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1.  A population-based model for priority setting across the care continuum and across modalities 
The Health-sector Wide (HsW) priority setting model is designed to shift the focus of priority setting away from 'program budgets' – that are typically defined by modality or disease-stage – and towards well-defined target populations with a particular disease/health problem.
The key features of the HsW model are i) a disease/health problem framework, ii) a sequential approach to covering the entire health sector, iii) comprehensiveness of scope in identifying intervention options and iv) the use of objective evidence. The HsW model redefines the unit of analysis over which priorities are set to include all mutually exclusive and complementary interventions for the prevention and treatment of each disease/health problem under consideration. The HsW model is therefore incompatible with the fragmented approach to priority setting across multiple program budgets that currently characterises allocation in many health systems. The HsW model employs standard cost-utility analyses and decision-rules with the aim of maximising QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint for the set of diseases/health problems under consideration. It is recognised that the objective function may include non-health arguments that would imply a departure from simple QALY maximisation and that political constraints frequently limit degrees of freedom. In addressing these broader considerations, the HsW model can be modified to maximise value-weighted QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint and any political constraints bearing upon allocation decisions.
The HsW model has been applied in several contexts, recently to osteoarthritis, that has demonstrated both its practical application and its capacity to derive clear evidenced-based policy recommendations.
Comparisons with other approaches to priority setting, such as Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis (PBMA) and modality-based cost-effectiveness comparisons, as typified by Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee process for the listing of pharmaceuticals for government funding, demonstrate the value added by the HsW model notably in its greater likelihood of contributing to allocative efficiency.
PMCID: PMC1481504  PMID: 16566841
2.  Eurocan plus report: feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities 
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project, called for by the European Parliament, was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities in Europe. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people, the largest Europe–wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research.
Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
It is essential to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community is evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form), leading to the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventive strategies. Translational research ranges from bench–to–bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project recommends the creation of a small, permanent and independent European Cancer Initiative (ECI). This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The ECI should assume responsibility for stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes, becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ organizations, European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), putting into practice solutions aimed at alleviating barriers to collaboration and coordination of cancer research activities in the European Union, and dealing with legal and regulatory issues. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this entity should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co–operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe and (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level.
The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control in Europe, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
Executive Summary
Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century—one for which Europe is currently not prepared nor preparing itself. Cancer is a major cause of death in Europe with two million casualties and three million new cases diagnosed annually, and the situation is set to worsen as the population ages.
These facts led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, to call for initiatives for better coordination of cancer research efforts in the European Union. The EUROCAN+PLUS Project was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people. In this respect, the Project became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research, implicating researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, healthcare professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients’ organizations and patients.
The Project first identified barriers impeding research and collaboration in research in Europe. Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
In addition, there is a shortage of leadership, a multiplicity of institutions each focusing on its own agenda, sub–optimal contact with industry, inadequate training, non–existent career paths, low personnel mobility in research especially among clinicians and inefficient funding—all conspiring against efficient collaboration in cancer care and research. European cancer research today does not have a functional translational research continuum, that is the process that exploits biomedical research innovations and converts them into prevention methods, diagnostic tools and therapies. Moreover, epidemiological research is not integrated with other types of cancer research, and the implementation of the European Directives on Clinical Trials 1 and on Personal Data Protection 2 has further slowed the innovation process in Europe. Furthermore, large inequalities in health and research exist between the EU–15 and the New Member States.
The picture is not entirely bleak, however, as the European cancer research scene presents several strengths, such as excellent basic research and clinical research and innovative etiological research that should be better exploited.
When considering recommendations, several priority dimensions had to be retained. It is essential that proposals include actions and recommendations that can benefit all Member States of the European Union and not just States with the elite centres. It is also essential to have a broader patient orientation to help provide the knowledge to establish cancer control possibilities when we exhaust what can be achieved by the implementation of current knowledge. It is vital that the actions proposed can contribute to the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.
The Project participants identified six areas for which consensus solutions should be implemented in order to obtain better coordination of cancer research activities. The required solutions are as follows. The proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community.The establishment of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers.The provision of guidance for translational and clinical research including the establishment of a translational research platform involving comprehensive cancer centres and cancer research centres.The coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects.The construction of a ‘one–stop shop’ as a contact interface between the industry, small and medium enterprises, scientists and other stakeholders.The support of greater involvement of healthcare professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.
In the course of the EUROCAN+PLUS consultative process, several key collaborative projects emerged between the various groups and institutes engaged in the consultation. There was a collaboration network established with Europe’s leading Comprehensive Cancer Centres; funding was awarded for a closer collaboration of Owners of Cancer Registries in Europe (EUROCOURSE); there was funding received from FP7 for an extensive network of leading Biological Resource Centres in Europe (BBMRI); a Working Group identified the special needs of Central, Eastern and South–eastern Europe and proposed a remedy (‘Warsaw Declaration’), and the concept of developing a one–stop shop for dealing with academia and industry including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was discussed in detail.
Several other dimensions currently lacking were identified. There is an absolute necessity to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. It was a salutary lesson when it was recognized that all that is known about the quality of life of the cancer patient comes from the experience of a tiny proportion of cancer patients included in a few clinical trials. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community was evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form) and the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventative strategies in the European Union. Translational research ranges from bench-to-bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
Having taken note of the barriers and the solutions and having examined relevant examples of existing European organizations in the field, it was agreed during the General Assembly of 19 November 2007 that the EUROCAN+PLUS Project had to recommend the creation of a small, permanent and neutral ECI. This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The proposal is based on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and its principal aims include providing a forum where researchers from all backgrounds and from all countries can meet with members of other specialities including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.
The ECI should assume responsibility for: stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes;becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ and organizations;European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises;putting into practice the aforementioned solutions aimed at alleviating barriers and coordinating cancer research activities in the EU;dealing with legal and regulatory issues.
Solutions implemented through the ECI will lead to better coordination and collaboration throughout Europe, more efficient use of resources, an increase in Europe’s attractiveness to the biomedical industry and better quality of cancer research and education of health professionals.
The Project considered that European legal instruments currently available were inadequate for addressing many aspects of the barriers identified and for the implementation of effective, lasting solutions. Therefore, the legal environment that could shelter an idea like the ECI remains to be defined but should be done so as a priority. In this context, the initiative of the European Commission for a new legal entity for research infrastructure might be a step in this direction. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass: (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co-operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe; (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level. Another topic deserving immediate attention is the creation of a European database on cancer research projects and cancer research facilities.
Despite enormous progress in cancer control in Europe during the past two decades, there was an increase of 300,000 in the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
PMCID: PMC3234055  PMID: 22274749
3.  Analysis of the ‘reformpool’-activity in Austria: is the challenge met? 
The purpose of our study is to analyse the activities initiated by the foundation of the reformpools on the regional level. We wanted to see not only what projects have emerged from these funds, but also how the incentives of this special way of funding influence the activity and what overall impact can be expected on health services delivery in the future.
In Austria, all expenses in the outpatient sector are borne by the statutory health insurance. But in the inpatient sector, SHI just co-finances about 45% of all costs incurred by patients, with the rest contributed by the federal, regional and municipal level. This, however, leads to a number of problems in today's epidemiological situation with patients in need of many different interventions in the course of their chronic disease.
Originally with the aim of finding solutions to these interface problems between inpatient and outpatient care, the healthcare reform 2005 instated the instrument of the reformpool. The reformpool unites funds from social health insurance and regions to finance projects that develop new ways of health services delivery across the sectors. In the course of recent reforms, it became explicitly possible to sponsor projects of integrated care, which had de facto already been the case before.
The reform pool has various disincentives or wrong incentives compared to e.g. the German ‘Anschubfinanzierung’ for IC-contracts, which was probably a role-model for the Austrian reformpool, because of the underlying differences in the healthcare system and the distinct differences in the regulation. For example, the ‘Anschubfinanzierung’ in Germany withdraws money from the available funds for contract physicians to finance IC-projects, whereas in Austria, their fees are fixed. So in Austria, there is no incentive to retrieve money by participating in such projects. For the stakeholders supplying the pool, mainly the sickness funds and the regions, many projects inflict additional costs on the one or on the other in the future. So as both parties have to agree on projects, there is a strong basic disincentive to grant funds in the present. If a project is in both their interest because it is reducing costs, the care providers might not be interested to participate, as this would diminish their revenues in the future. What is more, the federal control over the (region-based) funds and projects is poor, which might lead to duplication of efforts and missing scale-efficiency in some regions.
Methods and data
For our analysis, we conducted a survey with a standardised questionnaire sent to the management of the regional health funds, which are responsible for the reformpool funds. The questionnaire was checked by experts of the federal association of social security institutions. We also conducted an on-site visit of the reformpool-manager, a programme which can be used to evaluate the reformpool-projects. In addition, we used all available evaluation reports of projects to assess the situation of evaluation of the projects. Furthermore, we used financial data from the regional health funds, the federal association of social security institutions, from the ministry of health and the regional health funds to assess the usage of the reformpool.
(Preliminary) Results
The qualitative results are mixed. Some projects are promising with regard to improvements of the current situation and are well evaluated. Many projects neglect the requirement of the reformpool to be such as to yield a monetary benefit for the system but only focus on improving service delivery. Some evaluations are not well operationalised and thus, arguments why these projects should be transformed to ordinarily financed services will be lacking. The reformpool activity set on very slowly, with only one project already started in 2005, the first possible year. In 2007 we see the highest number (23) of new projects granted and the highest monetary volume, €11 Mio total for 21 of them 1, with activity subsiding in 2008 (6 projects with a volume of € 2.5 Mio total for 5 of them 1) and most certainly in 2009 (with diminishing tax revenues and health insurance contributions) with only one project granted in the first quarter of the year. Of all funds (theoretically) available, only about 16% have been put to use in a reformpool project per year, with high variation (e.g. in the region of Styria over 30%, in Tyrol only 1.5%).
(Preliminary) Conclusions
From our study we can tell that the instrument of reformpool was not devised well concerning its incentive structure, and the interest to conduct such projects is diminishing. Stricter control of the requirements by the federal level, more pronounced requirements, a dedication of the funds to projects instead of a virtual budget and more cooperation between regions could improve the effectiveness of the instrument. Conflicts of interest: The project was funded by the federal association of social security institutions. All authors are researchers at the IHS and hold no commercial interests in the subject. Additional information: Founded by the economist Oskar Morgenstern and the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, the IHS (Institute for Advanced Studies) is a non-profit post-graduate teaching and research facility in the fields of economics, sociology and politology, and one of the two Austrian institutes preparing the official economic forecast for Austria. For more than a decade, it has been one of the major research facilities in the fields of health economics and health policy in Austria.
PMCID: PMC2807071
evidence-based guidelines; quality of care
4.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
5.  Health Research Funding in Mexico: The Need for a Long-Term Agenda 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51195.
The legal framework and funding mechanisms of the national health research system were recently reformed in Mexico. A study of the resource allocation for health research is still missing. We identified the health research areas funded by the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT) and examined whether research funding has been aligned to national health problems.
Methods and Findings
We collected the information to create a database of research grant projects supported through the three main Sectoral Funds managed by CONACYT between 2003 and 2010. The health-related projects were identified and classified according to their methodological approach and research objective. A correlation analysis was carried out to evaluate the association between disease-specific funding and two indicators of disease burden. From 2003 to 2010, research grant funding increased by 32% at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5%. By research objective, the budget fluctuated annually resulting in modest increments or even decrements during the period under analysis. The basic science category received the largest share of funding (29%) while the less funded category was violence and accidents (1.4%). The number of deaths (ρ = 0.51; P<0.001) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; ρ = 0.33; P = 0.004) were weakly correlated with the funding for health research. Considering the two indicators, poisonings and infectious and parasitic diseases were among the most overfunded conditions. In contrast, congenital anomalies, road traffic accidents, cerebrovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the most underfunded conditions.
Although the health research funding has grown since the creation of CONACYT sectoral funds, the financial effort is still low in comparison to other Latin American countries with similar development. Furthermore, the great diversity of the funded topics compromises the efficacy of the investment. Better mechanisms of research priority-setting are required to adjust the research portfolio to the new health panorama of Mexican population.
PMCID: PMC3519634  PMID: 23251451
6.  Australian public health policy in 2003 – 2004 
In Australia, compared with other developed countries the many and varied programs which comprise public health have continued to be funded poorly and unsystematically, particularly given the amount of publicly voiced political support.
In 2003, the major public health policy developments in communicable disease control were in the fields of SARS, and vaccine funding, whilst the TGA was focused on the Pan Pharmaceutical crisis. Programs directed to health maintenance and healthy ageing were approved. The tertiary education sector was involved in the development of programs for training the public health workforce and new professional qualifications and competencies. The Abelson Report received support from overseas experts, providing a potential platform for calls to improve national funding for future Australian preventive programs; however, inconsistencies continued across all jurisdictions in their approaches to tackling national health priorities. Despite 2004 being an election year, public health policy was not visible, with the bulk of the public health funding available in the 2004/05 federal budget allocated to managing such emerging risks as avian flu. We conclude by suggesting several implications for the future.
PMCID: PMC1087471  PMID: 15811192
7.  How countries cope with competing demands and expectations: perspectives of different stakeholders on priority setting and resource allocation for health in the era of HIV and AIDS 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1071.
Health systems have experienced unprecedented stress in recent years, and as yet no consensus has emerged as to how to deal with the multiple burden of disease in the context of HIV and AIDS and other competing health priorities. Priority setting is essential, yet this is a complex, multifaceted process. Drawing on a study conducted in five African countries, this paper explores different stakeholders′ perceptions of health priorities, how priorities are defined in practice, the process of resource allocation for HIV and Health and how different stakeholders perceive this.
A sub-analysis was conducted of selected data from a wider qualitative study that explored the interactions between health systems and HIV and AIDS responses in five sub-Saharan countries (Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar and Malawi). Key background documents were analysed and semi-structured interviews (n = 258) and focus group discussions (n = 45) were held with representatives of communities, health personnel, decision makers, civil society representatives and development partners at both national and district level.
Health priorities were expressed either in terms of specific health problems and diseases or gaps in service delivery requiring a strengthening of the overall health system. In all five countries study respondents (with the exception of community members in Ghana) identified malaria and HIV as the two top health priorities. Community representatives were more likely to report concerns about accessibility of services and quality of care. National level respondents often referred to wider systemic challenges in relation to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Indeed, actual priority setting was heavily influenced by international agendas (e.g. MDGs) and by the ways in which development partners were supporting national strategic planning processes. At the same time, multi-stakeholder processes were increasingly used to identify priorities and inform sector-wide planning, whereby health service statistics were used to rank the burden of disease. However, many respondents remarked that health system challenges are not captured by such statistics.
In all countries funding for health was reported to fall short of requirements and a need for further priority setting to match actual resource availability was identified. Pooled health sector funds have been established to some extent, but development partners′ lack of flexibility in the allocation of funds according to country-generated priorities was identified as a major constraint.
Although we found consensus on health priorities across all levels in the study countries, current funding falls short of addressing these identified areas. The nature of external funding, as well as programme-specific investment, was found to distort priority setting. There are signs that existing interventions have had limited effects beyond meeting the needs of disease-specific programmes. A need for more comprehensive health system strengthening (HSS) was identified, which requires a strong vision as to what the term means, coupled with a clear strategy and commitment from national and international decision makers in order to achieve stated goals. Prospective studies and action research, accompanied by pilot programmes, are recommended as deliberate strategies for HSS.
PMCID: PMC3549279  PMID: 23231820
HIV and AIDS; Health systems strengthening; Priority setting; Needs and priorities; Sector-wide approaches; Sub-Saharan Africa
8.  Effect of the California Tobacco Control Program on Personal Health Care Expenditures 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(8):e178.
Large state tobacco control programs have been shown to reduce smoking and would be expected to affect health care costs. We investigate the effect of California's large-scale tobacco control program on aggregate personal health care expenditures in the state.
Methods and Findings
Cointegrating regressions were used to predict (1) the difference in per capita cigarette consumption between California and 38 control states as a function of the difference in cumulative expenditures of the California and control state tobacco control programs, and (2) the relationship between the difference in cigarette consumption and the difference in per capita personal health expenditures between the control states and California between 1980 and 2004. Between 1989 (when it started) and 2004, the California program was associated with $86 billion (2004 US dollars) (95% confidence interval [CI] $28 billion to $151 billion) lower health care expenditures than would have been expected without the program. This reduction grew over time, reaching 7.3% (95% CI 2.7%–12.1%) of total health care expenditures in 2004.
A strong tobacco control program is not only associated with reduced smoking, but also with reductions in health care expenditures.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues find that the California state tobacco control program is associated not only with reduced smoking, but with reductions in health care costs as well.
Editors' Summary
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco causes 1 in 10 adult deaths worldwide and is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. In 2005, tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths, which amounts to one death every 6 seconds. It is estimated that by 2030, annual deaths from tobacco use will be 8 million worldwide. Eighty percent of these deaths will occur in the developing world.
Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is also a major health concern, as it can cause cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. An estimated 200,000 workers die annually from exposure to smoke at work, according to the International Labour Organization.
In 2008, the WHO released a report on the global tobacco epidemic, which provided a comprehensive analysis of tobacco use and control efforts. It revealed that not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures. The report also stated that governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts.
The California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) is a state-funded public policy intervention established in 1989. Its goal is to decrease tobacco-related diseases and deaths in California by reducing tobacco use across the state. The program is focused on adults and social norm change rather than on adolescent tobacco use prevention, on the premise that the “next generation cannot be saved without changing the generations who have already reached adulthood.”
Why Was This Study Done?
The success of large public health programs, especially those that counter the tactics of powerful industries such as the tobacco industry, require funding. The justification of public spending on these initiatives should be evidence driven. While the success of the CTCP in reducing smoking was known, it was not yet clear whether the program had reduced health care costs. The researchers investigated the effect of the CTCP on personal health care expenditures in the state. Their findings can provide useful information for the development of other tobacco control initiatives.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using the statistical approach of cointegrating regressions, the researchers modeled the relationships between per capita tobacco control expenditures, per capita cigarette consumption, and health care expenditures. They analyzed data from 1980 and 2004 on smoking, health care expenditures, and exposure to a tobacco control educational program in California and compared them to a group of 38 control states. Control states were those without comprehensive tobacco control programs prior to 2000 or cigarette tax increases of $0.50 or more per pack over the study period. This comparison allowed the researchers to assess the effect of the CTCP on total personal health care spending.
The researchers found that US$86 billion (95% CI $28 billion to $151 billion) were saved in personal health care expenditure between 1989, the start of the program, and 2004. This generally grew over time, reaching 7.3% of the total in 2003–2004. The personal health care expenditure savings represented about a 50-fold return on the $1.8 billion spent on the program during the same period (all 2004 US dollars).
The researchers report that 3.6 billion (95% CI 1.5 billion to 5.9 billion) fewer packs of cigarettes were sold between 1989–1990 and 2003–2004. This represents a loss of $9.2 billion (95% CI $3.8 billion to $14.7 billion) to the tobacco industry in pre-tax cigarette sales.
These cost savings occurred despite the substantial diversion of funding and decreased purchasing power experienced by the CTCP, particularly in the mid-1990s. (The program was funded with a constant tax of $0.05 per pack, despite inflation). The researchers estimated that if the funding, and thus purchasing power, had been maintained, total savings in personal health expenditures would have increased to $156 billion with an additional $70 billion in health cost savings. Cigarette consumption would have dropped to an estimated 6.6 billion packs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The CTCP has been successful in reducing smoking in California in comparison to other states, and has reduced personal health care expenditures. These cost reductions were substantial, rapid, and grew over time. The researchers contend that the CTCP's focus on social norm change among adults, not primarily on youth prevention, is responsible for such rapid and large reductions in disease and the associated health care costs. They state that a program focused on primary prevention of smoking among adolescents would take decades to have any impact on tobacco-induced diseases, which rarely manifest among adolescents or even young adults. These researcher's findings support the establishment of strong tobacco control programs in other settings: they not only reduce smoking, prevent disease, and save lives, but also represent an important way to curb rapidly increasing health care expenditures in the short term.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The California Tobacco Control Program provides information about its social change approach
The WHO MPOWER strategy, detailed in the 2008 Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, outlines the six most effective policies to help curb the epidemic
Resources to help people quit smoking can be obtained through the US Centers for Disease Control and the UK National Health Service
PMCID: PMC2522256  PMID: 18752344
9.  International Monetary Fund Programs and Tuberculosis Outcomes in Post-Communist Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e143.
Previous studies have indicated that International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic programs have influenced health-care infrastructure in recipient countries. The post-communist Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries experienced relatively similar political and economic changes over the past two decades, and participated in IMF programs of varying size and duration. We empirically examine how IMF programs related to changes in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates among these countries.
Methods and Findings
We performed multivariate regression of two decades of tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality data against variables potentially influencing tuberculosis program outcomes in 21 post-communist countries for which comparative data are available. After correcting for confounding variables, as well as potential detection, selection, and ecological biases, we observed that participating in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates by 13.9%, 13.2%, and 16.6%, respectively. Each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%. On the other hand, we estimated a decrease in tuberculosis mortality rates of 30.7% (95% confidence interval, 18.3% to 49.5%) associated with exiting the IMF programs. IMF lending did not appear to be a response to worsened health outcomes; rather, it appeared to be a precipitant of such outcomes (Granger- and Sims-causality tests), even after controlling for potential political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health-related confounders. In contrast, non-IMF lending programs were connected with decreased tuberculosis mortality rates (−7.6%, 95% confidence interval, −1.0% to −14.1%). The associations observed between tuberculosis mortality and IMF programs were similar to those observed when evaluating the impact of IMF programs on tuberculosis incidence and prevalence. While IMF programs were connected with large reductions in generalized government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of physicians per capita, non-IMF lending programs were not significantly associated with these variables.
IMF economic reform programs are associated with significantly worsened tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates in post-communist Eastern European and former Soviet countries, independent of other political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health changes in these countries. Future research should attempt to examine how IMF programs may have related to other non-tuberculosis–related health outcomes.
David Stuckler and colleagues show that, in Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries, participation in International Monetary Fund economic programs have been associated with higher mortality rates from tuberculosis.
Editors' Summary
Tuberculosis—a contagious, bacterial infection—has killed large numbers of people throughout human history. Over the last century improvements in public health began to reduce the incidence (the number of new cases in the population in a given time), prevalence (the number of infected people), and mortality rate (number of people dying each year) of tuberculosis in several countries. Many authorities thought that tuberculosis had become a disease of the past. It has become increasingly clear, however, that regions impacted by health and economic changes since the 1980s have continued to face a high and sometimes increasing burden of tuberculosis. In order to boost funding and resources for combating the global tuberculosis problem, the United Nations has set a target of halting and reversing increases in global tuberculosis incidence by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals. Yet one region of the world—Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—is not on track to achieve this goal.
Why Was This Study Done?
To achieve these targets, the World Health Organization (WHO) and tuberculosis physicians' groups promote the expansion of detection and treatment efforts against tuberculosis. But these efforts depend on the maintenance of good health infrastructure to fund and support health-care workers, clinics, and hospitals. In countries with significant financial limitations, the development and maintenance of these health system resources are often dependent upon international donations and financial lending. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major source of capital for resource-deprived countries, but it is unclear whether its economic reform programs have positive or negative effects on health and health infrastructures in recipient countries. There are indications, for example, that recipient countries sometimes reduce their public-health spending to meet the economic targets set by the IMF as conditions for its loans. In this study, the researchers examine the relationship between participating in IMF lending programs of varying sizes and durations by 21 post-communist Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries and changes in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality in these countries during the past two decades.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To examine how participation in IMF lending programs affected tuberculosis control in these countries, the researchers developed a series of statistical models that take into account other variables (for example, directly observed therapy programs, HIV rates, military conflict, and urbanization) that might have affected tuberculosis control. Participation in an IMF program, they report, was associated with increases in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rate of about 15%, which corresponds to hundreds of thousands of new cases and deaths in this region. Each additional year of participation increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%; increases in the size of the IMF loan also corresponded to greater tuberculosis mortality rates. Conversely, when countries left IMF programs, tuberculosis mortality rates dropped by roughly one-third. The authors' further statistical tests indicated that IMF lending was not a positive response to worsened tuberculosis control but precipitated this adverse outcome and that lending from non-IMF sources of funding was associated with decreases in tuberculosis mortality rates. Consistent with these results, IMF (but not non-IMF) programs were associated with reductions in government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of doctors per capita in each country. These findings associated with mortality were also found when analyzing tuberculosis incidence and prevalence data.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that IMF economic programs are associated with significantly worsened tuberculosis control in post-communist Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries, independent of other political, health, and economic changes in these countries. Further research is needed to discover exactly which aspects of the IMF programs were associated with the adverse effects on tuberculosis control reported here and to see whether IMF loans have similar effects on tuberculosis control in other countries or on other non–tuberculosis-related health outcomes. For now, these results challenge the proposition that the forms of economic development promoted by the IMF necessarily improve public health. In particular, they put the onus on the IMF to critically evaluate the direct and indirect effects of its economic programs on public health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Murray and King
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis, including a brief history of the disease
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide several fact sheets and other information resources about tuberculosis
The World Health Organization provides information (in several languages) on efforts to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis, including information on the Stop TB Strategy and the 2008 report on global tuberculosis control—surveillance, planning, financing
Detailed information about the International Monetary Fund is available on its Web site
An article that asks “Does the IMF constrain health spending in poor countries?” (with a link to a response from the IMF) is provided by the Center for Global Development
PMCID: PMC2488179  PMID: 18651786
10.  The introduction of Greek Central Health Fund: Has the reform met its goal in the sector of Primary Health Care or is there a new model needed? 
The National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) originates from the recent reform in Greek healthcare, aiming amidst economic predicament, at the rationalization of health expenditure and reactivation of the pivotal role of Primary Health Care (PHC). Health funding (public/private) mix is examined, alongside the role of pre-existing health insurance funds. The main pursuit of this paper is to evaluate whether EOPYY has met its goals.
The article surveys for best practices in advanced health systems and similar sickness funds. The main benchmarks focus on PHC provision and providers’ reimbursement. It then turns to an analysis of EOPYY, focusing on specific questions and searching the relevant databases. It compares the best practice examples to the EOPYY (alongside further developments set by new legislation in L 4238/14), revealing weaknesses relevant to non-integrated PHC network, unbalanced manpower, non-gatekeeping, under-financing and other funding problems caused by the current crisis. Finally, a new model of medical procedures cost accounting was tested in health centers.
An alternative operation of EOPYY functioning primarily as an insurer whereas its proprietary units are integrated with these of the NHS is proposed. The paper claims it is critical to revise the current induced demand favorable reimbursement system, via per capita payments for physicians combined with extra pay-for-performance payments, while cost accounting corroborates a prospective system for NHS’s and EOPYY’s units, under a combination of global budgets and Ambulatory Patient Groups (APGs)
Self-critical points on the limitations of results due to lack of adequate data (not) given by EOPYY are initially raised. Then the issue concerning the debate between ‘copying’ benchmarks and ‘a la cart’ selectively adopting and adapting best practices from wider experience is discussed, with preference to the latter. The idea of an ‘a la cart’ choice of international examples is proposed. The ‘results’ discussing EOPYY’s dual function and induced-demand favorable reimbursement system are further critically examined. International experience shows evidence of effective alternatives, such as per capita and pay-for-performance payments for practicing doctors as well as per case reimbursement for health centers under global budget principles.
PMCID: PMC4255662  PMID: 25421631
Health systems; Health funds; EOPYY; Primary health care; Reimbursement; APGs
11.  Health Education England, Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) and reform of healthcare education: implications for surgical training 
BMC Surgery  2015;15(1):3.
National Health Service (NHS) reforms have changed the structure of postgraduate healthcare education and training. With a Government mandate that promotes multi-professional education and training aligned with policy driven initiatives, this article highlights concerns over the impact that these changes may have on surgical training.
The creation of Health Education England (HEE) and its local education and training boards (LETBs), which are dominated by NHS healthcare providers, should result in greater accountability of employers in workforce planning, enhanced local responsibility and increased transparency of funding allocation. However, these changes may also create a potential poacher-turned-gamekeeper role of employers, who now have responsibility for junior doctors’ training. Analysis of LETB membership reveals a dearth of representation of surgeons, who comprise only 2% of board members, with the input of trainees also seemingly overlooked. A lack of engagement with the LETBs by the independent sector is a concern with increasing numbers of training opportunities potentially being lost as a result.
The new system also needs to recognise the specific training needs required by the craft specialties given the demands of technical skill acquisition, in particular regarding the provision of simulation training facilities and trainer recognition. However, training budget cuts may result in a disproportionate reduction of funding for surgical training. Surgical training posts will also be endangered, opportunities for out-of-programme experience and research may also decline and further costs are likely to be passed onto the trainee.
Although there are several facets to the recent reforms of the healthcare education and training system that have potential to improve surgical training, concerns need to be addressed. Engagement from the independent sector and further clarification on how the LETBs will be aligned with commissioning services are also required. Surgical training is in danger of taking a back seat to Government mandated priorities. Representation of trainees and surgeons on LETB committees is essential to ensure a surgical viewpoint so that the training needs of the future consultant workforce meet the demands of a 21st century health service.
PMCID: PMC4324039  PMID: 25592885
Education; Training; Surgery; Reform; NHS; Workforce
12.  Donor Funding for Newborn Survival: An Analysis of Donor-Reported Data, 2002–2010 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001332.
With recent increases in development assistance money for maternal and child health, Catherine Pitt and colleagues examine whether foreign aid specifically for newborns has changed, whether it's on par with the burden of newborn deaths worldwide, and how such funding can be tracked.
Neonatal mortality accounts for 43% of global under-five deaths and is decreasing more slowly than maternal or child mortality. Donor funding has increased for maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH), but no analysis to date has disaggregated aid for newborns. We evaluated if and how aid flows for newborn care can be tracked, examined changes in the last decade, and considered methodological implications for tracking funding for specific population groups or diseases.
Methods and Findings
We critically reviewed and categorised previous analyses of aid to specific populations, diseases, or types of activities. We then developed and refined key terms related to newborn survival in seven languages and searched titles and descriptions of donor disbursement records in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Creditor Reporting System database, 2002–2010. We compared results with the Countdown to 2015 database of aid for MNCH (2003–2008) and the search strategy used by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Prior to 2005, key terms related to newborns were rare in disbursement records but their frequency increased markedly thereafter. Only two mentions were found of “stillbirth” and only nine references were found to “fetus” in any spelling variant or language. The total value of non-research disbursements mentioning any newborn search terms rose from US$38.4 million in 2002 to US$717.1 million in 2010 (constant 2010 US$). The value of non-research projects exclusively benefitting newborns fluctuated somewhat but remained low, at US$5.7 million in 2010. The United States and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provided the largest value of non-research funding mentioning and exclusively benefitting newborns, respectively.
Donor attention to newborn survival has increased since 2002, but it appears unlikely that donor aid is commensurate with the 3.0 million newborn deaths and 2.7 million stillbirths each year. We recommend that those tracking funding for other specific population groups, diseases, or activities consider a key term search approach in the Creditor Reporting System along with a detailed review of their data, but that they develop their search terms and interpretations carefully, taking into account the limitations described.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In 1990, 12 million children—most of them living in developing countries—died before they reached their fifth birthday. Faced with this largely avoidable loss of young lives, in 2000, world leaders set a target of reducing under-five mortality (deaths) to one-third of its 1990 level by 2015 as Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4); this goal, together with seven others, aims to eradicate extreme poverty globally. In recent years, progress towards reducing child mortality has accelerated but remains insufficient to achieve MDG4, in part, because progress towards reducing neonatal mortality—deaths during the first 28 days of life—has been particularly slow. Neonatal deaths now account for a greater proportion of global child deaths than in 1990—43% of the 7 million children who died before their fifth birthday in 2011 died during the neonatal period. The major causes of neonatal deaths are complications of preterm and term delivery and infections. Simple interventions such as improved hygiene at birth and advice on breastfeeding can substantially reduce neonatal deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
To achieve MDG4, more must be done to prevent deaths among newborn babies. One reason that progress in reducing neonatal mortality is slow could be insufficient donor funding (aid) for newborn health. Previous analyses by, for example, Countdown to 2015 (which tracks coverage levels for health interventions that reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality) indicate that donor funding has increased for maternal, newborn, and child health over the past decade, but how much of this aid directly benefits newborns is unknown. Here, the researchers develop a method for tracking aid flows for newborns and examine changes in this flow over the past decade by applying their new strategy to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS) Aid Activity database. This database collects information about official development assistance for health given (disbursed) to developing countries by member countries of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, international organizations, and some private donors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a comprehensive set of search terms related to newborn survival by piloting it on the Countdown to 2015 official development assistance database, which covers the years 2003–2008. They then used their list of 24 key terms to search the CRS database from 2002 (the first year for which relatively complete disbursement data are available) to 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available) and classified each retrieved project according to whether its funding activities aimed to benefit newborns exclusively or to improve the health of other population groups as well. The researchers found that key terms related to newborns were rare in disbursement records before 2005 but that their frequency increased markedly thereafter. The total value of non-research disbursements (aid provided for programmatic or advocacy activities) that mentioned any newborn search terms increased from US$38.4 million in 2002 to US$717.1 million in 2010. The value of non-research projects that exclusively benefitted newborns fluctuated; in 2010, it was $US5.7 million. Finally, the US and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provided the largest value of non-research funding mentioning newborns and exclusively benefitting newborns, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the value of aid disbursements mentioning newborns or an activity likely to benefit newborns increased 20-fold between 2002 and 2010 and constituted an increasing proportion of aid for maternal, newborn, and child health. Although this increase may partly reflect increased detail in aid disbursement reporting, it is also likely to reflect an increase in donor attention to newborn survival. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by limitations in the search strategy and in the CRS database, which does not capture aid flows from emerging donors such as China or from many private foundations. Moreover, because these findings take no account of domestic expenditure, they do not provide a comprehensive estimate of the value of resources available in developing countries for newborn health. Nevertheless, investment in newborn survival is unlikely to be commensurate with global newborn mortality. Thus, an expansion of programmatic funding from donors as well as increased governmental support for newborn health in developing countries is urgently needed to catalyze the scale-up of cost-effective interventions to save newborn lives and to meet MDG4.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health, including the 2012 report of UN Inter-agency Group of Child Mortality Estimation; its Committing to Child Survival: a Promise Renewed webpage includes links to its 2012 progress report, to a video about progress made in reducing child deaths worldwide, and to stories about child survival in the field
The World Health Organization has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and about maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (some information in several languages)
Countdown to 2015 provides additional information on maternal, newborn, and child survival, including its 2012 report Building a Future for Women and Children
The Healthy Newborn Network (HNN) is a community of more than 70 partner organizations addressing critical knowledge gaps for newborn health providing recent data on newborn survival and analyses of country programs
Information on and access to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development Creditor Reporting System Aid Activities database is available
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
PMCID: PMC3484125  PMID: 23118619
13.  Stakeholders’ participation in planning and priority setting in the context of a decentralised health care system: the case of prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV programme in Tanzania 
In Tanzania, decentralisation processes and reforms in the health sector aimed at improving planning and accountability in the sector. As a result, districts were given authority to undertake local planning and set priorities as well as allocate resources fairly to promote the health of a population with varied needs. Nevertheless, priority setting in the health care service has remained a challenge. The study assessed the priority setting processes in the planning of the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme at the district level in Tanzania.
This qualitative study was conducted in Mbarali district, south-western Tanzania. The study applied in-depth interviews and focus group discussions in the data collection. Informants included members of the Council Health Management Team, regional PMTCT managers and health facility providers.
Two plans were reported where PMTCT activities could be accommodated; the Comprehensive Council Health Plan and the Regional PMTCT Plan that was donor funded. As donors had their own globally defined priorities, it proved difficult for district and regional managers to accommodate locally defined PMTCT priorities in these plans. As a result few of these were funded. Guidelines and main priority areas of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) also impacted on the ability of the districts and regions to act, undermining the effectiveness of the decentralisation policy in the health sector.
The challenges in the priority setting processes revealed within the PMTCT initiative indicate substantial weaknesses in implementing the Tanzania decentralisation policy. There is an urgent need to revive the strategies and aims of the decentralisation policy at all levels of the health care system with a view to improving health service delivery.
PMCID: PMC3720200  PMID: 23849730
Planning; Priority setting; PMTCT; Decentralisation; Donor influence; Tanzania
14.  Promotional Tone in Reviews of Menopausal Hormone Therapy After the Women's Health Initiative: An Analysis of Published Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000425.
Adriane Fugh-Berman and colleagues analyzed a selection of published opinion pieces on hormone therapy and show that there may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the tone of such opinion pieces.
Even after the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) found that the risks of menopausal hormone therapy (hormone therapy) outweighed benefit for asymptomatic women, about half of gynecologists in the United States continued to believe that hormones benefited women's health. The pharmaceutical industry has supported publication of articles in medical journals for marketing purposes. It is unknown whether author relationships with industry affect promotional tone in articles on hormone therapy. The goal of this study was to determine whether promotional tone could be identified in narrative review articles regarding menopausal hormone therapy and whether articles identified as promotional were more likely to have been authored by those with conflicts of interest with manufacturers of menopausal hormone therapy.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed tone in opinion pieces on hormone therapy published in the four years after the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI was stopped. First, we identified the ten authors with four or more MEDLINE-indexed reviews, editorials, comments, or letters on hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy published between July 2002 and June 2006. Next, we conducted an additional search using the names of these authors to identify other relevant articles. Finally, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. Scientific accuracy was assessed based on whether or not the findings of the WHI were accurately reported using two criteria: (1) Acknowledgment or lack of denial of the risk of breast cancer diagnosis associated with hormone therapy, and (2) acknowledgment that hormone therapy did not benefit cardiovascular disease endpoints. Determination of promotional tone was based on the assessment by each reader of whether the article appeared to promote hormone therapy. Analysis of inter-rater consistency found moderate agreement for scientific accuracy (κ = 0.57) and substantial agreement for promotional tone (κ = 0.65). After discussion, readers found 86% of the articles to be scientifically accurate and 64% to be promotional in tone. Themes that were common in articles considered promotional included attacks on the methodology of the WHI, arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals, and arguments that observational studies are as good as or better than randomized clinical trials for guiding clinical decisions. The promotional articles we identified also implied that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have declared payment for speaking or consulting on behalf of menopausal hormone manufacturers or for research support (seven of these eight were speakers or consultants). Thirty of 32 articles (90%) evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest, compared to 11 of 18 articles (61%) by those without such conflicts (p = 0.0025). Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were 2.41 times (95% confidence interval 1.49–4.93) as likely to have been authored by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. In articles from three authors with conflicts of interest some of the same text was repeated word-for-word in different articles.
There may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Over the past three decades, menopausal hormones have been heavily promoted for preventing disease in women. However, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study—which enrolled more than 26,000 women in the US and which was published in 2004—found that estrogen-progestin and estrogen-only formulations (often prescribed to women around the age of menopause) increased the risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, dementia, and incontinence. Furthermore, this study found that the estrogen-progestin therapy increased rates of breast cancer. In fact, the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI study was stopped in 2002 due to harmful findings, and the estrogen-only arm was stopped in 2004, also because of harmful findings. In addition, the study also found that neither therapy reduced cardiovascular risk or markedly benefited health-related quality of life measures.
Despite these results, two years after the results of WHI study were published, a survey of over 700 practicing gynecologists—the specialists who prescribe the majority of menopausal hormone therapies—in the US found that almost half did not find the findings of the WHI study convincing and that 48% disagreed with the decision to stop the trial early. Furthermore, follow-up surveys found similar results.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is unclear why gynecologists and other physicians continue to prescribe menopausal hormone therapies despite the results of the WHI. Some academics argue that published industry-funded reviews and commentaries may be designed to convey specific, but subtle, marketing messages and several academic analyses have used internal industry documents disclosed in litigation cases. So this study was conducted to investigate whether hormone therapy–promoting tone could be identified in narrative review articles and if so, whether these articles were more likely to have been authored by people who had accepted funding from hormone manufacturers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search that identified 340 relevant articles published between July 2002 and June 2006—the four years following the cessation of the estrogen-progestin arm of the women's health initiative study. Ten authors had published four to six articles, 47 authored two or three articles, and 371 authored one article each. The researchers focused on authors who had published four or more articles in the four-year period under study and, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. After individually analyzing a batch of articles, the readers met to provide their initial assessments, to discuss them, and to reach consensus on tone and scientific accuracy. Then after the papers were evaluated, each author was identified and the researchers searched for authors' potential financial conflicts of interest, defined as publicly disclosed information that the authors had received payment for research, speaking, or consulting on behalf of a manufacturer of menopausal hormone therapy.
Common themes in the 50 articles included arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals and suggestions that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Furthermore, of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have received payment for research, speaking or consulting on behalf of menopause hormone manufacturers, and 30 of 32 articles evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest. Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were more than twice as likely to have been written by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Three authors who were identified as having financial conflicts of interest were authors on articles where sections of their previously published articles were repeated word-for-word without citation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that there may be a link between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of apparently promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy. Furthermore, such publications may encourage physicians to continue prescribing these therapies to women of menopausal age. Therefore, physicians and other health care providers should interpret the content of review articles with caution. In addition, medical journals should follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts, which require that all authors submit signed statements of their participation in authorship and full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more information on the Womens Health Initiative
The US National Institutes of Health provide more information about the effects of menopausal hormone replacement therapy
The Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on menopausal hormone therapy
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts presents Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts published in biomedical journals
The National Womens Health Network, a consumer advocacy group that takes no industry money, has factsheets and articles about menopausal hormone therapy
PharmedOut, a Georgetown University Medical Center project, has many resources on pharmaceutical marketing practices
PMCID: PMC3058057  PMID: 21423581
15.  Health policy and systems research agendas in developing countries 
Health policy and systems research (HPSR) is an international public good with potential to orient investments and performance at national level. Identifying research trends and priorities at international level is therefore important. This paper offers a conceptual framework and defines the HPSR portfolio as a set of research projects under implementation. The research portfolio is influenced by factors external to the research system as well as internal to it. These last include the capacity of research institutions, the momentum of research programs, funding opportunities and the influence of stakeholder priorities and public opinion. These dimensions can vary in their degree of coordination, leading to a complementary or a fragmented research portfolio.
The main objective is to identify the themes currently being pursued in the research portfolio and agendas within developing countries and to quantify their frequency in an effort to identify current research topics and their underlying influences.
HPSR topics being pursued by developing country producer institutions and their perceived priorities were identified through a survey between 2000 and 2002. The response to a call for letters of intent issued by the Alliance in 2000 for a broad range of topics was also analyzed. The institutions that were the universe of this study consisted of the 176 institutional partners of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research producing research in low and middle income countries outside Europe. HPSR topics as well as the beneficiaries or issues and the health problems addressed were content analyzed. Topics were classified into 19 categories and their frequency analyzed across groups of countries with similar per capita income. Agendas were identified by analyzing the source of funding and of project initiation for projects under implementation.
The highest ranking topic at the aggregate level is "Sector analysis", followed by "Disease burden" and "Management and organization". Categories at the bottom of this ranking are "Equity", "Policy process", "Economic policy and health" and "Information systems". "Disease burden" is more often funded than other topics for which there is more demand or perceived priority. Analysis suggests few although important differences across priorities, demand for funding and actual project funding. The donors' agenda coincides most with the ranking of research topics overall.
Ranking across country income groups shows important differences. Topics that gain prominence in low income countries are "Disease burden" and "Accessibility". In lower middle income countries "Insurance" gains prominence. In upper middle income countries "Decentralization/local health systems", "Equity" and "Policy process" are more prominent. "Program evaluation" is the most consistently ranked topic across income regions, showing a neutral influence by donors, governments or researchers.
The framework proposed offers a basis to identify and contrast research needs, projects and products at the international level and to identify the actor agendas and their influence. Research gaps are suggested when comparing topic ranking against the challenges to health system strengthening and scaling up of disease control programs. Differences across per capita income groups suggests the need for differentiated priority setting mechanisms guiding international support. Data suggests that stakeholders have different agendas, and that donors predominate in determining the research portfolio. High-level consensus building at the national and international levels is necessary to ensure that the diverse agendas play a complementary role in support of health system objectives.
The Ministerial Summit for Health Research to be held in Mexico in November 2004 should be an opportunity to analyze further data and to commit funding for priorities identified through sharing and discussion of agendas.
PMCID: PMC514533  PMID: 15296509
16.  Health financing in Africa: overview of a dialogue among high level policy makers 
BMC Proceedings  2011;5(Suppl 5):S2.
Even though Africa has the highest disease burden compared with other regions, it has the lowest per capita spending on health. In 2007, 27 (51%) out the 53 countries spent less than US$50 per person on health. Almost 30% of the total health expenditure came from governments, 50% from private sources (of which 71% was from out-of-pocket payments by households) and 20% from donors. The purpose of this article is to reflect on the proceedings of the African Union Side Event on Health Financing in the African continent.
Methods employed in the session included presentations, panel discussion and open public discussion with ministers of health and finance from the African continent.
The current unsatisfactory state of health financing was attributed to lack of clear vision and plan for health financing; lack of national health accounts and other evidence to guide development and implementation of national health financing policies and strategies; low investments in sectors that address social determinants of health; predominance of out-of-pocket spending; underdeveloped prepaid health financing mechanisms; large informal sectors vis-à-vis small formal sectors; and unpredictability and non-alignment of majority of donor funds with national health priorities.
Countries need to develop and adopt a comprehensive national health policy and a costed strategic plan; a comprehensive evidence-based health financing strategy; allocate at least 15% of the national budget to health development; use GFATM and PEPFAR funds for health systems strengthening; strengthen intersectoral collaboration to address health determinants; advocate among donors to implement the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and its Accra Agenda for Action; ensure universal access to health services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children aged under five years; strengthen financial management capacities; and develop prepaid health financing systems, especially health insurance to complement tax funding.
In addition, countries need to institutionalize national health accounts; undertake feasibility studies of various health financing mechanisms; and document and share best practices in health financing.
There was consensus that every country ought to have an evidence-based comprehensive health financing strategy with a road map for attaining universal health service coverage vision; and increase physical and financial access by pregnant women, lactating mothers and by children under five years to quality health services.
PMCID: PMC3254896  PMID: 21810212
17.  Perceived Benefits and Challenges of Coordinated Approaches to Chronic Disease Prevention in State Health Departments 
Chronic disease prevention efforts have historically been funded categorically according to disease or risk factor. Federal agencies are now progressively starting to fund combined programs to address common risk. The purpose of this study was to inform transitions to coordinated chronic disease prevention by learning views on perceived benefits and challenges of a coordinated approach to funding.
A national survey on evidence-based public health was conducted from March through May 2013 among state health department employees working in chronic disease prevention (N = 865). Participants were asked to rank the top 3 benefits and top 3 challenges in coordinating chronic disease approaches from provided lists and could provide additional responses. Descriptive analyses, χ2 tests, and analysis of variance were conducted.
The most common perceived benefits of coordinated approaches to chronic disease prevention were improved health outcomes, common risk factors better addressed, and reduced duplication of program efforts. The most common perceived challenges were funding restrictions, such as disease-specific performance measures; competing priorities; lack of communication across programs; funding might be reduced; agency not structured for program coordination; and loss of disease-specific partner support. Rankings of benefits and challenges were similar across states and participant roles; the perceived challenges “lack of communication across programs” (P = .02) and “funding might be reduced” differed by program area (P < .001).
Findings can be used by funding agencies and state health departments for planning, training, and technical assistance. The information on perceived challenges demonstrates the need to improve communication across programs, enhance organizational support for coordinated approaches, and create benefits for organizational partners.
PMCID: PMC4015301  PMID: 24809362
18.  An overview of the national immunization policy making process: the role of the Korea expert committee on immunization practices 
The need for evidence-based decision making in immunization programs has increased due to the presence of multiple health priorities, limited human resources, expensive vaccines, and limited funds. Countries should establish a group of national experts to advise their Ministries of Health. So far, many nations have formed their own National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs). In the Republic of Korea, the Korea Expert Committee on Immunization Practices (KECIP), established by law in the early 1990s, has made many important technical recommendations to contribute to the decline in vaccine preventable diseases and currently functions as a NITAG. It includes 13 core members and 2 non-core members, including a chairperson. Core members usually come from affiliated organizations in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, microbiology, preventive medicine, nursing and a representative from a consumer group, all of whom serve two year terms. Non-core members comprise two government officials belonging to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and the Korea Food and Drug Administration. Meetings are held as needed, but at least twice a year, and sub-committees are formed as a resource for gathering, analyzing, and preparing information for the KECIP meetings. Once the sub-committees or the KCDC review the available data, the KECIP members discuss each issue in depth and develop recommendations, usually by a consensus in the meeting. The KECIP publishes national guidelines and immunization schedules that are updated regularly. KECIP's role is essentially consultative and the implementation of their recommendations may depend on the budget or current laws.
PMCID: PMC3282212  PMID: 22359523
Immunization; Decision making; National advisory committee; Korea
19.  Can Broader Diffusion of Value-Based Insurance Design Increase Benefits from US Health Care without Increasing Costs? Evidence from a Computer Simulation Model 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000234.
Using a computer simulation based on US data, R. Scott Braithwaite and colleagues calculate the benefits of value-based insurance design, in which patients pay less for highly cost-effective services.
Evidence suggests that cost sharing (i.e.,copayments and deductibles) decreases health expenditures but also reduces essential care. Value-based insurance design (VBID) has been proposed to encourage essential care while controlling health expenditures. Our objective was to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
Methods and Findings
We used a published computer simulation of costs and life expectancy gains from US health care to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID. Two scenarios were analyzed: (1) applying VBID solely to pharmacy benefits and (2) applying VBID to both pharmacy benefits and other health care services (e.g., devices). We assumed that cost sharing would be eliminated for high-value services (<$100,000 per life-year), would remain unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services ($100,000–$300,000 per life-year or unknown), and would be increased for low-value services (>$300,000 per life-year). All costs are provided in 2003 US dollars. Our simulation estimated that approximately 60% of health expenditures in the US are spent on low-value services, 20% are spent on intermediate-value services, and 20% are spent on high-value services. Correspondingly, the vast majority (80%) of health expenditures would have cost sharing that is impacted by VBID. With prevailing patterns of cost sharing, health care conferred 4.70 life-years at a per-capita annual expenditure of US$5,688. Broader diffusion of VBID to pharmaceuticals increased the benefit conferred by health care by 0.03 to 0.05 additional life-years, without increasing costs and without increasing out-of-pocket payments. Broader diffusion of VBID to other health care services could increase the benefit conferred by health care by 0.24 to 0.44 additional life-years, also without increasing costs and without increasing overall out-of-pocket payments. Among those without health insurance, using cost saving from VBID to subsidize insurance coverage would increase the benefit conferred by health care by 1.21 life-years, a 31% increase.
Broader diffusion of VBID may amplify benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
More money is spent per person on health care in the US than in any other country. US health care expenditure accounts for 16.2% of the gross domestic product and this figure is rising. Indeed, the increase in health care costs is outstripping the economy's growth rate. Consequently, US policy makers and providers of health insurance—health care in the US is largely provided by the private sector and is paid for through private health insurance or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—are looking for better ways to control health expenditures. Although some health care cost reductions can be achieved by increasing efficiency, controlling the quantity of health care consumed is an essential component of strategies designed to reduce health expenditures. These strategies can target health care providers (for example, by requiring primary care physicians to provide referrals before their patients' insurance provides cover for specialist care) or can target consumers, often through cost sharing. Nowadays, most insurance plans include several tiers of cost sharing in which patients pay a larger proportion of the costs of expensive interventions than of cheap interventions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cost sharing decreases health expenditure but it can also reduce demand for essential care and thus reduce the quality of care. Consequently, some experts have proposed value-based insurance design (VBID), an approach in which the amount of cost sharing is set according to the “value” of an intervention rather than its cost. The value of an intervention is defined as the ratio of the additional benefits to the additional costs of the intervention when compared to the next best alternative intervention. Under VBID, cost sharing could be waived for office visits necessary to control blood pressure in people with diabetes, which deliver high-value care, but could be increased for high-tech scans for dementia, which deliver low-value care. VBID has been adopted by several private health insurance schemes and its core principal is endorsed by US policy makers. However, it is unclear whether wider use of VBID is warranted. In this study, the researchers use a computer simulation of the US health care system to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used their computer simulation to estimate the impact of applying VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone and to cost sharing for drugs, procedures, and other health care services for one million hypothetical US patients. In their simulation, the researchers eliminated cost sharing for services that cost less than US$100,000 per life-year gained (high-value services) and increased cost-sharing for services that cost more than US$300,000 per life-year gained (low-value services); cost-sharing remained unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services. With the current pattern of cost sharing, 60% of health expenditure is spent on low-value services and health care increases life expectancy by 4.70 years for an annual per person expenditure of US$5,688, the researchers report. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone, health care increased life expectancy by an additional 0.03 to 0.05 years without increasing costs. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for other health care services, health care increased life expectancy by a further 0.24 to 0.44 years without additional costs. Finally, if the costs saved by applying VBID were used to subsidize insurance for the 15% of the US population currently without health insurance, the benefit conferred by health care among these people would increase by 1.21 life-years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study depend on the many assumptions included in the computer simulation, which, although complex, is a greatly simplified representation of the US health care system. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that if VBID were used more widely within the US health care system to encourage the use of high-value services, it might be possible to amplify the benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures. Importantly, the money saved by VBID could be used to help fund universal insurance, a central aim of US health care reform. More research is needed, however, to determine the value of various health care interventions and to investigate whether other ways of linking value to cost sharing might yield even better gains in life expectancy at little or no additional cost.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has a page on health care in the United States (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Families USA works to promote high-quality affordable health care for all Americans and provides information about all aspects of US health care and about US health care reforms
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provides information on the major government health insurance programs and on US national health expenditure statistics
PMCID: PMC2821897  PMID: 20169114
20.  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.
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.
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
21.  Primary Care Research Team Assessment (PCRTA): development and evaluation. 
BACKGROUND: Since the early 1990s the United Kingdom (UK) Department of Health has explicitly promoted a research and development (R&D) strategy for the National Health Service (NHS). General practitioners (GPs) and other members of the primary care team are in a unique position to undertake research activity that will complement and inform the research undertaken by basic scientists and hospital-based colleagues and lead directly to a better evidence base for decision making by primary care professionals. Opportunities to engage in R&D in primary care are growing and the scope for those wishing to become involved is finally widening. Infrastructure funding for research-active practices and the establishment of a range of support networks have helped to improve the research capacity and blur some of the boundaries between academic departments and clinical practice. This is leading to a supportive environment for primary care research. There is thus a need to develop and validate nationally accepted quality standards and accreditation of performance to ensure that funders, collaborators and primary care professionals can deliver high quality primary care research. Several strategies have been described in national policy documents in order to achieve an improvement in teaching and clinical care, as well as enhancing research capacity in primary care. The development of both research practices and primary care research networks has been recognised as having an important contribution to make in enabling health professionals to devote more protected time to undertake research methods training and to undertake research in a service setting. The recognition and development of primary care research has also brought with it an emphasis on quality and standards, including an approach to the new research governance framework. PRIMARY CARE RESEARCH TEAM ASSESSMENT: In 1998, the NHS Executive South and West, and later the London Research and Development Directorate, provided funding for a pilot project based at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to develop a scheme to accredit UK general practices undertaking primary care R&D. The pilot began with initial consultation on the development of the process, as well as the standards and criteria for assessment. The resulting assessment schedule allowed for assessment at one of two levels: Collaborative Research Practice (Level I), with little direct experience of gaining project or infrastructure funding Established Research Practice (Level II), with more experience of research funding and activity and a sound infrastructure to allow for growth in capacity. The process for assessment of practices involved the assessment of written documentation, followed by a half-day assessment visit by a multidisciplinary team of three assessors. IMPLEMENTATION--THE PILOT PROJECT: Pilot practices were sampled in two regions. Firstly, in the NHS Executive South West Region, where over 150 practices expressed an interest in participating. From these a purposive sample of 21 practices was selected, providing a range of research and service activity. A further seven practices were identified and included within the project through the East London and Essex Network of Researchers (ELENoR). Many in this latter group received funding and administrative support and advice from ELENoR in order to prepare written submissions for assessment. Some sample loss was encountered within the pilot project, which was attributable largely to conflicting demands on participants' time. Indeed, the preparation of written submissions within the South West coincided with the introduction of primary care groups (PCGs) in April 1999, which several practices cited as having a major impact on their participation in the pilot project. A final sample of 15 practices (nine in the South West and six through ELENoR) underwent assessment through the pilot project. EVALUATION: A formal evaluation of the Primary Care Research Team Assessment (PCRTA) pilot was undertaken by an independent researcher (FM). This was supplemented with feedback from the assessment team members. The qualitative aspect of the evaluation, which included face-to-face and telephone interviews with assessors, lead researchers and other practice staff within the pilot research practices, as well as members of the project management group, demonstrated a positive view of the pilot scheme. Several key areas were identified in relation to particular strengths of research practices and areas for development including: Strengths Level II practices were found to have a strong primary care team ethos in research. Level II practices tended to have a greater degree of strategic thinking in relation to research. Development areas Level I practices were found to lack a clear and explicit research strategy. Practices at both levels had scope to develop their communication processes for dissemination of research and also for patient involvement. Practices at both levels needed mechanisms for supporting professional development in research methodology. The evaluation demonstrated that practices felt that they had gained from their participation and assessors felt that the scheme had worked well. Some specific issues were raised by different respondents within the qualitative evaluation relating to consistency of interpretation of standards and also the possible overlap of the assessment scheme with other RCGP quality initiatives. NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PRIMARY CARE RESEARCH TEAM ASSESSMENT: The pilot project has been very successful and recommendations have been made to progress to a UK scheme. Management and review of the scheme will remain largely the same, with a few changes focusing on the assessment process and support for practices entering the scheme. Specific changes include: development of the support and mentoring role of the primary care research networks increased peer and external support and mentoring for research practices undergoing assessment development of assessor training in line with other schemes within the RCGP Assessment Network work to ensure consistency across RCGP accreditation schemes in relation to key criteria, thereby facilitating comparable assessment processes refinement of the definition of the two groups, with Level I practices referred to as Collaborators and Level II practices as Investigator-Led. The project has continued to generate much enthusiasm and support and continues to reflect current policy. Indeed, recent developments include the proposed new funding arrangements for primary care R&D, which refer to the RCGP assessment scheme and recognise it as a key component in the future R&D agenda. The assessment scheme will help primary care trusts (PCTs) and individual practices to prepare and demonstrate their approach to research governance in a systematic way. It will also provide a more explicit avenue for primary care trusts to explore local service and development priorities identified within health improvement programmes and the research priorities set nationally for the NHS.
PMCID: PMC2560501  PMID: 12049028
22.  Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: Modeling the Impact and Cost of Expanding Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in Eastern and Southern Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001132.
Emmanuel Njeuhmeli and colleagues estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult medical male circumcision in 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa, finding that reaching 80% coverage and maintaining it until 2025 would avert 3.36 million new HIV infections.
There is strong evidence showing that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces HIV incidence in men. To inform the VMMC policies and goals of 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa, we estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC using updated, country-specific data.
Methods and Findings
We use the Decision Makers' Program Planning Tool (DMPPT) to model the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Nyanza Province in Kenya. We use epidemiologic and demographic data from recent household surveys for each country. The cost of VMMC ranges from US$65.85 to US$95.15 per VMMC performed, based on a cost assessment of VMMC services aligned with the World Health Organization's considerations of models for optimizing volume and efficiencies. Results from the DMPPT models suggest that scaling up adult VMMC to reach 80% coverage in the 13 countries by 2015 would entail performing 20.34 million circumcisions between 2011 and 2015 and an additional 8.42 million between 2016 and 2025 (to maintain the 80% coverage). Such a scale-up would result in averting 3.36 million new HIV infections through 2025. In addition, while the model shows that this scale-up would cost a total of US$2 billion between 2011 and 2025, it would result in net savings (due to averted treatment and care costs) amounting to US$16.51 billion.
This study suggests that rapid scale-up of VMMC in eastern and southern Africa is warranted based on the likely impact on the region's HIV epidemics and net savings. Scaling up of safe VMMC in eastern and southern Africa will lead to a substantial reduction in HIV infections in the countries and lower health system costs through averted HIV care costs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 2.5 million people (mainly in sub-Saharan Africa) become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is very important. Because the most common HIV transmission route is through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few partners, and by using male or female condoms. There is also strong evidence that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC)—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—reduces the heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men by about 60%. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recommended that VMMC should be offered to men as part of comprehensive HIV risk reduction programs in settings with generalized HIV epidemics and low levels of male circumcision. They also prioritized 13 countries in eastern and southern Africa for VMMC program scale-up.
Why Was This Study Done?
The impact of VMMC scale-up in terms of HIV infections and AIDS deaths averted (epidemiologic impact) is expected to be large, and the intervention should also reduce the costs associated with the treatment, care, and support of infected individuals. However, VMMC scale-up will require substantial funding and considerable effort by countries—many of which have weak health systems and limited resources—to train personnel, equip facilities, and provide the necessary commodities. To support planning for VMMC scale-up, the United States Agency for International Development Health Policy Initiative has collaborated with UNAIDS to develop the Decision Makers' Program Planning Tool (DMPPT), a mathematical model that allows analysts and decision makers to estimate the epidemiologic impact and cost of alternative VMMC scale-up programs. In this study, the researchers use DMPPT to estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC in the 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers derived VMMC unit costs for each priority country based on a cost assessment undertaken in Zimbabwe, one of the first countries to scale up VMMC services using WHO's “Models for Optimizing Volume and Efficiencies” (MOVE) guidelines. They fed these costs and recent epidemiologic data (including HIV infection rates and the effectiveness of VMMC in preventing HIV transmission) and demographic data (including the adult population size and pre-scale-up male circumcision prevalence) collected in each country into the DMPPT, together with information on the lifetime costs of HIV treatment. Results from running the DMPPT model suggest that scaling up adult VMMC to reach 80% coverage in the 13 priority countries by 2015 would require 20.33 million circumcisions to be completed between 2011 and 2015. To maintain this coverage, a further 8.42 million circumcisions would be required between 2016 and 2025. Such a scale-up would avert 3.36 million new HIV infections through 2025 and would cost US$2,000,000,000 between 2011 and 2025. However, it would result in net savings (because of averted treatment and care costs) of US$16,510,000,000.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that rapid VMMC scale-up in eastern and southern Africa is warranted, given its likely impact on the region's HIV epidemics and the resultant cost savings. However, the accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions built into the DMPPT and on the data fed into it. For example, there could be risk behavior changes after circumcision. That is, risky sexual behaviors may increase in men who have been circumcised. However, the researchers show that, except in Rwanda, post-circumcision risk behavior change is unlikely to completely reverse the benefits of VMMC. These modeling results also assume that men seeking out VMMC services are typical of the general male population, but if they are actually at unusually low risk of HIV infection, then the benefits of VMMC reported here are likely to be overestimated. Finally, these findings assume 80% VMMC coverage. This may be optimistic, although results from Kenya indicate that this target is achievable. Thus, countries and their international partners must allocate sufficient resources to VMMC scale-up to achieve high coverage rates if they are to take full advantage of the benefits predicted here for VMMC scale-up.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is part of a PLoS Collection of articles on and is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Review Article by Hankins et al. (
Information is available from WHO, UNAIDS, and PEPFAR on all aspects of HIV/AIDS; the 2011WHO/UNAIDS progress report on VMMC scale-up in the 13 priority countries is available
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on male circumcision for the prevention of HIV transmission
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on all aspects of HIV prevention, and on HIV/AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish)
The Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, a resource provided by WHO, UNAIDS, and other international bodies, provides information and tools for VMMC policy development and program implementation, including information on the DMPPT and the MOVE guidance
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through NAM/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3226464  PMID: 22140367
23.  U.S. Funding Is Insufficient to Address the Human Health Impacts of and Public Health Responses to Climate Variability and Change 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;117(6):857-862.
The need to identify and try to prevent adverse health impacts of climate change has risen to the forefront of climate change policy debates and become a top priority of the public health community. Given the observed and projected changes in climate and weather patterns, their current and anticipated health impacts, and the significant degree of regulatory discussion underway in the U.S. government, it is reasonable to determine the extent of federal investment in research to understand, avoid, prepare for, and respond to the human health impacts of climate change in the United States.
In this commentary we summarize the health risks of climate change in the United States and examine the extent of federal funding devoted to understanding, avoiding, preparing for, and responding to the human health risks of climate change.
Future climate change is projected to exacerbate various current health problems, including heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases, and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and aeroallergens. Demographic trends and geophysical and socioeconomic factors could increase overall vulnerability. Despite these risks, extramural federal funding of climate change and health research is estimated to be < $3 million per year.
Given the real risks that climate change poses for U.S. populations, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies need to have robust intramural and extramural programs, with funding of > $200 million annually. Oversight of the size and priorities of these programs could be provided by a standing committee within the National Academy of Sciences.
PMCID: PMC2702397  PMID: 19590674
adaptation; climate change; health impacts; public health
24.  Effect on Postpartum Hemorrhage of Prophylactic Oxytocin (10 IU) by Injection by Community Health Officers in Ghana: A Community-Based, Cluster-Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001524.
Cynthia Stanton and colleagues conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Ghana to assess whether oxytocin given by injection by community health officers at home births was a feasible and safe option in preventing postpartum hemorrhage.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Oxytocin (10 IU) is the drug of choice for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Its use has generally been restricted to medically trained staff in health facilities. We assessed the effectiveness, safety, and feasibility of PPH prevention using oxytocin injected by peripheral health care providers without midwifery skills at home births.
Methods and Findings
This community-based, cluster-randomized trial was conducted in four rural districts in Ghana. We randomly allocated 54 community health officers (stratified on district and catchment area distance to a health facility: ≥10 km versus <10 km) to intervention (one injection of oxytocin [10 IU] one minute after birth) and control (no provision of prophylactic oxytocin) arms. Births attended by a community health officer constituted a cluster. Our primary outcome was PPH, using multiple definitions; (PPH-1) blood loss ≥500 mL; (PPH-2) PPH-1 plus women who received early treatment for PPH; and (PPH-3) PPH-2 plus any other women referred to hospital for postpartum bleeding. Unsafe practice is defined as oxytocin use before delivery of the baby. We enrolled 689 and 897 women, respectively, into oxytocin and control arms of the trial from April 2011 to November 2012. In oxytocin and control arms, respectively, PPH-1 rates were 2.6% versus 5.5% (RR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.27–0.88); PPH-2 rates were 3.8% versus 10.8% (RR: 0.35; 95% CI: 0.18–0.63), and PPH-3 rates were similar to those of PPH-2. Compared to women in control clusters, those in the intervention clusters lost 45.1 mL (17.7–72.6) less blood. There were no cases of oxytocin use before delivery of the baby and no major adverse events requiring notification of the institutional review boards. Limitations include an unblinded trial and imbalanced numbers of participants, favoring controls.
Maternal health care planners can consider adapting this model to extend the use of oxytocin into peripheral settings including, in some contexts, home births.
Trial registration NCT01108289
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Many women in low-and middle-income countries die unnecessarily during childbirth, even though the solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. Maternal death rates are highest amongst poor women living in remote areas, as they are least likely to have access to adequate health care. One of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals is to reduce maternal death rates by three-quarters by 2015. Between 1990 and 2010, these rates were nearly halved. So there is still some way to go to meet the target.
One of the major causes of maternal death is excessive bleeding after birth, known as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). The highest rates of PPH are found in Africa (28% of births), with an overall global rate of 11%. PPH can be caused by the uterus not contracting after the baby is born, damage to tissues and blood vessels, retention of the placenta, and problems with blood-clotting.
PPH can be prevented by an injection of oxytocin (a hormone) or with tablets of the drug misoprostol immediately after birth. Other drugs exist but are used much less frequently in low-income countries. If the mother does bleed excessively, then these interventions can also be used to treat PPH in the hours following birth. These drugs cause the uterus to contract. Continued severe bleeding requires emergency treatment in hospital. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that in situations where women give birth without the assistance of a trained midwife, priority should be given to preventing PPH because access to emergency services may be limited.
Why Was This Study Done?
Of the two most common options for preventing PPH, oxytocin is generally the preferred choice. It has the advantage of having no side effects, whereas misoprostol can cause fever and shivering. A repeat injection of oxytocin can also be given if the mother continues to bleed excessively, whereas a dose of misoprostol after birth should only be given once. A major concern about both drugs is that the timing of administration must be precise. Giving a drug that causes the uterus to contract before birth can be harmful to both mother and baby. A disadvantage of oxytocin is that it requires someone trained and authorized to give an injection. For this reason, oxytocin has so far been generally limited to hospitals and clinics, where it can be administered by medically trained professionals. Another disadvantage is that oxytocin is weakened by heat, which means its storage and use may be impractical in hot countries.
The main aim of this study was therefore to find out whether health workers without midwifery skills are able to administer oxytocin safely when attending home births in poor, rural communities.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers carried out a cluster-randomized controlled trial in four rural districts in Ghana, working with community health officers (CHOs). CHOs are trained for two years in giving childhood immunizations and antenatal and postnatal care, but are not trained midwives. 54 CHOs were randomized to one of two groups. The CHOs in the first group gave a preventative oxytocin injection to the mother at every birth they attended. The oxytocin was administered using a pre-filled, disposable device called Uniject that is easier and quicker to use than a syringe and needle. The packaging also included a heat-sensitive label that indicated whether the oxytocin still met the manufacturer's criteria for an acceptably potent drug. CHOs in the second group acted as controls, and did not give any oxytocin injections to prevent PPH. The women seen by each CHO formed a cluster. Comparisons were made across the clusters of women that either received or did not receive the preventative intervention.
The researchers found that the women who were given a preventative oxytocin injection lost less blood after birth than the women who did not receive a preventative injection. There were also fewer cases of PPH amongst the women who received oxytocin for PPH prevention. 2.6% of the women who received a preventative oxytocin injection experienced PPH, compared to 5.5% of the controls. Therefore the risk of PPH was approximately halved. There were no cases of oxytocin use before delivery of the baby and no difference in the frequency of other birth complications between women in the intervention and control groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that under the trial conditions, CHOs can safely administer oxytocin injections when attending home births in poor, rural settings. This intervention also proved practical to use in the Uniject format.
The study therefore suggests that oxytocin should be considered for use in regions where maternal deaths from PPH are still unacceptably high. There are also several noteworthy limitations, such as unblinding and the imbalance between participant groups. The researchers emphasized that their findings do not mean that oxytocin is always a better choice than misoprostol for home births. Many factors will influence which intervention is the most feasible, such as the local availability of sufficiently skilled health professionals, the relative cost and availability of the two drugs, as well as ease of access to emergency health services.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by João Paulo Souza
WHO Factsheet on Maternal Mortality
United Nations Population Fund's Goals to improve sexual and reproductive health
PMCID: PMC3794862  PMID: 24130463
25.  Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e5.
Industrial support of biomedical research may bias scientific conclusions, as demonstrated by recent analyses of pharmaceutical studies. However, this issue has not been systematically examined in the area of nutrition research. The purpose of this study is to characterize financial sponsorship of scientific articles addressing the health effects of three commonly consumed beverages, and to determine how sponsorship affects published conclusions.
Methods and Findings
Medline searches of worldwide literature were used to identify three article types (interventional studies, observational studies, and scientific reviews) about soft drinks, juice, and milk published between 1 January, 1999 and 31 December, 2003. Financial sponsorship and article conclusions were classified by independent groups of coinvestigators. The relationship between sponsorship and conclusions was explored by exact tests and regression analyses, controlling for covariates. 206 articles were included in the study, of which 111 declared financial sponsorship. Of these, 22% had all industry funding, 47% had no industry funding, and 32% had mixed funding. Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding.
Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.
In 111 scientific articles on nonalcoholic beverages, articles with all industry funding were more than 7 times more likely to have favorable conclusions compared with articles with no industry funding.
Editors' Summary
Much of the money available for doing medical research comes from companies, as opposed to government agencies or charities. There is some evidence that when a research study is sponsored by an organization that has a financial interest in the outcome, the study is more likely to produce results that favor the funder (this is called “sponsorship bias”). This phenomenon is worrying, because if our knowledge about effectiveness and safety of medicines is based on biased findings, patients could suffer. However, it is not clear whether sponsorship bias extends beyond research into drugs, but also affects other types of research that is in the public interest. For example, research into the health benefits, or otherwise, of different types of food and drink may affect government guidelines, regulations, and the behavior patterns of members of the public. Were sponsorship bias also to exist in this area of research, the health of the wider public could be affected.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is not a great deal of evidence about whether sponsorship bias affects nutritional research (scientific studies that look at the relationship between food and/or drink, and health or disease states). Therefore, the group of researchers here set out to collect information from published nutritional research papers, to see if the type of sponsorship for the research studies was in any way linked with whether the main conclusions were favorable or unfavorable to the sponsor.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The research study reported here used the scientific literature as a source of data. The researchers chose to examine one particular area of nutrition (nonalcoholic drinks including soft drinks, juices, and milk), so that their investigation would not be affected too much by variability between the different types of nutritional research. Using literature searches, the researchers identified all original research and scientific review articles published between January 1999 and December 2003 that examined soft drinks, juices, and milk; described research carried out in humans; and at the same time drew conclusions relevant to health or disease. Then, information from each published article was categorized: the conclusions were coded as either favorable, unfavorable, or neutral in relation to the health effects of the products being studied, and the article's funding was coded as either all industry (ie, food/drinks companies), no industry, or mixed. 206 published articles were analyzed and only 54% declared funding. The researchers found that, overall, there was a strong association between the type of funding available for these articles and the conclusions that were drawn. Articles sponsored exclusively by food/drinks companies were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to the financial interests of the sponsoring company than articles which were not sponsored by food or drinks companies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a high potential for bias exists in research into the health benefits or harms of nonalcoholic drinks. It is not clear from this research study why or how this bias comes about, but there are many different mechanisms that might cause it. The researchers suggest that certain initiatives might help to reduce bias, for example, increasing independent funding of nutrition research.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Conflict of Interest definition from Wikipedia (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides standard guidelines for practices at medical journals, including a section on sponsorship, authorship, and accountability
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for journal editors to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record, and it provides guidelines for editors and case studies for reference
The Good Publication Practice guidelines outline standards for responsible publication of research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
PMCID: PMC1764435  PMID: 17214504

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