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1.  A Multifaceted Intervention to Improve the Quality of Care of Children in District Hospitals in Kenya: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001238.
A cost-effective analysis conducted by Edwine Barasa and colleagues estimates that a complex intervention aimed at improving quality of pediatric care would be affordable and cost-effective in Kenya.
Background
To improve care for children in district hospitals in Kenya, a multifaceted approach employing guidelines, training, supervision, feedback, and facilitation was developed, for brevity called the Emergency Triage and Treatment Plus (ETAT+) strategy. We assessed the cost effectiveness of the ETAT+ strategy, in Kenyan hospitals. Further, we estimate the costs of scaling up the intervention to Kenya nationally and potential cost effectiveness at scale.
Methods and Findings
Our cost-effectiveness analysis from the provider's perspective used data from a previously reported cluster randomized trial comparing the full ETAT+ strategy (n = 4 hospitals) with a partial intervention (n = 4 hospitals). Effectiveness was measured using 14 process measures that capture improvements in quality of care; their average was used as a summary measure of quality. Economic costs of the development and implementation of the intervention were determined (2009 US$). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were defined as the incremental cost per percentage improvement in (average) quality of care. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis was used to assess uncertainty. The cost per child admission was US$50.74 (95% CI 49.26–67.06) in intervention hospitals compared to US$31.1 (95% CI 30.67–47.18) in control hospitals. Each percentage improvement in average quality of care cost an additional US$0.79 (95% CI 0.19–2.31) per admitted child. The estimated annual cost of nationally scaling up the full intervention was US$3.6 million, approximately 0.6% of the annual child health budget in Kenya. A “what-if” analysis assuming conservative reductions in mortality suggests the incremental cost per disability adjusted life year (DALY) averted by scaling up would vary between US$39.8 and US$398.3.
Conclusion
Improving quality of care at scale nationally with the full ETAT+ strategy may be affordable for low income countries such as Kenya. Resultant plausible reductions in hospital mortality suggest the intervention could be cost-effective when compared to incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of other priority child health interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
According to latest global estimates from UNICEF, 7.6 million children currently die every year before they reach five years of age. Half of these deaths occur in children in sub-Saharan Africa and tragically, most of these deaths are due to a few treatable and preventable diseases, such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea, for which effective interventions are already available. In order to meet the target of the 4th Millennium Development Goal—which aims to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds from 1990 levels by 2015—delivering these interventions is essential.
In Kenya, the under-five child mortality rate must be reduced by half from its 2008 level in order to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target and so improving the management of serious child illness might help achieve this goal. A study published last year in PLoS Medicine described such an approach and included the development and implementation of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines linked to health worker training, follow-up supervision, performance feedback, and facilitation in eight district hospitals in Kenya.
Why Was This Study Done?
In the study mentioned above, the researchers compared the implementation of various processes of care in intervention and control hospitals at baseline and 18 months later and found that performance improved more in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. However, while this strategy was effective at improving the quality of health care, it is unclear whether scaling up the approach would be a good use of limited resources. So in this study, the same researchers performed a cost-effectiveness analysis (which they conducted alongside the original trial) of their quality improvement intervention and estimated the costs and effects of scaling up this approach to cover the entire population of Kenya.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to perform the cost part of the analysis, the researchers collected the relevant information on costs by using clinical and accounting record reviews and interviews with those involved in developing and implementing the intervention. The researchers evaluated the effectiveness part of the analysis by comparing the implementation of their improved quality of care strategy as delivered in the intervention hospitals with the partial intervention as delivered in the control hospitals by calculating the mean percentage improvement in the 14 process of care indicators at 18 months. Finally, the researchers calculated the costs of scaling up the intervention by applying their results to the whole of Kenya—121 hospital facilities with an estimated annual child admission rate of 2,000 per facility.
The researchers found that the quality of care (as measured by the process of care indicators) was 25% higher in intervention hospitals than in control hospitals, while the cost per child admission was US$50.74 in intervention hospitals compared to US$31.1 in control hospitals. The researchers calculated that each percentage improvement in the average quality of care was achieved at an additional cost of US$0.79 per admitted child. Extrapolating these results to all of Kenya, the estimated annual cost of scaling up the intervention nationally was US$3.6 million, about 0.6% of the annual child health budget in Kenya.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that a comprehensive quality improvement intervention is effective at improving standards of care but at an additional cost, which may be relatively cost effective compared with basic care if the improvements observed are associated with decreases in child inpatient mortality. The absolute costs for scaling up are comparable to, or even lower than, costs of other, major child health interventions. As the international community is giving an increasing focus to strengthening health systems, these findings provide a strong case for scaling up this intervention, which improves quality of care and service provision for the major causes of child mortality, in rural hospitals throughout Kenya and other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001238.
The researchers' original article appeared in PLoS Medicine in 2011: Ayieko P, Ntoburi S, Wagai J, Opondo C, Opiyo N, et al. (2011) A Multifaceted Intervention to Implement Guidelines and Improve Admission Paediatric Care in Kenyan District Hospitals: A Cluster Randomised Trial. PLoS Med 8(4): e1001018. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001018
The IDOC Africa provides further information on the ETAT+ strategy
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on MDG 4, including strategies to reduce global child mortality) and the WHO pocket-book “Hospital care for children” includes guidelines for the management of common but serious childhood illnesses in resource-limited settings
UNICEF www.unicef.org also publishes information on global child mortality rates and the Countdown to 2015 website tracks coverage levels for health interventions proven to reduce child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001238
PMCID: PMC3373608  PMID: 22719233
2.  Explaining the effects of a multifaceted intervention to improve inpatient care in rural Kenyan hospitals -- interpretation based on retrospective examination of data from participant observation, quantitative and qualitative studies 
Background
We have reported the results of a cluster randomized trial of rural Kenyan hospitals evaluating the effects of an intervention to introduce care based on best-practice guidelines. In parallel work we described the context of the study, explored the process and perceptions of the intervention, and undertook a discrete study on health worker motivation because this was felt likely to be an important contributor to poor performance in Kenyan public sector hospitals. Here, we use data from these multiple studies and insights gained from being participants in and observers of the intervention process to provide our explanation of how intervention effects were achieved as part of an effort to better understand implementation in low-income hospital settings.
Methods
Initial hypotheses were generated to explain the variation in intervention effects across place, time, and effect measure (indicator) based on our understanding of theory and informed by our implementation experience and participant observations. All data sources available for hospitals considered as cases for study were then examined to determine if hypotheses were supported, rejected, or required modification. Data included transcriptions of interviews and group discussions, field notes and that from the detailed longitudinal quantitative investigation. Potentially useful explanatory themes were identified, discussed by the implementing and research team, revised, and merged as part of an iterative process aimed at building more generic explanatory theory. At the end of this process, findings were mapped against a recently reported comprehensive framework for implementation research.
Results
A normative re-educative intervention approach evolved that sought to reset norms and values concerning good practice and promote 'grass-roots' participation to improve delivery of correct care. Maximal effects were achieved when this strategy and external support supervision helped create a soft-contract with senior managers clarifying roles and expectations around desired performance. This, combined with the support of facilitators acting as an expert resource and 'shop-floor' change agent, led to improvements in leadership, accountability, and resource allocation that enhanced workers' commitment and capacity and improved clinical microsystems. Provision of correct care was then particularly likely if tasks were simple and a good fit to existing professional routines. Our findings were in broad agreement with those defined as part of recent work articulating a comprehensive framework for implementation research.
Conclusions
Using data from multiple studies can provide valuable insight into how an intervention is working and what factors may explain variability in effects. Findings clearly suggest that major intervention strategies aimed at improving child and newborn survival in low-income settings should go well beyond the fixed inputs (training, guidelines, and job aides) that are typical of many major programmes. Strategies required to deliver good care in low-income settings should recognize that this will need to be co-produced through engagement often over prolonged periods and as part of a directive but adaptive, participatory, information-rich, and reflective process.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-124
PMCID: PMC3248845  PMID: 22132875
3.  Quality of hospital care for sick newborns and severely malnourished children in Kenya: A two-year descriptive study in 8 hospitals 
Background
Given the high mortality associated with neonatal illnesses and severe malnutrition and the development of packages of interventions that provide similar challenges for service delivery mechanisms we set out to explore how well such services are provided in Kenya.
Methods
As a sub-component of a larger study we evaluated care during surveys conducted in 8 rural district hospitals using convenience samples of case records. After baseline hospitals received either a full multifaceted intervention (intervention hospitals) or a partial intervention (control hospitals) aimed largely at improving inpatient paediatric care for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea/dehydration. Additional data were collected to: i) examine the availability of routine information at baseline and their value for morbidity, mortality and quality of care reporting, and ii) compare the care received against national guidelines disseminated to all hospitals.
Results
Clinical documentation for neonatal and malnutrition admissions was often very poor at baseline with case records often entirely missing. Introducing a standard newborn admission record (NAR) form was associated with an increase in median assessment (IQR) score to 25/28 (22-27) from 2/28 (1-4) at baseline. Inadequate and incorrect prescribing of penicillin and gentamicin were common at baseline. For newborns considerable improvements in prescribing in the post baseline period were seen for penicillin but potentially serious errors persisted when prescribing gentamicin, particularly to low-birth weight newborns in the first week of life. Prescribing essential feeds appeared almost universally inadequate at baseline and showed limited improvement after guideline dissemination.
Conclusion
Routine records are inadequate to assess newborn care and thus for monitoring newborn survival interventions. Quality of documented inpatient care for neonates and severely malnourished children is poor with limited improvement after the dissemination of clinical practice guidelines. Further research evaluating approaches to improving care for these vulnerable groups is urgently needed. We also suggest pre-service training curricula should be better aligned to help improve newborn survival particularly.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-307
PMCID: PMC3236590  PMID: 22078071
newborns; child malnutrition; quality of health care
4.  Impact of Intermittent Screening and Treatment for Malaria among School Children in Kenya: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001594.
Katherine Halliday and colleagues conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in Kenyan school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission to investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment of malaria on health and education.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Improving the health of school-aged children can yield substantial benefits for cognitive development and educational achievement. However, there is limited experimental evidence of the benefits of alternative school-based malaria interventions or how the impacts of interventions vary according to intensity of malaria transmission. We investigated the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) for malaria on the health and education of school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomised trial was implemented with 5,233 children in 101 government primary schools on the south coast of Kenya in 2010–2012. The intervention was delivered to children randomly selected from classes 1 and 5 who were followed up for 24 months. Once a school term, children were screened by public health workers using malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), and children (with or without malaria symptoms) found to be RDT-positive were treated with a six dose regimen of artemether-lumefantrine (AL). Given the nature of the intervention, the trial was not blinded. The primary outcomes were anaemia and sustained attention. Secondary outcomes were malaria parasitaemia and educational achievement. Data were analysed on an intention-to-treat basis.
During the intervention period, an average of 88.3% children in intervention schools were screened at each round, of whom 17.5% were RDT-positive. 80.3% of children in the control and 80.2% in the intervention group were followed-up at 24 months. No impact of the malaria IST intervention was observed for prevalence of anaemia at either 12 or 24 months (adjusted risk ratio [Adj.RR]: 1.03, 95% CI 0.93–1.13, p = 0.621 and Adj.RR: 1.00, 95% CI 0.90–1.11, p = 0.953) respectively, or on prevalence of P. falciparum infection or scores of classroom attention. No effect of IST was observed on educational achievement in the older class, but an apparent negative effect was seen on spelling scores in the younger class at 9 and 24 months and on arithmetic scores at 24 months.
Conclusion
In this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study is not effective in improving the health or education of school children. Possible reasons for the absence of an impact are the marked geographical heterogeneity in transmission, the rapid rate of reinfection following AL treatment, the variable reliability of RDTs, and the relative contribution of malaria to the aetiology of anaemia in this setting.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00878007
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide and more than 600,000 people, mostly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die from this mosquito-borne parasitic infection. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the night-biting mosquitoes that transmit Plasmodium parasites and by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets to avoid mosquito bites. Infection with malaria parasites causes recurring flu-like symptoms and needs to be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent the development of anaemia (a reduction in red blood cell numbers) and potentially fatal damage to the brain and other organs. Treatment also reduces malaria transmission. In 1998, the World Health Organization and several other international bodies established the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to provide a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria. In 2008, the Partnership launched its Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims to control malaria to reduce the current burden, to eliminate malaria over time country by country, and, ultimately, to eradicate malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, many malaria-endemic countries (countries where malaria is always present) have implemented successful malaria control programs and reduced malaria transmission levels. In these countries, immunity to malaria is now acquired more slowly than in the past, the burden of clinical malaria is shifting from very young children to older children, and infection rates with malaria parasites are now highest among school-aged children. Chronic untreated Plasmodium infection, even when it does not cause symptoms, can negatively affect children's health, cognitive development (the acquisition of thinking skills), and educational achievement. However, little is known about how school-based malaria interventions affect the health of children or their educational outcomes. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) of malaria on the health and education of school children in a rural area of southern Kenya with low-to-moderate malaria transmission. Cluster randomized trials compare the outcomes of groups (“clusters”) of people randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions. IST of malaria involves periodical screening of individuals for Plasmodium infection followed by treatment of everyone who is infected, including people without symptoms, with antimalarial drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled more than 5,000 children aged between 5 and 20 years from 101 government primary schools in Kenya into their 24-month study. Half the schools were randomly selected to receive the IST intervention (screening once a school term for infection with a malaria parasite with a rapid diagnostic test [RDT] and treatment of all RDT-positive children, with or without malaria symptoms, with six doses of artemether-lumefantrine), which was delivered to randomly selected children from classes 1 and 5 (which contained younger and older children, respectively). During the study, 17.5% of the children in the intervention schools were RDT-positive at screening on average. The prevalences of anaemia and parasitemia (the proportion of children with anaemia and the proportion who were RDT-positive, respectively) were similar in the intervention and control groups at the 12-month and 24-month follow-up and there was no difference between the two groups in classroom attention scores at the 9-month and 24-month follow-up. The IST intervention also had no effect on educational achievement in the older class but, unexpectedly, appeared to have a negative effect on spelling and arithmetic scores in the younger class.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study provided no health or education benefits to school children. The finding that the educational achievement of younger children was lower in the intervention group than in the control group may be a chance finding or may indicate that apprehension about the finger prick needed to take blood for the RDT had a negative effect on the performance of younger children during educational tests. The researchers suggest that their failure to demonstrate that the school-based IST intervention they tested had any long-lasting health or education benefits may be because, in a low-to-moderate malaria transmission setting, most of the children screened did not require treatment and those who did lived in focal high transmission regions, where rapid re-infection occurred between screening rounds. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that school screening using RDT could be an efficient way to identify transmission hotspots in communities that should be targeted for malaria control interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lorenz von Seidlein
Information is available fro m the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2012 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about children with malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes a fact sheet about malaria in Kenya
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about this trial is available
More information about malaria control in schools is provided in the toolkit
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594
PMCID: PMC3904819  PMID: 24492859
5.  Implementation of a structured paediatric admission record for district hospitals in Kenya – results of a pilot study 
Background
The structured admission form is an apparently simple measure to improve data quality. Poor motivation, lack of supervision, lack of resources and other factors are conceivably major barriers to their successful use in a Kenyan public hospital setting. Here we have examined the feasibility and acceptability of a structured paediatric admission record (PAR) for district hospitals as a means of improving documentation of illness.
Methods
The PAR was primarily based on symptoms and signs included in the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) diagnostic algorithms. It was introduced with a three-hour training session, repeated subsequently for those absent, aiming for complete coverage of admitting clinical staff. Data from consecutive records before (n = 163) and from a 60% random sample of dates after intervention (n = 705) were then collected to evaluate record quality. The post-intervention period was further divided into four 2-month blocks by open, feedback meetings for hospital staff on the uptake and completeness of the PAR.
Results
The frequency of use of the PAR increased from 50% in the first 2 months to 84% in the final 2 months, although there was significant variation in use among clinicians. The quality of documentation also improved considerably over time. For example documentation of skin turgor in cases of diarrhoea improved from 2% pre-intervention to 83% in the final 2 months of observation. Even in the area of preventive care documentation of immunization status improved from 1% of children before intervention to 21% in the final 2 months.
Conclusion
The PAR was well accepted by most clinicians and greatly improved documentation of features recommended by IMCI for identifying and classifying severity of common diseases. The PAR could provide a useful platform for implementing standard referral care treatment guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-6-9
PMCID: PMC1555611  PMID: 16857044
6.  A cluster randomized controlled trial of a behavioral intervention to facilitate the development and implementation of clinical practice guidelines in Latin American maternity hospitals: the Guidelines Trial: Study protocol [ISRCTN82417627] 
BMC Women's Health  2005;5:4.
Background
A significant proportion of the health care administered to women in Latin American maternity hospitals during labor and delivery has been demonstrated to be ineffective or harmful, whereas effective interventions remain underutilized. The routine use of episiotomies and the failure to use active management of the third stage of labor are good examples.
Methods/Design
The aim of this trial is to evaluate the effect of a multifaceted behavioral intervention on the use of two evidence-based birth practices, the selective use of episiotomies and active management of the third stage of labor (injection of 10 International Units of oxytocin). The intervention is based on behavioral and organizational change theories and was based on formative research. Twenty-four hospitals in three urban districts of Argentina and Uruguay will be randomized. Opinion leaders in the 12 intervention hospitals will be identified and trained to develop and implement evidence-based guidelines. They will then disseminate the guidelines using a multifaceted approach including academic detailing, reminders, and feedback on utilization rates. The 12 hospitals in the control group will continue with their standard in-service training activities. The main outcomes to be assessed are the rates of episiotomy and oxytocin use during the third stage of labor. Secondary outcomes will be perineal sutures, postpartum hemorrhages, and birth attendants' opinions.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-5-4
PMCID: PMC1090598  PMID: 15823211
7.  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
Background
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.
Conclusion
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
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01108289
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001524.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001524
PMCID: PMC3794862  PMID: 24130463
8.  An increase in the burden of neonatal admissions to a rural district hospital in Kenya over 19 years 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:591.
Background
Most of the global neonatal deaths occur in developing nations, mostly in rural homes. Many of the newborns who receive formal medical care are treated in rural district hospitals and other peripheral health centres. However there are no published studies demonstrating trends in neonatal admissions and outcome in rural health care facilities in resource poor regions. Such information is critical in planning public health interventions. In this study we therefore aimed at describing the pattern of neonatal admissions to a Kenyan rural district hospital and their outcome over a 19 year period, examining clinical indicators of inpatient neonatal mortality and also trends in utilization of a rural hospital for deliveries.
Methods
Prospectively collected data on neonates is compared to non-neonatal paediatric (≤ 5 years old) admissions and deliveries' in the maternity unit at Kilifi District Hospital from January 1st 1990 up to December 31st 2008, to document the pattern of neonatal admissions, deliveries and changes in inpatient deaths. Trends were examined using time series models with likelihood ratios utilised to identify indicators of inpatient neonatal death.
Results
The proportion of neonatal admissions of the total paediatric ≤ 5 years admissions significantly increased from 11% in 1990 to 20% by 2008 (trend 0.83 (95% confidence interval 0.45 -1.21). Most of the increase in burden was from neonates born in hospital and very young neonates aged < 7days. Hospital deliveries also increased significantly. Clinical diagnoses of neonatal sepsis, prematurity, neonatal jaundice, neonatal encephalopathy, tetanus and neonatal meningitis accounted for over 75% of the inpatient neonatal admissions. Inpatient case fatality for all ≤ 5 years declined significantly over the 19 years. However, neonatal deaths comprised 33% of all inpatient death among children aged ≤ 5 years in 1990, this increased to 55% by 2008. Tetanus 256/390 (67%), prematurity 554/1,280(43%) and neonatal encephalopathy 253/778(33%) had the highest case fatality. A combination of six indicators: irregular respiration, oxygen saturation of <90%, pallor, neck stiffness, weight < 1.5 kg, and abnormally elevated blood glucose > 7 mmol/l predicted inpatient neonatal death with a sensitivity of 81% and a specificity of 68%.
Conclusions
There is clear evidence of increasing burden in neonatal admissions at a rural district hospital in contrast to reducing numbers of non-neonatal paediatrics' admissions aged ≤ 5years. Though the inpatient case fatality for all admissions aged ≤ 5 years declined significantly, neonates now comprise close to 60% of all inpatient deaths. Simple indicators may identify neonates at risk of death.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-591
PMCID: PMC2965720  PMID: 20925939
9.  Essential Surgery at the District Hospital: A Retrospective Descriptive Analysis in Three African Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000243.
In the first of two papers investigating surgical provision in eight district hospitals in Saharan African countries, Margaret Kruk and colleagues find low levels of surgical care provision suggesting unmet need for surgical services.
Background
Surgical conditions contribute significantly to the disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet there is an apparent neglect of surgical care as a public health intervention to counter this burden. There is increasing enthusiasm to reverse this trend, by promoting essential surgical services at the district hospital, the first point of contact for critical conditions for rural populations. This study investigated the scope of surgery conducted at district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries.
Methods and Findings
In a retrospective descriptive study, field data were collected from eight district hospitals in Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique using a standardized form and interviews with key informants. Overall, the scope of surgical procedures performed was narrow and included mainly essential and life-saving emergency procedures. Surgical output varied across hospitals from five to 45 major procedures/10,000 people. Obstetric operations were most common and included cesarean sections and uterine evacuations. Hernia repair and wound care accounted for 65% of general surgical procedures. The number of beds in the studied hospitals ranged from 0.2 to 1.0 per 1,000 population.
Conclusion
The findings of this study clearly indicate low levels of surgical care provision at the district level for the hospitals studied. The extent to which this translates into unmet need remains unknown although the very low proportions of live births in the catchment areas of these eight hospitals that are born by cesarean section suggest that there is a substantial unmet need for surgical services. The district hospital in the current health system in sub-Saharan Africa lends itself to feasible integration of essential surgery into the spectrum of comprehensive primary care services. It is therefore critical that the surgical capacity of the district hospital is significantly expanded; this will result in sustainable preventable morbidity and mortality.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 234 million major surgical procedures take place globally. Of these procedures, only a quarter are performed in low- and middle-income countries where nearly three-quarters of the world's population lives. Put another way, in high-income countries, 10,110 people out of every 100,000 have surgery each year on average compared to only 295 people out of every 100,000 in low- and middle-income countries. Yet conditions that need surgery (including complications of childbirth and traumatic injuries) are common in developing countries and contribute significantly to the burden of disease in these countries. Various organizations are working to reduce this burden by improving emergency and essential surgical care in developing countries. For example, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG), which includes experts in surgery, anesthesia, obstetrics (the branch of medicine that cares for women during pregnancy and childbirth), and health policy from several African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the US, aims to increase access to surgical services in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
One way to improve access to surgical services in sub-Saharan Africa would be to promote the provision of essential surgical services at district hospitals. These hospitals are the first referral facilities for people living in rural areas. Traditionally, patients receive much of their primary health care at these facilities but are referred to secondary and tertiary health care facilities (regional and national referral hospitals, respectively) for more specialized care. However, many surgical conditions—in particular, obstetric emergencies—need to be treated at district hospitals if lives are to be saved. Unfortunately, very little is known about the range and volume of surgical procedures currently undertaken in district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and such information is needed before programs can be developed to increase access to surgical services at these facilities. In this retrospective, descriptive study, the researchers (some of whom are part of the BESG) investigate the scope of surgery undertaken in district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained recent data on the surgical procedures done at two representative district hospitals each in Tanzania and in Mozambique and four representative district hospitals in Uganda by examining hospital records and by interviewing administrators. The observed range of surgical procedures performed in these hospitals was narrow, they report, consisting mainly of essential and life-saving emergency procedures such as cesarean sections for the delivery of babies and wound-related procedures. Obstetric procedures accounted for around half of all surgical procedures in all the hospitals except one Ugandan hospital. Hernia repair and wound care accounted for nearly two-thirds of general surgical procedures. The surgical output across the hospitals varied from five to 45 major procedures per 10,000 people in the population (average 25 operations per 10,000 people). Across the hospitals, between one and 17 cesarean sections and between 0.5 and seven hernia repairs were performed per 10,000 people in the population. Finally, the researchers used their data and WHO estimates of the population need for cesarean sections to estimate that in the two Tanzanian district hospitals, between half and two-thirds of women that needed a cesarean section did not have access to this life-saving procedure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that there are low levels of provision of surgical care in district hospitals in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Uganda. Further studies are needed to confirm that these findings are generalizable to district hospitals elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa and to quantify the extent to which this low level of surgical care translates into unmet needs. Limitations of the study include a lack of information on outcomes, on referral of patients to higher-level facilities, and on how many of the surgical procedures undertaken at these hospitals dealt with traumatic injuries. Nevertheless, the information collected in this study, together with that in a separate paper that investigates the availability of health workers and funding for the provision of essential surgery in district hospitals in these three countries, suggests that the surgical capacity of district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa needs to be improved. If this goal can be achieved, suggest the researchers, it should avert many illnesses and deaths in this poor region of the world.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000243.
The availability of health workers and funding for surgery in the same hospitals is investigated in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Margaret E. Kruk et al.
Information on the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group is available
WHO's Global initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care plans to take essential emergency, basic surgery and anesthesia skills to health care staff in low- and middle-income countries around the world; WHO also has a page describing the importance of emergency and essential surgery in primary health care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000243
PMCID: PMC2834708  PMID: 20231871
10.  Community-Based Care for the Specialized Management of Heart Failure 
Executive Summary
In August 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) presented a vignette to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) on a proposed targeted health care delivery model for chronic care. The proposed model was defined as multidisciplinary, ambulatory, community-based care that bridged the gap between primary and tertiary care, and was intended for individuals with a chronic disease who were at risk of a hospital admission or emergency department visit. The goals of this care model were thought to include: the prevention of emergency department visits, a reduction in hospital admissions and re-admissions, facilitation of earlier hospital discharge, a reduction or delay in long-term care admissions, and an improvement in mortality and other disease-specific patient outcomes.
OHTAC approved the development of an evidence-based assessment to determine the effectiveness of specialized community based care for the management of heart failure, Type 2 diabetes and chronic wounds.
Please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site at: www.health.gov.on.ca/ohtas to review the following reports associated with the Specialized Multidisciplinary Community-Based care series.
Specialized multidisciplinary community-based care series: a summary of evidence-based analyses
Community-based care for the specialized management of heart failure: an evidence-based analysis
Community-based care for chronic wound management: an evidence-based analysis
Please note that the evidence-based analysis of specialized community-based care for the management of diabetes titled: “Community-based care for the management of type 2 diabetes: an evidence-based analysis” has been published as part of the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform at this URL: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/tech/ohtas/tech_diabetes_20091020.html
Please visit the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative Web site at: http://theta.utoronto.ca/papers/MAS_CHF_Clinics_Report.pdf to review the following economic project associated with this series:
Community-based Care for the specialized management of heart failure: a cost-effectiveness and budget impact analysis.
Objective
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to determine the effectiveness of specialized multidisciplinary care in the management of heart failure (HF).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
HF is a progressive, chronic condition in which the heart becomes unable to sufficiently pump blood throughout the body. There are several risk factors for developing the condition including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, previous myocardial infarction, and valvular heart disease.(1) Based on data from a 2005 study of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), the prevalence of congestive heart failure in Canada is approximately 1% of the population over the age of 12.(2) This figure rises sharply after the age of 45, with prevalence reports ranging from 2.2% to 12%.(3) Extrapolating this to the Ontario population, an estimated 98,000 residents in Ontario are believed to have HF.
Disease management programs are multidisciplinary approaches to care for chronic disease that coordinate comprehensive care strategies along the disease continuum and across healthcare delivery systems.(4) Evidence for the effectiveness of disease management programs for HF has been provided by seven systematic reviews completed between 2004 and 2007 (Table 1) with consistency of effect demonstrated across four main outcomes measures: all cause mortality and hospitalization, and heart-failure specific mortality and hospitalization. (4-10)
However, while disease management programs are multidisciplinary by definition, the published evidence lacks consistency and clarity as to the exact nature of each program and usual care comparators are generally ill defined. Consequently, the effectiveness of multidisciplinary care for the management of persons with HF is still uncertain. Therefore, MAS has completed a systematic review of specialized, multidisciplinary, community-based care disease management programs compared to a well-defined usual care group for persons with HF.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness of specialized, multidisciplinary, community-based care (SMCCC) compared with usual care for persons with HF?
Literature Search Strategy
A comprehensive literature search was completed of electronic databases including MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature. Bibliographic references of selected studies were also searched. After a review of the title and abstracts, relevant studies were obtained and the full reports evaluated. All studies meeting explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria were retained. Where appropriate, a meta-analysis was undertaken to determine the pooled estimate of effect of specialized multidisciplinary community-based care for explicit outcomes. The quality of the body of evidence, defined as one or more relevant studies was determined using GRADE Working Group criteria. (11)
Inclusion Criteria
Randomized controlled trial
Systematic review with meta analysis
Population includes persons with New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification 1-IV HF
The intervention includes a team consisting of a nurse and physician one of which is a specialist in HF management.
The control group receives care by a single practitioner (e.g. primary care physician (PCP) or cardiologist)
The intervention begins after discharge from the hospital
The study reports 1-year outcomes
Exclusion Criteria
The intervention is delivered predominately through home-visits
Studies with mixed populations where discrete data for HF is not reported
Outcomes of Interest
All cause mortality
All cause hospitalization
HF specific mortality
HF specific hospitalization
All cause duration of hospital stay
HF specific duration of hospital stay
Emergency room visits
Quality of Life
Summary of Findings
One large and seven small randomized controlled trials were obtained from the literature search.
A meta-analysis was completed for four of the seven outcomes including:
All cause mortality
HF-specific mortality
All cause hospitalization
HF-specific hospitalization.
Where the pooled analysis was associated with significant heterogeneity, subgroup analyses were completed using two primary categories:
direct and indirect model of care; and
type of control group (PCP or cardiologist).
The direct model of care was a clinic-based multidisciplinary HF program and the indirect model of care was a physician supervised, nurse-led telephonic HF program.
All studies, except one, were completed in jurisdictions outside North America. (12-19) Similarly, all but one study had a sample size of less than 250. The mean age in the studies ranged from 65 to 77 years. Six of the studies(12;14-18) included populations with a NYHA classification of II-III. In two studies, the control treatment was a cardiologist (12;15) and two studies reported the inclusion of a dietitian, physiotherapist and psychologist as members of the multidisciplinary team (12;19).
All Cause Mortality
Eight studies reported all cause mortality (number of persons) at 1 year follow-up. (12-19) When the results of all eight studies were pooled, there was a statistically significant RRR of 29% with moderate heterogeneity (I2 of 38%). The results of the subgroup analyses indicated a significant RRR of 40% in all cause mortality when SMCCC is delivered through a direct team model (clinic) and a 35% RRR when SMCCC was compared with a primary care practitioner.
HF-Specific Mortality
Three studies reported HF-specific mortality (number of persons) at 1 year follow-up. (15;18;19) When the results of these were pooled, there was an insignificant RRR of 42% with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 60%). The GRADE quality of evidence is moderate for the pooled analysis of all studies.
All Cause Hospitalization
Seven studies reported all cause hospitalization at 1-year follow-up (13-15;17-19). When pooled, their results showed a statistically insignificant 12% increase in hospitalizations in the SMCCC group with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 81%). A significant RRR of 12% in all cause hospitalization in favour of the SMCCC care group was achieved when SMCCC was delivered using an indirect model (telephonic) with an associated (I2 of 0%). The Grade quality of evidence was found to be low for the pooled analysis of all studies and moderate for the subgroup analysis of the indirect team care model.
HF-Specific Hospitalization
Six studies reported HF-specific hospitalization at 1-year follow-up. (13-15;17;19) When pooled, the results of these studies showed an insignificant RRR of 14% with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 60%); however, the quality of evidence for the pooled analysis of was low.
Duration of Hospital Stay
Seven studies reported duration of hospital stay, four in terms of mean duration of stay in days (14;16;17;19) and three in terms of total hospital bed days (12;13;18). Most studies reported all cause duration of hospital stay while two also reported HF-specific duration of hospital stay. These data were not amenable to meta-analyses as standard deviations were not provided in the reports. However, in general (and in all but one study) it appears that persons receiving SMCCC had shorter hospital stays, whether measured as mean days in hospital or total hospital bed days.
Emergency Room Visits
Only one study reported emergency room visits. (14) This was presented as a composite of readmissions and ER visits, where the authors reported that 77% (59/76) of the SMCCC group and 84% (63/75) of the usual care group were either readmitted or had an ER visit within the 1 year of follow-up (P=0.029).
Quality of Life
Quality of life was reported in five studies using the Minnesota Living with HF Questionnaire (MLHFQ) (12-15;19) and in one study using the Nottingham Health Profile Questionnaire(16). The MLHFQ results are reported in our analysis. Two studies reported the mean score at 1 year follow-up, although did not provide the standard deviation of the mean in their report. One study reported the median and range scores at 1 year follow-up in each group. Two studies reported the change scores of the physical and emotional subscales of the MLHFQ of which only one study reported a statistically significant change from baseline to 1 year follow-up between treatment groups in favour of the SMCCC group in the physical sub-scale. A significant change in the emotional subscale scores from baseline to 1 year follow-up in the treatment groups was not reported in either study.
Conclusion
There is moderate quality evidence that SMCCC reduces all cause mortality by 29%. There is low quality evidence that SMCCC contributes to a shorter duration of hospital stay and improves quality of life compared to usual care. The evidence supports that SMCCC is effective when compared to usual care provided by either a primary care practitioner or a cardiologist. It does not, however, suggest an optimal model of care or discern what the effective program components are. A field evaluation could address this uncertainty.
PMCID: PMC3377506  PMID: 23074521
11.  Over-diagnosis of malaria is not a lost cause 
Malaria Journal  2006;5:120.
Background
Recent studies have highlighted the over-diagnosis of malaria in clinical settings in Africa. This study assessed the impact of a training programme implemented as part of an intervention trial on diagnostic behaviour of clinicians in a rural district hospital in a low-moderate malaria transmission setting.
Methods
From the beginning of 2005, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in infants (IPTi) has been conducted at the study hospital. As part of the RCT, the study team offered laboratory quality assurance, and supervision and training of paediatric ward staff using information on malaria epidemiology in the community. Data on clinical and blood slide confirmed cases of malaria from 2001 to 2005 were extracted from the hospital records.
Results
The proportion of blood slides positive for malaria parasites had decreased from 21% in 2001 to 7% in 2005 (p < .01). The proportion of outpatient and inpatient cases diagnosed as malaria ranged between 34% and 28% from 2001 to 2004 and this decreased substantially to 17% after the introduction of the package of training and support in 2005 (p < .01). There was no clear trend in the ratio of blood slide examined versus total diagnosis of malaria.
Conclusion
It may be possible to change the diagnostic behaviour of clinicians by rigorous training using local malaria epidemiology data and supportive supervision.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-5-120
PMCID: PMC1712345  PMID: 17166271
12.  The PRIME trial protocol: evaluating the impact of an intervention implemented in public health centres on management of malaria and health outcomes of children using a cluster-randomised design in Tororo, Uganda 
Background
In Africa, inadequate health services contribute to the lack of progress on malaria control. Evidence of the impact of interventions to improve health services on population-level malaria indicators is needed. We are conducting a cluster-randomised trial to assess whether a complex intervention delivered at public health centres in Uganda improves health outcomes of children and treatment of malaria, as compared to the current standard of care.
Methods/Design
Twenty public health centres (level II and III) in Tororo district will be included; 10 will be randomly assigned to the intervention and 10 to control. Clusters will include households located within 2 km of health centres. The trial statistician will generate the random allocation sequence and assign clusters. Health centres will be stratified by level, and restricted randomisation will be employed to ensure balance on cluster location and size. Allocation will not be blinded. The intervention includes training in health centre management, fever case management with use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria, and patient-centered services, and provision of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and RDTs when stocks run low. The impact of the intervention on population-level health indicators will be assessed through community surveys conducted at baseline in randomly selected children from each cluster, and repeated annually for two years. The impact on individuals over time will be assessed in a cohort study of children recruited from households randomly selected per cluster. The impact on health centres will be assessed using patient exit interviews, monthly surveillance, and assessment of health worker knowledge and skills. The primary outcome is the prevalence of anaemia (haemoglobin <11.0 g/dL) in individual children under five measured in the annual community surveys. The primary analysis will be based on the cluster-level results.
Discussion
The PRIME trial findings will be supplemented by the PROCESS study, an evaluation of the process, context, and wider impact of the PRIME intervention which will be conducted alongside the main trial, together providing evidence of the health impact of a public sector intervention in Uganda.
Trial registration and funding
This trial is registered at Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01024426) and is supported by the ACT Consortium.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-114
PMCID: PMC3851935  PMID: 24079295
Malaria; Complex intervention; Cluster-randomised trial; Uganda; Public sector
13.  Documenting the experiences of health workers expected to implement guidelines during an intervention study in Kenyan hospitals 
Background
Although considerable efforts are directed at developing international guidelines to improve clinical management in low-income settings they appear to influence practice rarely. This study aimed to explore barriers to guideline implementation in the early phase of an intervention study in four district hospitals in Kenya.
Methods
We developed a simple interview guide based on a simple characterisation of the intervention informed by review of major theories on barriers to uptake of guidelines. In-depth interviews, non-participatory observation, and informal discussions were then used to explore perceived barriers to guideline introduction and general improvements in paediatric and newborn care. Data were collected four to five months after in-service training in the hospitals. Data were transcribed, themes explored, and revised in two rounds of coding and analysis using NVivo 7 software, subjected to a layered analysis, reviewed, and revised after discussion with four hospital staff who acted as within-hospital facilitators.
Results
A total of 29 health workers were interviewed. Ten major themes preventing guideline uptake were identified: incomplete training coverage; inadequacies in local standard setting and leadership; lack of recognition and appreciation of good work; poor communication and teamwork; organizational constraints and limited resources; counterproductive health worker norms; absence of perceived benefits linked to adoption of new practices; difficulties accepting change; lack of motivation; and conflicting attitudes and beliefs.
Conclusion
While the barriers identified are broadly similar in theme to those reported from high-income settings, their specific nature often differs. For example, at an institutional level there is an almost complete lack of systems to introduce or reinforce guidelines, poor teamwork across different cadres of health worker, and failure to confront poor practice. At an individual level, lack of interest in the evidence supporting guidelines, feelings that they erode professionalism, and expectations that people should be paid to change practice threaten successful implementation.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-44
PMCID: PMC2726115  PMID: 19627591
14.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Introduction
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Conclusions
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
15.  Stable and Unstable Malaria Hotspots in Longitudinal Cohort Studies in Kenya 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000304.
Philip Bejon and colleagues document the clustering of malaria episodes and malarial parasite infection. These patterns may enable future prediction of hotspots of malaria infection and targeting of treatment or preventive interventions.
Background
Infectious diseases often demonstrate heterogeneity of transmission among host populations. This heterogeneity reduces the efficacy of control strategies, but also implies that focusing control strategies on “hotspots” of transmission could be highly effective.
Methods and Findings
In order to identify hotspots of malaria transmission, we analysed longitudinal data on febrile malaria episodes, asymptomatic parasitaemia, and antibody titres over 12 y from 256 homesteads in three study areas in Kilifi District on the Kenyan coast. We examined heterogeneity by homestead, and identified groups of homesteads that formed hotspots using a spatial scan statistic. Two types of statistically significant hotspots were detected; stable hotspots of asymptomatic parasitaemia and unstable hotspots of febrile malaria. The stable hotspots were associated with higher average AMA-1 antibody titres than the unstable clusters (optical density [OD] = 1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.47 versus OD = 1.1, 95% CI 0.88–1.33) and lower mean ages of febrile malaria episodes (5.8 y, 95% CI 5.6–6.0 versus 5.91 y, 95% CI 5.7–6.1). A falling gradient of febrile malaria incidence was identified in the penumbrae of both hotspots. Hotspots were associated with AMA-1 titres, but not seroconversion rates. In order to target control measures, homesteads at risk of febrile malaria could be predicted by identifying the 20% of homesteads that experienced an episode of febrile malaria during one month in the dry season. That 20% subsequently experienced 65% of all febrile malaria episodes during the following year. A definition based on remote sensing data was 81% sensitive and 63% specific for the stable hotspots of asymptomatic malaria.
Conclusions
Hotspots of asymptomatic parasitaemia are stable over time, but hotspots of febrile malaria are unstable. This finding may be because immunity offsets the high rate of febrile malaria that might otherwise result in stable hotspots, whereas unstable hotspots necessarily affect a population with less prior exposure to malaria.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, is a major global public-health problem. About half the world's population is at risk of malaria and about one million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) die each year from the disease. Malaria is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Initially, the parasite replicates inside human liver cells but, about a week after infection, these cells release “merozoites” (one of the life-stages of the parasite), which invade red blood cells. Here, the merozoites replicate rapidly before bursting out after 2–3 days and infecting more red blood cells. The cyclical and massive increase in parasitemia (parasites in the bloodstream) that results from this pattern of replication is responsible for malaria's recurring fevers and can cause life-threatening organ damage and anemia (a lack of red blood cells). Malaria can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by avoiding mosquito bites. Effective treatment with antimalarial drugs can also reduce malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Like many other infectious diseases, the transmission of malaria is heterogeneous. That is, even in places where malaria is always present, there are “hotspots” of transmission, areas where the risk of catching malaria is particularly high. The existence of these hotspots, which are caused by a combination of genetic factors (for example, host susceptibility to infection) and environmental factors (for example, distance from mosquito breeding sites), reduces the efficacy of control strategies. However, mathematical models suggest that focusing control strategies on transmission hotspots might be an effective way to reduce overall malaria transmission. Efforts have been made to identify such hotspots using environmental data collected by satellites but with limited success. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the heterogeneity of malaria transmission in the Kilifi District of Kenya over time by analyzing data collected over up to 12 years (“longitudinal” data) on malaria episodes and parasitemia in three groups (cohorts) of children living in 256 homesteads.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified febrile malaria episodes in the homesteads by taking blood from children with fever (febrile children) to analyze for parasitemia. They took blood once a year from all the study participants just before the rainy season (when malaria peaks) to look for symptom-free parasitemia and they also looked for antibodies (proteins made by the immune system that fight disease) against malaria parasites in the blood of the participants. They then used a “spatial scan statistic” to look for heterogeneity of transmission and to identify transmission hotspots (groups of homesteads where the observed incidence of malaria or parasitemia was higher than would be expected if cases were evenly distributed). The researchers identified two types of hotspots—stable hotspots of symptom-free parasitemia that were still hotspots several years later and unstable hotspots of febrile malaria that rarely stayed in the same place for more than a year or two. Children living in the stable hotspots had slightly higher average amounts of antimalaria antibodies and developed malaria at a slightly lower average age than children living in the unstable hotspots.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in Kilifi District, Kenya, hotspots of symptom-free parasitemia are stable over time but hotspots of febrile malaria are unstable. The researchers suggest that rapid acquisition of immunity in the stable hotspots reduces the occurrence of febrile malaria whereas in the unstable hotspots there is a high incidence of febrile malaria because lack of previous exposure to the parasite means there is a low level of immunity. Targeted strategies for malaria control should target both types of hotspots, suggest the researchers. Stable hotspots of symptom-free parasitemia (which can be identified by parasite or antibody surveys or by remote environmental sensing) should be targeted because mosquito dispersion probably increases malaria transmission rates near these hotspots. Unstable hotspots of febrile disease should be targeted to reduce both the burden of disease and transmission in the wider community. Unstable hotspots of febrile malaria, the researchers suggest, could be efficiently identified in Kilifi District (and maybe elsewhere) by determining which homesteads had malaria outbreaks during September (part of the dry season) one year and then focusing control interventions on these homesteads the next year.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000304.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria (in English and French) and on malaria in Kenya
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000304
PMCID: PMC2897769  PMID: 20625549
16.  Rational Prescribing in Primary Care (RaPP): A Cluster Randomized Trial of a Tailored Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e134.
Background
A gap exists between evidence and practice regarding the management of cardiovascular risk factors. This gap could be narrowed if systematically developed clinical practice guidelines were effectively implemented in clinical practice. We evaluated the effects of a tailored intervention to support the implementation of systematically developed guidelines for the use of antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering drugs for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial comparing a tailored intervention to passive dissemination of guidelines in 146 general practices in two geographical areas in Norway. Each practice was randomized to either the tailored intervention (70 practices; 257 physicians) or control group (69 practices; 244 physicians). Patients started on medication for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia during the study period and all patients already on treatment that consulted their physician during the trial were included. A multifaceted intervention was tailored to address identified barriers to change. Key components were an educational outreach visit with audit and feedback, and computerized reminders linked to the medical record system. Pharmacists conducted the visits. Outcomes were measured for all eligible patients seen in the participating practices during 1 y before and after the intervention. The main outcomes were the proportions of (1) first-time prescriptions for hypertension where thiazides were prescribed, (2) patients assessed for cardiovascular risk before prescribing antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs, and (3) patients treated for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia for 3 mo or more who had achieved recommended treatment goals.
The intervention led to an increase in adherence to guideline recommendations on choice of antihypertensive drug. Thiazides were prescribed to 17% of patients in the intervention group versus 11% in the control group (relative risk 1.94; 95% confidence interval 1.49–2.49, adjusted for baseline differences and clustering effect). Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
Conclusions
Our tailored intervention had a significant impact on prescribing of antihypertensive drugs, but was ineffective in improving the quality of other aspects of managing hypertension and hypercholesterolemia in primary care.
Editors' Summary
Background.
An important issue in health care is “getting research into practice,” in other words, making sure that, when evidence from research has established the best way to treat a disease, doctors actually use that approach with their patients. In reality, there is often a gap between evidence and practice.
  An example concerns the treatment of people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol. These are common conditions, and both increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Research has shown that the risks can be lowered if patients with these conditions are given drugs that lower blood pressure (antihypertensives) and drugs that lower cholesterol. There are many types of these drugs now available. In many countries, the health authorities want family doctors (general practitioners) to make better use of these drugs. They want doctors to prescribe them to everyone who would benefit, using the type of drugs found to be most effective. When there is a choice of drugs that are equally effective, they want doctors to use the cheapest type. (In the case of antihypertensives, an older type, known as thiazides, is very effective and also very cheap, but many doctors prefer to give their patients newer, more expensive alternatives.) Health authorities have issued guidelines to doctors that address these issues. However, it is not easy to change prescribing practices, and research in several countries has shown that issuing guidelines has only limited effects.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted—in two parts of Norway—to compare the effects on prescribing practices of what they called the “passive dissemination of guidelines” with a more active approach, where the use of the guidelines was strongly promoted and encouraged.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They worked with 146 general practices. In half of them the guidelines were actively promoted. The remaining were regarded as a control group; they were given the guidelines but no special efforts were made to encourage their use. It was decided at random which practices would be in which group; this approach is called a randomized controlled trial. The methods used to actively promote use of the guidelines included personal visits to the practices by pharmacists and use of a computerized reminder system. Information was then collected on the number of patients who, when first treated for hypertension, were prescribed a thiazide. Other information collected included whether patients had been properly assessed for their level of risk (for strokes and heart attacks) before antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs were given. In addition, the researchers recorded whether the recommended targets for improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol level had been reached.
Only 11% of those patients visiting the control group of practices who should have been prescribed thiazides, according to the guidelines, actually received them. Of those seen by doctors in the practices where the guidelines were actively promoted, 17% received thiazides. According to statistical analysis, the increase achieved by active promotion is significant. Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Even in the active promotion group, the great majority of patients (83%) were still not receiving treatment according to the guidelines. However, active promotion of guidelines is more effective than simply issuing the guidelines by themselves. The study also demonstrates that it is very hard to change prescribing practices. The efforts made here to encourage the doctors to change were considerable, and although the results were significant, they were still disappointing. Also disappointing is the fact that achievement of treatment goals was no better in the active-promotion group. These issues are discussed further in a Perspective about this study (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030229).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134.
• The Web site of the American Academy of Family Physicians has a page on heart disease
• The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia's pages on heart diseases and vascular diseases
• Information from NHS Direct (UK National Health Service) about heart attack and stroke
• Another PLoS Medicine article has also addressed trends in thiazide prescribing
Passive dissemination of management guidelines for hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia was compared with active promotion. Active promotion led to significant improvement in antihypertensive prescribing but not other aspects of management.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134
PMCID: PMC1472695  PMID: 16737346
17.  The effectiveness of the Liverpool care pathway in improving end of life care for dying cancer patients in hospital. A cluster randomised trial 
Background
Most cancer patients still die in hospital, mainly in medical wards. Many studies in different countries have shown the poor quality of end-of-life care delivery in hospitals. The Program "Liverpool Care Pathway for the dying patient" (LCP), developed in the UK to transfer the hospice model of care into hospitals and other care settings, is a complex intervention to improve the quality of end-of-life care. The results from qualitative and quantitative studies suggest that the LCP Program can improve significantly the quality of end-of-life care delivery in hospitals, but no randomised trial has been conducted till now.
Methods and design
This is a randomized cluster trial, stratified by regions and matched for assessment period. Pairs of eligible medical wards from different hospitals will be randomized to receive the LCP-I Program or no intervention until the end of the trial. The LCP-I Program will be implemented by a Palliative Care Unit.
The assessment of the end-points will be performed for all cancer deaths occurred in the six months after the end of the LCP-I implementation in the experimental wards and, in the same period of time, in the matched control wards. The primary end-point is the overall quality of end-of-life care provided on the ward to dying cancer patients and their families, assessed using the Global Scale of the Italian version of the Toolkit "After-death Bereaved Family Member Interview".
Discussion
This study can be interpreted as a Phase III trial according to the Medical Research Council Framework. In this study, the effectiveness of a fully defined intervention is assessed by comparing the distribution of the endpoints in the experimental and in the control arm.
Research ID
RFPS-2006-6-341619
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01081899
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-13
PMCID: PMC3040703  PMID: 21261949
18.  Randomised controlled trial of tailored interventions to improve the management of anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care 
Background
Anxiety and depressive disorders are highly prevalent disorders and are mostly treated in primary care. The management of these disorders by general practitioners is not always consistent with prevailing guidelines because of a variety of factors. Designing implementation strategies tailored to prospectively identified barriers could lead to more guideline-recommended care. Although tailoring of implementation strategies is promoted in practice, little is known about the effect on improving the quality of care for the early recognition, diagnosis, and stepped care treatment allocation in patients with anxiety or depressive disorders in general practice. This study examines whether the tailored strategy supplemented with training and feedback is more effective than providing training and feedback alone.
Methods
In this cluster randomised controlled trial, a total of 22 general practices will be assigned to one of two conditions: (1) training, feedback, and tailored interventions and (2) training and feedback. The primary outcome measure is the proportion of patients who have been recognised to have anxiety and/or depressive disorder. The secondary outcome measures in patients are severity of anxiety and depressive symptoms, level of functioning, expectation towards and experience with care, quality of life, and economic costs. Measures are taken after the start of the intervention at baseline and at three- and six-month follow-ups. Secondary outcome measures in general practitioners are adherence to guideline-recommended care in care that has been delivered, the proportion of antidepressant prescriptions, and number of referrals to specialised mental healthcare facilities. Data will be gathered from the electronic medical patient records from the patients included in the study. In a process evaluation, the identification of barriers to change and the relations between prospectively identified barriers and improvement interventions selected for use will be described, as well as the factors that influence the provision of guideline-recommended care.
Discussion
It is hypothesised that the adherence to guideline recommendations will be improved by designing implementation interventions that are tailored to prospectively identified barriers in the local context of general practitioners. Currently, there is insufficient evidence on the most effective and efficient approaches to tailoring, including how barriers should be identified and how interventions should be selected to address the barriers.
Trial registration
NTR1912
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-75
PMCID: PMC3161882  PMID: 21777463
19.  Defining Childhood Severe Falciparum Malaria for Intervention Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e251.
Background
Clinical trials of interventions designed to prevent severe falciparum malaria in children require a clear endpoint. The internationally accepted definition of severe malaria is sensitive, and appropriate for clinical purposes. However, this definition includes individuals with severe nonmalarial disease and coincident parasitaemia, so may lack specificity in vaccine trials. Although there is no “gold standard” individual test for severe malaria, malaria-attributable fractions (MAFs) can be estimated among groups of children using a logistic model, which we use to test the suitability of various case definitions as trial endpoints.
Methods and Findings
A total of 4,583 blood samples were taken from well children in cross-sectional surveys and from 1,361 children admitted to a Kenyan District hospital with severe disease. Among children under 2 y old with severe disease and over 2,500 parasites per microliter of blood, the MAFs were above 85% in moderate- and low-transmission areas, but only 61% in a high-transmission area. HIV and malnutrition were not associated with reduced MAFs, but gastroenteritis with severe dehydration (defined by reduced skin turgor), lower respiratory tract infection (clinician's final diagnosis), meningitis (on cerebrospinal fluid [CSF] examination), and bacteraemia were associated with reduced MAFs. The overall MAF was 85% (95% confidence interval [CI] 83.8%–86.1%) without excluding these conditions, 89% (95% CI 88.4%–90.2%) after exclusions, and 95% (95% CI 94.0%–95.5%) when a threshold of 2,500 parasites/μl was also applied. Applying a threshold and exclusion criteria reduced sensitivity to 80% (95% CI 77%–83%).
Conclusions
The specificity of a case definition for severe malaria is improved by applying a parasite density threshold and by excluding children with meningitis, lower respiratory tract infection (clinician's diagnosis), bacteraemia, and gastroenteritis with severe dehydration, but not by excluding children with HIV or malnutrition.
The accepted definition of severe malaria is appropriate for clinical purposes, but Philip Bejon and colleagues show its specificity in clinical trials may be improved by a parasite density threshold and by excluding children with certain conditions.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is responsible for over a million deaths every year, and most of those who die are children in Africa. Until a few years ago, not enough research was being done on malaria, but now many researchers are active in this field. Doctors describe some cases of malaria as being “severe.” Severe malaria in children is very hard to diagnose precisely. Current protocols for diagnosing severe malaria are very sensitive: that is, virtually all children who do have severe malaria will be correctly diagnosed as such. However, the protocols are not very specific: many children who do not have severe malaria, but whose symptoms are instead caused by other diseases, will be defined as suffering from severe malaria. This definition is acceptable for the clinical care of sick children, because it ensures that antimalarial drugs are given to all who might benefit from them, plus some additional children for whom those drugs are not required. However, this definition is not particularly useful for research purposes. When conducting a clinical trial aimed at preventing cases of malaria, it is important to evaluate whether the intervention being tested actually works. Therefore, a more specific method of calculating the number of malaria cases within a population is needed for this type of research.
Why Was This Study Done?
The current definition for diagnosing severe malaria includes a set of signs and symptoms that may be observed at the bedside or as a result of laboratory investigation, along with the detection of malaria parasites in the patient's blood. However, in many malarious areas, a large proportion of the population carries malaria parasites without signs of disease; at the same time, the signs and symptoms of malaria are shared with other diseases. The investigators here wanted to find out whether they could develop an accurate “case definition” of severe malaria that can be used in research.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this study, two groups of children were studied: first, 1,422 children admitted to the children's wards of the Kilifi District Hospital in Kenya, and second, 4,583 children from the surrounding community. Blood samples were taken in order to find out how common malaria parasites were in the children's blood, and standard clinical and laboratory data were also collected from the children admitted to the hospital. The researchers then compared these data using a computer and tried to find out whether, by excluding certain children who had particular signs, symptoms, or observations, from the diagnosis of severe malaria, they were able to improve the accuracy of their definition. Essentially, for each patient group, the authors calculated “malaria-attributable fractions,” i.e., the proportion of individuals studied whose disease was likely caused by malaria.
The researchers found that in areas with low and moderate transmission of malaria, the proportion of individuals whose disease could be attributed to malaria was high—nearly 85%. In areas with a high transmission rate of malaria, this fraction was much lower, but could be improved by including only children with a high proportion of parasites in their blood. Importantly, the researchers were also able to increase the recognition of children with disease likely caused by malaria by excluding individuals who had also been diagnosed with gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections, meningitis, and bacterial infection in the blood. If all of these individuals were excluded—so only individuals with more than 2,500 parasites per microliter in their blood were regarded as having severe malaria—the “malaria-attributable fraction” rose to 95%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings should not be directly used to change the clinical care of children with the signs and symptoms of severe malaria, but rather can be used within a clinical trial to create a “case definition” of malaria particular to that trial. This ability will help researchers more accurately find out whether the intervention being tested in their trial really does help to prevent cases of malaria or not.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040251.
The World Health Organization Global Malaria Programme details the organization's activities in fighting malaria, and provides a number of helpful resources; a factsheet on children and malaria is also available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides many malaria resources
General information about malaria, including illustrations, is available from the“Medline Plus” encyclopedia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040251
PMCID: PMC1949845  PMID: 17713980
20.  “Even if You Know Everything You Can Forget”: Health Worker Perceptions of Mobile Phone Text-Messaging to Improve Malaria Case-Management in Kenya 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38636.
This paper presents the results of a qualitative study to investigate the perceptions and experiences of health workers involved in a a cluster-randomized controlled trial of a novel intervention to improve health worker malaria case-management in 107 government health facilities in Kenya. The intervention involved sending text-messages about paediatric outpatient malaria case-management accompanied by “motivating” quotes to health workers’ mobile phones. Ten malaria messages were developed reflecting recommendations from the Kenyan national guidelines. Two messages were delivered per day for 5 working days and the process was repeated for 26 weeks (May to October 2009). The accompanying quotes were unique to each message. The intervention was delivered to 119 health workers and there were significant improvements in correct artemether-lumefantrine (AL) management both immediately after the intervention (November 2009) and 6 months later (May 2010). In-depth interviews with 24 health workers were undertaken to investigate the possible drivers of this change. The results suggest high acceptance of all components of the intervention, with the active delivery of information in an on the job setting, the ready availability of new and stored text messages and the perception of being kept ‘up to date’ as important factors influencing practice. Applying the construct of stages of change we infer that in this intervention the SMS messages were operating primarily at the action and maintenance stages of behaviour change achieving their effect by creating an enabling environment and providing a prompt to action for the implementation of case management practices that had already been accepted as the clinical norm by the health workers. Future trials testing the effectiveness of SMS reminders in creating an enabling environment for the establishment of new norms in clinical practice as well as in providing a prompt to action for the implementation of the new case-management guidelines are justified.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038636
PMCID: PMC3374819  PMID: 22719911
21.  A cluster randomized trial to assess the impact of clinical pathways for patients with stroke: rationale and design of the Clinical Pathways for Effective and Appropriate Care Study [NCT00673491] 
Background
Patients with stroke should have access to a continuum of care from organized stroke units in the acute phase, to appropriate rehabilitation and secondary prevention measures. Moreover to improve the outcomes for acute stroke patients from an organizational perspective, the use of multidisciplinary teams and the delivery of continuous stroke education both to the professionals and to the public, and the implementation of evidence-based stroke care are recommended. Clinical pathways are complex interventions that can be used for this purpose. However in stroke care the use of clinical pathways remains questionable because little prospective controlled data has demonstrated their effectiveness. The purpose of this study is to determine whether clinical pathways could improve the quality of the care provided to the patients affected by stroke in hospital and through the continuum of the care.
Methods
Two-arm, cluster-randomized trial with hospitals and rehabilitation long-term care facilities as randomization units. 14 units will be randomized either to arm 1 (clinical pathway) or to arm 2 (no intervention, usual care). The sample will include 238 in each group, this gives a power of 80%, at 5% significance level. The primary outcome measure is 30-days mortality. The impact of the clinical pathways along the continuum of care will also be analyzed by comparing the length of hospital stay, the hospital re-admissions rates, the institutionalization rates after hospital discharge, the patients' dependency levels, and complication rates. The quality of the care provided to the patients will be assessed by monitoring the use of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures during hospital stay and rehabilitation, and by the use of key quality indicators at discharge. The implementation of organized care will be also evaluated.
Conclusion
The management of patients affected by stroke involves the expertise of several professionals, which can result in poor coordination or inefficiencies in patient treatment, and clinical pathways can significantly improve the outcomes of these patients. It is proposed that this study will test a new hypothesis and provide evidence of how clinical pathways can work.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov ID [NCT00673491]
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-223
PMCID: PMC2585086  PMID: 18980664
22.  Impact of a multifaceted program to prevent postoperative delirium in the elderly: the CONFUCIUS stepped wedge protocol 
BMC Geriatrics  2011;11:25.
Background
Postoperative delirium is common in the elderly and is associated with a significant increase in mortality, complications, length of hospital stay and admission in long care facility. Although several interventions have proved their effectiveness to prevent it, the Cochrane advises an assessment of multifaceted intervention using rigorous methodology based on randomized study design. Our purpose is to present the methodology and expected results of the CONFUCIUS trial, which aims to measure the impact of a multifaceted program on the prevention of postoperative delirium in elderly.
Method/Design
Study design is a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial within 3 surgical wards of three French university hospitals. All patients aged 75 and older, and admitted for scheduled surgery will be included. The multifaceted program will be conducted by mobile geriatric team, including geriatric preoperative consultation, training of the surgical staff and implementation of the Hospital Elder Life Program, and morbidity and mortality conference related to delirium cases. The primary outcome is based on postoperative delirium rate within 7 days after surgery. This program is planned to be implemented along four successive time periods within all the surgical wards. Each one will be affected successively to the control arm and to the intervention arm of the trial and the order of program introduction within each surgical ward will be randomly assigned. Based on a 20% reduction of postoperative delirium rate (ICC = 0.25, α = 0.05, β = 0.1), three hundred sixty patients will be included i.e. thirty patients per service and per time period. Endpoints comparison between intervention and control arms of the trial will be performed by considering the cluster and time effects.
Discussion
Better prevention of delirium is expected from the multifaceted program, including a decrease of postoperative delirium, and its consequences (mortality, morbidity, postoperative complications and length of hospital stay) among elderly patients. This study should allow better diagnosis of delirium and strengthen the collaboration between surgical and mobile geriatric teams. Should the program have a substantial impact on the prevention of postoperative delirium in elderly, it could be extended to other facilities.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01316965
doi:10.1186/1471-2318-11-25
PMCID: PMC3111354  PMID: 21592324
23.  Quality in quality improvement research - a new benchmark 
Critical Care  2011;15(6):316.
Expanded abstract
Citation
Scales DC, Dainty K, Hales B, Pinto R, Fowler RA, Adhikari NK, Zwarenstein M: A multifaceted intervention for quality improvement in a network of intensive care units: a cluster randomized trial. JAMA 2011, 305:363-72.
Context
Evidence-based practices improve intensive care unit (ICU) outcomes, but eligible patients may not receive them. Community hospitals treat most critically ill patients but may have few resources to devote to quality improvement.
Objective
To determine the effectiveness of a multicenter quality improvement program to increase delivery of 6 evidence-based ICU practices.
Design, setting, and participants
Pragmatic, cluster-randomized trial among 15 community hospital ICUs in Ontario, Canada. A total of 9269 admissions occurred during the trial (November 2005 to October 2006) and 7141 admissions during a decay-monitoring period (December 2006 to August 2007).
Intervention
The authors implemented a videoconference-based forum including audit and feedback, expert-led educational sessions, and dissemination of algorithms to sequentially improve delivery of 6 practices. The ICUs were randomized into 2 groups. Each group received this intervention, targeting a new practice every 4 months, while acting as control for the other group, in which a different practice was targeted in the same period.
Main outcomes
The primary outcome was the summary ratio of odds ratios (ORs) for improvement in adoption (determined by daily data collection) of all 6 practices during the trial in intervention vs control ICUs.
Results
Overall, adoption of the targeted practices was greater in intervention ICUs than in controls (summary ratio of ORs, 2.79; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00-7.74). Improved delivery in intervention ICUs was greatest for semi recumbent positioning to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia (90.0% of patient-days in last month vs. 50.0% in first month; OR, 6.35; 95% CI, 1.85-21.79) and precautions to prevent catheter-related bloodstream infection (70.0% of patients receiving central lines vs. 10.6%; OR, 30.06; 95% CI, 11.00-82.17). Adoption of other practices, many with high baseline adherence, changed little.
Conclusion
In a collaborative network of community ICUs, a multi-faceted quality improvement intervention improved adoption of care practices.
doi:10.1186/cc10582
PMCID: PMC3388631  PMID: 22152161
24.  A randomised controlled trial on the efficacy of advance care planning on the quality of end-of-life care and communication in patients with COPD: the research protocol 
BMJ Open  2014;4(1):e004465.
Introduction
Recent research shows that advance care planning (ACP) for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is uncommon and poorly carried out. The aim of the present study was to explore whether and to what extent structured ACP by a trained nurse, in collaboration with the chest physician, can improve outcomes in Dutch patients with COPD and their family.
Methods and analysis
A multicentre cluster randomised controlled trial in patients with COPD who are recently discharged after an exacerbation has been designed. Patients will be recruited from three Dutch hospitals and will be assigned to an intervention or control group, depending on the randomisation of their chest physician. Patients will be assessed at baseline and after 6 and 12 months. The intervention group will receive a structured ACP session by a trained nurse. The primary outcomes are quality of communication about end-of-life care, symptoms of anxiety and depression, quality of end-of-life care and quality of dying. Secondary outcomes include concordance between patient's preferences for end-of-life care and received end-of-life care, and psychological distress in bereaved family members of deceased patients. Intervention and control groups will be compared using univariate analyses and clustered regression analysis.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval was received from the Medical Ethical Committee of the Catharina Hospital Eindhoven, the Netherlands (NL42437.060.12). The current project provides recommendations for guidelines on palliative care in COPD and supports implementation of ACP in the regular clinical care.
Clinical trial registration number
NTR3940.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004465
PMCID: PMC3902375  PMID: 24384905
Advance Care Planning; End-of-life Care; Palliative Care; COPD
25.  Effect of a Community-Based Nursing Intervention on Mortality in Chronically Ill Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001265.
Kenneth Coburn and colleagues report findings from a randomized trial evaluating the effects of a complex nursing intervention on mortality risk among older individuals diagnosed with chronic health conditions.
Background
Improving the health of chronically ill older adults is a major challenge facing modern health care systems. A community-based nursing intervention developed by Health Quality Partners (HQP) was one of 15 different models of care coordination tested in randomized controlled trials within the Medicare Coordinated Care Demonstration (MCCD), a national US study. Evaluation of the HQP program began in 2002. The study reported here was designed to evaluate the survival impact of the HQP program versus usual care up to five years post-enrollment.
Methods and Findings
HQP enrolled 1,736 adults aged 65 and over, with one or more eligible chronic conditions (coronary artery disease, heart failure, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia) during the first six years of the study. The intervention group (n = 873) was offered a comprehensive, integrated, and tightly managed system of care coordination, disease management, and preventive services provided by community-based nurse care managers working collaboratively with primary care providers. The control group (n = 863) received usual care. Overall, a 25% lower relative risk of death (hazard ratio [HR] 0.75 [95% CI 0.57–1.00], p = 0.047) was observed among intervention participants with 86 (9.9%) deaths in the intervention group and 111 (12.9%) deaths in the control group during a mean follow-up of 4.2 years. When covariates for sex, age group, primary diagnosis, perceived health, number of medications taken, hospital stays in the past 6 months, and tobacco use were included, the adjusted HR was 0.73 (95% CI 0.55–0.98, p = 0.033). Subgroup analyses did not demonstrate statistically significant interaction effects for any subgroup. No suspected program-related adverse events were identified.
Conclusions
The HQP model of community-based nurse care management appeared to reduce all-cause mortality in chronically ill older adults. Limitations of the study are that few low-income and non-white individuals were enrolled and implementation was in a single geographic region of the US. Additional research to confirm these findings and determine the model's scalability and generalizability is warranted.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01071967
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In almost every country in the world, the proportion of people aged over 60 years is growing faster than any other age group because of increased life expectancy. This demographic change has several implications for public health, especially as older age is a risk factor for many chronic diseases—diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of death in the world, representing almost two-thirds of all deaths. Therefore in most countries, the challenge of managing increasingly ageing populations who have chronic illnesses demands an urgent response and countries such as the United States are actively researching possible solutions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some studies suggest that innovations in chronic disease management that are led by nurses may help address the epidemic of chronic diseases by increasing the quality and reducing the cost of care. However, to date, reports of the evaluation of such interventions lack rigor and do not provide evidence of improved long-term health outcomes or reduced health care costs. So in this study, the researchers used the gold standard of research, a randomized controlled trial, to examine the impact of a community-based nurse care management model for older adults with chronic illnesses in the United States as part of a series of studies supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited eligible patients aged 65 years and over with heart failure, coronary heart disease, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and/or hyperlipidemia who received traditional Medicare—a fee for service insurance scheme in which beneficiaries can choose to receive their care from any Medicare provider—from participating primary care practices in Pennsylvania. The researchers then categorized patients according to their risk on the basis of several factors including the number of chronic diseases each individual had before randomizing patients to receive usual care or the nurse-led intervention. The intervention included an individualized plan comprising education, symptom monitoring, medication, counseling for adherence, help identifying, arranging, and monitoring community health and social service referrals in addition to group interventions such as weight loss maintenance and exercise classes. The researchers checked whether any participating patients had died by using the online Social Security Death Master File. Then the researchers used a statistical model to calculate the risk of death in both groups.
Of the 1,736 patients the researchers recruited into the trial, 873 were randomized to receive the intervention and 863 were in the control group (usual care). The researchers found that 86 (9.9%) participants in the intervention group and 111 (12.9%) participants in the control group died during the study period, representing a 25% lower relative risk of death among the intervention group. However, when the researchers considered other factors, such as sex, age group, primary diagnosis, perceived health, number of medications taken, hospital stays in the past 6 months, and tobacco use in their statistical model, this risk was slightly altered—0.73 risk of death in the intervention group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that that community-based nurse care management is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality among older adults with chronic illnesses who are beneficiaries of the fee for service Medicare scheme in the United States. These findings also support the important role of nurses in improving health outcomes in this group of patients and show the feasibility of implementing this program in collaboration with primary care practices. Future research is needed to test the adaptability, scalability, and generalizability of this model of care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001265.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Arlene Bierman
Information about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is available
The World Health Organization provides statistics on the prevalence of both chronic illness and ageing
Heath Quality Partners provide information about the study
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001265
PMCID: PMC3398966  PMID: 22815653

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