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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.  Risk Factors for Death among Children Less than 5 Years Old Hospitalized with Diarrhea in Rural Western Kenya, 2005–2007: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001256.
A hospital-based surveillance study conducted by Ciara O'Reilly and colleagues describes the risk factors for death amongst children who have been hospitalized with diarrhea in rural Kenya.
Background
Diarrhea is a leading cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. Data on risk factors for mortality are limited. We conducted hospital-based surveillance to characterize the etiology of diarrhea and identify risk factors for death among children hospitalized with diarrhea in rural western Kenya.
Methods and Findings
We enrolled all children <5 years old, hospitalized with diarrhea (≥3 loose stools in 24 hours) at two district hospitals in Nyanza Province, western Kenya. Clinical and demographic information was collected. Stool specimens were tested for bacterial and viral pathogens. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were carried out to identify risk factors for death. From May 23, 2005 to May 22, 2007, 1,146 children <5 years old were enrolled; 107 (9%) children died during hospitalization. Nontyphoidal Salmonella were identified in 10% (118), Campylobacter in 5% (57), and Shigella in 4% (42) of 1,137 stool samples; rotavirus was detected in 19% (196) of 1,021 stool samples. Among stools from children who died, nontyphoidal Salmonella were detected in 22%, Shigella in 11%, rotavirus in 9%, Campylobacter in 5%, and S. Typhi in <1%. In multivariable analysis, infants who died were more likely to have nontyphoidal Salmonella (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 6·8; 95% CI 3·1–14·9), and children <5 years to have Shigella (aOR = 5·5; 95% CI 2·2–14·0) identified than children who survived. Children who died were less likely to be infected with rotavirus (OR = 0·4; 95% CI 0·2–0·8). Further risk factors for death included being malnourished (aOR = 4·2; 95% CI 2·1–8·7); having oral thrush on physical exam (aOR = 2·3; 95% CI 1·4–3·8); having previously sought care at a hospital for the illness (aOR = 2·2; 95% CI 1·2–3·8); and being dehydrated as diagnosed at discharge/death (aOR = 2·5; 95% CI 1·5–4·1). A clinical diagnosis of malaria, and malaria parasites seen on blood smear, were not associated with increased risk of death. This study only captured in-hospital childhood deaths, and likely missed a substantial number of additional deaths that occurred at home.
Conclusion
Nontyphoidal Salmonella and Shigella are associated with mortality among rural Kenyan children with diarrhea who access a hospital. Improved prevention and treatment of diarrheal disease is necessary. Enhanced surveillance and simplified laboratory diagnostics in Africa may assist clinicians in appropriately treating potentially fatal diarrheal illness.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Diarrhea—passing three or more loose or liquid stools per day—kills about 1.5 million young children every year, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. Globally, it is the second leading cause of death in under-5-year olds, causing nearly one in five child deaths. Diarrhea, which can lead to life-threatening dehydration, is a common symptom of gastrointestinal infections. The pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and parasites) that cause diarrhea spread through contaminated food or drinking water, and from person to person through poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation (unsafe disposal of human excreta). Interventions that prevent diarrhea include improvements in water supplies, sanitation and hygiene, the promotion of breast feeding, and vaccination against rotavirus (a major viral cause of diarrhea). Treatments for diarrhea include oral rehydration salts, which prevent and treat dehydration, zinc supplementation, which decreases the severity and duration of diarrhea, and the use of appropriate antibiotics when indicated for severe bacterial diarrhea.
Why Was This Study Done?
Nearly half of deaths from diarrhea among young children occur in Africa where diarrhea is the single largest cause of death among under 5-year-olds and a major cause of childhood illness. Unfortunately, although some of the risk factors for death from diarrhea in children in sub-Saharan Africa have been identified (for example, having other illnesses, poor nutrition, and not being breastfed), little is known about the relative contributions of different diarrhea-causing pathogens to diarrheal deaths. Clinicians need to know which of these pathogens are most likely to cause death in children so that they can manage their patients appropriately. In this cohort study, the researchers characterize the causes and risk factors associated with death among young children hospitalized for diarrhea in Nyanza Province, western Kenya, an area where most households have no access to safe drinking water and a quarter lack latrines. In a cohort study, a group of people with a specific condition is observed to identify which factors lead to different outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled all the children under 5 years old who were hospitalized over a two-year period for diarrhea at two district hospitals in Nyanza Province, tested their stool samples for diarrhea-causing viral and bacterial pathogens, and recorded which patients died in-hospital. They then used multivariable regression analysis (a statistical method) to determine which risk factors and diarrheal pathogens were associated with death among the children. During the study, 1,146 children were hospitalized, 107 of whom died in the hospital. 10% of all the stool samples contained nontyphoidal Salmonella, 4% contained Shigella (two types of diarrhea-causing bacteria), and 19% contained rotavirus. By contrast, 22% of the samples taken from children who died contained nontyphoidal Salmonella, 11% contained Shigella, 9% contained rotavirus, and 5% contained Campylobacter (another bacterial pathogen that causes diarrhea). Compared to survivors, infants (children under 1 year of age) who died were nearly seven times more likely to have nontyphoidal Salmonella in their stools and children under 5 years old who died were five and half times more likely to have Shigella in their stools but less likely to have rotavirus in their stools. Other factors associated with death included being malnourished, having oral thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth), having previously sought hospital care for diarrhea, and being dehydrated.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among young children admitted to the hospital in western Kenya with diarrhea, infections with nontyphoidal Salmonella and with Shigella (but not with rotavirus) were associated with an increased risk of death. Because this study only captured deaths in hospital and most diarrheal deaths in developing countries occur at home, these results may not accurately reflect the pathogens associated with overall childhood diarrheal deaths. In addition, they may not be generalizable to other geographical regions. Nevertheless, given that that there are currently no vaccines available for most bacterial diarrheal diseases, these findings highlight the importance of Kenya and other developing countries implementing effective strategies for the prevention and management of diarrheal diseases in children such as increasing access to improved water, sanitation, and hygiene, and community-level promotion of the use of oral rehydration solution and zinc supplements. They also suggest that enhanced surveillance and simplified laboratory diagnostics for diarrheal pathogens could help clinicians identify those children presenting to hospital with diarrhea who are at high risk of death and prioritize their treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001256.
The World Health Organization provides information on diarrhea (in several languages); its 2009 report with UNICEF Diarrhea: why children are still dying and what can be done, which includes the WHO/UNICEF recommendations for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea in children, can be downloaded from the Internet
The children's charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides information on diarrhea (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001256
PMCID: PMC3389023  PMID: 22802736
3.  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
4.  Incidence and Clinical Characteristics of Group A Rotavirus Infections among Children Admitted to Hospital in Kilifi, Kenya  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e153.
Background
Rotavirus, predominantly of group A, is a major cause of severe diarrhoea worldwide, with the greatest burden falling on young children living in less-developed countries. Vaccines directed against this virus have shown promise in recent trials, and are undergoing effectiveness evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region limited childhood data are available on the incidence and clinical characteristics of severe group A rotavirus disease. Advocacy for vaccine intervention and interpretation of effectiveness following implementation will benefit from accurate base-line estimates of the incidence and severity of rotavirus paediatric admissions in relevant populations. The study objective was to accurately define the incidence and severity of group A rotavirus disease in a resource-poor setting necessary to make informed decisions on the need for vaccine prevention.
Methods and Findings
Between 2002 and 2004 we conducted prospective surveillance for group A rotavirus infection at Kilifi District Hospital in coastal Kenya. Children < 13 y of age were eligible as “cases” if admitted with diarrhoea, and “controls” if admitted without diarrhoea. We calculated the incidence of hospital admission with group A rotavirus using data from a demographic surveillance study of 220,000 people in Kilifi District. Of 15,347 childhood admissions 3,296 (22%) had diarrhoea, 2,039 were tested for group A rotavirus antigen and, of these, 588 (29%) were positive. 372 (63%) rotavirus-positive cases were infants. Of 620 controls 19 (3.1%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.9–4.7) were rotavirus positive. The annual incidence (per 100,000 children) of rotavirus-positive admissions was 1,431 (95% CI 1,275–1,600) in infants and 478 (437–521) in under-5-y-olds, and highest proximal to the hospital. Compared to children with rotavirus-negative diarrhoea, rotavirus-positive cases were less likely to have coexisting illnesses and more likely to have acidosis (46% versus 17%) and severe electrolyte imbalance except hyponatraemia. In-hospital case fatality was 2% among rotavirus-positive and 9% among rotavirus-negative children.
Conclusions
In Kilifi > 2% of children are admitted to hospital with group A rotavirus diarrhoea in the first 5 y of life. This translates into over 28,000 vaccine-preventable hospitalisations per year across Kenya, and is likely to be a considerable underestimate. Group A rotavirus diarrhoea is associated with acute life-threatening metabolic derangement in otherwise healthy children. Although mortality is low in this clinical research setting this may not be generally true in African hospitals lacking rapid and appropriate management.
Combining prospective hospital-based surveillance with demographic data in Kilifi, Kenya, James Nokes and colleagues assess the burden of rotavirus diarrhea in young children.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Rotavirus is a leading global cause of diarrhea in babies and young children. Indeed, most children become infected at least once with this virus before their fifth birthday. Rotavirus is usually spread by children or their caregivers failing to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet and then contaminating food or drink. The symptoms of rotavirus infection—diarrhea, vomiting, and fever—are usually mild, but if the diarrhea is severe it can quickly lead to dehydration. Mild to moderate dehydration can be treated at home by providing the patient with plenty of fluids or with a special rehydration drink that replaces lost water and salts. However, for infants or toddlers who become severely dehydrated, rehydration with intravenous fluids (fluids injected directly into a vein) in hospital may be essential. Unfortunately, in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, this treatment is not widely available and every year more than half a million young children die from rotavirus infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
Two rotavirus vaccines that could reduce this burden of disease are currently undergoing clinical trials to determine their effectiveness in sub-Saharan Africa. However, very little is known about the incidence of severe rotavirus infections among children living in this region (that is, how many children develop severe disease every year) or about the clinical characteristics of the disease here. Public-health officials need this baseline information before they can make informed decisions about the mass introduction of rotavirus vaccination and to help them judge whether the intervention has been successful if it is introduced. In this study, the researchers examine the incidence and clinical characteristics of rotavirus infections (specifically, group A rotavirus [GARV] infections; there are several different rotaviruses but GARV causes most human infections) among children admitted to the district hospital in Kilifi, Kenya.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
During the 3-year study, more than 15,000 children under the age of 13 years were admitted to Kilifi District Hospital, a little under a quarter of whom had severe diarrhea. Nearly a third of the patients admitted with diarrhea who were tested had a GARV-specific protein in their stools (faeces); by contrast, only three in 100 children admitted without diarrhea showed any evidence of GARV infection. Two-thirds of the GARV-positive children were infants (under 1 year old). Using these figures and health surveillance data (records of births, deaths, and causes of death) collected in the area around the hospital, the researchers calculated that the annual incidence (per 100,000 children) of GARV-positive hospital admissions in the region was 1,431 for infants and 478 for children under age 5 years. Children with GARV-positive diarrhea were less likely to have other illnesses (for example, malnutrition) than those admitted with GARV-negative diarrhea, the researchers report, but were more likely to have life-threatening complications such as severe dehydration and salt imbalances in their blood. However, despite being more ill on admission, only 1 in 50 children with GARV-positive diarrhea died, compared to nearly 1 in 10 of the children with GARV-negative diarrhea; the GARV-positive children also left hospital quicker than those who were GARV-negative.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that severe GARV-positive diarrhea is a major cause of hospital admission among otherwise healthy young children in the Kilifi region of Kenya. By the time they are 5 years old, the researchers estimate that 1 in 50 of the children living in this region will have been admitted to hospital with severe GARV-positive diarrhea. Because rotavirus vaccines prevent virtually all severe rotavirus-associated disease (at least in developed countries where their effectiveness has been extensively tested), the researchers estimate that vaccination might prevent more than 28,000 hospitalizations annually across Kenya; however, this prediction assumes that it is valid to extrapolate from the data obtained from this one district hospital to the entire country.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050153.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about rotavirus infections, surveillance, and vaccination (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information on rotavirus infections
MedlinePlus also provides links to information on rotavirus (in English and Spanish)
The African Rotavirus Surveillance Network is working to improve knowledge about rotavirus infections in Africa
The Rotavirus Vaccine Program aims to reduce child illness and death from diarrhea by increasing the availability of rotavirus vaccines in developing countries (in English and Spanish)
PATH, a nonprofit international organization that aims to create sustainable, culturally relevant solutions to global health problems, also provides detailed information on rotavirus surveillance and disease burden
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050153
PMCID: PMC2488191  PMID: 18651787
5.  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
6.  Clinical mentorship to improve pediatric quality of care at the health centers in rural Rwanda: a qualitative study of perceptions and acceptability of health care workers 
Background
Despite evidence supporting Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) as a strategy to improve pediatric care in countries with high child mortality, its implementation faces challenges related to lack of or poor post-didactic training supervision and gaps in necessary supporting systems. These constraints lead to health care workers’ inability to consistently translate IMCI knowledge and skills into practice. A program providing mentoring and enhanced supervision at health centers (MESH), focusing on clinical and systems improvement was implemented in rural Rwanda as a strategy to address these issues, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of pediatric care at rural health centers. We explored perceptions of MESH from the perspective of IMCI clinical mentors, mentees, and district clinical leadership.
Methods
We conducted focus group discussions with 40 health care workers from 21 MESH-supported health centers. Two FGDs in each district were carried out, including one for nurses and one for director of health centers. District medical directors and clinical mentors had individual in-depth interviews. We performed a hermeneutic analysis using Atlas.ti v5.2.
Results
Study participants highlighted program components in five key areas that contributed to acceptability and impact, including: 1) Interactive, collaborative capacity-building, 2) active listening and relationships, 3) supporting not policing, 4) systems improvement, and 5) real-time feedback. Staff turn-over, stock-outs, and other facility/systems gaps were identified as barriers to MESH and IMCI implementation.
Conclusion
Health care workers reported high acceptance and positive perceptions of the MESH model as an effective strategy to build their capacity, bridge the gap between knowledge and practice in pediatric care, and address facility and systems issues. This approach also improved relationships between the district supervisory team and health center-based care providers. Despite some challenges, many perceived a strong benefit on clinical performance and outcomes. This study can inform program implementers and policy makers of key components needed for developing similar health facility-based mentorship interventions and potential barriers and resistance which can be proactively addressed to ensure success.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-275
PMCID: PMC4077561  PMID: 24950878
Clinical mentorship; Quality improvement; Pediatrics; Health centers; Perceptions; Acceptability; IMCI; Rwanda
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Increasing Coverage and Decreasing Inequity in Insecticide-Treated Bed Net Use among Rural Kenyan Children 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e255.
Background
Inexpensive and efficacious interventions that avert childhood deaths in sub-Saharan Africa have failed to reach effective coverage, especially among the poorest rural sectors. One particular example is insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs). In this study, we present repeat observations of ITN coverage among rural Kenyan homesteads exposed at different times to a range of delivery models, and assess changes in coverage across socioeconomic groups.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a study of annual changes in ITN coverage among a cohort of 3,700 children aged 0–4 y in four districts of Kenya (Bondo, Greater Kisii, Kwale, and Makueni) annually between 2004 and 2006. Cross-sectional surveys of ITN coverage were undertaken coincidentally with the incremental availability of commercial sector nets (2004), the introduction of heavily subsidized nets through clinics (2005), and the introduction of free mass distributed ITNs (2006). The changing prevalence of ITN coverage was examined with special reference to the degree of equity in each delivery approach. ITN coverage was only 7.1% in 2004 when the predominant source of nets was the commercial retail sector. By the end of 2005, following the expansion of heavily subsidized clinic distribution system, ITN coverage rose to 23.5%. In 2006 a large-scale mass distribution of ITNs was mounted providing nets free of charge to children, resulting in a dramatic increase in ITN coverage to 67.3%. With each subsequent survey socioeconomic inequity in net coverage sequentially decreased: 2004 (most poor [2.9%] versus least poor [15.6%]; concentration index 0.281); 2005 (most poor [17.5%] versus least poor [37.9%]; concentration index 0.131), and 2006 with near-perfect equality (most poor [66.3%] versus least poor [66.6%]; concentration index 0.000). The free mass distribution method achieved highest coverage among the poorest children, the highly subsidised clinic nets programme was marginally in favour of the least poor, and the commercial social marketing favoured the least poor.
Conclusions
Rapid scaling up of ITN coverage among Africa's poorest rural children can be achieved through mass distribution campaigns. These efforts must form an important adjunct to regular, routine access to ITNs through clinics, and each complimentary approach should aim to make this intervention free to clients to ensure equitable access among those least able to afford even the cost of a heavily subsidized net.
Noor and colleagues found low levels of use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets when nets were mainly available through the commercial sector. Levels increased when subsidized nets were introduced and rose further when they were made available free.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is one of the world's most important killer diseases. There are over a million deaths from malaria every year, most of those who die are children in Africa. Frequent attacks of the disease have severe consequences for the health of many millions more. The parasite that causes malaria is spread by bites from certain species of mosquito. They mostly bite during the hours of darkness, so sleeping under a mosquito net provides some protection. In some countries where malaria is a problem, bed nets are already used by many people. A very much higher level of protection is obtained, however, by sleeping under a mosquito net that has been impregnated with insecticide. The insecticides used are of extremely low toxicity for humans. As insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are a relatively new idea, people do need to be persuaded to buy and use them. ITNs must also be re-impregnated regularly, although long-lasting ones that remain effective for 3–5 y (or 21 washes) are now widely distributed. The nets are inexpensive by Western standards but the people who are most at risk of malaria have very little income. Governments and health agencies are keen to increase the use of nets, particularly for children and pregnant women. The main approach used has been that of “social marketing.” In other words, advertising campaigns promote the use of nets, and their local manufacture is encouraged. The nets are then sold on the open market, sometimes with government subsidies. This approach has been very controversial. Many people have argued that ways must be found to make nets available free to all who need them, but others believe that this is not necessary and that high rates of ITN use can be brought about by social marketing alone.
Why Was This Study Done?
It has been known for more than ten years that ITNs are very effective in reducing cases of malaria, but there is still a long way to go before every child at risk sleeps under an ITN. In Kenya, a country where malaria is very common, a program to increase net use began in 2002, using the social marketing approach. In 2004 most of the nets available in Kenya were those on sale commercially. In October 2004 health clinics started to distribute more heavily subsidized ITNs for children and pregnant women and, in 2006, a mass distribution program began of free nets for children. The researchers, based at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), wanted to find whether the number of children sleeping under ITNs changed as a result of these changes in policy. They also wanted to see how the rate of net use varied between families of different socioeconomic levels, as the poorest children are known to be most likely to die from malaria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This is a large study involving 3,700 children in four districts of Kenya. The researchers conducted surveys and then calculated the rates of net use in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In the first survey, when nets were available to most people only through the commercial sector, only 7% of children were sleeping under ITNs, with a very big difference between the poorest families (3%) and the least poor (16%). By the end of 2005, the year in which subsidized nets became increasingly available in clinics, the overall rate of use rose to 24%. By the end of 2006, following the free distribution campaign, it was 66%. The 2006 figure was almost exactly the same for the poorest and least poor families.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The rate of net use in the districts in the survey is much higher than expected, even though one-third of children were still not protected by ITNs. The sharp increases—particularly among the poorest children—after heavily subsidized nets were introduced and then after the free mass distribution suggests that this is a very good use of the limited amount of funds available for health care in Kenya and other countries where malaria is common. If fewer Kenyan children have malaria there will be cost savings to the health services. While some might claim that it is obvious that nets will be more widely used if they are free, there has been heated debate as to whether this is really true. Evidence has been needed and this research now provides strong support for free distribution. The study has also identified other factors which will be important in the continuing efforts to increase ITN use.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040255.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria and on insecticide-treated nets (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish). MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies and health-related organizations
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese) and from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the use of insecticide-treated nets
For information about the Medical Research Institute see the organization's Web site
The BBC Web site has a “country profile” about Kenya
Malaria data and related publications can be found on the Malaria Atlas Project Web site, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, UK and is a joint project between the Malaria Public Health & Epidemiology Group, Centre for Geographic Medicine, Kenya and the Spatial Ecology & Epidemiology Group, University of Oxford, UK
The Kenya Ministry of Health, Division of Malaria Control Web site has useful information on malaria epidemiology and policies for Kenya
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040255
PMCID: PMC1949846  PMID: 17713981
11.  Assessment of paediatric inpatient care during a multifaceted quality improvement intervention in Kenyan District Hospitals – use of prospectively collected case record data 
Background
In assessing quality of care in developing countries, retrospectively collected data are usually used given their availability. Retrospective data however suffer from such biases as recall bias and non-response bias. Comparing results obtained using prospectively and retrospectively collected data will help validate the use of the easily available retrospective data in assessing quality of care in past and future studies.
Methods
Prospective and retrospective datasets were obtained from a cluster randomized trial of a multifaceted intervention aimed at improving paediatric inpatient care conducted in eight rural Kenyan district hospitals by improving management of children admitted with pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea and/or dehydration. Four hospitals received a full intervention and four a partial intervention. Data were collected through 3 two weeks surveys conducted at baseline, after 6 and 18 months. Retrospective data was sampled from paediatric medical records of patients discharged in the preceding six months of the survey while prospective data was collected from patients discharged during the two week period of each survey. Risk Differences during post-intervention period of16 quality of care indicators were analyzed separately for prospective and retrospective datasets and later plotted side by side for comparison.
Results
For the prospective data there was strong evidence of an intervention effect for 8 of the indicators and weaker evidence of an effect for one indicator, with magnitude of effect sizes varying from 23% to 60% difference. For the retrospective data, 10 process (these include the 8 indicators found to be statistically significant in prospective data analysis) indicators had statistically significant differences with magnitude of effects varying from 10% to 42%. The bar-graph comparing results from the prospective and retrospective datasets showed similarity in terms of magnitude of effects and statistical significance for all except two indicators.
Conclusion
Multifaceted interventions can help improve adoption of clinical guidelines and hence improve the quality of care. The similar inference reached after analyses based on prospective assessment of case management is a useful finding as it supports the utility of work based on examination of retrospectively assembled case records allowing longer time periods to be studied while constraining costs.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42996612. Trial registration date: 20/11/2008
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-312
PMCID: PMC4110369  PMID: 25035114
Quality improvement; Prospective; Retrospective; Paediatrics; Health services research; Kenya
12.  Developing and Introducing Evidence Based Clinical Practice Guidelines for Serious Illness in Kenya 
Archives of disease in childhood  2008;93(9):799-804.
The under-5 mortality rate in most developing countries remains high yet many deaths could be averted if available knowledge was put into practice. For seriously ill children in hospital investigations in low-income countries commonly demonstrate incorrect diagnosis and treatment and frequent prescribing errors. To help improve hospital management of the major causes of inpatient childhood mortality we developed simple clinical guidelines for use in Kenya, a low-income setting. The participatory process we used to adapt existing WHO materials and further develop and build support for such guidelines is discussed. To facilitate use of the guidelines we also developed job-aides and a 5.5 days training programme for their dissemination and implementation. We attempted to base our training on modern theories around adult learning and deliberately attempted to train a ‘critical mass’ of health workers within each institution at low cost. Our experience suggests that with sustained effort it is possible to develop locally owned, appropriate clinical practice guidelines for emergency and initial hospital care for seriously ill children with involvement of pertinent stake holders throughout. Early experience suggests that the training developed to support the guidelines, despite the fact that it challenges many established practices, is well received, appropriate to the needs of front line health workers in Kenya and feasible. To our knowledge the process described in Kenya is among a handful of attempts globally to implement inpatient or referral care components of WHO / UNICEF’s Integrated Management of Childhood Illness approach. However, whether guideline dissemination and implementation result in improved quality of care in our environment remains to be seen.
doi:10.1136/adc.2007.126508
PMCID: PMC2654066  PMID: 18719161
13.  Factors influencing the implementation of integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI) by healthcare workers at public health centers & dispensaries in Mwanza, Tanzania 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:277.
Background
Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and aims at reducing childhood morbidity and mortality in resource-limited settings including Tanzania. It was introduced in 1996 and has been scaled up in all districts in the country. The purpose of this study was to identify factors influencing the implementation of IMCI in the health facilities in Mwanza, Tanzania since reports indicates that the guidelines are not full adhered to by the healthcare workers.
Methods
A cross-sectional study design was used and a sample size of 95 healthcare workers drawn from health centers and dispensaries within Mwanza city were interviewed using self-administered questionnaires. Structured interview was also used to get views from the city IMCI focal person and the 2 facilitators. Data were analyzed using SPSS and presented using figures and tables.
Results
Only 51% of healthcare workers interviewed had been trained. 69% of trained Healthcare workers expressed understanding of the IMCI approach. Most of the respondents (77%) had a positive attitude that IMCI approach was a better approach in managing common childhood illnesses especially with the reality of resource constraint in the health facilities. The main challenges identified in the implementation of IMCI are low initial training coverage among health care workers, lack of essential drugs and supplies, lack of onsite mentoring and lack of refresher courses and regular supportive supervision. Supporting the healthcare workers through training, onsite mentoring, supportive supervision and strengthening the healthcare system through increasing access to essential medicines, vaccines, strengthening supply chain management, increasing healthcare financing, improving leadership & management were the major interventions that could assist in IMCI implementation.
Conclusions
The healthcare workers can implement better IMCI through the collaboration of supervisors, IMCI focal person, Council Health Management Teams (CHMT) and other stakeholders interested in child health. However, significant barriers impede a sustainable IMCI implementation. Recommendations have been made related to supportive supervision and HealthCare system strengthening among others.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-277
PMCID: PMC3987128  PMID: 24666561
Lower level health facilities; Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI); Council Health Management Team (CHMT); Factors influencing the implementation of IMCI
14.  Community Case Management of Fever Due to Malaria and Pneumonia in Children Under Five in Zambia: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(9):e1000340.
In a cluster randomized trial, Kojo Yeboah-Antwi and colleagues find that integrated management of malaria and pneumonia in children under five by community health workers is both feasible and effective.
Background
Pneumonia and malaria, two of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children under five in Zambia, often have overlapping clinical manifestations. Zambia is piloting the use of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) by community health workers (CHWs) to treat uncomplicated malaria. Valid concerns about potential overuse of AL could be addressed by the use of malaria rapid diagnostics employed at the community level. Currently, CHWs in Zambia evaluate and treat children with suspected malaria in rural areas, but they refer children with suspected pneumonia to the nearest health facility. This study was designed to assess the effectiveness and feasibility of using CHWs to manage nonsevere pneumonia and uncomplicated malaria with the aid of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs).
Methods and Findings
Community health posts staffed by CHWs were matched and randomly allocated to intervention and control arms. Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years were managed according to the study protocol, as follows. Intervention CHWs performed RDTs, treated test-positive children with AL, and treated those with nonsevere pneumonia (increased respiratory rate) with amoxicillin. Control CHWs did not perform RDTs, treated all febrile children with AL, and referred those with signs of pneumonia to the health facility, as per Ministry of Health policy. The primary outcomes were the use of AL in children with fever and early and appropriate treatment with antibiotics for nonsevere pneumonia. A total of 3,125 children with fever and/or difficult/fast breathing were managed over a 12-month period. In the intervention arm, 27.5% (265/963) of children with fever received AL compared to 99.1% (2066/2084) of control children (risk ratio 0.23, 95% confidence interval 0.14–0.38). For children classified with nonsevere pneumonia, 68.2% (247/362) in the intervention arm and 13.3% (22/203) in the control arm received early and appropriate treatment (risk ratio 5.32, 95% confidence interval 2.19–8.94). There were two deaths in the intervention and one in the control arm.
Conclusions
The potential for CHWs to use RDTs, AL, and amoxicillin to manage both malaria and pneumonia at the community level is promising and might reduce overuse of AL, as well as provide early and appropriate treatment to children with nonsevere pneumonia.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00513500
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 11 million children die before their fifth birthday. Most of these deaths are in developing countries and most are due to a handful of causes—pneumonia (lung inflammation usually caused by an infection), malaria (a parasitic disease spread by mosquitoes), measles, diarrhea, and birth-related problems. In sub-Saharan Africa, pneumonia and malaria alone are responsible for nearly a third of deaths in young children. Both these diseases can be treated if caught early—pneumonia with antibiotics such as amoxicillin and malaria with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), a treatment that contains several powerful antimalarial drugs. Unfortunately, parents in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa rarely have easy access to health facilities and sick children are often treated at home by community health workers (CHWs, individuals with some medical training who provide basic health care to their communities), drug sellers, and traditional healers. This situation means that ongoing global efforts to reduce child mortality will require innovative community level interventions if they are to succeed.
Why Was This Study Done?
One community level intervention that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently recommended is integrated management of malaria and pneumonia in countries where these diseases are major childhood killers. One such country is Zambia. In rural areas of Zambia, CHWs treat suspected cases of uncomplicated (mild) malaria with artemether-lumefantrine (AL, an ACT) or with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (a non-ACT antimalarial drug combination) and refer children with suspected pneumonia to the nearest health facility. However, because uncomplicated malaria and pneumonia both cause fever, many children are treated inappropriately. This misdiagnosis is worrying because giving antimalarial drugs to children with pneumonia delays their treatment with more appropriate drugs and increases the risk of drug-resistant malaria emerging. The use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria might be one way to improve the treatment of malaria and pneumonia by CHWs in Zambia. Here, the researchers investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of this approach in a cluster randomized controlled trial, a study that compares the outcomes of groups (clusters) of patients randomly allocated to different interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly allocated 31 community health posts (fixed locations where CHWs provide medical services to several villages) to the study's intervention and control arms. CHWs in the intervention arm did RDTs for malaria on all the children under 5 years old who presented with fever and/or difficult or fast breathing (symptoms of pneumonia), treated test-positive children with AL, and treated those with nonsevere pneumonia (an increased breathing rate) with amoxicillin. CHWs in the control arm did not use RDTs but treated all children with fever with AL and referred those with signs of pneumonia to the nearest health facility. About 3,000 children with fever were treated during the 12-month study. 99.1% of the children in the control arm received AL compared with 27.5% of the children in the intervention arm, a 4-fold reduction in treatment for malaria. Importantly, the CHWs in the intervention arm adhered to treatment guidelines and did not give AL to children with negative RDT results. Of the children classified with nonsevere pneumonia, 13.3% of those in the control arm received early and appropriate treatment with amoxicillin compared to 68.2% of those in the intervention arm, a 5-fold increase in the timely treatment for pneumonia.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that CHWs in Zambia are capable of using RDTs, AL, and amoxicillin to manage malaria and pneumonia. They show that the intervention tested in this study has the potential to reduce the overuse of AL and to provide early and appropriate treatment for nonsevere pneumonia. Although this approach needs to be tested in other settings, these findings suggest that the use of CHWs might be a feasible and effective way to provide integrated management of pneumonia and malaria at the community level in developing countries. Importantly, these results also support the evaluation of the treatment by CHWs of other major childhood diseases and raise the possibility of saving the lives of many children in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions of the world through community level interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000340.
WHO provides information on malaria, on rapid diagnostic tests for malaria, on artemisinin-combination therapy, and on global child mortality and efforts to reduce it (in several languages); WHO also provides a country health profile for Zambia
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Kidshealth, a resource maintained by the not-for-profit Nemours Foundation (a not-for-profit organization for children's health), provides information for parents on pneumonia (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria and on pneumonia (in English and Spanish)
More information about the Zambia Integrated Management of Malaria and Pneumonia Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000340
PMCID: PMC2943441  PMID: 20877714
15.  Sex and Socioeconomic Differentials in Child Health in Rural Bangladesh: Findings from a Baseline Survey for Evaluating Integrated Management of Childhood Illness 
This paper reports on a population-based sample survey of 2,289 children aged less than five years (under-five children) conducted in 2000 as a baseline for the Bangladesh component of the Multi-country Evaluation (MCE) of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness strategy. Of interest were rates and differentials by sex and socioeconomic status for three aspects of child health in rural Bangladesh: morbidity and hospitalizations, including severity of illness; care-seeking for childhood illness; and home-care for illness. The survey was carried out among a population of about 380,000 in Matlab upazila (subdistrict). Generic MCE Household Survey tools were adapted, translated, and pretested. Trained interviewers conducted the survey in the study areas. In total, 2,289 under-five children were included in the survey. Results showed a very high prevalence of illness among Bangladeshi children, with over two-thirds reported to have had at least one illness during the two weeks preceding the survey. Most sick children in this population had multiple symptoms, suggesting that the use of the IMCI clinical guidelines will lead to improved quality of care. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences in the prevalence of illness either by sex or by socioeconomic status. About one-third of the children with a reported illness did not receive any care outside the home. Of those for whom outside care was sought, 42% were taken to a village doctor. Only 8% were taken to an appropriate provider, i.e. a health facility, a hospital, a doctor, a paramedic, or a community-based health worker. Poorer children than less-poor children were less likely to be taken to an appropriate healthcare provider. The findings indicated that children with severe illness in the least poor households were three times more likely to seek care from a trained provider than children in the poorest households. Any evidence of gender inequities in child healthcare, either in terms of prevalence of illness or care-seeking patterns, was not found. Care-seeking patterns were associated with the perceived severity of illness, the presence of danger signs, and the duration and number of symptoms. The results highlight the challenges that will need to be addressed as IMCI is implemented in health facilities and extended to address key family and community practices, including extremely low rates of use of the formal health sector for the management of sick children. Child health planners and researchers must find ways to address the apparent population preference for untrained and traditional providers which is determined by various factors, including the actual and perceived quality of care, and the differentials in care-seeking practices that discriminate against the poorest households.
PMCID: PMC2740675  PMID: 18637525
Child care; Child health; Hospitalizations; Integrated Management of Childhood Illness; Morbidity; Socioeconomic status; Bangladesh
16.  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
17.  Children with Severe Malnutrition: Can Those at Highest Risk of Death Be Identified with the WHO Protocol? 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e500.
Background
With strict adherence to international recommended treatment guidelines, the case fatality for severe malnutrition ought to be less than 5%. In African hospitals, fatality rates of 20% are common and are often attributed to poor training and faulty case management. Improving outcome will depend upon the identification of those at greatest risk and targeting limited health resources. We retrospectively examined the major risk factors associated with early (<48 h) and late in-hospital death in children with severe malnutrition with the aim of identifying admission features that could distinguish a high-risk group in relation to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Methods and Findings
Of 920 children in the study, 176 (19%) died, with 59 (33%) deaths occurring within 48 h of admission. Bacteraemia complicated 27% of all deaths: 52% died before 48 h despite 85% in vitro antibiotic susceptibility of cultured organisms. The sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratio of the WHO-recommended “danger signs” (lethargy, hypothermia, or hypoglycaemia) to predict early mortality was 52%, 84%, and 3.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.2 to 5.1), respectively. In addition, four bedside features were associated with early case fatality: bradycardia, capillary refill time greater than 2 s, weak pulse volume, and impaired consciousness level; the presence of two or more features was associated with an odds ratio of 9.6 (95% CI = 4.8 to 19) for early fatality (p < 0.0001). Conversely, the group of children without any of these seven features, or signs of dehydration, severe acidosis, or electrolyte derangements, had a low fatality (7%).
Conclusions
Formal assessment of these features as emergency signs to improve triage and to rationalize manpower resources toward the high-risk groups is required. In addition, basic clinical research is necessary to identify and test appropriate supportive treatments.
A retrospective examination of major risk factors associated with in-hospital deaths in children with severe malnutrition has identified admission features that could help distinguish those at highest risk.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Severe malnutrition is thought to be responsible, at least in part, for a large proportion of the many millions of deaths every year among children below the age of five years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed guidelines for management of the severely malnourished child in the hospital. These guidelines outline ten initial steps for routine care, followed by treatment of associated conditions and rehabilitation. However, death rates among children admitted to hospital with severe malnutrition are worryingly high, commonly 20% or sometimes even higher. Many hospitals have reported that following introduction of the WHO guidelines, the death rates have been cut, but not to a level that the WHO defines as acceptable (5% or lower).
Why Was This Study Done?
In the region where this study was done, an area on the coast of Kenya, East Africa, malnutrition is very common. The local hospital, Kilifi District Hospital, currently reports a death rate of approximately 19% among children admitted with severe malnutrition, even with implementation of the WHO guidelines. A group of researchers based at the hospital wanted to see if they could identify those children who were most likely to die. Their aim was to see which aspects of the children's medical condition put them at highest risk. This information would be useful in ensuring that high-risk children received the most appropriate care.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied all severely malnourished children over three months of age who were admitted to the Kilifi District Hospital between September 2000 and June 2002. The children were treated according to the WHO guidelines, and the research group collected data on the condition of the children after treatment (their “outcomes”), as well as for relevant clinical signs and symptoms. The study involved 920 children, of whom 176 died in hospital (a death rate of 19%). They then examined the data to see which characteristics on admission were associated with early death (less than 48 h) and later deaths. They found that four clinical features, which could be easily ascertained at the bedside on admission, were associated with a large proportion of the early deaths. These four signs were slow heart rate, weak pulse volume, depressed consciousness level, and a delayed capillary refilling time (as tested by pressing a fingernail bed to blanche the finger, releasing it, and observing the time taken to reperfuse the capillaries—or recolor the nailbed). The researchers proposed that these findings, together with a number of other features that were associated with the later deaths could be used to identify three groups of patients differing in their need for emergency care: a high-risk group (with any of the four signs listed above, or hypoglycemia, and among whom mortality was 34%); a moderate-risk group (among whom mortality was 23%); and a low-risk group (mortality 7%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
First, the death rate amongst these children was very high even though WHO guidelines were used to guide management. The signs reported here as indicators of poor outcome may prove useful in future in identifying high-risk individuals to ensure they receive the right treatment. However, the indicators proposed here would need further evaluation before current guidelines for treatment of the severely malnourished child could be changed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030500.
• Information on severe malnutrition is available from the World Health Organization
• Management guidelines from the WHO can also be downloaded in many languages
• UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, provides relevant resources and statistics as well as information about its programs addressing malnutrition worldwide
• Information from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on acute malnutrition worldwide and MSF's response to current emergencies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030500
PMCID: PMC1716191  PMID: 17194194
18.  Primary Angioplasty for the Treatment of Acute ST-Segment Elevated Myocardial Infarction 
Executive Summary
One of the longest running debates in cardiology is about the best reperfusion therapy for patients with evolving acute myocardial infarction (MI). Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (ANGIOPLASTY) is a surgical treatment to reopen a blocked coronary artery to restore blood flow. It is a type of percutaneous (through-the-skin) coronary intervention (PCI) also known as balloon angioplasty. When performed on patients with acute myocardial infarction, it is called primary angioplasty. Primary angioplasty is an alternative to thrombolysis, clot-dissolving drug therapy, for patients with acute MI associated with ST-segment elevation (STEMI), a change recorded with an electrocardiogram (ECG) during chest pain.
This review of the clinical benefits and policy implications of primary angioplasty was requested by the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee and prompted by the recent publication of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in the New England Journal of Medicine (1) that compared referred primary angioplasty with on-site thrombolysis. The Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed the literature comparing primary angioplasty with thrombolysis and other therapies (pre-hospital thrombolysis and facilitated angioplasty, the latter approach consisting of thrombolysis followed by primary angioplasty irrespective of response to thrombolysis) for acute STEMI.
There have been many RCTs and meta-analyses of these RCTs comparing primary angioplasty with thrombolysis and these were the subject of this analysis. Results showed a statistically significant reduction in mortality, reinfarction, and stroke for patients receiving primary angioplasty. Although the individual trials did not show significant improvements in mortality alone, they did show it for the outcomes of nonfatal reinfarction and stroke, and for an end point combining mortality, reinfarction, and stroke. However, researchers have raised concerns about these studies.
A main concern with the large RCTs is that they lack consistency in methods. Furthermore, there is some question as to their generalizability to practice in Ontario. Across the RCTs, there were differences in the type of thrombolytic drug, the use of stenting versus balloon-only angioplasty, and the use of the newer antiplatelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa. The largest trial did not offer routine follow-up angioplasty for patients receiving thrombolysis, which is the practice in Ontario, and the meta-analysis included trials with streptokinase, an agent seldom used in hospitals in Ontario. Thus, the true magnitude of mortality benefit can only be surmised from head-to-head comparisons of current standard therapies for primary angioplasty and for thrombolysis.
By taking a more restrictive sample of the available studies, the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a review that was more consistent with patterns of practice in Ontario and selected trials that used accelerated alteplase as the thrombolytic agent.
Results from this meta-analysis suggest that the rates for primary angioplasty are significantly better for mortality, reinfarction, and stroke, in the short term (30 days), and for mortality, reinfarction, and the combined end point at 6 months. When primary angioplasty was compared with in-hospital thrombolysis, results showed a significant reduction in adverse event rates associated with primary angioplasty. However, 1 large RCT of pre-hospital thrombolysis (i.e., thrombolysis given by paramedics before arriving at the hospital) compared with primary angioplasty documented that pre-hospital thrombolysis is an equivalent intervention to primary thrombolysis in terms of survival. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of studies that compared pre-hospital thrombolysis with in-hospital thrombolysis showed a reduction in all hospital mortality rates in favour of pre-hospital thrombolysis, supporting the findings of the pre-hospital thrombolysis study. (2)
Clinical trials to date have reported that hospital stay is often reduced for patients who receive primary angioplasty compared with thrombolysis. Using a cost-analysis performed alongside the only study from Ontario, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there might be savings associated with primary angioplasty. These savings may partly offset the investment the provincial government would have to make to increase access to this technology. These savings should also be shown outside of a clinical trial protocol if the overall efficiencies of primary angioplasty are to be verified.
Based on this health technology policy analysis, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concludes that primary angioplasty has advantages with respect to mortality and combined end points compared with in-hospital thrombolysis (Level 1 evidence). However, pre-hospital thrombolysis improves survival compared with in-hospital thrombolysis (Level 1 evidence) and is equivalent to primary angioplasty (Level 1 evidence).
Results from the literature review raise concerns about the loss of therapeutic advantage due to treatment delays, time lapse from symptom onset to revascularization, time-of-day variations, the hospital volume of procedures, and the ability of hospitals to achieve in practice what RCTs have shown.
Furthermore, questions relevant to applying primary angioplasty widely, involve the diagnosis by paramedics, ambulance diversion protocols, paramedic training, and inter-hospital transfer protocols. These logistical considerations need to be addressed to realise the potential to improve patient outcomes. In its analysis, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concludes that it is unrealistic to reorganise the emergency medical services across Ontario to fully implement a primary angioplasty program.
Finally, it is important to evaluate the potential of this technology in the context of Ontario’s health system. This includes urban and rural considerations, the ability to expand access to primary angioplasty and to minimize symptom-to-assessment time through a diverse strategy including public awareness. Therefore, a measured, evaluative approach to adopting this technology is warranted.
Furthermore, the alternative approach to pre-hospital or early thrombolysis, especially within 120 minutes from onset of symptoms, should be considered when developing the approach to improving outcomes for acute MI. This could include efforts to decrease the symptom-to-thrombolysis time through strategies such as a concerted public education program to expedite presentation to emergency rooms after onset of symptoms, a pre-hospital ECG and thrombolysis checklist in ambulances to reduce door-to-needle time on arrival at emergency rooms, and, especially in remote areas, access to pre-hospital thrombolysis.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat therefore recommends that this analysis of primary angioplasty be viewed in the overall context of all interventions for the management of acute MI and, in particular, of improving access to primary angioplasty and maximising the use of early thrombolysis.
Outcomes for patients with acute MI can be improved if efforts are made to optimise the interval from symptom onset to thrombolysis or angioplasty. This will require concerted efforts, including public awareness through education to reduce the symptom-to-emergency room time, and maximising efficiencies in door-to-intervention times for primary angioplasty and for early thrombolysis.
Primary angioplasty and early thrombolysis cannot be considered in isolation from one another. For example, patients who have persistent STEMI 90 minutes after receiving thrombolysis should be considered for angioplasty (“rescue angioplasty”). Furthermore, for patients with acute MI who are in cardiac shock, primary angioplasty is considered the preferred intervention. The concomitant use of primary angioplasty and thrombolysis (“facilitated angioplasty”) is considered experimental and has no place in routine management of acute MI at this time. In remote parts of the province, consideration should be given to introducing pre-hospital thrombolysis as the preferred intervention through upgrading a select number of paramedics to advanced care status.
PMCID: PMC3387753  PMID: 23074449
19.  The Impact of Retail-Sector Delivery of Artemether–Lumefantrine on Malaria Treatment of Children under Five in Kenya: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000437.
In a cluster randomized trial, Beth Kangwana and colleagues find that provision of subsidized packs of the malaria therapy artemether-lumefantrine to shops more than doubled the proportion of children with fever who received drugs promptly.
Background
It has been proposed that artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) be subsidised in the private sector in order to improve affordability and access. This study in western Kenya aimed to evaluate the impact of providing subsidized artemether–lumefantrine (AL) through retail providers on the coverage of prompt, effective antimalarial treatment for febrile children aged 3–59 months.
Methods and Findings
We used a cluster-randomized, controlled design with nine control and nine intervention sublocations, equally distributed across three districts in western Kenya. Cross-sectional household surveys were conducted before and after the delivery of the intervention. The intervention comprised provision of subsidized packs of paediatric ACT to retail outlets, training of retail outlet staff, and community awareness activities. The primary outcome was defined as the proportion of children aged 3–59 months reporting fever in the past 2 weeks who started treatment with AL on the same day or following day of fever onset. Data were collected using structured questionnaires and analyzed based on cluster-level summaries, comparing control to intervention arms, while adjusting for other covariates. Data were collected on 2,749 children in the target age group at baseline and 2,662 at follow-up. 29% of children experienced fever within 2 weeks before the interview. At follow-up, the percentage of children receiving AL on the day of fever or the following day had risen by 14.6% points in the control arm (from 5.3% [standard deviation (SD): 3.2%] to 19.9% [SD: 10.0%]) and 40.2% points in the intervention arm (from 4.7% [SD: 3.4%] to 44.9% [SD: 11.7%]). The percentage of children receiving AL was significantly greater in the intervention arm at follow-up, with a difference between the arms of 25.0% points (95% confidence interval [CI]: 14.1%, 35.9%; unadjusted p = 0.0002, adjusted p = 0.0001). No significant differences were observed between arms in the proportion of caregivers who sought treatment for their child's fever by source, or in the child's adherence to AL.
Conclusions
Subsidizing ACT in the retail sector can significantly increase ACT coverage for reported fevers in rural areas. Further research is needed on the impact and cost-effectiveness of such subsidy programmes at a national scale.
Trial Registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN59275137 and Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board Ethical Committee for Clinical Trials PPB/ECCT/08/07.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a major global public-health problem. Half the world's population is at risk of this mosquito-borne parasitic disease, which kills a million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. For the past 50 years, the main treatments for malaria have been drugs such as sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine and chloroquine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to these inexpensive "monotherapies" is now widespread and there has been an upsurge in the illness and death caused by P. falciparum. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for first-line treatment of P. falciparum malaria in all regions with drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite WHO's recommendation, ACT use in many developing countries remains low partly because of its high retail price. To increase the affordability of and access to ACT, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is planning to run an ACT subsidy mechanism called the “Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria” (AMF-m). Using money provided by various donors, the Global Fund aims to reduce the private sector retail costs of ACT to those of monotherapies by making "copayments" directly to ACT manufacturers. Phase I of the AMF-m is already being implemented in pilots in several countries, but there are few data on the likely impact of private sector ACT subsidies on the coverage of prompt, effective treatment at the community level. In this cluster randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the impact of an intervention package that includes ACT subsidies on malaria treatment of young children in a high malaria transmission area of western Kenya. In a cluster randomized controlled trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive a test or control intervention, and the outcomes in different clusters are compared.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned 18 rural sublocations (the lowest administrative level in Kenya) to receive the intervention—the provision of subsidized packs of the ACT artemether-lumefantrine (AL) to retail outlets, retail staff training, and community awareness activities—or to act as controls. The researchers collected data about recent fever (a symptom of malaria) in children aged 3–59 months and its treatment with AL from randomly selected households in the intervention and control sublocations 4 months before and 8 months after roll-out of the intervention. At follow-up, 19.9% of children in the control arm received AL within 24 hours of fever developing compared to 5.3% of children at baseline (a 14.5% point rise). In the intervention arm, the percentage of children receiving AL within 24 hours of fever developing increased from 4.7% at baseline to 44.9% at follow-up (a 40.2% point rise). Moreover, the proportion of children receiving AL in the intervention arm was significantly greater than in the control arm (that is, unlikely to have happened by chance). Put another way, the intervention more than doubled the proportion of children with fever who received AL promptly.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in the rural areas of Kenya included in this study, the provision of subsidized ACT in the private retail sector can significantly increase the coverage of prompt and effective treatment of fever in children with ACT; the increase in ACT coverage in the control arm probably reflects improved availability of AL in public-health facilities. However, these findings may not be generalizable to other settings and, because the design of this trial and that of the planned AMF-m roll-out are somewhat different (through AMF-m, subsidized drugs will be available to all age groups, for example), these results must be used with caution when trying to predict the outcome of AMF-m. Most importantly, the tested intervention only achieved prompt ACT uptake in 44.9% of children with fever, somewhat lower than the target of 80% set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Thus, although the provision of subsidized ACTs is likely to improve ACT coverage, additional strategies to increase the prompt use of ACT need to be identified.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000437.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2010 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)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria including fact sheets about ACT and about malaria in Kenya, and information on AMF-m
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international financing institution that invests the world's money to save lives, also has information on fighting malaria and on the AMF-m (in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000437
PMCID: PMC3104978  PMID: 21655317
20.  The Effectiveness of Community Action in Reducing Risky Alcohol Consumption and Harm: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001617.
In a cluster randomized controlled trial, Anthony Shakeshaft and colleagues measure the effectiveness of a multi-component community-based intervention for reducing alcohol-related harm.
Background
The World Health Organization, governments, and communities agree that community action is likely to reduce risky alcohol consumption and harm. Despite this agreement, there is little rigorous evidence that community action is effective: of the six randomised trials of community action published to date, all were US-based and focused on young people (rather than the whole community), and their outcomes were limited to self-report or alcohol purchase attempts. The objective of this study was to conduct the first non-US randomised controlled trial (RCT) of community action to quantify the effectiveness of this approach in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms measured using both self-report and routinely collected data.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster RCT comprising 20 communities in Australia that had populations of 5,000–20,000, were at least 100 km from an urban centre (population ≥ 100,000), and were not involved in another community alcohol project. Communities were pair-matched, and one member of each pair was randomly allocated to the experimental group. Thirteen interventions were implemented in the experimental communities from 2005 to 2009: community engagement; general practitioner training in alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI); feedback to key stakeholders; media campaign; workplace policies/practices training; school-based intervention; general practitioner feedback on their prescribing of alcohol medications; community pharmacy-based SBI; web-based SBI; Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services support for SBI; Good Sports program for sports clubs; identifying and targeting high-risk weekends; and hospital emergency department–based SBI. Primary outcomes based on routinely collected data were alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions. Routinely collected data for the entire study period (2001–2009) were obtained in 2010. Secondary outcomes based on pre- and post-intervention surveys (n = 2,977 and 2,255, respectively) were the following: long-term risky drinking, short-term high-risk drinking, short-term risky drinking, weekly consumption, hazardous/harmful alcohol use, and experience of alcohol harm. At the 5% level of statistical significance, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the interventions were effective in the experimental, relative to control, communities for alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions, and for rates of risky alcohol consumption and hazardous/harmful alcohol use. Although respondents in the experimental communities reported statistically significantly lower average weekly consumption (1.90 fewer standard drinks per week, 95% CI = −3.37 to −0.43, p = 0.01) and less alcohol-related verbal abuse (odds ratio = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.35 to 0.96, p = 0.04) post-intervention, the low survey response rates (40% and 24% for the pre- and post-intervention surveys, respectively) require conservative interpretation. The main limitations of this study are as follows: (1) that the study may have been under-powered to detect differences in routinely collected data outcomes as statistically significant, and (2) the low survey response rates.
Conclusions
This RCT provides little evidence that community action significantly reduces risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms, other than potential reductions in self-reported average weekly consumption and experience of alcohol-related verbal abuse. Complementary legislative action may be required to more effectively reduce alcohol harms.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12607000123448
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
People have consumed alcoholic beverages throughout history, but alcohol use is now an increasing global public health problem. According to the World Health Organization's 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, alcohol use is the fifth leading risk factor (after high blood pressure and smoking) for disease and is responsible for 3.9% of the global disease burden. Alcohol use contributes to heart disease, liver disease, depression, some cancers, and many other health conditions. Alcohol also affects the well-being and health of people around those who drink, through alcohol-related crimes and road traffic crashes. The impact of alcohol use on disease and injury depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking. Most guidelines define long-term risky drinking as more than four drinks per day on average for men or more than two drinks per day for women (a “drink” is, roughly speaking, a can of beer or a small glass of wine), and short-term risky drinking (also called binge drinking) as seven or more drinks on a single occasion for men or five or more drinks on a single occasion for women. However, recent changes to the Australian guidelines acknowledge that a lower level of alcohol consumption is considered risky (with lifetime risky drinking defined as more than two drinks a day and binge drinking defined as more than four drinks on one occasion).
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. This strategy emphasizes the importance of community action–a process in which a community defines its own needs and determines the actions that are required to meet these needs. Although community action is highly acceptable to community members, few studies have looked at the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. Here, the researchers undertake a cluster randomized controlled trial (the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities [AARC] project) to quantify the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms in rural communities in Australia. A cluster randomized trial compares outcomes in clusters of people (here, communities) who receive alternative interventions assigned through the play of chance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pair-matched 20 rural Australian communities according to the proportion of their population that was Aboriginal (rates of alcohol-related harm are disproportionately higher among Aboriginal individuals than among non-Aboriginal individuals in Australia; they are also higher among young people and males, but the proportions of these two groups across communities was comparable). They randomly assigned one member of each pair to the experimental group and implemented 13 interventions in these communities by negotiating with key individuals in each community to define and implement each intervention. Examples of interventions included general practitioner training in screening for alcohol use disorders and in implementing a brief intervention, and a school-based interactive session designed to reduce alcohol harm among young people. The researchers quantified the effectiveness of the interventions using routinely collected data on alcohol-related crime and road traffic crashes, and on hospital inpatient admissions for alcohol dependence or abuse (which were expected to increase in the experimental group if the intervention was effective because of more people seeking or being referred for treatment). They also examined drinking habits and experiences of alcohol-related harm, such as verbal abuse, among community members using pre- and post-intervention surveys. After implementation of the interventions, the rates of alcohol-related crime, road traffic crashes, and hospital admissions, and of risky and hazardous/harmful alcohol consumption (measured using a validated tool called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) were not statistically significantly different in the experimental and control communities (a difference in outcomes that is not statistically significantly different can occur by chance). However, the reported average weekly consumption of alcohol was 20% lower in the experimental communities after the intervention than in the control communities (equivalent to 1.9 fewer standard drinks per week per respondent) and there was less alcohol-related verbal abuse post-intervention in the experimental communities than in the control communities.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide little evidence that community action reduced risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms in rural Australian communities. Although there was some evidence of significant reductions in self-reported weekly alcohol consumption and in experiences of alcohol-related verbal abuse, these findings must be interpreted cautiously because they are based on surveys with very low response rates. A larger or differently designed study might provide statistically significant evidence for the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption. However, given their findings, the researchers suggest that legislative approaches that are beyond the control of individual communities, such as alcohol taxation and restrictions on alcohol availability, may be required to effectively reduce alcohol harms. In other words, community action alone may not be the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001617.
The World Health Organization provides detailed information about alcohol; its fact sheet on alcohol includes information about the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol; the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health provides further information about alcohol, including information on control policies around the world
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, tools for calculating alcohol consumption, and personal stories about alcohol use problems
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
More information about the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities project is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001617
PMCID: PMC3949675  PMID: 24618831
21.  Effect of an Educational Toolkit on Quality of Care: A Pragmatic Cluster Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001588.
In a pragmatic cluster-randomized trial, Baiju Shah and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of printed educational materials for clinician education focusing on cardiovascular disease screening and risk reduction in people with diabetes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Printed educational materials for clinician education are one of the most commonly used approaches for quality improvement. The objective of this pragmatic cluster randomized trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational toolkit focusing on cardiovascular disease screening and risk reduction in people with diabetes.
Methods and Findings
All 933,789 people aged ≥40 years with diagnosed diabetes in Ontario, Canada were studied using population-level administrative databases, with additional clinical outcome data collected from a random sample of 1,592 high risk patients. Family practices were randomly assigned to receive the educational toolkit in June 2009 (intervention group) or May 2010 (control group). The primary outcome in the administrative data study, death or non-fatal myocardial infarction, occurred in 11,736 (2.5%) patients in the intervention group and 11,536 (2.5%) in the control group (p = 0.77). The primary outcome in the clinical data study, use of a statin, occurred in 700 (88.1%) patients in the intervention group and 725 (90.1%) in the control group (p = 0.26). Pre-specified secondary outcomes, including other clinical events, processes of care, and measures of risk factor control, were also not improved by the intervention. A limitation is the high baseline rate of statin prescribing in this population.
Conclusions
The educational toolkit did not improve quality of care or cardiovascular outcomes in a population with diabetes. Despite being relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, printed educational materials were not effective. The study highlights the need for a rigorous and scientifically based approach to the development, dissemination, and evaluation of quality improvement interventions.
Trial Registration
http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01411865 and NCT01026688
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Clinical practice guidelines help health care providers deliver the best care to patients by combining all the evidence on disease management into specific recommendations for care. However, the implementation of evidence-based guidelines is often far from perfect. Take the example of diabetes. This common chronic disease, which is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood, impairs the quality of life of patients and shortens life expectancy by increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (conditions that affect the heart and circulation) and other life-threatening conditions. Patients need complex care to manage the multiple risk factors (high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high levels of fat in the blood) that are associated with the long-term complications of diabetes, and they need to be regularly screened and treated for these complications. Clinical practice guidelines for diabetes provide recommendations on screening and diagnosis, drug treatment, and cardiovascular disease risk reduction, and on helping patients self-manage their disease. Unfortunately, the care delivered to patients with diabetes frequently fails to meet the standards laid down in these guidelines.
Why Was This Study Done?
How can guideline adherence and the quality of care provided to patients be improved? A common approach is to send printed educational materials to clinicians. For example, when the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) updated its clinical practice guidelines in 2008, it mailed educational toolkits that contained brochures and other printed materials targeting key themes from the guidelines to family physicians. In this pragmatic cluster randomized trial, the researchers investigate the effect of the CDA educational toolkit that targeted cardiovascular disease screening and treatment on the quality of care of people with diabetes. A pragmatic trial asks whether an intervention works under real-life conditions and whether it works in terms that matter to the patient; a cluster randomized trial randomly assigns groups of people to receive alternative interventions and compares outcomes in the differently treated “clusters.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned family practices in Ontario, Canada to receive the educational toolkit in June 2009 (intervention group) or in May 2010 (control group). They examined outcomes between July 2009 and April 2010 in all patients with diabetes in Ontario aged over 40 years (933,789 people) using population-level administrative data. In Canada, administrative databases record the personal details of people registered with provincial health plans, information on hospital visits and prescriptions, and physician service claims for consultations, assessments, and diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. They also examined clinical outcome data from a random sample of 1,592 patients at high risk of cardiovascular complications. In the administrative data study, death or non-fatal heart attack (the primary outcome) occurred in about 11,500 patients in both the intervention and control group. In the clinical data study, the primary outcome―use of a statin to lower blood fat levels―occurred in about 700 patients in both study groups. Secondary outcomes, including other clinical events, processes of care, and measures of risk factor control were also not improved by the intervention. Indeed, in the administrative data study, some processes of care outcomes related to screening for heart disease were statistically significantly worse in the intervention group than in the control group, and in the clinical data study, fewer patients in the intervention group reached blood pressure targets than in the control group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the CDA cardiovascular diseases educational toolkit did not improve quality of care or cardiovascular outcomes in a population with diabetes. Indeed, the toolkit may have led to worsening in some secondary outcomes although, because numerous secondary outcomes were examined, this may be a chance finding. Limitations of the study include its length, which may have been too short to see an effect of the intervention on clinical outcomes, and the possibility of a ceiling effect—the control group in the clinical data study generally had good care, which left little room for improvement of the quality of care in the intervention group. Overall, however, these findings suggest that printed educational materials may not be an effective way to improve the quality of care for patients with diabetes and other complex conditions and highlight the need for a rigorous, scientific approach to the development, dissemination, and evaluation of quality improvement interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001588.
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes for patients, health care professionals, and the general public (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) for patients and carers about type 2 diabetes, the commonest form of diabetes
The Canadian Diabetes Association also provides information about diabetes for patients (including some personal stories about living with diabetes) and health care professionals; its latest clinical practice guidelines are available on its website
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provides general information about clinical guidelines and about health care quality standards in the UK
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality aims to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans (information in English and Spanish); the US National Guideline Clearinghouse is a searchable database of clinical practice guidelines
The International Diabetes Federation provides information about diabetes for patients and health care professionals, along with international statistics on the burden of diabetes
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001588
PMCID: PMC3913553  PMID: 24505216
22.  Strengthening health human resources and improving clinical outcomes through an integrated guideline and educational outreach in resource-poor settings: a cluster-randomized trial 
Trials  2010;11:118.
Background
In low-income countries, only about a third of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) patients eligible for anti-retroviral treatment currently receive it. Providing decentralized treatment close to where patients live is crucial to a faster scale up, however, a key obstacle is limited health system capacity due to a shortage of trained health-care workers and challenges of integrating HIV/AIDS care with other primary care services (e.g. tuberculosis, malaria, respiratory conditions). This study will test an adapted primary care health care worker training and guideline intervention, Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV/AIDS Malawi (PALM PLUS), on staff retention and satisfaction, and quality of patient care.
Methods/Design
A cluster-randomized trial design is being used to compare usual care with a standardized clinical guideline and training intervention, PALM PLUS. The intervention targets middle-cadre health care workers (nurses, clinical officers, medical assistants) in 30 rural primary care health centres in a single district in Malawi. PALM PLUS is an integrated, symptom-based and user-friendly guideline consistent with Malawian national treatment protocols. Training is standardized and based on an educational outreach approach. Trainers will be front-line peer healthcare workers trained to provide outreach training and support to their fellow front-line healthcare workers during focused (1-2 hours), intermittent, interactive sessions on-site in health centers. Primary outcomes are health care worker retention and satisfaction. Secondary outcomes are clinical outcomes measured at the health centre level for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and other primary care conditions. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals for outcomes will be presented. Assessment of outcomes will occur at 1 year post- implementation.
Discussion
The PALM PLUS trial aims to address a key problem: strengthening middle-cadre health care workers to support the broader scale up of HIV/AIDS services and their integration into primary care. The trial will test whether the PALM PLUS intervention improves staff satisfaction and retention, as well as the quality of patient care, when compared to usual practice.
Trial Registration
Current controlled Trials: ISRCTN47805230
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-118
PMCID: PMC3017521  PMID: 21129211
23.  Effect of Removing Direct Payment for Health Care on Utilisation and Health Outcomes in Ghanaian Children: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000007.
Background
Delays in accessing care for malaria and other diseases can lead to disease progression, and user fees are a known barrier to accessing health care. Governments are introducing free health care to improve health outcomes. Free health care affects treatment seeking, and it is therefore assumed to lead to improved health outcomes, but there is no direct trial evidence of the impact of removing out-of-pocket payments on health outcomes in developing countries. This trial was designed to test the impact of free health care on health outcomes directly.
Methods and Findings
2,194 households containing 2,592 Ghanaian children under 5 y old were randomised into a prepayment scheme allowing free primary care including drugs, or to a control group whose families paid user fees for health care (normal practice); 165 children whose families had previously paid to enrol in the prepayment scheme formed an observational arm. The primary outcome was moderate anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] < 8 g/dl); major secondary outcomes were health care utilisation, severe anaemia, and mortality. At baseline the randomised groups were similar. Introducing free primary health care altered the health care seeking behaviour of households; those randomised to the intervention arm used formal health care more and nonformal care less than the control group. Introducing free primary health care did not lead to any measurable difference in any health outcome. The primary outcome of moderate anaemia was detected in 37 (3.1%) children in the control and 36 children (3.2%) in the intervention arm (adjusted odds ratio 1.05, 95% confidence interval 0.66–1.67). There were four deaths in the control and five in the intervention group. Mean Hb concentration, severe anaemia, parasite prevalence, and anthropometric measurements were similar in each group. Families who previously self-enrolled in the prepayment scheme were significantly less poor, had better health measures, and used services more frequently than those in the randomised group.
Conclusions
In the study setting, removing out-of-pocket payments for health care had an impact on health care-seeking behaviour but not on the health outcomes measured.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (#NCT00146692).
Evelyn Ansah and colleagues report on whether removing user fees has an impact on health care-seeking behavior and health outcomes in households with children in Ghana.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, about 10 million children worldwide die before their fifth birthday. About half these deaths occur in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, 166 children out of every 1,000 die before they are five. A handful of preventable diseases—acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS—are responsible for most of these deaths. For all these diseases, delays in accessing medical care contribute to the high death rate. In the case of malaria, for example, children are rarely taken to a clinic or hospital (formal health care) when they first develop symptoms, which include fever, chills, and anemia (lack of red blood cells). Instead, they are taken to traditional healers or given home remedies (informal health care). When they are finally taken to a clinic, it is often too late to save their lives. Many factors contribute to this delay in seeking formal health care. Sometimes, health care simply isn't available. In other instances, parents may worry about the quality of the service provided or may not seek formal health care because of their sociocultural beliefs. Finally, many parents cannot afford the travel costs and loss of earnings involved in taking their child to a clinic or the cost of the treatment itself.
Why Was This Study Done?
The financial cost of seeking formal health care is often the major barrier to accessing health care in poor countries. Consequently, the governments of several developing countries have introduced free health care in an effort to improve their nation's health. Such initiatives have increased the use of formal health care in several African countries; the introduction of user fees in Ghana in the early 1980s had the opposite effect. It is generally assumed that an increase in formal health care utilization improves health—but is this true? In this study, the researchers investigate the effect of removing direct payment for health care on health service utilization and health outcomes in Ghanaian children in a randomized controlled trial (a trial in which participants are randomly assigned to an “intervention” group or “control” group and various predefined outcomes are measured).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled nearly 2,600 children under the age of 5 y living in a poor region of Ghana. Half were assigned to the group in which a prepayment scheme (paid for by the trial) provided free primary and basic secondary health care—this was the intervention arm. The rest were assigned to the control group in which families paid for health care. The trial's main outcome was the percentage of children with moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season, an indicator of the effect of the intervention on malaria-related illness. Other outcomes included health care utilization (calculated from household diaries), severe anemia, and death. The researchers report that the children in the intervention arm attended formal health care facilities slightly more often and informal health care providers slightly less often than those in the control arm. About 3% of the children in both groups had moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season. In addition, similar numbers of deaths, cases of severe anemia, fever episodes, and known infections with the malaria parasite were recorded in both groups of children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in this setting, the removal of out-of-pocket payments for health care changed health care-seeking behavior but not health outcomes in children. This lack of a measured effect does not necessarily mean that the provision of free health care has no effect on children's health—it could be that the increase in health care utilization in the intervention arm compared to the control arm was too modest to produce a clear effect on health. Alternatively, in Ghana, the indirect costs of seeking health care may be more important than the direct cost of paying for treatment. Although the findings of this trial may not be generalizable to other countries, they nevertheless raise the possibility that providing free health care might not be the most cost-effective way of improving health in all developing countries. Importantly, they also suggest that changes in health care utilization should not be used in future trials as a proxy measure of improvements in health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Valéry Ridde and Slim Haddad
The World Health Organization provides information on child health and on global efforts to reduce child mortality, Millennium Development Goal 4; it also provides information about health in Ghana
The United Nations Web site provides further information on all the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to by the nations of the world in 2000 with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2015 (in several languages)
The UK Department for International Development also provides information on the progress that is being made toward reducing child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007
PMCID: PMC2613422  PMID: 19127975
24.  Childhood tuberculosis deskguide and monitoring: An intervention to improve case management in Pakistan 
Background
Childhood tuberculosis (TB) has been a neglected area in national TB control programme (NTCP) in high burden countries. The NTP Pakistan adapted the global approaches by developing and piloting its policy guideline on childhood TB in ten districts of the country. We developed an intervention package including a deskguide and a monitoring tool and tested with the ongoing childhood TB care in a district. The objective of our study was to measure effectiveness of intervention package with deskguide and monitoring tool by comparing TB case finding and treatment outcomes among districts in 2008, and performance assessment in intervention district.
Method
An intervention study with cohort design within a routine TB control programme comparing case findings and treatment outcomes before and after the intervention, and in districts with and without intervention. We enrolled all children below 15 years registered at all nine public sector hospitals in three districts of Pakistan. The data was collected from hospital TB records.
Results
In eight months during 2007 there were 164 childhood TB cases notified, and after intervention in 2008 a total of 194 cases were notified. In intervention district case finding doubled (110% increase) and correct treatment practice significantly increased in eight months. Successful outcomes were significantly higher in intervention district (37,100%) compared to control district A (18, 18%, p < 0.05) and control district B (41, 72%, p < 0.05).
Conclusion
Childhood TB deskguide and structured monitoring was associated with improved case management and it augmented NTP policy. More development and implementation in all health services of the district are indicated.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-187
PMCID: PMC3162501  PMID: 21831308
25.  Performance of Health Workers in the Management of Seriously Sick Children at a Kenyan Tertiary Hospital: Before and after a Training Intervention 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39964.
Background
Implementation of WHO case management guidelines for serious common childhood illnesses remains a challenge in hospitals in low-income countries. The impact of locally adapted clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) on the quality-of-care of patients in tertiary hospitals has rarely been evaluated.
Methods and Findings
We conducted, in Kenyatta National Hospital, an uncontrolled before and after study with an attempt to explore intervention dose-effect relationships, as CPGs were disseminated and training was progressively implemented. The emergency triage, assessment and treatment plus admission care (ETAT+) training and locally adapted CPGs targeted common, serious childhood illnesses. We compared performance in the pre-intervention (2005) and post-intervention periods (2009) using quality indicators for three diseases: pneumonia, dehydration and severe malnutrition. The indicators spanned four domains in the continuum of care namely assessment, classification, treatment, and follow-up care in the initial 48 hours of admission. In the pre-intervention period patients' care was largely inconsistent with the guidelines, with nine of the 15 key indicators having performance of below 10%. The intervention produced a marked improvement in guideline adherence with an absolute effect size of over 20% observed in seven of the 15 key indicators; three of which had an effect size of over 50%. However, for all the five indicators that required sustained team effort performance continued to be poor, at less than 10%, in the post-intervention period. Data from the five-year period (2005–09) suggest some dose dependency though the adoption rate of the best-practices varied across diseases and over time.
Conclusion
Active dissemination of locally adapted clinical guidelines for common serious childhood illnesses can achieve a significant impact on documented clinical practices, particularly for tasks that rely on competence of individual clinicians. However, more attention must be given to broader implementation strategies that also target institutional and organisational aspects of service delivery to further enhance quality-of-care.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039964
PMCID: PMC3409218  PMID: 22859945

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