The mass media have excellent potential to promote good sexual and reproductive health outcomes, but around the world, media often fail to prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights issues or report them in an accurate manner. In sub-Saharan Africa media coverage of reproductive health issues is poor due to the weak capacity and motivation for reporting these issues by media practitioners. This paper describes the experiences of the African Population and Health Research Center and its partners in cultivating the interest and building the capacity of the media in evidence-based reporting of reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.
The paper utilizes a case study approach based primarily on the personal experiences and reflections of the authors (who played a central role in developing and implementing the Center’s communication and policy engagement strategies), a survey that the Center carried out with science journalists in Kenya, and literature review.
The African Population and Health Research Center’s media strategy evolved over the years, moving beyond conventional ways of communicating research through the media via news releases and newspaper stories, to varying approaches that sought to inspire and build the capacity of journalists to do evidence-based reporting of reproductive health issues. Specifically, the approach included 1) enhancing journalists’ interest in and motivation for reporting on reproductive health issues through training and competitive grants for outstanding reporting ; 2) building the capacity of journalists to report reproductive health research and the capacity of reproductive health researchers to communicate their research to media through training for both parties and providing technical assistance to journalists in obtaining and interpreting evidence; and 3) establishing and maintaining trust and mutual relationships between journalists and researchers through regular informal meetings between journalists and researchers, organizing field visits for journalists, and building formal partnerships with professional media associations and individual journalists.
Our experiences and reflections, and the experiences of others reviewed in this paper, indicate that a sustained mix of strategies that motivate, strengthen capacity of, and build relationships between journalists and researchers can be effective in enhancing quality and quantity of media coverage of research.
Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV issues are often controversial and neglected, leading to challenges with engaging policy actors. Research evidence is complex, posing further challenges for ensuring that policy and practice are evidence-based. Many health researchers are adopting innovative approaches to engaging stakeholders in their research, yet these experiences are not often shared. This qualitative study focuses on the research communication and policy influencing objectives, strategies and experiences of four research consortia working on SRH, HIV and AIDS.
We carried out 22 in-depth interviews with researchers and communications specialists (research actors) from the four consortia and their partners, working in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Using the ‘framework’ approach to qualitative data analysis, we identified factors that affect the interaction of research evidence with policy and practice. We used the ODI RAPID analytical framework to present these results, adapting this tool by incorporating the actions, strategies and positionality of research actors.
The characteristics of researchers and their institutions, policy context, the multiplicity of actors, and the nature of the research evidence all play a role in policy influencing processes. Research actors perceived a trend towards increasingly intensive and varied communication approaches. Effective influencing strategies include making strategic alliances and coalitions and framing research evidence in ways that are most attractive to particular policy audiences. Tensions include the need to identify and avoid unnecessary communication or unintended impacts, challenges in assessing and attributing impact and the need for adequate resources and skills for communications work.
We contend that the adapted RAPID framework can serve as a tool for research actors to use in resolving these tensions, through facilitating a reflexive approach to considering their own combination of attributes, skills, networks and objectives and the ways these relate to policy contexts, actors and processes.
In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) there are strong arguments for the provision of integrated sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services. Most HIV transmissions are sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Many of the behaviours that prevent HIV transmission also prevent sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. There is potential for integration to increase the coverage of HIV services, as individuals who use SRH services can benefit from HIV services and vice-versa, as well as increase cost-savings. However, there is a dearth of empirical evidence on effective models for integrating HIV/SRH services. The need for robust evidence led a consortium of three organizations – International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Council and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – to design/implement the Integra Initiative. Integra seeks to generate rigorous evidence on the feasibility, effectiveness, cost and impact of different models for delivering integrated HIV/SRH services in high and medium HIV prevalence settings in SSA.
A quasi-experimental study will be conducted in government clinics in Kenya and Swaziland – assigned into intervention/comparison groups. Two models of service delivery are investigated: integrating HIV care/treatment into 1) family planning and 2) postnatal care. A full economic-costing will be used to assess the costs of different components of service provision, and the determinants of variations in unit costs across facilities/service models. Health facility assessments will be conducted at four time-periods to track changes in quality of care and utilization over time. A two-year cohort study of family planning/postnatal clients will assess the effect of integration on individual outcomes, including use of SRH services, HIV status (known/unknown) and pregnancy (planned/unintended). Household surveys within some of the study facilities’ catchment areas will be conducted to profile users/non-users of integrated services and demand/receipt of integrated services, before-and-after the intervention. Qualitative research will be conducted to complement the quantitative component at different time points. Integra takes an embedded ‘programme science’ approach to maximize the uptake of findings into policy/practice.
Integra addresses existing evidence gaps in the integration evaluation literature, building on the limited evidence from SSA and the expertise of its research partners.
Current Controlled Trials NCT01694862
Sexual and reproductive health; HIV services; Integration; Sub-Saharan Africa
Research institutions and donor organizations are giving growing attention to how research evidence is communicated to influence policy. In the area of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV there is less weight given to understanding how evidence is successfully translated into practice. Policy issues in SRH can be controversial, influenced by political factors and shaped by context such as religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
The case-studies presented in this paper analyse findings from SRH/HIV research programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: 1) Maternal syphilis screening in Ghana, 2) Legislative change for sexual violence survivors In Ghana, 3) Male circumcision policy in South Africa, and 4) Male circumcision policy in Tanzania. Our analysis draws on two frameworks, Sumner et al’s synthesis approach and Nutley’s research use continuum.
The analysis emphasises the relationships and communications involved in using research to influence policy and practice and recognises a distinction whereby practice is not necessarily influenced as a result of policy change – especially in SRH – where there are complex interactions between policy actors.
Both frameworks demonstrate how policy networks, partnership and advocacy are critical in shaping the extent to which research is used and the importance of on-going and continuous links between a range of actors to maximize research impact on policy uptake and implementation. The case-studies illustrate the importance of long-term engagement between researchers and policy makers and how to use evidence to develop policies which are sensitive to context: political, cultural and practical.
Canada is a major recipient of foreign-trained health professionals, notably physicians from South Africa and other sub-Saharan African countries. Nurse migration from these countries, while comparatively small, is rising. African countries, meanwhile, have a critical shortage of professionals and a disproportionate burden of disease. What policy options could Canada pursue that balanced the right to health of Africans losing their health workers with the right of these workers to seek migration to countries such as Canada?
We interviewed a small sample of émigré South African physicians (n = 7) and a larger purposive sample of representatives of Canadian federal, provincial, regional and health professional departments/organizations (n = 25); conducted a policy colloquium with stakeholder organizations (n = 21); and undertook new analyses of secondary data to determine recent trends in health human resource flows between sub-Saharan Africa and Canada.
Flows from sub-Saharan Africa to Canada have increased since the early 1990s, although they may now have peaked for physicians from South Africa. Reasons given for this flow are consistent with other studies of push/pull factors. Of 8 different policy options presented to study participants, only one received unanimous strong support (increasing domestic self-sufficiency), one other received strong support (increased health system strengthening in source country), two others mixed support (voluntary codes on ethical recruitment, bilateral or multilateral agreements to manage flows) and four others little support or complete rejection (increased training of auxiliary health workers in Africa ineligible for licensing in Canada, bonding, reparation payments for training-cost losses and restrictions on immigration of health professionals from critically underserved countries).
Reducing pull factors by improving domestic supply and reducing push factors by strengthening source country health systems have the greatest policy traction in Canada. The latter, however, is not perceived as presently high on Canadian stakeholder organizations' policy agendas, although support for it could grow if it is promoted. Canada is not seen as "actively' recruiting" ("poaching") health workers from developing countries. Recent changes in immigration policy, ongoing advertising in southern African journals and promotion of migration by private agencies, however, blurs the distinction between active and passive recruitment.
At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, the global community agreed to the goal of achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights by 2015. This research explores the accelerators and decelerators of achieving universal access to the sexual and reproductive health targets and accordingly makes some suggestions.
We have critically reviewed the latest national reports and extracted the background data on each SRH indicator. The key stakeholders, both national and international, were visited and interviewed at two sites. A total of 55 in-depth interviews were conducted with religious leaders, policy-makers, senior managers, senior academics, and health care managers. Six focus-group discussions were also held among health care providers. The study was qualitative in nature.
Obstacles on the road to achieving universal access to SRH can be viewed from two perspectives. One gap exists between current achievements and the targets. The other gap arises due to age, marital status, and residency status. The most recently observed trends in the indicators of the universal access to SRH shows that the achievements in the “unmet need for family planning” have been poor. Unmet need for family planning could directly be translated to unwanted pregnancies and unwanted childbirths; the former calls for sexual education to underserved people, including adolescents; and the latter calls for access to safe abortion. Local religious leaders have not actively attended international goal-setting programs. Therefore, they usually do not presume a positive attitude towards these goals. Such negative attitudes seem to be the most important factors hindering the progress towards universal access to SRH. Lack of international donors to fund for SRH programs is also another barrier. In national levels both state and the society are interactively playing their roles. We have used a cascade model for presenting the barriers at the state levels from the strategic planning to implementation. Social factors are to be considered as a background for other factors at all stages.
Accelerating universal access to SRH requires adequate funding, firm political commitment, creative programming, and the involvement of diverse actors, including faith-based, civil society, and private sector partners.
Iran; Health system; Sexual and reproductive health; Universal access; Millennium development goal
Integration of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services is a policy priority, both globally and in South Africa. Recent studies examining SRH/HIV integration in South Africa have focused primarily on the SRH needs of HIV patients, and less on the policy and service-delivery environment in which these programs operate. To fill this gap we undertook a qualitative study to elicit the views of key informants on policy-and service-level challenges and opportunities for improving integrated SRH and HIV care in South Africa. This study comprised formative research for the development of an integrated service delivery model in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province.
Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 21 expert key informants from the South African Department of Health, and local and international NGOs and universities. Thematic codes were generated from a subset of the transcripts, and these were modified, refined and organized during coding and analysis.
While there was consensus among key informants on the need for more integrated systems of SRH and HIV care in South Africa, a range of inter-related systems factors at policy and service-delivery levels were identified as challenges to delivering integrated care. At the policy level these included vertical programming, lack of policy guidance on integrated care, under-funding of SRH, program territorialism, and weak referral systems; at the service level, factors included high client load, staff shortages and insufficient training and skills in SRH, resistance to change, and inadequate monitoring systems related to integration. Informants had varying views on the best way to achieve integration: while some favored a one-stop shop approach, others preferred retaining sub-specialisms while strengthening referral systems. The introduction of task-shifting policies and decentralization of HIV treatment to primary care provide opportunities for integrating services.
Now that HIV treatment programs have been scaled up, actions are needed at both policy and service-delivery levels to develop an integrated approach to the provision of SRH and HIV services in South Africa. Concurrent national policies to deliver HIV treatment within a primary care context can be used to promote more integrated approaches.
HIV; Family planning; Reproductive health; Sexual health; Integrated delivery of healthcare; South Africa
There is growing interest in the ways in which legal and human rights issues related to sex work affect sex workers’ vulnerability to HIV and abuses including human trafficking and sexual exploitation. International agencies, such as UNAIDS, have called for decriminalisation of sex work because the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services is affected by criminalisation and social exclusion as experienced by sex workers. The paper reflects on the connections in various actors’ framings between sex workers sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the ways that international law is interpreted in policing and regulatory practices.
The literature review that informs this paper was carried out by the authors in the course of their work within the Paulo Longo Research Initiative. The review covered academic and grey literature such as resources generated by sex worker rights activists, UN policy positions and print and online media. The argument in this paper has been developed reflectively through long term involvement with key actors in the field of sex workers’ rights.
International legislation characterises sex work in various ways which do not always accord with moves toward decriminalisation. Law, policy and regulation at national level and law enforcement vary between settings. The demands of sex worker rights activists do relate to sexual and reproductive health but they place greater emphasis on efforts to remove the structural barriers that limit sex workers’ ability to participate in society on an equal footing with other citizens.
Discussion and conclusion
There is a tension between those who wish to uphold the rights of sex workers in order to reduce vulnerability to ill-health and those who insist that sex work is itself a violation of rights. This is reflected in contemporary narratives about sex workers’ rights and the ways in which different actors interpret human rights law. The creation of regulatory frameworks around sex work that support health, safety and freedom from abuse requires a better understanding of the broad scope of laws, policies and enforcement practices in different cultural contexts and economic settings, alongside reviews of UN policies and human rights conventions.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a major public health issue across the globe, and it is of particular concern in sub-Saharan Africa. Utilization of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services can significantly impact HIV prevention, transmission, and treatment. SRH service utilization may be determined by individual characteristics, such as education and economic status, but also by the location and accessibility of health care facilities. Using population-based survey data, this study applies exploratory spatial analysis techniques to examine spatial patterns of SRH service utilization among rural married women in southern Mozambique. Clustering among those using services is found as are spatial associations, indicating significant spatial variability in the utilization of health services. The findings provide valuable insights for current and future health care program planning and configuration.
HIV testing; Family planning; Health care utilization; GIS; Spatial analysis
The European eHealth Strategies study analyzed policy development and strategy planning, implementation measures as well as progress achieved with respect to national and regional eHealth solutions in 34 European countries, with emphasis on barriers and enablers beyond technology. The focus was on infrastructure elements and selected solutions emphasized in the European Union eHealth Action Plan of 2004. At the governance level, issues around administrative responsibility and competence centers, stakeholder engagement, legal and regulatory facilitators, financing and reimbursement, and evaluation activities were surveyed. Solutions analyzed included patient summaries and electronic health records, ePrescription, telehealth, electronic identifiers, eCards as well standardization aspects. Results indicate that across Europe eHealth has matured from a policy debate to a very tangible, implementation oriented endeavor.
Fertility is affected by many different cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic factors, especially in developing countries where poverty and infections are commonplace. Environmental factors play a major role in infertility in Africa. One of the most important health problems in sub-Saharan Africa is the high rate of infertility and childlessness. The African society has a strong traditional heritage, and the study of the patterns of infertility in this part of the world would be incomplete without consideration of the sociocultural and environmental factors. The most cost-effective approach to solving the infertility problems in Africa is prevention and education. In Mexico, problems of reproductive health are associated with pregnancy in adolescents, sexually transmitted diseases and genitourinary neoplasms. Infertility affects 10% of couples, usually as a result of asymptomatic infection. Education, poverty, nutrition, and pollution are problems that must be tackled. The government has taken positive action in the State of São Paulo in Brazil, where gender discrimination is a major factor affecting women's health and reproductive outcomes. The implementation of new policies with adequate funding has resulted in marked improvements.
Significant investment in eHealth solutions is being made in nearly every country of the world. How do we know that these investments and the foregone opportunity costs are the correct ones? Absent, poor, or vague eHealth strategy is a significant barrier to effective investment in, and implementation of, sustainable eHealth solutions and establishment of an eHealth favorable policy environment. Strategy is the driving force, the first essential ingredient, that can place countries in charge of their own eHealth destiny and inform them of the policy necessary to achieve it. In the last 2 years, there has been renewed interest in eHealth strategy from the World Health Organization (WHO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the African Union, and the Commonwealth; yet overall, the literature lacks clear guidance to inform countries why and how to develop their own complementary but locally specific eHealth strategy. To address this gap, this paper further develops an eHealth Strategy Development Framework, basing it upon a conceptual framework and relevant theories of strategy and complex system analysis available from the literature. We present here the rationale, theories, and final eHealth strategy development framework by which a systematic and methodical approach can be applied by institutions, subnational regions, and countries to create holistic, needs- and evidence-based, and defensible eHealth strategy and to ensure wise investment in eHealth.
eHealth strategy; eHealth strategy development framework; eHealth; telehealth; telemedicine; e-learning
This commentary introduces the HARPS supplement on getting research into policy and practice in sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The papers in this supplement have been produced by the Sexual Health and HIV Evidence into Practice (SHHEP) collaboration of international research, practitioner and advocacy organizations based in research programmes funded by the UK Department for International Development.
The commentary describes the increasing interest from research and communication practitioners, policy makers and funders in expanding the impact of research on policy and practice. It notes the need for contextually embedded understanding of ways to engage multiple stakeholders in the politicized, sensitive and often contested arenas of sexual and reproductive health. The commentary then introduces the papers under their respective themes: (1) The theory and practice of research engagement (two global papers); (2) Applying policy analysis to explore the role of research evidence in SRH and HIV/AIDS policy (two papers with examples from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia); (3) Strategies and methodologies for engagement (five papers on Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Swaziland respectively); (4) Advocacy and engagement to influence attitudes on controversial elements of sexual health (two papers, Bangladesh and global); and (5) Institutional approaches to inter-sectoral engagement for action and strengthening research communications (two papers, Ghana and global).
The papers illustrate the many forms research impact can take in the field of sexual and reproductive health. This includes discursive changes through carving out legitimate spaces for public debate; content changes such as contributing to changing laws and practices, procedural changes such as influencing how data on SRH are collected, and behavioural changes through partnerships with civil society actors such as advocacy groups and journalists.
The contributions to this supplement provide a body of critical analysis of communication and engagement strategies across the spectrum of SRH and HIV/AIDS research through the testing of different models for the research-to-policy interface. They provide new insights on how researchers and communication specialists can respond to changing policy climates to create windows of opportunity for influence.
Policies relating to contraceptive services (population, family planning and reproductive health policies) often receive weak or fluctuating levels of commitment from national policy elites in Southern countries, leading to slow policy evolution and undermining implementation. This is true of Kenya, despite the government's early progress in committing to population and reproductive health policies, and its success in implementing them during the 1980s. This key informant study on family planning policy in Kenya found that policy space contracted, and then began to expand, because of shifts in contextual factors, and because of the actions of different actors. Policy space contracted during the mid-1990s in the context of weakening prioritization of reproductive health in national and international policy agendas, undermining access to contraceptive services and contributing to the stalling of the country's fertility rates. However, during the mid-2000s, champions of family planning within the Kenyan Government bureaucracy played an important role in expanding the policy space through both public and hidden advocacy activities. The case study demonstrates that policy space analysis can provide useful insights into the dynamics of routine policy and programme evolution and the challenge of sustaining support for issues even after they have reached the policy agenda.
Policy analysis; family planning; health policy; contraception
Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Zambia is dealing with major health issues, including HIV/AIDS, family planning, and reproductive health. To address reproductive health problems and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zambia, several social marketing and health communication programs focusing on reproductive and HIV/AIDS prevention programs are being implemented. This paper describes the reach of these programs and assesses their impact on condom use.
This paper assesses the reach of selected radio and television programs about family planning and HIV/AIDS and of communications about the socially marketed Maximum condoms in Zambia, as well as their impact on condom use, using data from the 2001–2002 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey. To control for self-selection and endogeneity, we use a two-stage regression model to estimate the effect of program exposure on the behavioural outcomes.
Those who were exposed to radio and television programs about family planning and HIV/AIDS were more likely to have ever used a condom (OR = 1.16 for men and 1.06 for women). Men highly exposed to Maximum condoms social marketing communication were more likely than those with low exposure to the program to have ever used a condom (OR = 1.48), and to have used a condom at their last sexual intercourse (OR = 1.23).
Findings suggest that the reproductive health and social marketing campaigns in Zambia reached a large portion of the population and had a significant impact on condom use. The results suggest that future reproductive health communication campaigns that invest in radio programming may be more effective than those investing in television programming, and that future campaigns should seek to increase their impact among women, perhaps by focusing on the specific constrains that prevent females from using condoms.
In an effort to contain the frequently devastating epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa, the
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa launched the Integrated Disease
Surveillance and Response (IDSR) strategy in an effort to strengthen surveillance and
response. However, 36 sub-Saharan African countries have been described as experiencing a
human resource crisis by the WHO. Given this human resource situation, the challenge
remains for these countries to achieve, among others, the health-related Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). This paper describes the process through which the African Field
Epidemiology Network (AFENET) was developed, as well as how AFENET has contributed to
addressing the public health workforce crisis, and the development of human resource
capacity to implement IDSR in Africa. AFENET was established between 2005 and 2006 as a
network of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) and Field Epidemiology and
Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) in Africa. This resulted from an expressed need to
develop a network that would advocate for the unique needs of African FETPs and FELTPs,
provide service to its membership, and through which programs could develop joint projects
to address the public health needs of their countries. A total of eight new programs have
been developed in sub-Saharan Africa since 2006. Programs established after 2006 represent
over 70% of current FETP and FELTP enrolment in Africa. In addition to growth in
membership and programs, AFENET has recorded significant growth in external partnerships.
Beginning with USAID, CDC and WHO in 2004-2006, a total of at least 26 partners have been
added by 2011. Drawing from lessons learnt, AFENET is now a resource that can be relied
upon to expand public health capacity in Africa in an efficient and practical manner.
National, regional and global health actors can leverage it to meet health-related targets
at all levels. The AFENET story is one that continues to be driven by a clearly recognized
need within Africa to develop a network that would serve public health systems
development, looking beyond the founders, and using the existing capacity of the founders
and partners to help other countries build capacity for IDSR and the International Health
Regulations (IHR, 2005).
African Field Epidemiology Network; AFENET; Network
HIV control efforts in sub-Saharan Africa meet with difficulties. Incidence and prevalence remains high, and little behaviour change seems to have taken place. The focus on HIV control has shifted to anti-retroviral therapy (ART), although this is unlikely either to be cost-effective or the reduce the incidence of HIV. There is reason to change the current approach. Three questions arise: Is there a need to adjust the view on the determinants of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa? Are the right things being done to control HIV? Are the things that are being done, done in the right way? We try to answer these questions. The determinants of the epidemic are reviewed and summarized in Figure 2. The need to adjust the view on the determinants and get rid of myths is stressed. A possible, locally adaptable intervention mix is outlined. Male circumcision is a key intervention where socially acceptable. Operationalisation and organisational changes are briefly discussed. Conclusively, the need for a “social revolution” through the opening up of a discussion on sexuality in the community, as well as a focus on cost-effective interventions and a slimmed down, more effective organisation is underlined. Such steps might make it possible to considerably reduce HIV-incidence, even in low-income countries.
HIV; AIDS; prevention; determinants; stigma; “social revolution”; operationalisation
The global resurgence of interest in the social determinants of health provides an opportunity for determined action on unacceptable and unjust health inequalities that exist within and between countries. This paper reviews three categories of social inclusion policies: cash-transfers; free social services; and specific institutional arrangements for programme integration in six selected countries—Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. The policies were appraised as part of the Social Exclusion Knowledge Network (SEKN) set up under the auspices of the World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health. The paper highlights the development landscape in sub-Saharan Africa and presents available indicators of the scale of inequity in the six countries. A summary of the policies appraised is presented, including whether or what the impact of these policies has been on health inequalities. Cross-cutting benefits include poverty alleviation, notably among vulnerable children and youths, improved economic opportunities for disadvantaged households, reduction in access barriers to social services, and improved nutrition intake. The impact of these benefits, and hence the policies, on health status can only be inferred. Among the policies reviewed, weaknesses or constraints were in design and implementation. The policy design weaknesses include targeting criteria, their enforcement and latent costs, inadequate parti-cipation of the community and failure to take the cultural context into account. A major weakness of most policies was the lack of a monitoring and evaluation system, with clear indicators that incorporate system responsiveness. The policy implementation weaknesses include uneven regional implementation with rural areas worst affected; inadequate or poor administrative and implementation capacity; insufficient resources; problems of fraud and corruption; and lack of involvement of civil servants, exacerbating implementation capacity problems. The key messages to sub-Saharan African governments include: health inequalities must be measured; social policies must be carefully designed and effectively implemented addressing the constraints identified; monitoring and evaluation systems need improvement; and participation of the community needs to be encouraged through conducive and enabling environments. There is a need for a strong movement by civil society to address health inequalities and to hold governments accountable for improved health and reduced health inequalities.
Health inequalities; Social Exclusion Knowledge Network; Social inclusion; Sub-Saharan Africa
This article describes and analyses a research based engagement by a university school of public health in Bangladesh aimed at raising public debate on sexuality and rights and making issues such as discrimination more visible to policy makers and other key stakeholders in a challenging context. The impetus for this work came from participation in an international research programme with a particular interest in bridging international and local understandings of sexual and reproductive rights. The research team worked to create a platform to broaden discussions on sexuality and rights by building on a number of research activities on rural and urban men’s and women’s sexual health concerns, and on changing concepts of sexuality and understandings of sexual rights among specific population groups in Dhaka city, including sexual minorities. Linked to this on-going process of improving the evidence base, there has been a series of learning and capacity building activities over the last four years consisting of training workshops, meetings, conferences and dialogues. These brought together different configurations of stakeholders – members of sexual minorities, academics, service providers, advocacy organisations, media and policy makers. This process contributed to developing more effective advocacy strategies through challenging representations of sexuality and rights in the public domain. Gradually, these efforts brought visibility to hidden or stigmatised sexuality and rights issues through interim outcomes that have created important steps towards changing attitudes and policies. These included creating safe spaces for sexual minorities to meet and strategise, development of learning materials for university students and engagement with legal rights groups on sexual rights. Through this process, it was found to be possible to create a public space and dialogue on sexuality and rights in a conservative and challenging environment like Bangladesh by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to successfully challenge representations of sexuality in the public arena. A further challenge for BRAC University has been to assess its role as a teaching and research organisation, and find a balance between the two roles of research and activism in doing work on sexuality issues in a very sensitive political context.
The motivation of health workers (HWs) to deliver services in developing countries has been described as a critical factor in the success of health systems in implementing programmes. How the sociocultural context of Papua New Guinea (PNG) affects the values, motivation and actions of HWs involved in sexual and reproductive health services is important for policy development and programme planning. With interest in male circumcision (MC) as an HIV prevention option in PNG, this study explored the perceptions and motivations of HWs involved in sexual and reproductive health services in PNG, examining their implications for the possible future roll out of a national MC programme.
A multi-method qualitative study was conducted with HWs across a range of health care professions working in sexual health facilities. A total of 29 in-depth interviews and one focus group discussion were completed. Qualitative thematic analysis of the transcripts and field notes was undertaken using a social constructivist approach and complemented by documentary organizational, programme and policy analysis.
Results and discussions
Introduction of new health programmes, such as a MC programme for HIV prevention, are likely to impact upon one or more of the many motivational determinants. Social–cultural and individual factors influencing HW motivation to be involved in sexual and reproductive health services in PNG included community expectation and concern, sense of accomplishment and religious conviction. Strong links to community responsibility outweighed organizational ties. Faced with an often dysfunctional work environment, HWs perceived themselves as responsible to compensate for the failed health system. The impact of community influence and expectation needs to be considered when introducing a MC programme, particularly to communities in PNG where penile foreskin cutting is a common and accepted practice.
The potential contribution to the success of a MC programme that HWs may have means that taking into account the differing needs of communities as well as the motivational influences on HWs that exist within the sociocultural environment is important. These findings will assist not only in programme planning for MC, but also in the expansion of other existing sexual and reproductive health services.
Although evidence-based interventions to reach the Millennium Development Goals for Maternal and Neonatal mortality reduction exist, they have not yet been operationalised and scaled up in Sub-Saharan African cultural and health systems. A key concern is whether these internationally recommended practices are acceptable and will be demanded by the target community. We explored the acceptability of these interventions in two rural districts of Uganda.
We conducted 10 focus group discussions consisting of mothers, fathers, grand parents and child minders (older children who take care of other children). We also did 10 key informant interviews with health workers and traditional birth attendants.
Most maternal and newborn recommended practices are acceptable to both the community and to health service providers. However, health system and community barriers were prevalent and will need to be overcome for better neonatal outcomes. Pregnant women did not comprehend the importance of attending antenatal care early or more than once unless they felt ill. Women prefer to deliver in health facilities but most do not do so because they cannot afford the cost of drugs and supplies which are demanded in a situation of poverty and limited male support. Postnatal care is non-existent. For the newborn, delayed bathing and putting nothing on the umbilical cord were neither acceptable to parents nor to health providers, requiring negotiation of alternative practices.
The recommended maternal-newborn practices are generally acceptable to the community and health service providers, but often are not practiced due to health systems and community barriers. Communities associate the need for antenatal care attendance with feeling ill, and postnatal care is non-existent in this region. Health promotion programs to improve newborn care must prioritize postnatal care, and take into account the local socio-cultural situation and health systems barriers including the financial burden. Male involvement and promotion of waiting shelters at selected health units should be considered in order to increase access to supervised deliveries. Scale-up of the evidence based practices for maternal-neonatal health in Sub-Saharan Africa should follow rapid appraisal and adaptation of intervention packages to address the local health system and socio-cultural situation.
Recently, surgical services have been gaining greater attention as an integral part of public health in low-income countries due to the significant volume and burden of surgical conditions, growing evidence of the cost-effectiveness of surgical intervention, and global disparities in surgical care. Nonetheless, there has been limited discussion of the key aspects of health policy related to surgical services in low-income countries. Uganda, like other low-income sub-Saharan African countries, bears a heavy burden of surgical conditions with low surgical output in health facilities and significant unmet need for surgical care. To address this lack of adequate surgical services in Uganda, a diverse group of local stakeholders met in Kampala, Uganda, in May 2008 to develop a roadmap of key policy actions that would improve surgical services at the national level. The group identified a list of health policy priorities to improve surgical services in Uganda. The priorities were classified into three areas: (1) human resources, (2) health systems, and (3) research and advocacy. This article is a critical discussion of these health policy priorities with references to recent literature. This was the first such multidisciplinary meeting in Uganda with a focus on surgical services and its output may have relevance to health policy development in other low-income countries planning to improve delivery of surgical services.
Continued inequities in coverage, low quality of care, and high out-of-pocket expenses for health services threaten attainment of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 in many sub-Saharan African countries. Existing health systems largely rely on input-based supply mechanisms that have a poor track record meeting the reproductive health needs of low-income and underserved segments of national populations. As a result, there is increased interest in and experimentation with results-based mechanisms like supply-side performance incentives to providers and demand-side vouchers that place purchasing power in the hands of low-income consumers to improve uptake of facility services and reduce the burden of out-of-pocket expenditures. This paper describes a reproductive health voucher program that contracts private facilities in Uganda and explores the policy and implementation issues associated with expansion of the program to include public sector facilities.
Data presented here describes the results of interviews of six district health officers and four health facility managers purposefully selected from seven districts with the voucher program in southwestern Uganda. Interviews were transcribed and organized thematically, barriers to seeking RH care were identified, and how to address the barriers in a context where voucher coverage is incomplete as well as opportunities and challenges for expanding the program by involving public sector facilities were investigated.
The findings show that access to sexual and reproductive health services in southwestern Uganda is constrained by both facility and individual level factors which can be addressed by inclusion of the public facilities in the program. This will widen the geographical reach of facilities for potential clients, effectively addressing distance related barriers to access of health care services. Further, intensifying ongoing health education, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and integrating the voucher program with other services is likely to address some of the barriers. The public sector facilities were also seen as being well positioned to provide voucher services because of their countrywide reach, enhanced infrastructure, and referral networks. The voucher program also has the potential to address public sector constraints such as understaffing and supply shortages.
Accrediting public facilities has the potential to increase voucher program coverage by reaching a wider pool of poor mothers, shortening distance to service, strengthening linkages between public and private sectors through public-private partnerships and referral systems as well as ensuring the awareness and buy-in of policy makers, which is crucial for mobilization of resources to support the sustainability of the programs. Specifically, identifying policy champions and consulting with key policy sectors is key to the successful inclusion of the public sector into the voucher program.
Challenges; Maternal health; Opportunities; Output-based approach; Public sector engagement; Reproductive health; Vouchers
Globally, the Human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic remains a major public health problem. In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS has already reversed the post-independence developmental gains.
This study assessed community attitudes regarding the reproductive rights and sexual life of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Olorunda Local Government Area of Osun State, Southwestern Nigeria.
Design and methods
In a community-based descriptive cross-sectional study, the sample size calculation was based on the assumption that 67% of the target population has a negative attitude regarding the reproductive rights of PLWHA; a confidence interval (CI) of 95% was used. A minimum sample size of 340 was obtained using the formula n = Z2pq/d2. An anticipated 10% nonresponse rate was added to obtain a sample size of 374; a multistage sampling technique was utilized to select a total of 450 respondents. Data collected through a semistructured standardized and pretested questionnaire were analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences software, version 15.
The study revealed that 283 (66.6%) and 142 (33.4%) of respondents were urban and rural dwellers, respectively. Mean age of respondents was 28.7 years ± 2.2 years. Four hundred and two (94.6%) respondents were aware of HIV/AIDS, and 88.7% had knowledge of at least six different modes of HIV/AIDS transmission. About 30.7% of respondents had discriminatory and stigmatizing attitudes towards PLWHA, and 50.9% and 44.8% had negative attitudes towards their sexual and reproductive rights, respectively. There were significant associations between gender, marital status, educational status, occupation, and residential area of respondents and their attitude towards the reproductive and sexual right of PLWHA (P < 0.05).
Conclusion and recommendation
Discriminatory and stigmatizing attitudes to PLWHA found among respondents translated into a negative attitude regarding the reproductive and sexual rights of PLWHA. There is an urgent need to institute programs for raising community awareness about the rights of PLWHA, especially in rural areas, and to strengthen legislative provisions for protecting and preserving the reproductive rights of PLWHA.
community attitudes; PLWHA; reproductive and sexual rights
The HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa is widely recognised as a development disaster threatening poverty reduction, economic growth and not merely a health issue. Its mitigation includes the societal-wide adoption and implementation of specific health technologies, many of which depend on functional institutions and State.
Donor and International Institutions' strategies to mitigate HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are premised on a single optimal model of the State, one which focuses on the decentralised delivery of public goods alone (such as healthcare) – the service delivery state. The empirical evidence, though sparse, of "successful" and "unsuccessful" sub-Saharan Africa states' performance in mitigating HIV/AIDS does not support this model. Rather, the evidence suggests an alternative model that takes a country context specific approach – encompassing political power, institutional structures and the level of health technology needed. This model draws on the historical experience of East Asian countries' rapid development.
For international public health policies to be effective, they must consider a country tailored approach, one that advocates a coordinated strategy designed and led by the State with involvement of wider society specific to each country's particular history, culture, and level of development.