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1.  A Multifaceted Intervention to Implement Guidelines and Improve Admission Paediatric Care in Kenyan District Hospitals: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001018.
Philip Ayieko and colleagues report the outcomes of a cluster-randomized trial carried out in eight Kenyan district hospitals evaluating the effects of a complex intervention involving improved training and supervision for clinicians. They found a higher performance of hospitals assigned to the complex intervention on a variety of process of care measures, as compared to those receiving the control intervention.
In developing countries referral of severely ill children from primary care to district hospitals is common, but hospital care is often of poor quality. However, strategies to change multiple paediatric care practices in rural hospitals have rarely been evaluated.
Methods and Findings
This cluster randomized trial was conducted in eight rural Kenyan district hospitals, four of which were randomly assigned to a full intervention aimed at improving quality of clinical care (evidence-based guidelines, training, job aides, local facilitation, supervision, and face-to-face feedback; n = 4) and the remaining four to control intervention (guidelines, didactic training, job aides, and written feedback; n = 4). Prespecified structure, process, and outcome indicators were measured at baseline and during three and five 6-monthly surveys in control and intervention hospitals, respectively. Primary outcomes were process of care measures, assessed at 18 months postbaseline.
In both groups performance improved from baseline. Completion of admission assessment tasks was higher in intervention sites at 18 months (mean = 0.94 versus 0.65, adjusted difference 0.54 [95% confidence interval 0.05–0.29]). Uptake of guideline recommended therapeutic practices was also higher within intervention hospitals: adoption of once daily gentamicin (89.2% versus 74.4%; 17.1% [8.04%–26.1%]); loading dose quinine (91.9% versus 66.7%, 26.3% [−3.66% to 56.3%]); and adequate prescriptions of intravenous fluids for severe dehydration (67.2% versus 40.6%; 29.9% [10.9%–48.9%]). The proportion of children receiving inappropriate doses of drugs in intervention hospitals was lower (quinine dose >40 mg/kg/day; 1.0% versus 7.5%; −6.5% [−12.9% to 0.20%]), and inadequate gentamicin dose (2.2% versus 9.0%; −6.8% [−11.9% to −1.6%]).
Specific efforts are needed to improve hospital care in developing countries. A full, multifaceted intervention was associated with greater changes in practice spanning multiple, high mortality conditions in rural Kenyan hospitals than a partial intervention, providing one model for bridging the evidence to practice gap and improving admission care in similar settings.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42996612
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In 2008, nearly 10 million children died in early childhood. Nearly all these deaths were in low- and middle-income countries—half were in Africa. In Kenya, for example, 74 out every 1,000 children born died before they reached their fifth birthday. About half of all childhood (pediatric) deaths in developing countries are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. Deaths from these common diseases could be prevented if all sick children had access to quality health care in the community (“primary” health care provided by health centers, pharmacists, family doctors, and traditional healers) and in district hospitals (“secondary” health care). Unfortunately, primary health care facilities in developing countries often lack essential diagnostic capabilities and drugs, and pediatric hospital care is frequently inadequate with many deaths occurring soon after admission. Consequently, in 1996, as part of global efforts to reduce childhood illnesses and deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) introduced the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) strategy. This approach to child health focuses on the well-being of the whole child and aims to improve the case management skills of health care staff at all levels, health systems, and family and community health practices.
Why Was This Study Done?
The implementation of IMCI has been evaluated at the primary health care level, but its implementation in district hospitals has not been evaluated. So, for example, interventions designed to encourage the routine use of WHO disease-specific guidelines in rural pediatric hospitals have not been tested. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers develop and test a multifaceted intervention designed to improve the implementation of treatment guidelines and admission pediatric care in district hospitals in Kenya. In a cluster randomized trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in different “clusters” of patients are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a district hospital.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned eight Kenyan district hospitals to the “full” or “control” intervention, interventions that differed in intensity but that both included more strategies to promote implementation of best practice than are usually applied in Kenyan rural hospitals. The full intervention included provision of clinical practice guidelines and training in their use, six-monthly survey-based hospital assessments followed by face-to-face feedback of survey findings, 5.5 days training for health care workers, provision of job aids such as structured pediatric admission records, external supervision, and the identification of a local facilitator to promote guideline use and to provide on-site problem solving. The control intervention included the provision of clinical practice guidelines (without training in their use) and job aids, six-monthly surveys with written feedback, and a 1.5-day lecture-based seminar to explain the guidelines. The researchers compared the implementation of various processes of care (activities of patients and doctors undertaken to ensure delivery of care) in the intervention and control hospitals at baseline and 18 months later. The performance of both groups of hospitals improved during the trial but more markedly in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. At 18 months, the completion of admission assessment tasks and the uptake of guideline-recommended clinical practices were both higher in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. Moreover, a lower proportion of children received inappropriate doses of drugs such as quinine for malaria in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that specific efforts are needed to improve pediatric care in rural Kenya and suggest that interventions that include more approaches to changing clinical practice may be more effective than interventions that include fewer approaches. These findings are limited by certain aspects of the trial design, such as the small number of participating hospitals, and may not be generalizable to other hospitals in Kenya or to hospitals in other developing countries. Thus, although these findings seem to suggest that efforts to implement and scale up improved secondary pediatric health care will need to include more than the production and dissemination of printed materials, further research including trials or evaluation of test programs are necessary before widespread adoption of any multifaceted approach (which will need to be tailored to local conditions and available resources) can be contemplated.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
WHO provides information on efforts to reduce global child mortality and on Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI); the WHO pocket book “Hospital care for children contains guidelines for the management of common illnesses with limited resources (available in several languages)
UNICEF also provides information on efforts to reduce child mortality and detailed statistics on child mortality
The iDOC Africa Web site, which is dedicated to improving the delivery of hospital care for children and newborns in Africa, provides links to the clinical guidelines and other resources used in this study
PMCID: PMC3071366  PMID: 21483712
2.  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.
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.
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
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
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 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
PMCID: PMC3373608  PMID: 22719233
3.  Assessment of neonatal care in clinical training facilities in Kenya 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2014;100(1):42-47.
An audit of neonatal care services provided by clinical training centres was undertaken to identify areas requiring improvement as part of wider efforts to improve newborn survival in Kenya.
Cross-sectional study using indicators based on prior work in Kenya. Statistical analyses were descriptive with adjustment for clustering of data.
Neonatal units of 22 public hospitals.
Neonates aged <7 days.
Main outcome measures
Quality of care was assessed in terms of availability of basic resources (principally equipment and drugs) and audit of case records for documentation of patient assessment and treatment at admission.
All hospitals had oxygen, 19/22 had resuscitation and phototherapy equipment, but some key resources were missing—for example kangaroo care was available in 14/22. Out of 1249 records, 56.9% (95% CI 36.2% to 77.6%) had a standard neonatal admission form. A median score of 0 out of 3 for symptoms of severe illness (IQR 0–3) and a median score of 6 out of 8 for signs of severe illness (IQR 4–7) were documented. Maternal HIV status was documented in 674/1249 (54%, 95% CI 41.9% to 66.1%) cases. Drug doses exceeded recommendations by >20% in prescriptions for penicillin (11.6%, 95% CI 3.4% to 32.8%) and gentamicin (18.5%, 95% CI 13.4% to 25%), respectively.
Basic resources are generally available, but there are deficiencies in key areas. Poor documentation limits the use of routine data for quality improvement. Significant opportunities exist for improvement in service delivery and adherence to guidelines in hospitals providing professional training.
PMCID: PMC4283661  PMID: 25138104
Neonatology; Health services research; Measurement; Evidence Based Medicine; Data Collection
4.  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
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.
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 NCT01411865 and NCT01026688
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
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
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
PMCID: PMC3913553  PMID: 24505216
5.  Children with Severe Malnutrition: Can Those at Highest Risk of Death Be Identified with the WHO Protocol? 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e500.
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%).
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
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
• 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
PMCID: PMC1716191  PMID: 17194194
6.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
7.  Improvements in newborn care and newborn resuscitation following a quality improvement program at scale: results from a before and after study in Tanzania 
Every year, more than a million of the world’s newborns die on their first day of life; as many as two-thirds of these deaths could be saved with essential care at birth and the early newborn period. Simple interventions to improve the quality of essential newborn care in health facilities – for example, improving steps to help newborns breathe at birth – have demonstrated up to 47% reduction in newborn mortality in health facilities in Tanzania. We conducted an evaluation of the effects of a large-scale maternal-newborn quality improvement intervention in Tanzania that assessed the quality of provision of essential newborn care and newborn resuscitation.
Cross-sectional health facility surveys were conducted pre-intervention (2010) and post intervention (2012) in 52 health facilities in the program implementation area. Essential newborn care provided by health care providers immediately following birth was observed for 489 newborns in 2010 and 560 in 2012; actual management of newborns with trouble breathing were observed in 2010 (n = 18) and 2012 (n = 40). Assessments of health worker knowledge were conducted with case studies (2010, n = 206; 2012, n = 217) and a simulated resuscitation using a newborn mannequin (2010, n = 299; 2012, n = 213). Facility audits assessed facility readiness for essential newborn care.
Index scores for quality of observed essential newborn care showed significant overall improvement following the quality-of-care intervention, from 39% to 73% (p <0.0001). Health worker knowledge using a case study significantly improved as well, from 23% to 41% (p <0.0001) but skills in resuscitation using a newborn mannequin were persistently low. Availability of essential newborn care supplies, which was high at baseline in the regional hospitals, improved at the lower-level health facilities.
Within two years, the quality improvement program was successful in raising the quality of essential newborn care services in the program facilities. Some gaps in newborn care were persistent, notably practical skills in newborn resuscitation. Continued investment in life-saving improvements to newborn care through the health services is a priority for reduction of newborn mortality in Tanzania.
PMCID: PMC4247559  PMID: 25406496
Essential newborn care; Newborn resuscitation; Newborn health; Quality of care; Tanzania
8.  An intervention to improve paediatric and newborn care in Kenyan district hospitals: Understanding the context 
It is increasingly appreciated that the interpretation of health systems research studies is greatly facilitated by detailed descriptions of study context and the process of intervention. We have undertaken an 18-month hospital-based intervention study in Kenya aiming to improve care for admitted children and newborn infants. Here we describe the baseline characteristics of the eight hospitals as environments receiving the intervention, as well as the general and local health system context and its evolution over the 18 months.
Hospital characteristics were assessed using previously developed tools assessing the broad structure, process, and outcome of health service provision for children and newborns. Major health system or policy developments over the period of the intervention at a national level were documented prospectively by monitoring government policy announcements, the media, and through informal contacts with policy makers. At the hospital level, a structured, open questionnaire was used in face-to-face meetings with senior hospital staff every six months to identify major local developments that might influence implementation. These data provide an essential background for those seeking to understand the generalisability of reports describing the intervention's effects, and whether the intervention plausibly resulted in these effects.
Hospitals had only modest capacity, in terms of infrastructure, equipment, supplies, and human resources available to provide high-quality care at baseline. For example, hospitals were lacking between 30 to 56% of items considered necessary for the provision of care to the seriously ill child or newborn. An increase in spending on hospital renovations, attempts to introduce performance contracts for health workers, and post-election violence were recorded as examples of national level factors that might influence implementation success generally. Examples of factors that might influence success locally included frequent and sometimes numerous staff changes, movements of senior departmental or administrative staff, and the presence of local 'donor' partners with alternative priorities.
The effectiveness of interventions delivered at hospital level over periods realistically required to achieve change may be influenced by a wide variety of factors at national and local levels. We have demonstrated how dynamic such contexts are, and therefore the need to consider context when interpreting an intervention's effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC2724481  PMID: 19627588
9.  Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at:
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website:
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website:
The objective of this analysis was to compare hospital-at-home care with inpatient hospital care for patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who present to the emergency department (ED).
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a disease state characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. This airflow limitation is usually both progressive and associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases. The natural history of COPD involves periods of acute-onset worsening of symptoms, particularly increased breathlessness, cough, and/or sputum, that go beyond normal day-to-day variations; these are known as acute exacerbations.
Two-thirds of COPD exacerbations are caused by an infection of the tracheobronchial tree or by air pollution; the cause in the remaining cases is unknown. On average, patients with moderate to severe COPD experience 2 or 3 exacerbations each year.
Exacerbations have an important impact on patients and on the health care system. For the patient, exacerbations result in decreased quality of life, potentially permanent losses of lung function, and an increased risk of mortality. For the health care system, exacerbations of COPD are a leading cause of ED visits and hospitalizations, particularly in winter.
Hospital-at-home programs offer an alternative for patients who present to the ED with an exacerbation of COPD and require hospital admission for their treatment. Hospital-at-home programs provide patients with visits in their home by medical professionals (typically specialist nurses) who monitor the patients, alter patients’ treatment plans if needed, and in some programs, provide additional care such as pulmonary rehabilitation, patient and caregiver education, and smoking cessation counselling.
There are 2 types of hospital-at-home programs: admission avoidance and early discharge hospital-at-home. In the former, admission avoidance hospital-at-home, after patients are assessed in the ED, they are prescribed the necessary medications and additional care needed (e.g., oxygen therapy) and then sent home where they receive regular visits from a medical professional. In early discharge hospital-at-home, after being assessed in the ED, patients are admitted to the hospital where they receive the initial phase of their treatment. These patients are discharged into a hospital-at-home program before the exacerbation has resolved. In both cases, once the exacerbation has resolved, the patient is discharged from the hospital-at-home program and no longer receives visits in his/her home.
In the models that exist to date, hospital-at-home programs differ from other home care programs because they deal with higher acuity patients who require higher acuity care, and because hospitals retain the medical and legal responsibility for patients. Furthermore, patients requiring home care services may require such services for long periods of time or indefinitely, whereas patients in hospital-at-home programs require and receive the services for a short period of time only.
Hospital-at-home care is not appropriate for all patients with acute exacerbations of COPD. Ineligible patients include: those with mild exacerbations that can be managed without admission to hospital; those who require admission to hospital; and those who cannot be safely treated in a hospital-at-home program either for medical reasons and/or because of a lack of, or poor, social support at home.
The proposed possible benefits of hospital-at-home for treatment of exacerbations of COPD include: decreased utilization of health care resources by avoiding hospital admission and/or reducing length of stay in hospital; decreased costs; increased health-related quality of life for patients and caregivers when treated at home; and reduced risk of hospital-acquired infections in this susceptible patient population.
Ontario Context
No hospital-at-home programs for the treatment of acute exacerbations of COPD were identified in Ontario. Patients requiring acute care for their exacerbations are treated in hospitals.
Research Question
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of hospital-at-home care compared with inpatient hospital care of acute exacerbations of COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on August 5, 2010, using OVID MEDLINE, OVID MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, EBSCO Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Wiley Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination database for studies published from January 1, 1990, to August 5, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists and health technology assessment websites were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the systematic search.
Inclusion Criteria
English language full-text reports;
health technology assessments, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials (RCTs);
studies performed exclusively in patients with a diagnosis of COPD or studies including patients with COPD as well as patients with other conditions, if results are reported for COPD patients separately;
studies performed in patients with acute exacerbations of COPD who present to the ED;
studies published between January 1, 1990, and August 5, 2010;
studies comparing hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for patients with acute exacerbations of COPD;
studies that include at least 1 of the outcomes of interest (listed below).
Cochrane Collaboration reviews have defined hospital-at-home programs as those that provide patients with active treatment for their acute exacerbation in their home by medical professionals for a limited period of time (in this case, until the resolution of the exacerbation). If a hospital-at-home program had not been available, these patients would have been admitted to hospital for their treatment.
Exclusion Criteria
< 18 years of age
animal studies
duplicate publications
grey literature
Outcomes of Interest
Patient/clinical outcomes
lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second)
health-related quality of life
patient or caregiver preference
patient or caregiver satisfaction with care
Health system outcomes
hospital readmissions
length of stay in hospital and hospital-at-home
ED visits
transfer to long-term care
days to readmission
eligibility for hospital-at-home
Statistical Methods
When possible, results were pooled using Review Manager 5 Version 5.1; otherwise, results were summarized descriptively. Data from RCTs were analyzed using intention-to-treat protocols. In addition, a sensitivity analysis was done assigning all missing data/withdrawals to the event. P values less than 0.05 were considered significant. A priori subgroup analyses were planned for the acuity of hospital-at-home program, type of hospital-at-home program (early discharge or admission avoidance), and severity of the patients’ COPD. Additional subgroup analyses were conducted as needed based on the identified literature. Post hoc sample size calculations were performed using STATA 10.1.
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed, taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review: 1 health technology assessment, 5 systematic reviews, and 7 RCTs.
The following conclusions are based on low to very low quality of evidence. The reviewed evidence was based on RCTs that were inadequately powered to observe differences between hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for most outcomes, so there is a strong possibility of type II error. Given the low to very low quality of evidence, these conclusions must be considered with caution.
Approximately 21% to 37% of patients with acute exacerbations of COPD who present to the ED may be eligible for hospital-at-home care.
Of the patients who are eligible for care, some may refuse to participate in hospital-at-home care.
Eligibility for hospital-at-home care may be increased depending on the design of the hospital-at-home program, such as the size of the geographical service area for hospital-at-home and the hours of operation for patient assessment and entry into hospital-at-home.
Hospital-at-home care for acute exacerbations of COPD was associated with a nonsignificant reduction in the risk of mortality and hospital readmissions compared with inpatient hospital care during 2- to 6-month follow-up.
Limited, very low quality evidence suggests that hospital readmissions are delayed in patients who received hospital-at-home care compared with those who received inpatient hospital care (mean additional days before readmission comparing hospital-at-home to inpatient hospital care ranged from 4 to 38 days).
There is insufficient evidence to determine whether hospital-at-home care, compared with inpatient hospital care, is associated with improved lung function.
The majority of studies did not find significant differences between hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for a variety of health-related quality of life measures at follow-up. However, follow-up may have been too late to observe an impact of hospital-at-home care on quality of life.
A conclusion about the impact of hospital-at-home care on length of stay for the initial exacerbation (defined as days in hospital or days in hospital plus hospital-at-home care for inpatient hospital and hospital-at-home, respectively) could not be determined because of limited and inconsistent evidence.
Patient and caregiver satisfaction with care is high for both hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care.
PMCID: PMC3384361  PMID: 23074420
10.  Rational Prescribing in Primary Care (RaPP): A Cluster Randomized Trial of a Tailored Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e134.
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.
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
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
• 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.
PMCID: PMC1472695  PMID: 16737346
11.  WHO guidelines for severe malnutrition: are they feasible in rural African hospitals? 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2007;92(3):198-204.
To assess the feasibility of implementing and sustaining the WHO guidelines for inpatient management of severe malnutrition in under‐resourced rural South African hospitals, and to identify any constraints.
Three 2‐day training workshops were held in 1998, followed by monthly 1‐day visits for 5 months, ending in March 1999, in two rural district hospitals with limited resources in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
A 12‐month observational study was conducted from April 2000 to April 2001 in Mary Theresa and Sipetu hospitals (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa), including 1011 child‐hours of observation on the wards, medical record reviews, interviews with carers and staff, and inventories of essential supplies. All admissions (n = 193) for severe malnutrition to the two hospitals were studied. The main outcomes were the extent to which the 10 steps for routine care of severely malnourished children were implemented, proficiency of performance and constraining factors.
The hospitals made the changes required in clinical and dietary management, but the tasks were not always performed fully or with sufficient care. Play and stimulation and an effective system of follow‐up were not implemented. Doctors' poor knowledge, nurses' inattentiveness and insufficient interaction with carers were constraints to optimal management. The underlying factors were inadequate undergraduate training, understaffing, high doctor turnover and low morale.
Guidelines for severe malnutrition are largely feasible but training workshops are insufficient to achieve optimal management as staff turnover and an unsupportive health system erode the gains made and doctors treat cases without having being trained. Medical and nursing curricula in Africa must include treatment of severe malnutrition.
PMCID: PMC2083437  PMID: 16670119
12.  Treatment of Infections in Young Infants in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Frontline Health Worker Diagnosis and Antibiotic Access 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001741.
Anne C. C. Lee and colleagues assess the factors affecting access to treatment for neonatal and infant infections in low- and middle-income countries by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of frontline health worker diagnosis and access to antibiotics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Inadequate illness recognition and access to antibiotics contribute to high case fatality from infections in young infants (<2 months) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We aimed to address three questions regarding access to treatment for young infant infections in LMICs: (1) Can frontline health workers accurately diagnose possible bacterial infection (pBI)?; (2) How available and affordable are antibiotics?; (3) How often are antibiotics procured without a prescription?
Methods and Findings
We searched PubMed, Embase, WHO/Health Action International (HAI), databases, service provision assessments (SPAs), Demographic and Health Surveys, Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, and grey literature with no date restriction until May 2014. Data were identified from 37 published studies, 46 HAI national surveys, and eight SPAs. For study question 1, meta-analysis showed that clinical sign-based algorithms predicted bacterial infection in young infants with high sensitivity (87%, 95% CI 82%–91%) and lower specificity (62%, 95% CI 48%–75%) (six studies, n = 14,254). Frontline health workers diagnosed pBI in young infants with an average sensitivity of 82% (95% CI 76%–88%) and specificity of 69% (95% CI 54%–83%) (eight studies, n = 11,857) compared to physicians. For question 2, first-line injectable agents (ampicillin, gentamicin, and penicillin) had low variable availability in first-level health facilities in Africa and South Asia. Oral amoxicillin and cotrimoxazole were widely available at low cost in most regions. For question 3, no studies on young infants were identified, however 25% of pediatric antibiotic purchases in LMICs were obtained without a prescription (11 studies, 95% CI 18%–34%), with lower rates among infants <1 year. Study limitations included potential selection bias and lack of neonatal-specific data.
Trained frontline health workers may screen for pBI in young infants with relatively high sensitivity and lower specificity. Availability of first-line injectable antibiotics appears low in many health facilities in Africa and Asia. Improved data and advocacy are needed to increase the availability and appropriate utilization of antibiotics for young infant infections in LMICs.
Review Registration
PROSPERO International prospective register of systematic reviews (CRD42013004586).
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Neonatal mortality—death that occurs during the first 28 days of life—accounts for nearly half of all the deaths that occur in children before they reach their fifth birthday. Worldwide, nearly 3 million neonatal deaths occur every year. Three bacterial infections—sepsis (infection of the bloodstream), pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and meningitis (infection of the brain's protective covering)—are responsible for nearly a quarter of all neonatal deaths. Babies born in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at particularly high risk of developing neonatal bacterial infections because the risk factors for these infections, which include maternal infections and unhygienic delivery care, are more common in LMICs than in high-income countries. Babies born in LMICs are also at a high risk of dying from bacterial infections because access to appropriate medical care and antibiotics is often poor.
Why Was This Study Done?
To reduce neonatal deaths from bacterial infections in LMICs, health care experts need to identify the factors that limit access to medical care and antibiotics in these countries. Are babies dying because health care providers fail to diagnose neonatal bacterial infections, because antibiotics are not available in first-line health facilities, or for some other reason? In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers investigate access to treatment for neonatal bacterial infections in LMICs by first asking whether frontline health workers in LMICs can accurately diagnose bacterial infections in neonates and young infants (babies less than 2 months old). Next, they ask whether antibiotics for treating neonatal infections are available and affordable in LMICs. Finally, they ask how often antibiotics are procured for young children (children up to the age of 5 years) without a prescription. A systematic review uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 37 published studies, 46 surveys of drug availability and affordability in LMICs (Health Access International databases), and eight surveys of the capacity of health facilities in LMICs to provide quality health care services (service provision assessments) that met their inclusion criteria. Meta-analysis of six studies indicated that a combination of simple clinical signs for the diagnosis of bacterial infection in children predicted very severe disease in young infants with a sensitivity of 87% and a specificity of 62% (“sensitivity” indicates the percentage of true positives detected by a test; “specificity” indicates the percentage of healthy people that a test correctly identifies as healthy) compared to a physician's diagnosis with laboratory testing. Meta-analysis of eight studies indicated that frontline health workers (for example, community health workers) diagnosed very severe disease (including possible bacterial infection) in young infants with a sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 69% compared to trained physicians. The national surveys analyzed indicated that first-level (primary) health facilities in Africa and South Asia had low, variable stocks of recommended first-line injectable antibiotics and that the cost of these drugs was high. By contrast, some oral antibiotics were widely available at low cost in most regions. Finally, meta-analysis of 11 studies indicated that, in LMICs, 25% of antibiotic purchases for the treatment of young children were obtained without a prescription.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that trained frontline health workers should be able to identify most young infants who have possible bacterial infections in LMICs but may also diagnose bacterial infections in many young infants who are not infected. This may lead to the inappropriate use of antibiotics and facilitate the emergence of antibiotic resistance. These findings also show that the availability and affordability of first-line injectable antibiotics is low in many health facilities in Africa and Asia. The lack of neonatal-specific data on illness recognition, antibiotic formulations and availability, and other aspects of this systematic review and meta-analysis are likely to limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that, to decrease the neonatal death toll in LMICs, governments, policymakers, and the pharmaceutical industry need to work together to improve the diagnosis of neonatal bacterial infections and to increase the availability, affordability, and appropriate use of antibiotics for the treatment of these infections.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
WHO provides information on global efforts to reduce global child mortality and on ending preventable neonatal deaths (available in several languages)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on global efforts to reduce child mortality , and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about neonatal survival and health; its “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed” webpage includes links to its 2013 progress report and to videos about ending preventable child deaths
The WHO has published a report entitled UN Commission on Life Saving Commodities for Women and Children
The Healthy Newborn Network (NHH) is an online community of more than 80 partner organizations that addresses critical knowledge gaps in newborn health; its website includes information on neonatal infections in LMICs
Kidshealth, a resource provided by the not-for-profit Nemours Foundation, has information for parents on neonatal infections (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on neonatal sepsis (in English and Spanish)
A personal story about fatal neonatal bacterial meningitis is available on the website of Meningitis UK, a not-for-profit organization; the site also includes a survivor story
PMCID: PMC4196753  PMID: 25314011
13.  The effect of enhanced public–private partnerships on Maternal, Newborn and child Health Services and outcomes in Nairobi–Kenya: the PAMANECH quasi-experimental research protocol 
BMJ Open  2014;4(10):e006608.
Rapid urbanisation in Kenya has resulted in growth of slums in urban centres, characterised by poverty, inadequate social services and poor health outcomes. The government's initiatives to improve access to quality healthcare for mothers and children are largely limited to public health facilities, which are few and/or inaccessible in underserved areas such as the slums. The ‘Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’ (PAMANECH) project is being implemented in two Nairobi slums, Viwandani and Korogocho, to assess the impact of strengthening public–private partnerships for the delivery of healthcare on the health of mothers, newborns and young children in two informal settlements in Kenya.
Methods and analysis
This is a quasi-experimental study; our approach is to support private as well as public health providers and the community to enhance access to and demand for quality healthcare services. Key activities include: infrastructural upgrade of selected Private Not-For-Profit health facilities operating in the two slums, building capacity for healthcare providers as well as the Health Management Teams in Nairobi, facilitating provision of supportive supervision by the local health authorities and forming networks of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to create demand for health services. To assess the impact of the intervention, the study is utilising multiple data sources using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. A baseline survey was conducted in 2013 and an end-line survey will be conducted at least 1 year after full implementation of the intervention. Systematic monitoring and documentation of the intervention is on-going to strengthen the case for causal inference.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Kenya Medical Research Institute. Key messages from the results will be packaged and widely disseminated through workshops, conference presentations, reports, factsheets and academic publications to facilitate uptake by policymakers.
Protocol registration number
PMCID: PMC4208053  PMID: 25341452
Public-Private Partnerships; Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; Slums; Kenya
14.  Cost-effectiveness of strategies to improve the utilization and provision of maternal and newborn health care in low-income and lower-middle-income countries: a systematic review 
Each year almost 3 million newborns die within the first 28 days of life, 2.6 million babies are stillborn, and 287,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth worldwide. Effective and cost-effective interventions and behaviours for mothers and newborns exist, but their coverage remains inadequate in low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of deaths occur. Cost-effective strategies are needed to increase the coverage of life-saving maternal and newborn interventions and behaviours in resource-constrained settings.
A systematic review was undertaken on the cost-effectiveness of strategies to improve the demand and supply of maternal and newborn health care in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. Peer-reviewed and grey literature published since 1990 was searched using bibliographic databases, websites of selected organizations, and reference lists of relevant studies and reviews. Publications were eligible for inclusion if they report on a behavioural or health systems strategy that sought to improve the utilization or provision of care during pregnancy, childbirth or the neonatal period; report on its cost-effectiveness; and were set in one or more low-income or lower-middle-income countries. The quality of the publications was assessed using the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards statement. Incremental cost per life-year saved and per disability-adjusted life-year averted were compared to gross domestic product per capita.
Forty-eight publications were identified, which reported on 43 separate studies. Sixteen were judged to be of high quality. Common themes were identified and the strategies were presented in relation to the continuum of care and the level of the health system. There was reasonably strong evidence for the cost-effectiveness of the use of women’s groups, home-based newborn care using community health workers and traditional birth attendants, adding services to routine antenatal care, a facility-based quality improvement initiative to enhance compliance with care standards, and the promotion of breastfeeding in maternity hospitals. Other strategies reported cost-effectiveness measures that had limited comparability.
Demand and supply-side strategies to improve maternal and newborn health care can be cost-effective, though the evidence is limited by the paucity of high quality studies and the use of disparate cost-effectiveness measures.
Trial registration
PROSPERO_ CRD42012003255.
PMCID: PMC4223592  PMID: 25052536
Cost-effectiveness; Strategy; Intervention; Behaviour change; Service delivery; Maternal and newborn health care; Low-income countries; Lower-middle-income countries
15.  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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3409218  PMID: 22859945
16.  Effects of Two Commercial Electronic Prescribing Systems on Prescribing Error Rates in Hospital In-Patients: A Before and After Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(1):e1001164.
In a before-and-after study, Johanna Westbrook and colleagues evaluate the change in prescribing error rates after the introduction of two commercial electronic prescribing systems in two Australian hospitals.
Considerable investments are being made in commercial electronic prescribing systems (e-prescribing) in many countries. Few studies have measured or evaluated their effectiveness at reducing prescribing error rates, and interactions between system design and errors are not well understood, despite increasing concerns regarding new errors associated with system use. This study evaluated the effectiveness of two commercial e-prescribing systems in reducing prescribing error rates and their propensities for introducing new types of error.
Methods and Results
We conducted a before and after study involving medication chart audit of 3,291 admissions (1,923 at baseline and 1,368 post e-prescribing system) at two Australian teaching hospitals. In Hospital A, the Cerner Millennium e-prescribing system was implemented on one ward, and three wards, which did not receive the e-prescribing system, acted as controls. In Hospital B, the iSoft MedChart system was implemented on two wards and we compared before and after error rates. Procedural (e.g., unclear and incomplete prescribing orders) and clinical (e.g., wrong dose, wrong drug) errors were identified. Prescribing error rates per admission and per 100 patient days; rates of serious errors (5-point severity scale, those ≥3 were categorised as serious) by hospital and study period; and rates and categories of postintervention “system-related” errors (where system functionality or design contributed to the error) were calculated. Use of an e-prescribing system was associated with a statistically significant reduction in error rates in all three intervention wards (respectively reductions of 66.1% [95% CI 53.9%–78.3%]; 57.5% [33.8%–81.2%]; and 60.5% [48.5%–72.4%]). The use of the system resulted in a decline in errors at Hospital A from 6.25 per admission (95% CI 5.23–7.28) to 2.12 (95% CI 1.71–2.54; p<0.0001) and at Hospital B from 3.62 (95% CI 3.30–3.93) to 1.46 (95% CI 1.20–1.73; p<0.0001). This decrease was driven by a large reduction in unclear, illegal, and incomplete orders. The Hospital A control wards experienced no significant change (respectively −12.8% [95% CI −41.1% to 15.5%]; −11.3% [−40.1% to 17.5%]; −20.1% [−52.2% to 12.4%]). There was limited change in clinical error rates, but serious errors decreased by 44% (0.25 per admission to 0.14; p = 0.0002) across the intervention wards compared to the control wards (17% reduction; 0.30–0.25; p = 0.40). Both hospitals experienced system-related errors (0.73 and 0.51 per admission), which accounted for 35% of postsystem errors in the intervention wards; each system was associated with different types of system-related errors.
Implementation of these commercial e-prescribing systems resulted in statistically significant reductions in prescribing error rates. Reductions in clinical errors were limited in the absence of substantial decision support, but a statistically significant decline in serious errors was observed. System-related errors require close attention as they are frequent, but are potentially remediable by system redesign and user training. Limitations included a lack of control wards at Hospital B and an inability to randomize wards to the intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Medication errors—for example, prescribing the wrong drug or giving a drug by the wrong route—frequently occur in health care settings and are responsible for thousands of deaths every year. Until recently, medicines were prescribed and dispensed using systems based on hand-written scripts. In hospitals, for example, physicians wrote orders for medications directly onto a medication chart, which was then used by the nursing staff to give drugs to their patients. However, drugs are now increasingly being prescribed using electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) systems. With these systems, prescribers use a computer and order medications for their patients with the help of a drug information database and menu items, free text boxes, and prewritten orders for specific conditions (so-called passive decision support). The system reviews the patient's medication and known allergy list and alerts the physician to any potential problems, including drug interactions (active decision support). Then after the physician has responded to these alerts, the order is transmitted electronically to the pharmacy and/or the nursing staff who administer the prescription.
Why Was This Study Done?
By avoiding the need for physicians to write out prescriptions and by providing active and passive decision support, e-prescribing has the potential to reduce medication errors. But, even though many countries are investing in expensive commercial e-prescribing systems, few studies have evaluated the effects of these systems on prescribing error rates. Moreover, little is known about the interactions between system design and errors despite fears that e-prescribing might introduce new errors. In this study, the researchers analyze prescribing error rates in hospital in-patients before and after the implementation of two commercial e-prescribing systems.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined medication charts for procedural errors (unclear, incomplete, or illegal orders) and for clinical errors (for example, wrong drug or dose) at two Australian hospitals before and after the introduction of commercial e-prescribing systems. At Hospital A, the Cerner Millennium e-prescribing system was introduced on one ward; three other wards acted as controls. At Hospital B, the researchers compared the error rates on two wards before and after the introduction of the iSoft MedChart e-prescribing system. The introduction of an e-prescribing system was associated with a substantial reduction in error rates in the three intervention wards; error rates on the control wards did not change significantly during the study. At Hospital A, medication errors declined from 6.25 to 2.12 per admission after the introduction of e-prescribing whereas at Hospital B, they declined from 3.62 to 1.46 per admission. This reduction in error rates was mainly driven by a reduction in procedural error rates and there was only a limited change in overall clinical error rates. Notably, however, the rate of serious errors decreased across the intervention wards from 0.25 to 0.14 per admission (a 44% reduction), whereas the serious error rate only decreased by 17% in the control wards during the study. Finally, system-related errors (for example, selection of an inappropriate drug located on a drop-down menu next to a likely drug selection) accounted for 35% of errors in the intervention wards after the implementation of e-prescribing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the implementation of these two e-prescribing systems markedly reduced hospital in-patient prescribing error rates, mainly by reducing the number of incomplete, illegal, or unclear medication orders. The limited decision support built into both the e-prescribing systems used here may explain the limited reduction in clinical error rates but, importantly, both e-prescribing systems reduced serious medication errors. Finally, the high rate of system-related errors recorded in this study is worrying but is potentially remediable by system redesign and user training. Because this was a “real-world” study, it was not possible to choose the intervention wards randomly. Moreover, there was no control ward at Hospital B, and the wards included in the study had very different specialties. These and other aspects of the study design may limit the generalizability of these findings, which need to be confirmed and extended in additional studies. Even so, these findings provide persuasive evidence of the current and potential ability of commercial e-prescribing systems to reduce prescribing errors in hospital in-patients provided these systems are continually monitored and refined to improve their performance.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
ClinfoWiki has pages on medication errors and on electronic prescribing (note: the Clinical Informatics Wiki is a free online resource that anyone can add to or edit)
Electronic prescribing in hospitals challenges and lessons learned describes the implementation of e-prescribing in UK hospitals; more information about e-prescribing in the UK is available on the NHS Connecting for Health Website
The Clinicians Guide to e-Prescribing provides up-to-date information about e-prescribing in the USA
Information about e-prescribing in Australia is also available
Information about electronic health records in Australia
PMCID: PMC3269428  PMID: 22303286
17.  Are hospitals prepared to support newborn survival? – An evaluation of eight first-referral level hospitals in Kenya 
Newborn mortality in poor parts of the world remains unacceptably high. Basic hospital care may be an important component of attempts to save newborn lives but little is known about the capacity of such facilities to provide essential care to ill newborns.
To assess the availability of resources that support the provision of basic neonatal care in eight first-referral level (district) hospitals in Kenya.
We selected two hospitals each from four of Kenya's eight provinces with the aim of representing the diversity of this part of the health system in Kenya. We also created a checklist of 53 indicator items necessary for providing essential basic care to newborns and assessed their availability at each of the eight hospitals by direct observation. We compared our observations with the opinions of health workers providing care to newborns on recent availability for some items, using a self-administered structured questionnaire.
The hospitals surveyed were often unable to maintain a safe hygienic environment for patients and health care workers; staffing was insufficient and sometimes poorly organised to support the provision of care; some key equipment, laboratory tests, drugs and consumables were not available while patient management guidelines were missing in all sites.
Hospitals appear relatively poorly prepared to fill their proposed role in ensuring newborn survival. More effective interventions are needed to improve them to meet the special needs of this at-risk group.
PMCID: PMC2751740  PMID: 19695001
18.  Factors influencing performance of health workers in the management of seriously sick children at a Kenyan tertiary hospital - participatory action research 
Implementation of World Health Organization case management guidelines for serious childhood illnesses remains a challenge in hospitals in low-income countries. Facilitators of and barriers to implementation of locally adapted clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have not been explored.
This ethnographic study based on the theory of participatory action research (PAR) was conducted in Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya’s largest teaching hospital. The primary intervention consisted of dissemination of locally adapted CPGs. The PRECEDE-PROCEED health education model was used as the conceptual framework to guide and examine further reinforcement activities to improve the uptake of the CPGs. Activities focussed on introduction of routine clinical audits and tailored educational sessions. Data were collected by a participant observer who also facilitated the PAR over an eighteen-month period. Naturalistic inquiry was utilized to obtain information from all hospital staff encountered while theoretical sampling allowed in-depth exploration of emerging issues. Data were analysed using interpretive description.
Relevance of the CPGs to routine work and emergence of a champion of change facilitated uptake of best-practices. Mobilization of basic resources was relatively easily undertaken while activities that required real intellectual and professional engagement of the senior staff were a challenge. Accomplishments of the PAR were largely with the passive rather than active involvement of the hospital management. Barriers to implementation of best-practices included i) mismatch between the hospital’s vision and reality, ii) poor communication, iii) lack of objective mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating quality of clinical care, iv) limited capacity for planning strategic change, v) limited management skills to introduce and manage change, vi) hierarchical relationships, and vii) inadequate adaptation of the interventions to the local context.
Educational interventions, often regarded as ‘quick-fixes’ to improve care in low-income countries, may be necessary but are unlikely to be sufficient to deliver improved services. We propose that an understanding of organizational issues that influence the behaviour of individual health professionals should guide and inform the implementation of best-practices.
PMCID: PMC3942276  PMID: 24507629
Clinical audits; Clinical practice guidelines; Continuous medical educational sessions; ETAT+; Ethnographic study; Implementation of best-practices; Interpretive description; Participatory action research; Participant observer; Performance of health workers
19.  Evaluation of a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial of a Package of Community-Based Maternal and Newborn Interventions in Mirzapur, Bangladesh 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9696.
To evaluate a delivery strategy for newborn interventions in rural Bangladesh.
A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted in Mirzapur, Bangladesh. Twelve unions were randomized to intervention or comparison arm. All women of reproductive age were eligible to participate. In the intervention arm, community health workers identified pregnant women; made two antenatal home visits to promote birth and newborn care preparedness; made four postnatal home visits to negotiate preventive care practices and to assess newborns for illness; and referred sick neonates to a hospital and facilitated compliance. Primary outcome measures were antenatal and immediate newborn care behaviours, knowledge of danger signs, care seeking for neonatal complications, and neonatal mortality.
A total of 4616 and 5241 live births were recorded from 9987 and 11153 participants in the intervention and comparison arm, respectively. High coverage of antenatal (91% visited twice) and postnatal (69% visited on days 0 or 1) home visitations was achieved. Indicators of care practices and knowledge of maternal and neonatal danger signs improved. Adjusted mortality hazard ratio in the intervention arm, compared to the comparison arm, was 1.02 (95% CI: 0.80–1.30) at baseline and 0.87 (95% CI: 0.68–1.12) at endline. Primary causes of death were birth asphyxia (49%) and prematurity (26%). No adverse events associated with interventions were reported.
Lack of evidence for mortality impact despite high program coverage and quality assurance of implementation, and improvements in targeted newborn care practices suggests the intervention did not adequately address risk factors for mortality. The level and cause-structure of neonatal mortality in the local population must be considered in developing interventions. Programs must ensure skilled care during childbirth, including management of birth asphyxia and prematurity, and curative postnatal care during the first two days of life, in addition to essential newborn care and infection prevention and management.
Trial Registration NCT00198627
PMCID: PMC2844410  PMID: 20352087
20.  Newborn care in Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Philippines: a comprehensive needs assessment 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:46.
Between 1990 and 2011, global neonatal mortality decline was slower than that of under-five mortality. As a result, the proportion of under-five deaths due to neonatal mortality increased. This increase is primarily a consequence of decreasing post-neonatal and child under-five mortality as a result of the typical focus of child survival programmes of the past two decades on diseases affecting children over four weeks of age. Newborns are lagging behind in improved child health outcomes. The aim of this study was to conduct a comprehensive, equity-focussed newborn care assessment and to explore options to improve newborn survival in Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and the Philippines.
We assessed newborn health policies, services and care in the three countries through document review, interviews and health facility visits. Findings were triangulated to describe newborns’ health status, the health policy and the health system context for newborn care and the equity situation regarding newborn survival.
Main findings: (1) In the three countries, decline of neonatal mortality is lagging behind compared to that of under-five mortality. (2) Comprehensive newborn policies in line with international standards exist, although implementation remains poor. An important factor hampering implementation is decentralisation of the health sector, which created confusion regarding roles and responsibilities. Management capacity and skills at decentralised level were often found to be limited. (3) Quality of newborn care provided at primary healthcare and referral level is generally substandard. Limited knowledge and skills among providers of newborn care are contributing to poor quality of care. (4) Socio-economic and geographic inequities in newborn care are considerable.
Similar important challenges for newborn care have been identified in Indonesia, Lao PDR and the Philippines. There is an urgent need to address weak leadership and governance regarding newborn care, quality of newborn care provided and inequities in newborn care. Child survival programmes focussed on children over four weeks of age have shown to have positive outcomes. Similar efforts as those used in these programmes should be considered in newborn care.
PMCID: PMC3928581  PMID: 24528519
Newborn care; Needs assessment; Quality of care; Equity; Healthcare policy; South-East Asia
21.  An increase in the burden of neonatal admissions to a rural district hospital in Kenya over 19 years 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:591.
Most of the global neonatal deaths occur in developing nations, mostly in rural homes. Many of the newborns who receive formal medical care are treated in rural district hospitals and other peripheral health centres. However there are no published studies demonstrating trends in neonatal admissions and outcome in rural health care facilities in resource poor regions. Such information is critical in planning public health interventions. In this study we therefore aimed at describing the pattern of neonatal admissions to a Kenyan rural district hospital and their outcome over a 19 year period, examining clinical indicators of inpatient neonatal mortality and also trends in utilization of a rural hospital for deliveries.
Prospectively collected data on neonates is compared to non-neonatal paediatric (≤ 5 years old) admissions and deliveries' in the maternity unit at Kilifi District Hospital from January 1st 1990 up to December 31st 2008, to document the pattern of neonatal admissions, deliveries and changes in inpatient deaths. Trends were examined using time series models with likelihood ratios utilised to identify indicators of inpatient neonatal death.
The proportion of neonatal admissions of the total paediatric ≤ 5 years admissions significantly increased from 11% in 1990 to 20% by 2008 (trend 0.83 (95% confidence interval 0.45 -1.21). Most of the increase in burden was from neonates born in hospital and very young neonates aged < 7days. Hospital deliveries also increased significantly. Clinical diagnoses of neonatal sepsis, prematurity, neonatal jaundice, neonatal encephalopathy, tetanus and neonatal meningitis accounted for over 75% of the inpatient neonatal admissions. Inpatient case fatality for all ≤ 5 years declined significantly over the 19 years. However, neonatal deaths comprised 33% of all inpatient death among children aged ≤ 5 years in 1990, this increased to 55% by 2008. Tetanus 256/390 (67%), prematurity 554/1,280(43%) and neonatal encephalopathy 253/778(33%) had the highest case fatality. A combination of six indicators: irregular respiration, oxygen saturation of <90%, pallor, neck stiffness, weight < 1.5 kg, and abnormally elevated blood glucose > 7 mmol/l predicted inpatient neonatal death with a sensitivity of 81% and a specificity of 68%.
There is clear evidence of increasing burden in neonatal admissions at a rural district hospital in contrast to reducing numbers of non-neonatal paediatrics' admissions aged ≤ 5years. Though the inpatient case fatality for all admissions aged ≤ 5 years declined significantly, neonates now comprise close to 60% of all inpatient deaths. Simple indicators may identify neonates at risk of death.
PMCID: PMC2965720  PMID: 20925939
22.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
23.  Quality of surgical care in hospitals providing internship training in Kenya: a cross sectional survey. 
To evaluate services in hospitals providing internship training to graduate doctors in Kenya.
A survey of 22 internship training hospitals was conducted. Availability of key resources spanning infrastructure, personnel, equipment and drugs was assessed by observation. Outcomes and process of care for pre-specified priority conditions (head injury, chest injury, fractures, burns and acute abdomen) were evaluated by auditing case records.
Each hospital had at least one consultant surgeon. Scheduled surgical outpatient clinics, major ward rounds and elective (half day) theatre lists were provided once per week in 91%, 55% and 9%, respectively. In all other hospitals, these were conducted twice weekly. Basic drugs were not always available (e.g. gentamicin, morphine and pethidine in 50%, injectable antistaphylococcal penicillins in 5% hospitals). Fewer than half of hospitals had all resources needed to provide oxygen. One hundred and forty-five of 956 cases evaluated underwent operations under general or spinal anaesthesia. We found operation notes for 99% and anaesthetic records for 72%. Pre-operatively measured vital signs were recorded in 80% of cases, and evidence of consent to operation was found in 78%. Blood loss was documented in only one case and sponge and instrument counts in 7%.
Evaluation of surgical services would be improved by development and dissemination of clear standards of care. This survey suggests that internship hospitals may be poorly equipped and documented care suggests inadequacies in quality and training.
Evaluer les services dans les hôpitaux offrant des stages de formation à des médecins diplômés au Kenya.
Enquête auprès de 22 hôpitaux offrant des stages de formation. La disponibilité des ressources clés incluant infrastructure, personnel, matériel et médicaments a été évaluée par observation. Les résultats et processus de soins pour des affections prioritaires prédéfinies (blessure à la tête, blessure à la poitrine, fractures, brûlures et maux d'estomac aigus) ont été évalués par l'audit des dossiers des cas.
Chaque hôpital avait au moins un chirurgien consultant. Les cliniques chirurgicales ambulatoires planifiées, les principales tournées dans les chambres d'hospitalisation et des listes d'opérations choisies (demi-journée) ont été fournies une fois par semaine dans 91%, 55% et 9% des cas respectivement. Dans tous les autres hôpitaux, cela a été effectué deux fois par semaine. Les médicaments de base n’étaient pas toujours disponibles (par ex. la gentamicine, la morphine et la péthidine dans 50% des hôpitaux, les pénicillines anti-staphylococciques injectables dans 5%). Moins de la moitié des hôpitaux disposaient de toutes les ressources nécessaires pour fournir de l'oxygène. 145 sur 956 cas évalués ont subi des opérations sous anesthésie générale ou rachidienne. Nous avons retrouvé des notes d'opération pour 99% des cas et des dossiers d'anesthésie pour 72%. Les mesures préopératoires des signes vitaux ont été enregistrées dans 80% des cas et la preuve du consentement pour l'opération a été trouvée dans 78% des cas. La perte de sang a été documentée dans un seul cas et le comptage des éponges et instruments dans 7% des cas.
L’évaluation des services de chirurgie serait améliorée par le développement et la dissémination de normes de soins claires. Cette étude suggère que les hôpitaux offrant des stages peuvent être mal équipés et les soins enregistrés suggèrent des insuffisances dans la qualité et la formation.
Evaluar los servicios en hospitales que proveen entrenamiento a médicos graduados en Kenia.
Estudio en 22 hospitales universitarios con entrenamiento de médicos residentes. Se evaluó mediante observación la disponibilidad de recursos claves, incluyendo infraestructura, personal, equipamiento y medicamentos. Se evaluaron los resultados y procesos de cuidados para condiciones prioritarias especificadas previamente (traumatismo craneoencefálico, lesión torácica, fracturas, quemaduras y abdomen agudo) mediante la auditoría de historias clínicas.
Cada hospital tenía al menos un cirujano consultor. Se entregaban una vez por semana las listas de intervenciones quirúrgicas programadas en clínicas ambulatorias, en las rondas de visitas a las principales salas y las cirugías electivas (medio día) en 91%, 55% y 9% de los hospitales, respectivamente. En los demás hospitales se llevaban a cabo dos veces por semana. Los medicamentos básicos no estaban siempre disponibles (ej. gentamicina, morfina y meperidina en 50%, penicilina anti-estafilocócica inyectable 5% de los hospitales). Menos de la mitad de los hospitales tenían todos los recursos necesarios para proveer oxígeno. En 145 de 956 casos evaluados se llevó a cabo la cirugía con anestesia general o intradural. Encontramos apuntes quirúrgicos para un 99% y registros de la anestesia para el 72%. Se tenían registros de los signos vitales pre-quirúrgicos en un 80% de los casos y evidencia del consentimiento del paciente a ser intervenido en un 78%. Se documentaba pérdida de sangre solo en un caso y conteo de esponjas e instrumental en un 7%.
La evaluación de los servicios quirúrgicos podría mejorarse mediante el desarrollo y la diseminación de estándares de cuidados precisos. Este estudio sugiere que los hospitales universitarios podrían estar mal equipados y los cuidados documentados sugieren que existen deficiencias tanto a nivel calidad como en el entrenamiento.
PMCID: PMC4309502  PMID: 25348925
quality of care; surgery; hospital; trauma
24.  Improving paediatric and neonatal care in rural district hospitals in the highlands of Papua New Guinea: a quality improvement approach 
In developing countries such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), district hospitals play a vital role in clinical care, training health-care workers, implementing immunization and other public health programmes and providing necessary data on disease burdens and outcomes. Pneumonia and neonatal conditions are a major cause of child admission and death in hospitals throughout PNG. Oxygen therapy is an essential component of the management of pneumonia and neonatal conditions, but facilities for oxygen and care of the sick newborn are often inadequate, especially in district hospitals. Improving this area may be a vehicle for improving overall quality of care.
A qualitative study of five rural district hospitals in the highlands provinces of Papua New Guinea was undertaken. A structured survey instrument was used by a paediatrician and a biomedical technician to assess the quality of paediatric care, the case-mix and outcomes, resources for delivery of good-quality care for children with pneumonia and neonatal illnesses, existing oxygen systems and equipment, drugs and consumables, infection-control facilities and the reliability of the electricity supply to each hospital. A floor plan was drawn up for the installation of the oxygen concentrators and a plan for improving care of sick neonates, and a process of addressing other priorities was begun.
In remote parts of PNG, many district hospitals are run by under-resourced non-government organizations. Most hospitals had general wards in which both adults and children were managed together. Paediatric case-loads ranged between 232 and 840 patients per year with overall case-fatality rates (CFR) of 3–6% and up to 15% among sick neonates. Pneumonia accounts for 28–37% of admissions with a CFR of up to 8%. There were no supervisory visits by paediatricians, and little or no continuing professional development of staff. Essential drugs were mostly available, but basic equipment for the care of sick neonates was often absent or incomplete. Infection control measures were inadequate in most hospitals. Cylinders were the major source of oxygen for the district hospitals, and logistical problems and large indirect costs meant that oxygen was under-utilized. There were multiple electricity interruptions, but hospitals had back-up generators to enable the use of oxygen concentrators. After 6 months in each of the five hospitals, high-dependency care areas were planned, oxygen concentrators installed, staff trained in their use, and a plan was set out for improving neonatal care.
If MGD-4 targets for child health are to be met, reducing neonatal mortality and deaths from pneumonia will have to include better quality services in district hospitals. Establishing better oxygen supplies with a systems approach can be a vehicle for addressing other areas of quality and safety in district hospitals.
PMCID: PMC4153412  PMID: 24621233
Quality of paediatric care; Neonatal care; Oxygen therapy; District hospitals; Oxygen concentrators; Rural health
25.  Care Seeking for Neonatal Illness in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001183.
Hadley Herbert and colleagues systematically review newborn care-seeking behaviors by caregivers in low- and middle-income countries.
Despite recent achievements to reduce child mortality, neonatal deaths continue to remain high, accounting for 41% of all deaths in children under five years of age worldwide, of which over 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Infections are a leading cause of death and limitations in care seeking for ill neonates contribute to high mortality rates. As estimates for care-seeking behaviors in LMICs have not been studied, this review describes care seeking for neonatal illnesses in LMICs, with particular attention to type of care sought.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic literature review of studies that reported the proportion of caregivers that sought care for ill or suspected ill neonates in LMICs. The initial search yielded 784 studies, of which 22 studies described relevant data from community household surveys, facility-based surveys, and intervention trials. The majority of studies were from South Asia (n = 17/22), set in rural areas (n = 17/22), and published within the last 4 years (n = 18/22). Of the 9,098 neonates who were ill or suspected to be ill, 4,320 caregivers sought some type of care, including care from a health facility (n = 370) or provider (n = 1,813). Care seeking ranged between 10% and 100% among caregivers with a median of 59%. Care seeking from a health care provider yielded a similar range and median, while care seeking at a health care facility ranged between 1% and 100%, with a median of 20%. Care-seeking estimates were limited by the few studies conducted in urban settings and regions other than South Asia. There was a lack of consistency regarding illness, care-seeking, and care provider definitions.
There is a paucity of data regarding newborn care-seeking behaviors; in South Asia, care seeking is low for newborn illness, especially in terms of care sought from health care facilities and medically trained providers. There is a need for representative data to describe care-seeking patterns in different geographic regions and better understand mechanisms to enhance care seeking during this vulnerable time period.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide around 3.3 million babies die within their first month of life every year. While the global neonatal mortality rate has declined by 28% between 1990 and 2009 (from 33.2 deaths per 1,000 livebirths to 23.9), the proportion of under-five child deaths that are now in the neonatal period has increased in all regions of the world and currently stands at 41%. Of these deaths, over 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), making the risk of death in the neonatal period in LMICs more than six times higher than in high-income countries. In LMIC settings most babies are born at home so inappropriate and delayed care seeking can contribute substantially to neonatal mortality. Infection causes over a quarter of all deaths in neonates, but in LMICs diagnosis is often based on nonspecific clinical signs, which may delay the provision of care.
Why Was This Study Done?
In order to improve neonatal survival in LMICs, health care facilities and providers must not only be available and accessible but a baby's caregiver, often a parent or other family member, must also recognize that the baby is ill and seek help. To address this problem with effective strategies, an understanding is needed of the patterns of care-seeking behavior by babies' caregivers in seeking help from health-care facilities or providers. In this study, the researchers explored the extent and nature of care-seeking behaviors by the caregivers of ill babies in LMIC settings.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using multiple databases, the researchers conducted a comprehensive review up until October 2011 of all relevant studies including those that had not been formally published. Using specific criteria, the researchers then identified 22 appropriate studies (out of a possible 784) and recorded the same information from each study, including the number of neonates with illness or suspected illness, the number of care providers who sought care, and where care was sought. They also assessed the quality of each included study (the majority of which were from rural areas in South Asia) on the basis of a validated method for reviewing intervention effectiveness. The researchers found that the definitions of neonatal illness and care-seeking behavior varied considerably between studies or were not defined at all. Because of these inherent study differences it was not possible to statistically combine the results from the identified studies using a technique called meta-analysis, instead the researchers reported literature estimates and described their findings narratively.
The researchers' analysis included 9,098 neonates who were identified in community-based studies as being ill or suspected of being ill and a total of 4,320 related care-seeking events: care seeking ranged between 10% and 100% among caregivers including seeking care from a health facility (370) or from a health provider (1,813). Furthermore, between 4% to 100% of caregivers sought care from a trained medical provider and 4% to 48% specified receiving care at a health care facility: caregivers typically sought help from primary health care, secondary health care, and pharmacies and some from an unqualified health provider. The researchers also identified seven community-based intervention studies that included interventions such as essential newborn care, birth preparedness, and illness recognition, where all showed an increase in care seeking following the intervention.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings highlight the lack of a standardized and consistent approach to neonate care-seeking behaviors described in the literature. However, despite the large variations of results, care seeking for newborn illnesses in LMICs appears to be low in general and remains a key challenge to improving neonatal mortality. Global research efforts to define, understand, and address care seeking, may help to reduce the global burden of neonatal mortality. However, to achieve sustainable improvements in neonatal survival, changes are needed to both increase the demand for newborn care and strengthen health care systems to improve access to, and quality of, care. This review also shows that there is a role for interventions within the community to encourage appropriate and timely care seeking. Finally, by addressing the inconsistencies and establishing standardized terms to identify barriers to care, future studies may be able to better generalize the factors and delays that influence neonatal care seeking.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A recent PLoS Medicine study has the latest figures on neonatal mortality worldwide
UNICEF provides information about progress toward United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4
UNICEF also has information about neonatal mortality
The United Nations Population Fund has information on home births
PMCID: PMC3295826  PMID: 22412355

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