BAT internal documents (identified by searching the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which contains more than 10 million internal tobacco company documents) that concerned attempts made by BAT to influence regulatory reforms in Europe. They also analyzed related literature from other sources (for example, academic publications) and interviewed 16 relevant people (including people who had worked at the European Commission). This analysis shows that from 1995, BAT worked with other businesses to promote European regulatory reforms (in particular, the establishment of a business-orientated form of IA) that favor large corporations. A lobbying campaign, initiated by BAT but involving a “policy network” of other companies, first helped to secure binding changes to the EU Treaty that require policymakers to minimize legislative burdens on businesses. The analysis shows that after achieving this goal, which BAT described as an “important victory,” further lobbying ensured that these treaty changes were translated into the implementation of a business-orientated form of IA within the EU. Both the tobacco industry and the chemical industry, the researchers argue, have since used the IA to delay and/or weaken EU legislation intended to protect public health.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which EU policy is made by ensuring that all significant EU policy decisions have to be assessed using a business-orientated IA. As the authors note, this situation increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that favor big business rather than the health of its citizens. Furthermore, these findings suggest that by establishing a network of other industries to help in lobbying for EU Treaty changes, BAT was able to distance itself from the push to establish a business-orientated IA to the extent that Commission officials were unaware of the involvement of the tobacco industry in campaigns for IA. Thus, in future, to safeguard public health, policymakers and public-health groups must pay more attention to corporate efforts to shape decision-making processes. In addition, public-health groups must take account of the ways in which IA can be used to undermine as well as support effective public-health policies and they must collaborate more closely in their efforts to ensure effective national and international policy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/0.1371/journal.pmed.1000202.
Wikipedia has a page on public health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information on the European Union (in several languages), on public health in the European Union, and on impact assessment by the European Commission is available
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages)
The Smoke Free Partnership contains more information about smoking prevalence in Europe and about European policies to tackle the public health issues associated with tobacco use
For more information about tobacco industry influence on policy see the 2009 World Health Organization report on tobacco industry interference with tobacco control
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000202
PMCID: PMC2797088  PMID: 20084098
3.  The creation of the health consumer: challenges on health sector regulation after managed care era 
Background
We utilized our previous studies analyzing the reforms affecting the health sector developed in the 1990s by financial groups to frame the strategies implemented by the pharmaceutical industry to regain market positions and to understand the challenges that regulatory agencies are confronting.
Methods
We followed an analytical approach for analyzing the process generated by the disputes between the financial groups and the pharmaceutical corporations and the challenges created to governmental regulation. We analyzed primary and secondary sources using situational and discourse analyses. We introduced the concepts of biomedicalization and biopedagogy, which allowed us to analyze how medicalization was radicalized.
Results
In the 1990s, structural adjustment policies facilitated health reforms that allowed the entrance of multinational financial capital into publicly-financed and employer-based insurance. This model operated in contraposition to the interests of the medical industrial complex, which since the middle of the 1990s had developed silent reforms to regain authority in defining the health-ill-care model. These silent reforms radicalized the medicalization. Some reforms took place through deregulatory processes, such as allowing direct-to-consumer advertisements of prescription drugs in the United States. In other countries different strategies were facilitated by the lack of regulation of other media such as the internet. The pharmaceutical industry also has had a role in changing disease definitions, rebranding others, creating new ones, and pressuring for approval of treatments to be paid by public, employer, and private plans. In recent years in Brazil there has been a substantial increase in the number of judicial claims demanding that public administrations pay for new treatments.
Conclusions
We found that the dispute for the hegemony of the health sector between financial and pharmaceutical companies has deeply transformed the sector. Patients converted into consumers are exposed to the biomedicalization of their lives helped by the biopedagogies, which using subtle mechanisms present discourses as if they are objective and created to empower consumers. The analysis of judicialization of health policies in Brazil could help to understand the complexity of the problem and to develop democratic mechanisms to improve the regulation of the health sector.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-7-2
PMCID: PMC3055814  PMID: 21349181
4.  A cross-country review of strategies of the German development cooperation to strengthen human resources 
Background
Recent years have seen growing awareness of the importance of human resources for health in health systems and with it an intensifying of the international and national policies in place to steer a response. This paper looks at how governments and donors in five countries – Cameroon, Indonesia, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania – have translated such policies into action. More detailed information with regard to initiatives of German development cooperation brings additional depth to the range and entry doors of human resources for health initiatives from the perspective of donor cooperation.
Methods
This qualitative study systematically presents different approaches and stages to human resources for health development in a cross-country comparison. An important reference to capture implementation at country level was grey literature such as policy documents and programme reports. In-depth interviews along a predefined grid with national and international stakeholders in the five countries provided information on issues related to human resources for health policy processes and implementation.
Results
All five countries have institutional entities in place and have drawn up national policies to address human resources for health. Only some of the countries have translated policies into strategies with defined targets and national programmes with budgets and operational plans. Traditional approaches of supporting training for individual health professionals continue to dominate. In some cases partners have played an advocacy and technical role to promote human resources for health development at the highest political levels, but usually they still focus on the provision of ad hoc training within their programmes, which may not be in line with national human resources for health development efforts or may even be counterproductive to them. Countries that face an emergency, such as Malawi, have intensified their efforts within a relatively short time and by using donor funding support also through new initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Conclusion
The country case studies illustrate the range of initiatives that have surged in recent years and some main trends in terms of donor initiatives. Though attention and priority attributed to human resources for health is increasing, there is still a focus on single initiatives and programmes. This can be explained in part by the complexity of the issue, and in part by its need to be addressed through a long-term approach including public sector and salary reforms that go beyond the health sector.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-7-46
PMCID: PMC2697154  PMID: 19500357
5.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Introduction
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Conclusions
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
6.  The Quality Improvement Demonstration Study: An example of evidence-based policy-making in practice 
Background
Randomized trials have long been the gold-standard for evaluating clinical practice. There is growing recognition that rigorous studies are similarly needed to assess the effects of policy. However, these studies are rarely conducted. We report on the Quality Improvement Demonstration Study (QIDS), an example of a large randomized policy experiment, introduced and conducted in a scientific manner to evaluate the impact of large-scale governmental policy interventions.
Methods
In 1999 the Philippine government proposed sweeping reforms in the National Health Sector Reform Agenda. We recognized the unique opportunity to conduct a social experiment. Our ongoing goal has been to generate results that inform health policy. Early on we concentrated on developing a multi-institutional collaborative effort. The QIDS team then developed hypotheses that specifically evaluated the impact of two policy reforms on both the delivery of care and long-term health status in children. We formed an experimental design by randomizing matched blocks of three communities into one of the two policy interventions plus a control group. Based on the reform agenda, one arm of the experiment provided expanded insurance coverage for children; the other introduced performance-based payments to hospitals and physicians. Data were collected in household, hospital-based patient exit, and facility surveys, as well as clinical vignettes, which were used to assess physician practice. Delivery of services and health status were evaluated at baseline and after the interventions were put in place using difference-in-difference estimation.
Results
We found and addressed numerous challenges conducting this study, namely: formalizing the experimental design using the existing health infrastructure; securing funding to do research coincident with the policy reforms; recognizing biases and designing the study to account for these; putting in place a broad data collection effort to account for unanticipated findings; introducing sustainable policy interventions based on the reform agenda; and providing results in real-time to policy makers through a combination of venues.
Conclusion
QIDS demonstrates that a large, prospective, randomized controlled policy experiment can be successfully implemented at a national level as part of sectoral reform. While we believe policy experiments should be used to generate evidence-based health policy, to do this requires opportunity and trust, strong collaborative relationships, and timing. This study nurtures the growing attitude that translation of scientific findings from the bedside to the community can be done successfully and that we should raise the bar on project evaluation and the policy-making process.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-6-5
PMCID: PMC2292719  PMID: 18364050
7.  Promoting universal financial protection: evidence from seven low- and middle-income countries on factors facilitating or hindering progress 
Although universal health coverage (UHC) is a global health policy priority, there remains limited evidence on UHC reforms in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper provides an overview of key insights from case studies in this thematic series, undertaken in seven LMICs (Costa Rica, Georgia, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Thailand) at very different stages in the transition to UHC.
These studies highlight the importance of increasing pre-payment funding through tax funding and sometimes mandatory insurance contributions when trying to improve financial protection by reducing out-of-pocket payments. Increased tax funding is particularly important if efforts are being made to extend financial protection to those outside formal-sector employment, raising questions about the value of pursuing contributory insurance schemes for this group. The prioritisation of insurance scheme coverage for civil servants in the first instance in some LMICs also raises questions about the most appropriate use of limited government funds.
The diverse reforms in these countries provide some insights into experiences with policies targeted at the poor compared with universalist reform approaches. Countries that have made the greatest progress to UHC, such as Costa Rica and Thailand, made an explicit commitment to ensuring financial protection and access to needed care for the entire population as soon as possible, while this was not necessarily the case in countries adopting targeted reforms. There also tends to be less fragmentation in funding pools in countries adopting a universalist rather than targeting approach. Apart from limiting cross-subsidies, fragmentation of pools has contributed to differential benefit packages, leading to inequities in access to needed care and financial protection across population groups; once such differentials are entrenched, they are difficult to overcome. Capacity constraints, particularly in purchasing organisations, are a pervasive problem in LMICs. The case studies also highlighted the critical role of high-level political leadership in pursuing UHC policies and citizen support in sustaining these policies.
This series demonstrates the value of promoting greater sharing of experiences on UHC reforms across LMICs. It also identifies key areas of future research on health care financing in LMICs that would support progress towards UHC.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-36
PMCID: PMC3848816  PMID: 24228762
Financial protection; Low- and middle-income countries; Policy analysis; Pooling; Purchasing; Revenue collection; Universal health coverage
8.  Differences in the Triglyceride to HDL-Cholesterol Ratio between Palestinian and Israeli Adults 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0116617.
Aims
To evaluate differences in the triglyceride to HDL-cholesterol ratio (TG/HDL), thought to be a proxy measure of insulin resistance, between Palestinian and Israeli adults in view of the greater incidence of coronary heart disease and high prevalence of diabetes in Palestinian Arabs.
Research Methods
A population-based observational prevalence study of cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors in Jerusalem. Participants (968 Palestinians, 707 Israelis, sampled at ages 25-74 years) underwent fasting and 2h post-75g oral challenge plasma glucose determinations. Metabolic risk was assessed using the surrogate index TG/HDL. Sex-specific comparisons were stratified by categories of body mass index and sex-specific waist circumference quartiles, adjusted by regression for age, glucose tolerance status and use of statins.
Results
Prevalence of overweight and obesity was substantially larger in Palestinians (p = 0.005). Prevalence of diabetes was 2.4 and 4 fold higher among Palestinian men and women, respectively (p<0.001). Adjusted TG/HDL was higher in Palestinians than Israelis across BMI and waist circumference categories (p<0.001 for both). Higher TG/HDL in Palestinians persisted in analyses restricted to participants with normal glucose tolerance and off statins. Notably, higher TG/HDL among Palestinians prevailed at a young age (25-44 years) and in normal weight individuals of both sexes.
Conclusions
Palestinians have a higher TG/HDL ratio than Israelis. Notably, this is evident also in young, healthy and normal weight participants. These findings indicate the need to study the determinants of this biomarker and other measures of insulin resistance in urban Arab populations and to focus research attention on earlier ages: childhood and prenatal stages of development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116617
PMCID: PMC4312056  PMID: 25635396
9.  Multinational Corporations and Health Care in the United States and Latin America: Strategies, Actions, and Effects* 
Journal of health and social behavior  2004;45(Suppl):136-157.
In this article we analyze the corporate dominance of health care in the United States and the dynamics that have motivated the international expansion of multinational health care corporations, especially to Latin America. We identify the strategies, actions, and effects of multinational corporations in health care delivery and public health policies. Our methods have included systematic bibliographical research and in-depth interviews in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil. Influenced by public policy makers in the United States, such organizations as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization have advocated policies that encourage reduction and privatization of health care and public health services previously provided in the public sector. Multinational managed care organizations have entered managed care markets in several Latin American countries at the same time as they were withdrawing from managed care activities in Medicaid and Medicare within the United States. Corporate strategies have culminated in a marked expansion of corporations’ access to social security and related public sector funds for the support of privatized health services. International financial institutions and multinational corporations have influenced reforms that, while favorable to corporate interests, have worsened access to needed services and have strained the remaining public sector institutions. A theoretical approach to these problems emphasizes the falling rate of profit as an economic motivation of corporate actions, silent reform, and the subordination of polity to economy. Praxis to address these problems involves opposition to policies that enhance corporate interests while reducing public sector services, as well as alternative models that emphasize a strengthened public sector.
PMCID: PMC2965354  PMID: 15779471
10.  Central Asian Post-Soviet health systems in transition: has different aid engagement produced different outcomes? 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24978.
Background
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a transition from centrally planned socialist systems to largely free-market systems for post-Soviet states. The health systems of Central Asian Post-Soviet (CAPS) countries (Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have undergone a profound revolution. External development partners have been crucial to this reorientation through financial and technical support, though both relationships and outcomes have varied. This research provides a comparative review of the development assistance provided in the health systems of CAPS countries and proposes future policy options to improve the effectiveness of development.
Design
Extensive documentary review was conducted using Pubmed, Medline/Ovid, Scopus, and Google scholar search engines, local websites, donor reports, and grey literature. The review was supplemented by key informant interviews and participant observation.
Findings
The collapse of the Soviet dominance of the region brought many health system challenges. Donors have played an essential role in the reform of health systems. However, as new aid beneficiaries, neither CAPS countries’ governments nor the donors had the experience of development collaboration in this context.
The scale of development assistance for health in CAPS countries has been limited compared to other countries with similar income, partly due to their limited history with the donor community, lack of experience in managing donors, and a limited history of transparency in international dealings. Despite commonalities at the start, two distinctive trajectories formed in CAPS countries, due to their differing politics and governance context.
Conclusions
The influence of donors, both financially and technically, remains crucial to health sector reform, despite their relatively small contribution to overall health budgets. Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan have demonstrated more effective development cooperation and improved health outcomes; arguably, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have made slower progress in their health and socio-economic indices because of their resistance to open and accountable development relationships.
doi:10.3402/gha.v7.24978
PMCID: PMC4166545  PMID: 25231098
aid effectiveness; health sector; Central Asian Post-Soviet countries; donor aid
11.  Challenges and opportunities for policy decisions to address health equity in developing health systems: case study of the policy processes in the Indian state of Orissa 
Introduction
Achieving health equity is a pertinent need of the developing health systems. Though policy process is crucial for planning and attaining health equity, the existing evidences on policy processes are scanty in this regard. This article explores the magnitude, determinants, challenges and prospects of 'health equity approach' in various health policy processes in the Indian State of Orissa - a setting comparable with many other developing health systems.
Methods
A case-study involving 'Walt-Gilson Policy Triangle' employed key-informant interviews and documentary reviews. Key informants (n = 34) were selected from the departments of Health and Family Welfare, Rural Development, and Women and Child Welfare, and civil societies. The documentary reviews involved various published and unpublished reports, policy pronouncements and articles on health equity in Orissa and similar settings.
Results
The 'health policy agenda' of Orissa was centered on 'health equity' envisaging affordable and equitable healthcare to all, integrated with public health interventions. However, the subsequent stages of policy process such as 'development, implementation and evaluation' experienced leakage in the equity approach. The impediment for a comprehensive approach towards health equity was the nexus among the national and state health priorities; role, agenda and capacity of actors involved; and existing constraints of the healthcare delivery system.
Conclusion
The health equity approach of policy processes was incomprehensive, often inadequately coordinated, and largely ignored the right blend of socio-medical determinants. A multi-sectoral, unified and integrated approach is required with technical, financial and managerial resources from different actors for a comprehensive 'health equity approach'. If carefully geared, the ongoing health sector reforms centered on sector-wide approaches, decentralization, communitization and involvement of non-state actors can substantially control existing inequalities through an optimally packaged equitable policy. The stakeholders involved in the policy processes need to be given orientation on the concept of health equity and its linkage with socio-economic development.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-55
PMCID: PMC3239384  PMID: 22099141
health equity; policy processes; health sector reforms; developing health systems; India
12.  Public Sector Reform and Governance for Adaptation: Implications of New Public Management for Adaptive Capacity in Mexico and Norway 
Environmental Management  2011;47(3):338-351.
Although many governments are assuming the responsibility of initiating adaptation policy in relation to climate change, the compatibility of “governance-for-adaptation” with the current paradigms of public administration has generally been overlooked. Over the last several decades, countries around the globe have embraced variants of the philosophy of administration broadly called “New Public Management” (NPM) in an effort to improve administrative efficiencies and the provision of public services. Using evidence from a case study of reforms in the building sector in Norway, and a case study of water and flood risk management in central Mexico, we analyze the implications of the adoption of the tenets of NPM for adaptive capacity. Our cases illustrate that some of the key attributes associated with governance for adaptation—namely, technical and financial capacities; institutional memory, learning and knowledge; and participation and accountability—have been eroded by NPM reforms. Despite improvements in specific operational tasks of the public sector in each case, we show that the success of NPM reforms presumes the existence of core elements of governance that have often been found lacking, including solid institutional frameworks and accountability. Our analysis illustrates the importance of considering both longer-term adaptive capacities and short-term efficiency goals in public sector administration reform.
doi:10.1007/s00267-010-9605-0
PMCID: PMC3056008  PMID: 21229245
Adaptive capacity; Climate change adaptation; Governance; New Public Management; Public policy; Latin America; Europe
13.  ABCB1 C3435T and CYP2C19*2 polymorphisms in a Palestinian and Turkish population: A pharmacogenetic perspective to clopidogrel 
Meta Gene  2014;2:314-319.
Clopidogrel is an antiplatelet drug used to prevent recurrent ischemic events after acute coronary syndrome and/or coronary stent implantation. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) such as CYP2C19*2 and ABCB1 C3435T have been found to play a role in different individual responses to clopidogrel. Since the prevalence of these SNPs is generally known to differ from one population to another, the aim of this study was to examine their prevalence in both a Palestinian and Turkish population.
One hundred unrelated Palestinian subjects and 100 unrelated Turkish subjects were analyzed for CYP2C19*2 and ABCB1 C3435T polymorphisms by the amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS).
Results showed an ABCB1 3435 T allele frequency of 0.46 (95% CI 0.391 to 0.529) in the Palestinian sample and 0.535 (95% CI 0.4664 to 0.6036) in the Turkish sample. CYP2C19*2 allele frequency was 0.095 (95% CI 0.0558 to 0.134) in the Palestinian sample and 0.135 (95% CI 0.088 to 0.182) in the Turkish sample.
Our results provide information about the prevalence of the polymorphisms related to clopidogrel response in both the Palestinian and Turkish populations, in order to improve the safety and efficacy of clopidogrel through use of genetically guided, individualized treatment. The prevalence of these clinically significant alleles shed light on the importance of testing them before prescribing clopidogrel.
doi:10.1016/j.mgene.2014.01.009
PMCID: PMC4287958  PMID: 25606414
Clopidogrel; ABCB1; CYP2C19; Palestinian; Turkish; SNP
14.  Building cooperation through health initiatives: an Arab and Israeli case study 
Background
Ongoing conflict in the Middle East poses a major threat to health and security. A project screening Arab and Israeli newborns for hearing loss provided an opportunity to evaluate ways for building cooperation. The aims of this study were to: a) examine what attracted Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian participants to the project, b) describe challenges they faced, and c) draw lessons learned for guiding cross-border health initiatives.
Methods
A case study method was used involving 12 key informants stratified by country (3 Israeli, 3 Jordanian, 3 Palestinian, 3 Canadian). In-depth interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and analyzed using an inductive qualitative approach to derive key themes.
Results
Major reasons for getting involved included: concern over an important health problem, curiosity about neighbors and opportunities for professional advancement. Participants were attracted to prospects for opening the dialogue, building relationships and facilitating cooperation in the region. The political situation was a major challenge that delayed implementation of the project and placed participants under social pressure. Among lessons learned, fostering personal relationships was viewed as critical for success of this initiative.
Conclusion
Arab and Israeli health professionals were prepared to get involved for two types of reasons: a) Project Level: opportunity to address a significant health issue (e.g. congenital hearing loss) while enhancing their professional careers, and b) Meta Level: concern about taking positive steps for building cooperation in the region. We invite discussion about roles that health professionals can play in building "cooperation networks" for underpinning health security, conflict resolution and global health promotion.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-1-8
PMCID: PMC1939698  PMID: 17634138
15.  Health sector reforms and human resources for health in Uganda and Bangladesh: mechanisms of effect 
Background
Despite the expanding literature on how reforms may affect health workers and which reactions they may provoke, little research has been conducted on the mechanisms of effect through which health sector reforms either promote or discourage health worker performance. This paper seeks to trace these mechanisms and examines the contextual framework of reform objectives in Uganda and Bangladesh, and health workers' responses to the changes in their working environments by taking a 'realistic evaluation' approach.
Methods
The study findings were generated by triangulating both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis among policy technocrats, health managers and groups of health providers. Quantitative surveys were conducted with over 700 individual health workers in both Bangladesh and Uganda and supplemented with qualitative data obtained from focus group discussions and key interviews with professional cadres, health managers and key institutions involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the reforms of interest.
Results
The reforms in both countries affected the workforce through various mechanisms. In Bangladesh, the effects of the unification efforts resulted in a power struggle and general mistrust between the two former workforce tracts, family planning and health. However positive effects of the reforms were felt regarding the changes in payment schemes. Ugandan findings show how the workforce responded to a strong and rapidly implemented system of decentralisation where the power of new local authorities was influenced by resource constraints and nepotism in recruitment. On the other hand, closer ties to local authorities provided the opportunity to gain insight into the operational constraints originating from higher levels that health staff were dealing with.
Conclusion
Findings from the study suggest that a) reform planners should use the proposed dynamic responses model to help design reform objectives that encourage positive responses among health workers b) the role of context has been underestimated and it is necessary to address broader systemic problems before initiating reform processes, c) reform programs need to incorporate active implementation research systems to learn the contextual dynamics and responses as well as have inbuilt program capacity for corrective measures d) health workers are key stakeholders in any reform process and should participate at all stages and e) some effects of reforms on the health workforce operate indirectly through levels of satisfaction voiced by communities utilising the services.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-5-3
PMCID: PMC1800303  PMID: 17270042
16.  Preventing type 2 diabetes among Palestinians: comparing five future policy scenarios 
BMJ Open  2013;3(12):e003558.
Objective
This paper aims to provide estimates of future diabetes prevalence in the West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and to compare five future policy scenarios for diabetes prevention.
Design
We created and refined a mathematical Markov model that integrates population, obesity and smoking trends to estimate future diabetes prevalence. Model parameters were derived from the literature. Diabetes incidence was estimated using DISMOD software. We developed the model for the Palestinian population based on data available for the period 2000–2010, and validated the model by comparing predicted diabetes prevalence to subsequent actual observed diabetes prevalence rates.
Setting
West Bank oPt.
Results
Palestinian diabetes mellitus prevalence estimated by the model (for adults aged 25 or more) was 9.7% in 2000, increasing to 15.3% by 2010. Prevalence in men increased from 9.1% to 16.9% and in women from 10.2% to 13.6%. Comparisons of the model results with the observed prevalence in the Palestinian Family Health Survey showed a close fit. The model forecasts were 20.8% for 2020 and 23.4% for 2030. A 2.8% reduction in diabetes prevalence could be achieved if obesity trends start to decline by 5% in a 5-year period. If obesity prevalence was reduced by 35% in 10 years, as suggested by the WHO, diabetes prevalence might be decreased by 20%.
Conclusions
The model estimates an increase in the prevalence of diabetes which poses a large challenge to the health system. However, if bold but reasonable action is taken, effective interventions could reduce diabetes prevalence and hence the number of patients with diabetes.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003558
PMCID: PMC3884589  PMID: 24362011
17.  Debate: Limitations on universality: the "right to health" and the necessity of legal nationality 
Background
The "right to health," including access to basic healthcare, has been recognized as a universal human right through a number of international agreements. Attempts to protect this ideal, however, have relied on states as the guarantor of rights and have subsequently ignored stateless individuals, or those lacking legal nationality in any nation-state. While a legal nationality alone is not sufficient to guarantee that a right to healthcare is accessible, an absence of any legal nationality is almost certainly an obstacle in most cases. There are millions of so-called stateless individuals around the globe who are, in effect, denied medical citizenship in their countries of residence. A central motivating factor for this essay is the fact that statelessness as a concept is largely absent from the medical literature. The goal for this discussion, therefore, is primarily to illustrate the need for further monitoring of health access issues by the medical community, and for a great deal more research into the effects of statelessness upon access to healthcare. This is important both as a theoretical issue, in light of the recognition by many of healthcare as a universal right, as well as an empirical fact that requires further exploration and amelioration.
Discussion
Most discussions of the human right to health assume that every human being has legal nationality, but in reality there are at least 11 to 12 million stateless individuals worldwide who are often unable to access basic healthcare. The examples of the Roma in Europe, the hill tribes of Thailand, and many Palestinians in Israel highlight the negative health impacts associated with statelessness.
Summary
Stateless individuals often face an inability to access the most basic healthcare, much less the "highest attainable standard of health" outlined by international agreements. Rather than presuming nationality, statelessness must be recognized by the medical community. Additionally, it is imperative that stateless populations be recognized, the health of these populations be tracked, and more research conducted to further elaborate upon the connection between statelessness and access to healthcare services, and hence a universal right to health.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-11
PMCID: PMC2894754  PMID: 20525334
18.  Public sector reform and demand for human resources for health (HRH) 
This article considers some of the effects of health sector reform on human resources for health (HRH) in developing countries and countries in transition by examining the effect of fiscal reform and the introduction of decentralisation and market mechanisms to the health sector.
Fiscal reform results in pressure to measure the staff outputs of the health sector. Financial decentralisation often leads to hospitals becoming "corporatised" institutions, operating with business principles but remaining in the public sector. The introduction of market mechanisms often involves the formation of an internal market within the health sector and market testing of different functions with the private sector. This has immediate implications for the employment of health workers in the public sector, because the public sector may reduce its workforce if services are purchased from other sectors or may introduce more short-term and temporary employment contracts.
Decentralisation of budgets and administrative functions can affect the health sector, often in negative ways, by reducing resources available and confusing lines of accountability for health workers. Governance and regulation of health care, when delivered by both public and private providers, require new systems of regulation.
The increase in private sector provision has led health workers to move to the private sector. For those remaining in the public sector, there are often worsening working conditions, a lack of employment security and dismantling of collective bargaining agreements.
Human resource development is gradually being recognised as crucial to future reforms and the formulation of health policy. New information systems at local and regional level will be needed to collect data on human resources. New employment arrangements, strengthening organisational culture, training and continuing education will also be needed.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-2-15
PMCID: PMC538275  PMID: 15560841
19.  The limitations on choice: Palestinian women's childbirth location, dissatisfaction with the place of birth and determinants 
Background:
Analysing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) Demographic and Health Survey 2004 (DHS-2004) data, this article focuses on the question of where women living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory give birth, and whether it was the preferred/place of choice for delivery. We further identify some of the determinants of women's dissatisfaction with childbirth location.
Methods:
A total of 2158 women residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were included in this study. Regression analysis established the association between dissatisfaction with the place of birth and selected determinants.
Results:
A total of 3.5% of women delivered at home, with the rest in assisted facilities. Overall, 20.5% of women reported that their childbirth location was not the preferred place of delivery. Women who delivered at home; in governmental facilities; in regions other than the central West Bank; who had sudden delivery or did not reach their preferred childbirth location because of closures and siege; because of costs/the availability of insurance; or because there were no other locations available, were significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their childbirth location compared to those who birthed in private facilities, the central West Bank, and in locations with better and more available services.
Conclusion:
The findings demonstrate that Palestinian women's choice of a place of birth is constrained and modified by the availability, affordability, and limited access to services induced by continuing closures and siege. These findings need to be taken into consideration when planning for maternity services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckl089
PMCID: PMC1913630  PMID: 16798783
20.  “It’s not easy to acknowledge that I’m ill”: a qualitative investigation into the health seeking behavior of rural Palestinian women 
BMC Women's Health  2013;13:26.
Background
This qualitative study sets to fill a gap in knowledge by exploring the health seeking behaviour of rural women living in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The existing literature on the oPt has so far focused on unravelling the country’s epidemiological and health system profile, but has largely neglected the assessment of factors shaping people’s decisions on health care use.
Methods
Based on a conceptual framework rooted in the Anderson behavioural model, we conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with purposely selected women and seven key informant interviews in three purposely selected villages in Ramallah district.
Results
Our findings indicate that women delay seeking professional care, use self-prescribed medications and home treatment, and do not use preventive and educational health services. Their health seeking behaviour is the result of the interplay of several factors: their gendered socio-cultural role; their health beliefs; financial affordability and geographical accessibility; their perceptions of the quality of care; and their perceived health needs.
Conclusions
Findings are discussed in the light of their policy implications, suggesting that adequate health policy planning ought to take into considerations socio-cultural dimensions beyond those directly pertinent to the health care system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-26
PMCID: PMC3679862  PMID: 23705933
Occupied Palestinian territories (oPt); Women’s health; Health seeking; Andersen model
21.  Human resource management in the Georgian National Immunization Program: a baseline assessment 
Background
Georgia's health care system underwent dramatic reform after gaining independence in 1991. The decentralization of the health care system was one of the core elements of health care reform but reports suggest that human resource management issues were overlooked. The Georgian national immunization program was affected by these reforms and is not functioning at optimum levels. This paper describes the state of human resource management practices within the Georgian national immunization program in late 2004.
Methods
Thirty districts were selected for the study. Within these districts, 392 providers and thirty immunization managers participated in the study. Survey questionnaires were administered through face-to-face interviews to immunization managers and a mail survey was administered to immunization providers. Qualitative data collection involved four focus groups. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Chi-square tests were used to test for differences between groups for continuous and categorical variables. Content analysis identified main themes within the focus groups.
Results
Weak administrative links exist between the Centres of Public Health (CPH) and Primary Health Care (PHC) health facilities. There is a lack of clear management guidelines and only 49.6% of all health providers had written job descriptions. A common concern among all respondents was the extremely inadequate salary. Managers cited lack of authority and poor knowledge and skills in human resource management. Lack of resources and infrastructure were identified as major barriers to improving immunization.
Conclusion
Our study found that the National Immunization Program in Georgia was characterized by weak organizational structure and processes and a lack of knowledge and skills in management and supervision, especially at peripheral levels. The development of the skills and processes of a well-managed workforce may help improve immunization rates, facilitate successful implementation of remaining health care reforms and is an overall, wise investment. However, reforms at strategic policy levels and across sectors will be necessary to address the systemic financial and health system constraints impeding the performance of the immunization program and the health care system as a whole.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-5-20
PMCID: PMC1950878  PMID: 17672907
22.  The rise and fall of Australian physical activity policy 1996 – 2006: a national review framed in an international context 
Background
This paper provides an historical review of physical activity policy development in Australia for a period spanning a decade since the release of the US Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health in 1996 and including the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Using our definition of 'HARDWIRED' policy criteria, this Australian review is compared with an international perspective of countries with established national physical activity policies and strategies (New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Finland). Methods comprised a literature and policy review, audit of relevant web sites, document searches and surveys of international stakeholders.
Results
All these selected countries embraced multi-strategic policies and undertook monitoring of physical activity through national surveys. Few committed to policy of more than three years duration and none undertook systematic evaluation of national policy implementation. This Australian review highlights phases of innovation and leadership in physical activity-related policy, as well as periods of stagnation and decline; early efforts were amongst the best in the world but by the mid-point of this review (the year 2000), promising attempts towards development of a national intersectoral policy framework were thwarted by reforms in the Federal Sport and Recreation sector. Several well received reviews of evidence on good practices in physical activity and public health were produced in the period but leadership and resources were lacking to implement the policies and programs indicated. Latterly, widespread publicity and greatly increased public and political interest in chronic disease prevention, (especially in obesity and type 2 diabetes) have dominated the framework within which Australian policy deliberations have occurred. Finally, a national physical activity policy framework for the Health sector emerged, but not as a policy vision that was inclusive of the other essential sectors such as Education, Transport, Urban Planning as well as Sport and Recreation.
Conclusion
Despite some progression of physical activity policy in the decade since 1995/6, this review found inconsistent policy development, both in Australia and elsewhere. Arguably, Australia has done no worse than other countries, but more effective responses to physical inactivity in populations can be built only on sustainable multi-sectoral public health policy partnerships that are well informed by evidence of effectiveness and good practice. In Australia and elsewhere prerequisites for success are political support, long-term investment and commitment to program implementation and evaluation. An urgent priority is media and political advocacy for physical activity focussed on these factors.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-5-18
PMCID: PMC2525635  PMID: 18667088
23.  Configuring Balanced Scorecards for Measuring Health System Performance: Evidence from 5 Years' Evaluation in Afghanistan 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001066.
Anbrasi Edward and colleagues report the results of a balanced scorecard performance system used to examine 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period in Afghanistan, between 2004 and 2008.
Background
In 2004, Afghanistan pioneered a balanced scorecard (BSC) performance system to manage the delivery of primary health care services. This study examines the trends of 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period between 2004 and 2008.
Methods and Findings
Independent evaluations of performance in six domains were conducted annually through 5,500 patient observations and exit interviews and 1,500 provider interviews in >600 facilities selected by stratified random sampling in each province. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were used to assess trends in BSC parameters. There was a progressive improvement in the national median scores scaled from 0–100 between 2004 and 2008 in all six domains: patient and community satisfaction of services (65.3–84.5, p<0.0001); provider satisfaction (65.4–79.2, p<0.01); capacity for service provision (47.4–76.4, p<0.0001); quality of services (40.5–67.4, p<0.0001); and overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services (52.0–52.6). The financial domain also showed improvement until 2007 (84.4–95.7, p<0.01), after which user fees were eliminated. By 2008, all provinces achieved the upper benchmark of national median set in 2004.
Conclusions
The BSC has been successfully employed to assess and improve health service capacity and service delivery using performance benchmarking during the 5-year period. However, scorecard reconfigurations are needed to integrate effectiveness and efficiency measures and accommodate changes in health systems policy and strategy architecture to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness as a comprehensive health system performance measure. The process of BSC design and implementation can serve as a valuable prototype for health policy planners managing performance in similar health care contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Traditionally, the performance of a health system (the complete network of health care agencies, facilities, and providers in a defined geographical region) has been measured in terms of health outcomes: how many people have been treated, how many got better, and how many died. But, nowadays, with increased demand for improved governance and accountability, policy makers are seeking comprehensive performance measures that show in detail how innovations designed to strengthen health systems are affecting service delivery and health outcomes. One such performance measure is the “balanced scorecard,” an integrated management and measurement tool that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. The balanced scorecard—essentially a list of key performance indicators and performance benchmarks in several domains—was originally developed for industry but is now becoming a popular strategic management tool in the health sector. For example, balanced scorecards have been successfully integrated into the Dutch and Italian public health care systems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Little is known about the use of balanced scorecards in the national public health care systems of developing countries but the introduction of performance management into health system reform in fragile states in particular (developing countries where the state fails to perform the fundamental functions necessary to meet its citizens' basic needs and expectations) could help to promote governance and leadership, and facilitate essential policy changes. One fragile state that has introduced the balanced scorecard system for public health care management is Afghanistan, which emerged from decades of conflict in 2002 with some of the world's worst health indicators. To deal with an extremely high burden of disease, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) designed a Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), which is delivered by nongovernmental organizations and MOPH agencies. In 2004, the MOPH introduced the National Health Service Performance Assessment (NHSPA), an annual country-wide assessment of service provision and patient satisfaction and pioneered a balanced scorecard, which uses data collected in the NHSPA, to manage the delivery of primary health care services. In this study, the researchers examine the trends between 2004 and 2008 of the 29 key performance indicators in six domains included in this balanced scorecard, and consider the potential and limitations of the scorecard as a management tool to measure and improve health service delivery in Afghanistan and other similar countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each year of the study, a random sample of 25 facilities (district hospitals and comprehensive and basic health centers) in 28 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces was chosen (one province did not have functional facilities in 2004 and the other five missing provinces were inaccessible because of ongoing conflicts). NHSPA surveyors collected approximately 5,000 patient observations, 5,000 exit interviews with patients or their caregivers, and 1,500 health provider interviews by observing consultations involving five children under 5 years old and five patients over 5 years old in each facility. The researchers then used this information to evaluate the key performance indicators in the balanced scorecard and a statistical method called generalized estimating equation modeling to assess trends in these indicators. They report that there was a progressive improvement in national average scores in all six domains (patients and community satisfaction with services, provider satisfaction, capacity for service provision, quality of services, overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services, and financial systems) between 2004 and 2008.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the balanced scorecard was successfully used to improve health system capacity and service delivery through performance benchmarking over the 5-year study period. Importantly, the use of the balanced scorecard helped to show the effects of investments, facilitate policy change, and create a more evidence-based decision-making culture in Afghanistan's primary health care system. However, the researchers warn that the continuing success of the balanced scorecard in Afghanistan will depend on its ability to accommodate changes in health systems policy. Furthermore, reconfigurations of the scorecard are needed to include measures of the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the health system such as mortality rates. More generally, the researchers conclude that the balanced scorecard offers a promising measure of health system performance that could be used to examine the effectiveness of health care strategies and innovations in other fragile and developing countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066.
A 2010 article entitled An Afghan Success Story: The Balanced Scorecard and Improved Health Services in The Globe, a newsletter produced by the Department of International Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provides a detailed description of the balanced scorecard used in this study
Wikipedia has a page on health systems and on balanced scorecards (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization country profile of Afghanistan provides information on the country's health system and burden of disease (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066
PMCID: PMC3144209  PMID: 21814499
24.  Integration of care systems in Portugal: anatomy of recent reforms 
Background
Integrated care is increasingly present in the agenda of policy-makers, health professionals and researchers as a way to improve care services in relation to access, quality, user satisfaction and efficiency. These are overarching objectives of most sectoral reforms. However, health care and social care services and systems are more and more dependent on the performance of each other, imposing the logic of network. Demographic, epidemiologic and cultural changes result in pressure to increase efficiency and efficacy of services and organisations in both sectors and that is why integrated care has become so relevant in the last years.
Methods
We first used concept maps to organise and systematise information that we had gathered through deep literature review in order to set a framework where to base the subsequent work. Then, we interviewed informants at several levels of the health and social care systems and we built a list of major recent reforms addressing integrated care in Portugal. In a third step, we conducted two independent focus groups where those reforms were discussed and evaluated within the context of the concepts and frameworks identified from the literature. Results were confronted and reconciled, giving place to a list of requisites and guidelines that oriented further search for documentation on those reforms.
Results
Several important health reforms are in course in primary and hospital care in Portugal, while a so-called third level of care has been introduced with the launch of the National Network of Long-Term Integrated Care (RNCCI – Rede Nacional de Cuidados Continuados Integrados). The social care sector has itself been a subject of alternative models springing from opposite political orientations. All these changes are having repercussions on the way the systems work with each other as they are leading to ongoing and ill-evaluated reformulations on the way they are governed, financed, structured and operated.
Conclusions
Care integration is not absent from policy-making and implementation endeavour in Portugal. However, recurrent issues seem to be consistently hampering the efforts regarding the integration of care in the country. It is urgent to assess current situation as experienced by those closely involved and directly affected.
PMCID: PMC4113913  PMID: 25114663
care systems integration; health care reform; social care reform; Portugal
25.  Human resources for health and decentralization policy in the Brazilian health system 
Background
The Brazilian health reform process, following the establishment of the Unified Health System (SUS), has had a strong emphasis on decentralization, with a special focus on financing, management and inter-managerial agreements. Brazil is a federal country and the Ministry of Health (MoH), through the Secretary of Labour Management and Health Education, is responsible for establishing national policy guidelines for health labour management, and also for implementing strategies for the decentralization of management of labour and education in the federal states. This paper assesses whether the process of decentralizing human resources for health (HRH) management and organization to the level of the state and municipal health departments has involved investments in technical, political and financial resources at the national level.
Methods
The research methods used comprise a survey of HRH managers of states and major municipalities (including capitals) and focus groups with these HRH managers - all by geographic region. The results were obtained by combining survey and focus group data, and also through triangulation with the results of previous research.
Results
The results of this evaluation showed the evolution policy, previously restricted to the field of 'personnel administration', now expanded to a conceptual model for health labour management and education-- identifying progress, setbacks, critical issues and challenges for the consolidation of the decentralized model for HRH management. The results showed that 76.3% of the health departments have an HRH unit. It was observed that 63.2% have an HRH information system. However, in most health departments, the HRH unit uses only the payroll and administrative records as data sources. Concerning education in health, 67.6% of the HRH managers mentioned existing cooperation with educational and teaching institutions for training and/or specialization of health workers. Among them, specialization courses account for 61.4% and short courses for 56.1%.
Conclusions
Due to decentralization, the HRH area has been restructured and policies beyond traditional administrative activities have been developed. However, twenty years on from the establishment of the SUS, there remains a low level of institutionalization in the HRH area, despite recent efforts of the MoH.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-9-12
PMCID: PMC3123266  PMID: 21586156

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