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1.  Next-generation sequencing: a challenge to meet the increasing demand for training workshops in Australia 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2013;14(5):563-574.
The widespread adoption of high-throughput next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology among the Australian life science research community is highlighting an urgent need to up-skill biologists in tools required for handling and analysing their NGS data. There is currently a shortage of cutting-edge bioinformatics training courses in Australia as a consequence of a scarcity of skilled trainers with time and funding to develop and deliver training courses. To address this, a consortium of Australian research organizations, including Bioplatforms Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Bioinformatics Network, have been collaborating with EMBL-EBI training team. A group of Australian bioinformaticians attended the train-the-trainer workshop to improve training skills in developing and delivering bioinformatics workshop curriculum. A 2-day NGS workshop was jointly developed to provide hands-on knowledge and understanding of typical NGS data analysis workflows. The road show–style workshop was successfully delivered at five geographically distant venues in Australia using the newly established Australian NeCTAR Research Cloud. We highlight the challenges we had to overcome at different stages from design to delivery, including the establishment of an Australian bioinformatics training network and the computing infrastructure and resource development. A virtual machine image, workshop materials and scripts for configuring a machine with workshop contents have all been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. This means participants continue to have convenient access to an environment they had become familiar and bioinformatics trainers are able to access and reuse these resources.
doi:10.1093/bib/bbt022
PMCID: PMC3771231  PMID: 23543352
training; next-generation sequencing; NGS; cloud; workshop
2.  The GOBLET training portal: a global repository of bioinformatics training materials, courses and trainers 
Bioinformatics  2014;31(1):140-142.
Summary: Rapid technological advances have led to an explosion of biomedical data in recent years. The pace of change has inspired new collaborative approaches for sharing materials and resources to help train life scientists both in the use of cutting-edge bioinformatics tools and databases and in how to analyse and interpret large datasets. A prototype platform for sharing such training resources was recently created by the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN). Building on this work, we have created a centralized portal for sharing training materials and courses, including a catalogue of trainers and course organizers, and an announcement service for training events. For course organizers, the portal provides opportunities to promote their training events; for trainers, the portal offers an environment for sharing materials, for gaining visibility for their work and promoting their skills; for trainees, it offers a convenient one-stop shop for finding suitable training resources and identifying relevant training events and activities locally and worldwide.
Availability and implementation: http://mygoblet.org/training-portal
Contact: manuel.corpas@tgac.ac.uk
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btu601
PMCID: PMC4271145  PMID: 25189782
3.  International Collaboration for Improved Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response in India 
Objective
This project aimed to contribute to ongoing efforts to improve the capability and capacity to undertake disease surveillance and Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) activities in India. The main outcome measure was to empower a cadre of trainers through the inter-related streams of training & education to enhance knowledge and skills and the development of collaborative networks in the regions.
Introduction
The International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005, provides a framework that supports efforts to improve global health security and requires that, member states develop and strengthen systems and capacity for disease surveillance and detection and response to public health threats. To contribute to this global agenda, an international collaborative comprising of personnel from the Health Protection Agency, West Midlands, United Kingdom (HPA); the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (AP) state, India and the Department of Community Medicine, Rajarajeswari Medical College and Hospital (RRMCH), Bangalore, Karnataka state, India was established with funding from the HPA Global Health Fund to deliver the objectives stated above.
Methods
In 2010, the project partners jointly developed training materials on applied Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance and EPR using existing HPA material as the foundation. Over a 2 year period, a total of two training courses per year were planned for each of the two locations in India. Courses were designed to be delivered through didactic lectures, simulation exercises, workshops and group discussions at the two locations, namely Bangalore and Hyderabad. The target audience included senior state level programme officers, District Medical and Health Officers, postgraduate students, academic and research staff from Community Medicine departments and staff from the collaborating institutions.
Course modules were formally evaluated by participants using structured questionnaires and an external evaluator. Debrief sessions were also arranged after each course to review the key lessons and identify areas for improvement.
In addition, staff exchanges of up to six weeks duration were planned during which public health specialists from both countries would spend time observing health protection systems/processes in their host country.
Results
During January 2010 to December 2011, a total of seven (n=7) training courses were delivered in Bangalore and Hyderabad with approximately 231 public health personnel in attendance over the period. Participants comprised of 128 personnel representing 74 organisations in 41 districts (22 districts from AP) at the Hyderabad location and 103 personnel from 14 organisations (30 districts) at the Bangalore location.
Course participants evaluated the content of the courses favourably with the majority (92%) rating the course modules as excellent or good. External evaluation of the courses was also favourable with several aspects of the course rated as good or excellent. IIPH and RRMC continue to deliver the courses and in the state of Karnataka, some participants at the EPR course were chosen by the health ministry to be part of Rapid Response Teams at District levels.
Two public health specialists from each of the Indian organisations spent six (6) weeks in the United Kingdom as part of the planned staff exchanges. The exchanges were assessed to have been successful with important areas for future collaboration identified including proposals to jointly develop an Emergency Preparedness and Response Manual for the Indian Public Health audience.
Conclusions
The implementation and maintenance of effective and sustainable systems to ensure global health security relies on a well-trained public health workforce in member states. This innovative collaborative project has gone some way towards meeting its objective of establishing and supporting a cadre of trainers to ensure sustainable improvement in public health capacity and capability in India. After the initial (training) phase of the project that was completely funded by the HPA, the partner organisations in India have worked to sustain and further develop the core objectives of this project. As a further step, course materials developed as part of this project will be used to provide a framework upon which e-learning material and postgraduate modules will be developed in each of these institutions in India.
PMCID: PMC3692801
Surveillance; Training; EPR; IHR
4.  Eurocan plus report: feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities 
Summary
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project, called for by the European Parliament, was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities in Europe. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people, the largest Europe–wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research.
Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
It is essential to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community is evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form), leading to the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventive strategies. Translational research ranges from bench–to–bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project recommends the creation of a small, permanent and independent European Cancer Initiative (ECI). This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The ECI should assume responsibility for stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes, becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ organizations, European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), putting into practice solutions aimed at alleviating barriers to collaboration and coordination of cancer research activities in the European Union, and dealing with legal and regulatory issues. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this entity should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co–operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe and (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level.
The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control in Europe, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
Executive Summary
Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century—one for which Europe is currently not prepared nor preparing itself. Cancer is a major cause of death in Europe with two million casualties and three million new cases diagnosed annually, and the situation is set to worsen as the population ages.
These facts led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, to call for initiatives for better coordination of cancer research efforts in the European Union. The EUROCAN+PLUS Project was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people. In this respect, the Project became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research, implicating researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, healthcare professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients’ organizations and patients.
The Project first identified barriers impeding research and collaboration in research in Europe. Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
In addition, there is a shortage of leadership, a multiplicity of institutions each focusing on its own agenda, sub–optimal contact with industry, inadequate training, non–existent career paths, low personnel mobility in research especially among clinicians and inefficient funding—all conspiring against efficient collaboration in cancer care and research. European cancer research today does not have a functional translational research continuum, that is the process that exploits biomedical research innovations and converts them into prevention methods, diagnostic tools and therapies. Moreover, epidemiological research is not integrated with other types of cancer research, and the implementation of the European Directives on Clinical Trials 1 and on Personal Data Protection 2 has further slowed the innovation process in Europe. Furthermore, large inequalities in health and research exist between the EU–15 and the New Member States.
The picture is not entirely bleak, however, as the European cancer research scene presents several strengths, such as excellent basic research and clinical research and innovative etiological research that should be better exploited.
When considering recommendations, several priority dimensions had to be retained. It is essential that proposals include actions and recommendations that can benefit all Member States of the European Union and not just States with the elite centres. It is also essential to have a broader patient orientation to help provide the knowledge to establish cancer control possibilities when we exhaust what can be achieved by the implementation of current knowledge. It is vital that the actions proposed can contribute to the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.
The Project participants identified six areas for which consensus solutions should be implemented in order to obtain better coordination of cancer research activities. The required solutions are as follows. The proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community.The establishment of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers.The provision of guidance for translational and clinical research including the establishment of a translational research platform involving comprehensive cancer centres and cancer research centres.The coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects.The construction of a ‘one–stop shop’ as a contact interface between the industry, small and medium enterprises, scientists and other stakeholders.The support of greater involvement of healthcare professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.
In the course of the EUROCAN+PLUS consultative process, several key collaborative projects emerged between the various groups and institutes engaged in the consultation. There was a collaboration network established with Europe’s leading Comprehensive Cancer Centres; funding was awarded for a closer collaboration of Owners of Cancer Registries in Europe (EUROCOURSE); there was funding received from FP7 for an extensive network of leading Biological Resource Centres in Europe (BBMRI); a Working Group identified the special needs of Central, Eastern and South–eastern Europe and proposed a remedy (‘Warsaw Declaration’), and the concept of developing a one–stop shop for dealing with academia and industry including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was discussed in detail.
Several other dimensions currently lacking were identified. There is an absolute necessity to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. It was a salutary lesson when it was recognized that all that is known about the quality of life of the cancer patient comes from the experience of a tiny proportion of cancer patients included in a few clinical trials. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community was evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form) and the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventative strategies in the European Union. Translational research ranges from bench-to-bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
Having taken note of the barriers and the solutions and having examined relevant examples of existing European organizations in the field, it was agreed during the General Assembly of 19 November 2007 that the EUROCAN+PLUS Project had to recommend the creation of a small, permanent and neutral ECI. This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The proposal is based on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and its principal aims include providing a forum where researchers from all backgrounds and from all countries can meet with members of other specialities including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.
The ECI should assume responsibility for: stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes;becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ and organizations;European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises;putting into practice the aforementioned solutions aimed at alleviating barriers and coordinating cancer research activities in the EU;dealing with legal and regulatory issues.
Solutions implemented through the ECI will lead to better coordination and collaboration throughout Europe, more efficient use of resources, an increase in Europe’s attractiveness to the biomedical industry and better quality of cancer research and education of health professionals.
The Project considered that European legal instruments currently available were inadequate for addressing many aspects of the barriers identified and for the implementation of effective, lasting solutions. Therefore, the legal environment that could shelter an idea like the ECI remains to be defined but should be done so as a priority. In this context, the initiative of the European Commission for a new legal entity for research infrastructure might be a step in this direction. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass: (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co-operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe; (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level. Another topic deserving immediate attention is the creation of a European database on cancer research projects and cancer research facilities.
Despite enormous progress in cancer control in Europe during the past two decades, there was an increase of 300,000 in the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
doi:10.3332/ecancer.2011.84
PMCID: PMC3234055  PMID: 22274749
5.  The Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and its Outreach 
The Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) is biomedical research institute that acts as a host institution for small research groups, in Portugal. Most of its activities reach out to the scientific community in several ways. The IGC organizes regular series of seminars with invited international speakers, workshops, courses and conferences, and an in-house PhD programme. Specific outreach needs had to be met in the two instances that are described here.
GTPB
The Gulbenkian Training Programme in Bioinformatics (GTPB) started as a regular activity in 1999 in response to the demand of users seeking opportunities to acquire hands-on practical skills in Bioinformatics in an effective way. Training provision in Bioinformatics requires the conciliation of a variety of interests into a series of highly effective training events, in which scientists can acquire skills and a high degree of independence in their usage. The GTPB programme currently offers more than 30 themes, of which 15 to 20 are chosen for single events in each year. The GTPB has provided training to more than 2000 researchers and students, so far.
IGC Outreach
A dedicated outreach programme targets science education and public engagement in science, for different audience groups. The aim of the outreach programme is to promote scientific literacy, foster careers in science and empower citizens to engage in cutting-edge biomedical research. Activities include Open Days, seminars and laboratory workshops for teachers, development of online, multimedia and hard-copy resources and experimental protocols to be used in schools, visits to schools with hands-on experiments and career talks by researchers and facility staff. Less conventional outreach activities include direct participation in venues for the general public (such a a music festival, for example) have created unexpected opportunities for fundraising and direct financial support for students engaged in research projects.
PMCID: PMC3630688
6.  The Relationship of Previous Training and Experience of Journal Peer Reviewers to Subsequent Review Quality 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e40.
Background
Peer review is considered crucial to the selection and publication of quality science, but very little is known about the previous experiences and training that might identify high-quality peer reviewers. The reviewer selection processes of most journals, and thus the qualifications of their reviewers, are ill defined. More objective selection of peer reviewers might improve the journal peer review process and thus the quality of published science.
Methods and Findings
306 experienced reviewers (71% of all those associated with a specialty journal) completed a survey of past training and experiences postulated to improve peer review skills. Reviewers performed 2,856 reviews of 1,484 separate manuscripts during a four-year study period, all prospectively rated on a standardized quality scale by editors. Multivariable analysis revealed that most variables, including academic rank, formal training in critical appraisal or statistics, or status as principal investigator of a grant, failed to predict performance of higher-quality reviews. The only significant predictors of quality were working in a university-operated hospital versus other teaching environment and relative youth (under ten years of experience after finishing training). Being on an editorial board and doing formal grant (study section) review were each predictors for only one of our two comparisons. However, the predictive power of all variables was weak.
Conclusions
Our study confirms that there are no easily identifiable types of formal training or experience that predict reviewer performance. Skill in scientific peer review may be as ill defined and hard to impart as is “common sense.” Without a better understanding of those skills, it seems unlikely journals and editors will be successful in systematically improving their selection of reviewers. This inability to predict performance makes it imperative that all but the smallest journals implement routine review ratings systems to routinely monitor the quality of their reviews (and thus the quality of the science they publish).
A survey of experienced reviewers, asked about training they had received in peer review, found there are no easily identifiable types of formal training and experience that predict reviewer performance.
Editors' Summary
Background.
When medical researchers have concluded their research and written it up, the next step is to get it published as an article in a journal, so that the findings can be circulated widely. These published findings help determine subsequent research and clinical use. The editors of reputable journals, including PLoS Medicine, have to decide whether the articles sent to them are of good quality and accurate and whether they will be of interest to the readers of their journal. To do this they need to obtain specialist advice, so they contact experts in the topic of the research article and ask them to write reports. This is the process of scientific peer review, and the experts who write such reports are known as “peer reviewers.” Although the editors make the final decision, the advice and criticism of these peer reviewers to the editors is essential in making decisions on publication, and usually in requiring authors to make changes to their manuscript. The contribution that peer reviewers have made to the article by the time it is finally published may, therefore, be quite considerable.
Although peer review is accepted as a key part of the process for the publishing of medical research, many people have argued that there are flaws in the system. For example, there may be an element of luck involved; one author might find their paper being reviewed by a reviewer who is biased against the approach they have adopted or who is a very critical person by nature, and another author may have the good fortune to have their work considered by someone who is much more favorably disposed toward their work. Some reviewers are more knowledgeable and thorough in their work than others. The editors of medical journals try to take in account such biases and quality factors in their choice of peer reviewers or when assessing the reviews. Some journals have run training courses for experts who review for them regularly to try to make the standard of peer review as high as possible.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is hard for journal editors to know who will make a good peer reviewer, and there is no proven system for choosing them. The authors of this study wanted to identify the previous experiences and training that make up the background of good peer reviewers and compare them with the quality of the reviews provided. This would help journal editors select good people for the task in future, and as a result will affect the quality of science they publish for readers, including other researchers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors contacted all the regular reviewers from one specialist journal (Annals of Emergency Medicine). A total of 306 of these experienced reviewers (71% of all those associated with the journal) completed a survey of past training and experiences that might be expected to improve peer review skills. These reviewers had done 2,856 reviews of 1,484 separate manuscripts during a four-year study period, and during this time the quality of the reviews had been rated by the journal's editors. Surprisingly, most variables, including academic rank, formal training in critical appraisal or statistics, or status as principal investigator of a grant, failed to predict performance of higher-quality reviews. The only significant predictors of quality were working in a university-operated hospital versus other teaching environment and relative youth (under ten years of experience after finishing training), and even these were only weak predictors.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggest that there are no easily identifiable types of formal training or experience that predict peer reviewer performance, although it is clear that some reviewers (and reviews) are better than others. The authors suggest that it is essential therefore that journals routinely monitor the quality of reviews submitted to them to ensure they are getting good advice (a practice that is not universal).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040040
• WAME is an association of editors from many countries who seek to foster international cooperation among editors of peer-reviewed medical journals
• The Fifth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication is one of a series of conferences on peer review
• The PLoS Medicine guidelines for reviewers outline what we look for in a review
• The Council of Science Editors promotes ethical scientific publishing practices
• An editorial also published in this issue of PLoS Medicine discusses the peer review process further
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040040
PMCID: PMC1796627  PMID: 17411314
7.  Training evaluation: a case study of training Iranian health managers 
Background
The Ministry of Health and Medical Education in the Islamic Republic of Iran has undertaken a reform of its health system, in which-lower level managers are given new roles and responsibilities in a decentralized system. To support these efforts, a United Kingdom-based university was contracted by the World Health Organization to design a series of courses for health managers and trainers. This process was also intended to develop the capacity of the National Public Health Management Centre in Tabriz, Iran, to enable it to organize relevant short courses in health management on a continuing basis. A total of seven short training courses were implemented, three in the United Kingdom and four in Tabriz, with 35 participants. A detailed evaluation of the courses was undertaken to guide future development of the training programmes.
Methods
The Kirkpatrick framework for evaluation of training was used to measure participants' reactions, learning, application to the job, and to a lesser extent, organizational impact. Particular emphasis was put on application of learning to the participants' job. A structured questionnaire was administered to 23 participants, out of 35, between one and 13 months after they had attended the courses. Respondents, like the training course participants, were predominantly from provincial universities, with both health system and academic responsibilities. Interviews with key informants and ex-trainees provided supplemental information, especially on organizational impact.
Results
Participants' preferred interactive methods for learning about health planning and management. They found the course content to be relevant, but with an overemphasis on theory compared to practical, locally-specific information. In terms of application of learning to their jobs, participants found specific information and skills to be most useful, such as health systems research and group work/problem solving. The least useful areas were those that dealt with training and leadership. Participants reported little difficulty in applying learning deemed "useful", and had applied it often. In general, a learning area was used less when it was found difficult to apply, with a few exceptions, such as problem-solving. Four fifths of respondents claimed they could perform their jobs better because of new skills and more in-depth understanding of health systems, and one third had been asked to train their colleagues, indicating a potential for impact on their organization. Interviews with key informants indicated that job performance of trainees had improved.
Conclusion
The health management training programmes in Iran, and the external university involved in capacity building, benefited from following basic principles of good training practice, which incorporated needs assessment, selection of participants and definition of appropriate learning outcomes, course content and methods, along with focused evaluation. Contracts for external assistance should include specific mention of capacity building, and allow for the collaborative development of courses and of evaluation plans, in order to build capacity of local partners throughout the training cycle. This would also help to develop training content that uses material from local health management situations to demonstrate key theories and develop locally required skills. Training evaluations should as a minimum assess participants' reactions and learning for every course. Communication of evaluation results should be designed to ensure that data informs training activities, as well as the health and human resources managers who are investing in the development of their staff.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-7-20
PMCID: PMC2654422  PMID: 19265528
8.  Strengthening research capacity through the medical education partnership initiative: the Mozambique experience 
Background
Since Mozambique’s independence, the major emphasis of its higher educational institutions has been on didactic education. Because of fiscal and human resource constraints, basic and applied research activities have been relatively modest in scope, and priorities have often been set primarily by external collaborators. These factors have compromised the scope and the relevance of locally conducted research and have limited the impact of Mozambique’s universities as major catalysts for national development.
Case description
We developed a multi-institutional partnership to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the research environment at Mozambique’s major public universities to identify factors that have served as barriers to the development of a robust research enterprise. Based on this analysis, we developed a multifaceted plan to reduce the impact of these barriers and to enhance research capacity within Mozambique.
Interventions
On the basis of our needs assessment, we have implemented a number of major initiatives within participating institutions to facilitate basic and applied research activities. These have included specialized training programmes, a reorganization of the research administration infrastructure, the development of multiple collaborative research projects that have emphasized local research priorities and a substantial investment in bioinformatics. We have established a research support centre that provides grant development and management services to Mozambique’s public universities and have developed an independent Institutional Review Board for the review of research involving human research subjects. Multiple research projects involving both communicable and non-communicable diseases have been developed and substantial external research support has been obtained to undertake these projects. A sizable investment in biomedical informatics has enhanced both connectivity and access to digital reference material. Active engagement with relevant entities within the Government of Mozambique has aligned institutional development with national priorities.
Conclusions
Although multiple challenges remain, over the past 3 years significant progress has been made towards establishing conditions within which a broad range of basic, translational and clinical and public health research can be undertaken. Ongoing development of this research enterprise will enhance capacity to address critical locally relevant research questions and will leverage resources to accelerate the development of Mozambique’s national universities.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-11-62
PMCID: PMC3895849  PMID: 24304706
Research; Research capacity building in Mozambique; MEPI Mozambique
9.  Behavioural Interventions for Urinary Incontinence in Community-Dwelling Seniors 
Executive Summary
In early August 2007, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Aging in the Community project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding healthy aging in the community. The Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the ministry’s newly released Aging at Home Strategy.
After a broad literature review and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified 4 key areas that strongly predict an elderly person’s transition from independent community living to a long-term care home. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these 4 areas: falls and fall-related injuries, urinary incontinence, dementia, and social isolation. For the first area, falls and fall-related injuries, an economic model is described in a separate report.
Please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site, http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html, to review these titles within the Aging in the Community series.
Aging in the Community: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Prevention of Falls and Fall-Related Injuries in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Urinary Incontinence in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Social Isolation in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
The Falls/Fractures Economic Model in Ontario Residents Aged 65 Years and Over (FEMOR)
Objective
To assess the effectiveness of behavioural interventions for the treatment and management of urinary incontinence (UI) in community-dwelling seniors.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Urinary incontinence defined as “the complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine” was identified as 1 of the key predictors in a senior’s transition from independent community living to admission to a long-term care (LTC) home. Urinary incontinence is a health problem that affects a substantial proportion of Ontario’s community-dwelling seniors (and indirectly affects caregivers), impacting their health, functioning, well-being and quality of life. Based on Canadian studies, prevalence estimates range from 9% to 30% for senior men and nearly double from 19% to 55% for senior women. The direct and indirect costs associated with UI are substantial. It is estimated that the total annual costs in Canada are $1.5 billion (Cdn), and that each year a senior living at home will spend $1,000 to $1,500 on incontinence supplies.
Interventions to treat and manage UI can be classified into broad categories which include lifestyle modification, behavioural techniques, medications, devices (e.g., continence pessaries), surgical interventions and adjunctive measures (e.g., absorbent products).
The focus of this review is behavioural interventions, since they are commonly the first line of treatment considered in seniors given that they are the least invasive options with no reported side effects, do not limit future treatment options, and can be applied in combination with other therapies. In addition, many seniors would not be ideal candidates for other types of interventions involving more risk, such as surgical measures.
Note: It is recognized that the terms “senior” and “elderly” carry a range of meanings for different audiences; this report generally uses the former, but the terms are treated here as essentially interchangeable.
Description of Technology/Therapy
Behavioural interventions can be divided into 2 categories according to the target population: caregiver-dependent techniques and patient-directed techniques. Caregiver-dependent techniques (also known as toileting assistance) are targeted at medically complex, frail individuals living at home with the assistance of a caregiver, who tends to be a family member. These seniors may also have cognitive deficits and/or motor deficits. A health care professional trains the senior’s caregiver to deliver an intervention such as prompted voiding, habit retraining, or timed voiding. The health care professional who trains the caregiver is commonly a nurse or a nurse with advanced training in the management of UI, such as a nurse continence advisor (NCA) or a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
The second category of behavioural interventions consists of patient-directed techniques targeted towards mobile, motivated seniors. Seniors in this population are cognitively able, free from any major physical deficits, and motivated to regain and/or improve their continence. A nurse or a nurse with advanced training in UI management, such as an NCA or CNS, delivers the patient-directed techniques. These are often provided as multicomponent interventions including a combination of bladder training techniques, pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), education on bladder control strategies, and self-monitoring. Pelvic floor muscle training, defined as a program of repeated pelvic floor muscle contractions taught and supervised by a health care professional, may be employed as part of a multicomponent intervention or in isolation.
Education is a large component of both caregiver-dependent and patient-directed behavioural interventions, and patient and/or caregiver involvement as well as continued practice strongly affect the success of treatment. Incontinence products, which include a large variety of pads and devices for effective containment of urine, may be used in conjunction with behavioural techniques at any point in the patient’s management.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials that examined the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of caregiver-dependent and patient-directed behavioural interventions for the treatment of UI in community-dwelling seniors (see Appendix 1).
Research Questions
Are caregiver-dependent behavioural interventions effective in improving UI in medically complex, frail community-dwelling seniors with/without cognitive deficits and/or motor deficits?
Are patient-directed behavioural interventions effective in improving UI in mobile, motivated community-dwelling seniors?
Are behavioural interventions delivered by NCAs or CNSs in a clinic setting effective in improving incontinence outcomes in community-dwelling seniors?
Assessment of Quality of Evidence
The quality of the evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE methodology and GRADE Working Group. As per GRADE the following definitions apply:
Summary of Findings
Executive Summary Table 1 summarizes the results of the analysis.
The available evidence was limited by considerable variation in study populations and in the type and severity of UI for studies examining both caregiver-directed and patient-directed interventions. The UI literature frequently is limited to reporting subjective outcome measures such as patient observations and symptoms. The primary outcome of interest, admission to a LTC home, was not reported in the UI literature. The number of eligible studies was low, and there were limited data on long-term follow-up.
Summary of Evidence on Behavioural Interventions for the Treatment of Urinary Incontinence in Community-Dwelling Seniors
Prompted voiding
Habit retraining
Timed voiding
Bladder training
PFMT (with or without biofeedback)
Bladder control strategies
Education
Self-monitoring
CI refers to confidence interval; CNS, clinical nurse specialist; NCA, nurse continence advisor; PFMT, pelvic floor muscle training; RCT, randomized controlled trial; WMD, weighted mean difference; UI, urinary incontinence.
Economic Analysis
A budget impact analysis was conducted to forecast costs for caregiver-dependent and patient-directed multicomponent behavioural techniques delivered by NCAs, and PFMT alone delivered by physiotherapists. All costs are reported in 2008 Canadian dollars. Based on epidemiological data, published medical literature and clinical expert opinion, the annual cost of caregiver-dependent behavioural techniques was estimated to be $9.2 M, while the annual costs of patient-directed behavioural techniques delivered by either an NCA or physiotherapist were estimated to be $25.5 M and $36.1 M, respectively. Estimates will vary if the underlying assumptions are changed.
Currently, the province of Ontario absorbs the cost of NCAs (available through the 42 Community Care Access Centres across the province) in the home setting. The 2007 Incontinence Care in the Community Report estimated that the total cost being absorbed by the public system of providing continence care in the home is $19.5 M in Ontario. This cost estimate included resources such as personnel, communication with physicians, record keeping and product costs. Clinic costs were not included in this estimation because currently these come out of the global budget of the respective hospital and very few continence clinics actually exist in the province. The budget impact analysis factored in a cost for the clinic setting, assuming that the public system would absorb the cost with this new model of community care.
Considerations for Ontario Health System
An expert panel on aging in the community met on 3 occasions from January to May 2008, and in part, discussed treatment of UI in seniors in Ontario with a focus on caregiver-dependent and patient-directed behavioural interventions. In particular, the panel discussed how treatment for UI is made available to seniors in Ontario and who provides the service. Some of the major themes arising from the discussions included:
Services/interventions that currently exist in Ontario offering behavioural interventions to treat UI are not consistent. There is a lack of consistency in how seniors access services for treatment of UI, who manages patients and what treatment patients receive.
Help-seeking behaviours are important to consider when designing optimal service delivery methods.
There is considerable social stigma associated with UI and therefore there is a need for public education and an awareness campaign.
The cost of incontinent supplies and the availability of NCAs were highlighted.
Conclusions
There is moderate-quality evidence that the following interventions are effective in improving UI in mobile motivated seniors:
Multicomponent behavioural interventions including a combination of bladder training techniques, PFMT (with or without biofeedback), education on bladder control strategies and self-monitoring techniques.
Pelvic floor muscle training alone.
There is moderate quality evidence that when behavioural interventions are led by NCAs or CNSs in a clinic setting, they are effective in improving UI in seniors.
There is limited low-quality evidence that prompted voiding may be effective in medically complex, frail seniors with motivated caregivers.
There is insufficient evidence for the following interventions in medically complex, frail seniors with motivated caregivers:
habit retraining, and
timed voiding.
PMCID: PMC3377527  PMID: 23074508
10.  The U.S. training institute for dissemination and implementation research in health 
Background
The science of dissemination and implementation (D&I) is advancing the knowledge base for how best to integrate evidence-based interventions within clinical and community settings and how to recast the nature or conduct of the research itself to make it more relevant and actionable in those settings. While the field is growing, there are only a few training programs for D&I research; this is an important avenue to help build the field’s capacity. To improve the United States’ capacity for D&I research, the National Institutes of Health and Veterans Health Administration collaborated to develop a five-day training institute for postdoctoral level applicants aspiring to advance this science.
Methods
We describe the background, goals, structure, curriculum, application process, trainee evaluation, and future plans for the Training in Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (TIDIRH).
Results
The TIDIRH used a five-day residential immersion to maximize opportunities for trainees and faculty to interact. The train-the-trainer-like approach was intended to equip participants with materials that they could readily take back to their home institutions to increase interest and further investment in D&I. The TIDIRH curriculum included a balance of structured large group discussions and interactive small group sessions.
Thirty-five of 266 applicants for the first annual training institute were accepted from a variety of disciplines, including psychology (12 trainees); medicine (6 trainees); epidemiology (5 trainees); health behavior/health education (4 trainees); and 1 trainee each from education & human development, health policy and management, health services research, public health studies, public policy and social work, with a maximum of two individuals from any one institution. The institute was rated as very helpful by attendees, and by six months after the institute, a follow-up survey (97% return rate) revealed that 72% had initiated a new grant proposal in D&I research; 28% had received funding, and 77% had used skills from TIDIRH to influence their peers from different disciplines about D&I research through building local research networks, organizing formal presentations and symposia, teaching and by leading interdisciplinary teams to conduct D&I research.
Conclusions
The initial TIDIRH training was judged successful by trainee evaluation at the conclusion of the week’s training and six-month follow-up, and plans are to continue and possibly expand the TIDIRH in coming years. Strengths are seen as the residential format, quality of the faculty and their flexibility in adjusting content to meet trainee needs, and the highlighting of concrete D&I examples by the local host institution, which rotates annually. Lessons learned and plans for future TIDIRH trainings are summarized.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-12
PMCID: PMC3564839  PMID: 23347882
Training; Dissemination; Implementation
11.  The Chilling Effect: How Do Researchers React to Controversy? 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e222.
Background
Can political controversy have a “chilling effect” on the production of new science? This is a timely concern, given how often American politicians are accused of undermining science for political purposes. Yet little is known about how scientists react to these kinds of controversies.
Methods and Findings
Drawing on interview (n = 30) and survey data (n = 82), this study examines the reactions of scientists whose National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded grants were implicated in a highly publicized political controversy. Critics charged that these grants were “a waste of taxpayer money.” The NIH defended each grant and no funding was rescinded. Nevertheless, this study finds that many of the scientists whose grants were criticized now engage in self-censorship. About half of the sample said that they now remove potentially controversial words from their grant and a quarter reported eliminating entire topics from their research agendas. Four researchers reportedly chose to move into more secure positions entirely, either outside academia or in jobs that guaranteed salaries. About 10% of the group reported that this controversy strengthened their commitment to complete their research and disseminate it widely.
Conclusions
These findings provide evidence that political controversies can shape what scientists choose to study. Debates about the politics of science usually focus on the direct suppression, distortion, and manipulation of scientific results. This study suggests that scholars must also examine how scientists may self-censor in response to political events.
Drawing on interview and survey data, Joanna Kempner's study finds that political controversies shape what many scientists choose not to study.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Scientific research is an expensive business and, inevitably, the organizations that fund this research—governments, charities, and industry—play an important role in determining the directions that this research takes. Funding bodies can have both positive and negative effects on the acquisition of scientific knowledge. They can pump money into topical areas such as the human genome project. Alternatively, by withholding funding, they can discourage some types of research. So, for example, US federal funds cannot be used to support many aspects of human stem cell research. “Self-censoring” by scientists can also have a negative effect on scientific progress. That is, some scientists may decide to avoid areas of research in which there are many regulatory requirements, political pressure, or in which there is substantial pressure from advocacy groups. A good example of this last type of self-censoring is the withdrawal of many scientists from research that involves certain animal models, like primates, because of animal rights activists.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some people think that political controversy might also encourage scientists to avoid some areas of scientific inquiry, but no studies have formally investigated this possibility. Could political arguments about the value of certain types of research influence the questions that scientists pursue? An argument of this sort occurred in the US in 2003 when Patrick Toomey, who was then a Republican Congressional Representative, argued that National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants supporting research into certain aspects of sexual behavior were “much less worthy of taxpayer funding” than research on “devastating diseases,” and proposed an amendment to the 2004 NIH appropriations bill (which regulates the research funded by NIH). The Amendment was rejected, but more than 200 NIH-funded grants, most of which examined behaviors that affect the spread of HIV/AIDS, were internally reviewed later that year; NIH defended each grant, so none were curtailed. In this study, Joanna Kempner investigates how the scientists whose US federal grants were targeted in this clash between politics and science responded to the political controversy.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Kempner interviewed 30 of the 162 principal investigators (PIs) whose grants were reviewed. She asked them to describe their research, the grants that were reviewed, and their experience with NIH before, during, and after the controversy. She also asked them whether this experience had changed their research practice. She then used the information from these interviews to design a survey that she sent to all the PIs whose grants had been reviewed; 82 responded. About half of the scientists interviewed and/or surveyed reported that they now remove “red flag” words (for example, “AIDS” and “homosexual”) from the titles and abstracts of their grant applications. About one-fourth of the respondents no longer included controversial topics (for example, “abortion” and “emergency contraception”) in their research agendas, and four researchers had made major career changes as a result of the controversy. Finally, about 10% of respondents said that their experience had strengthened their commitment to see their research completed and its results published although even many of these scientists also engaged in some self-censorship.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, even though no funding was withdrawn, self-censoring is now common among the scientists whose grants were targeted during this particular political controversy. Because this study included researchers in only one area of health research, its findings may not be generalizable to other areas of research. Furthermore, because only half of the PIs involved in the controversy responded to the survey, these findings may be affected by selection bias. That is, the scientists most anxious about the effects of political controversy on their research funding (and thus more likely to engage in self-censorship) may not have responded. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the political environment might have a powerful effect on self-censorship by scientists and might dissuade some scientists from embarking on research projects that they would otherwise have pursued. Further research into what Kempner calls the “chilling effect” of political controversy on scientific research is now needed to ensure that a healthy balance can be struck between political involvement in scientific decision making and scientific progress.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050222.
The Consortium of Social Science Associations, an advocacy organization that provides a bridge between the academic research community and Washington policymakers, has more information about the political controversy initiated by Patrick Toomey
Some of Kempner's previous research on self-censorship by scientists is described in a 2005 National Geographic news article
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050222
PMCID: PMC2586361  PMID: 19018657
12.  Best practices in bioinformatics training for life scientists 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2013;14(5):528-537.
The mountains of data thrusting from the new landscape of modern high-throughput biology are irrevocably changing biomedical research and creating a near-insatiable demand for training in data management and manipulation and data mining and analysis. Among life scientists, from clinicians to environmental researchers, a common theme is the need not just to use, and gain familiarity with, bioinformatics tools and resources but also to understand their underlying fundamental theoretical and practical concepts. Providing bioinformatics training to empower life scientists to handle and analyse their data efficiently, and progress their research, is a challenge across the globe. Delivering good training goes beyond traditional lectures and resource-centric demos, using interactivity, problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning to substantially enhance training quality and learning outcomes. In this context, this article discusses various pragmatic criteria for identifying training needs and learning objectives, for selecting suitable trainees and trainers, for developing and maintaining training skills and evaluating training quality. Adherence to these criteria may help not only to guide course organizers and trainers on the path towards bioinformatics training excellence but, importantly, also to improve the training experience for life scientists.
doi:10.1093/bib/bbt043
PMCID: PMC3771230  PMID: 23803301
bioinformatics; training; bioinformatics courses; training life scientists; train the trainers
13.  Core Verbal Autopsy Procedures with Comparative Validation Results from Two Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e268.
Background
Cause-specific mortality statistics remain scarce for the majority of low-income countries, where the highest disease burdens are experienced. Neither facility-based information systems nor vital registration provide adequate or representative data. The expansion of sample vital registration with verbal autopsy procedures represents the most promising interim solution for this problem. The development and validation of core verbal autopsy forms and suitable coding and tabulation procedures are an essential first step to extending the benefits of this method.
Methods and Findings
Core forms for peri- and neonatal, child, and adult deaths were developed and revised over 12 y through a project of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and were applied to over 50,000 deaths. The contents of the core forms draw upon and are generally comparable with previously proposed verbal autopsy procedures. The core forms and coding procedures based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) were further adapted for use in China. These forms, the ICD tabulation list, the summary validation protocol, and the summary validation results from Tanzania and China are presented here.
Conclusions
The procedures are capable of providing reasonable mortality estimates as adjudged against stated performance criteria for several common causes of death in two countries with radically different cause structures of mortality. However, the specific causes for which the procedures perform well varied between the two settings because of differences in the underlying prevalence of the main causes of death. These differences serve to emphasize the need to undertake validation studies of verbal autopsy procedures when they are applied in new epidemiological settings.
A procedure for recording verbal autopsy information was tested in two countries and found to be capable of providing reasonable mortality data. The need to undertake validation studies was also demonstrated.
Editors' Summary
Background.
People living in developed countries take it for granted that when a loved one dies an accurate cause-of-death certificate will be issued. But for two-thirds of the deaths that occur worldwide, there are no certificates. Detailed information about what people die from is unavailable for more than 50% of countries, many of which have high death rates. This information is badly needed for public-health planning, for using scarce health resources wisely, and for monitoring the effect of new health initiatives. One way to improve knowledge about what people die from is a procedure called verbal autopsy (VA). Relatives or caregivers are interviewed about the symptoms experienced by the deceased before their death and the circumstances surrounding their death by trained personnel who use a standard form. Doctors then review the completed VA forms and assign a specific cause of death from a short version of the International Classifications of Diseases, or ICD, an internationally agreed on list of codes for hundreds of diseases.
Why Was This Study Done?
VA procedures are being developed in many countries, but each step in a VA can be affected by factors that vary from place to place, such as how long after the death the interview is done, the training that interviewers receive, how the questions are worded, and the locally common diseases, which tend to be recognized better than rare diseases. To ensure that the data collected are accurate and comparable between countries and also over time, VA procedures need to be standardized. In this study, the researchers describe their efforts to achieve this through the development and validation of core VA procedures.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 2001, the researchers refined the VA forms that were being used in Tanzania for deaths occurring around the time of birth and for deaths occurring in childhood and adulthood. They then translated the forms for use in China, adapting them slightly to allow for cultural differences in how symptoms are described. They also drew up a short list of ICD codes to use in tabulating and validating important causes of death. Then, for four years, they collected VA and medical record information for the same deceased individuals and measured how well the VA procedure agreed with the medical record information in both countries. They found that the procedure could be transferred between China and Tanzania but that it performed rather differently for different causes of death in the two countries. So, in both countries, the procedure accurately recorded tuberculosis, cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes, and transport accidents as causes of death. But some other causes of death were accurately recorded in one country only—generally the common diseases in that country—and many causes of death were inaccurately reported in both countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use their experience of developing VAs for use in Tanzania and China and the results of this study to make several recommendations about how to develop standardized VA procedures that will yield accurate cause of death. For example, they suggest that the VA form should contain a detailed core symptom duration checklist and only a short space for a narrative history (an open-ended description of the last illness provided by the relative or caregiver) because long narrative histories are hard to standardize. They discuss the need to adapt core VA forms when moving between countries to allow for linguistic differences and colloquial expression and also the need to consider cultural differences between countries—for example, how soon after bereavement a VA interview can occur. Most importantly, they strongly recommend that validation studies like theirs should be routinely done when VA procedures are applied in new countries or if the major cause of death in a country changes because of a new epidemic or health initiative. Provided this is done, write the researchers, although VA procedures can never be as accurate as proper medical certification at the time of death, they should provide important information about the causes of death for the many countries where this information would otherwise be completely missing.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030268.
• World Health Organization information on mortality and on the International Classification of Diseases
• The United Nations' World Mortality Report 2005
• Information on the Tanzania Ministry of Health Adult Morbidity and Mortality Project, which used the VA procedures on which this study was based
• A description of a standard VA method for investigating deaths in infants and children from the World Health Organization
• The INDEPTH Network, an organization collecting health statistics from developing countries that provides standardized VA forms
• MEASURE Evaluation, a USAID-funded project that, in collaboration with the US Census Bureau and the University of Queensland (Australia), supports countries to implement core VA procedures and sample/sentinel vital registration methods
• The Health Metrics Network, a global collaboration focused on strengthening country health information systems to generate sound data for decision-making at country and global levels, is committed to improving sources of vital statistics and cause-of-death data
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030268
PMCID: PMC1502154  PMID: 16942391
14.  The experience of community health workers training in Iran: a qualitative study 
Background
The role of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in improving access to basic healthcare services, and mobilising community actions on health is broadly recognised. The Primary Health Care (PHC) approach, identified in the Alma Ata conference in 1978, stressed the role of CHWs in addressing community health needs. Training of CHWs is one of the key aspects that generally seeks to develop new knowledge and skills related to specific tasks and to increase CHWs’ capacity to communicate with and serve local people. This study aimed to analyse the CHW training process in Iran and how different components of training have impacted on CHW performance and satisfaction.
Methods
Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources. Training policies were reviewed using available policy documents, training materials and other relevant documents at national and provincial levels. Documentary analysis was supplemented by individual interviews with ninety-one Iranian CHWs from 18 provinces representing a broad range of age, work experience and educational levels, both male and female.
Results
Recognition of the CHW program and their training in the national health planning and financing facilitates the implementation and sustainability of the program. The existence of specialised training centres managed by district health network provides an appropriate training environment that delivers comprehensive training and increases CHWs’ knowledge, skills and motivation to serve local communities. Changes in training content over time reflect an increasing number of programs integrated into PHC, complicating the work expected of CHWs. In-service training courses need to address better local needs.
Conclusion
Although CHW programs vary by country and context, the CHW training program in Iran offers transferable lessons for countries intending to improve training as one of the key elements in their CHW program.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-291
PMCID: PMC3475089  PMID: 22938138
Community health workers; Training; Primary health care
15.  Developing a clinical performance logbook for nursing students receiving cardiac care field training 
Background:
Assessment is one of the teachers’ most important activities in teaching process which bears many purposes. With the rapid change of different sciences,old methods and tools are not meeting the present needs. Since in medical sciences, half of the educational course, including nursing courses,occurs at patients’ bedside, the assessment of clinical competency is of great importance. In this study the goals , skills and expected level of competency for each skill and procedural skills needed for training nursing studentsreceivingcardiac care field training compiled.
Materials and Methods:
This research was a descriptive measurement study conducted in Esfahan in 2010-2011. Research community was nursing trainers who are responsible for training students takingcardiac care field training coursesin state medical science universities all over the country. Sampling was performed first in the form of the multi-stage cluster and then after selecting the colleges, their trainers entered the study in the form of census. To gather the information, after literature review and performing a focusing group, an initial questionnaire was compiled and survey was conducted using Delphi three-stage method.
Results:
After literature review and focus group, 23 modules and 142 skills in the first section and 14 general procedural skills and 15 special procedural skills in the second stage were compiled. Finally after passing the Delphi stages, 150 skills in the form of 23 modules in the first section and 14 general procedural skill and 13 special procedural skills were obtainedin the second section. The expectancy levels of all the skills were also determined.
Conclusion:
This study has introduced an assessment pattern in the form of clinical performance logbook which can be a valuable tool for assessing the clinical competency of nursing students receiving field training in cardiac care units(CCU).
doi:10.4103/2277-9531.94415
PMCID: PMC3577414  PMID: 23555110
Student assessment; clinical competency; nursing; cardiac care
16.  Determinants of Treatment Adherence Among Smear-Positive Pulmonary Tuberculosis Patients in Southern Ethiopia 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e37.
Background
Defaulting from treatment remains a challenge for most tuberculosis control programmes. It may increase the risk of drug resistance, relapse, death, and prolonged infectiousness. The aim of this study was to determine factors predicting treatment adherence among smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis patients.
Methods and Findings
A cohort of smear-positive tuberculosis patients diagnosed and registered in Hossana Hospital in southern Ethiopia from 1 September 2002 to 30 April 2004 were prospectively included. Using a structured questionnaire, potential predictor factors for defaulting from treatment were recorded at the beginning of treatment, and patients were followed up until the end of treatment. Default incidence rate was calculated and compared among preregistered risk factors. Of the 404 patients registered for treatment, 81 (20%) defaulted from treatment. A total of 91% (74 of 81) of treatment interruptions occurred during the continuation phase of treatment. On a Cox regression model, distance from home to treatment centre (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.97; p < 0.001), age > 25 y (HR = 1.71; p = 0.02), and necessity to use public transport to get to a treatment centre (HR = 1.59; p = 0.06) were found to be independently associated with defaulting from treatment.
Conclusions
Defaulting due to treatment noncompletion in this study setting is high, and the main determinants appear to be factors related to physical access to a treatment centre. The continuation phase of treatment is the most crucial time for treatment interruption, and future interventions should take this factor into consideration.
A prospective cohort study of smear-positive tuberculosis patients at an Ethiopian hospital found treatment default rates to be high; the main factors relate to physical access to the treatment centre.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading causes of death from infectious disease worldwide, and it kills around 1.7 million people each year. TB can be successfully treated but the treatment course is long (at least six months). In 1995 the World Health Organization set up “DOTS”, an international strategy for TB control. One of the links below explains what DOTS is in more detail. One of the main elements of DOTS involves the use of standard courses of drug treatment, with the recommendation that trained observers watch people take their treatment. These steps should prevent people from failing to complete their course of treatment, and the World Health Organization has set a target level of 85% for treatment success. However, people do often have problems sticking to treatment and the reasons for this are not clearly understood. Factors such as access to care and a person's social and financial situation might affect whether an individual sticks to their prescribed treatment.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was carried out in Ethiopia, which has been recognized as being in the top 22 countries with the highest burden of tuberculosis. In the region of southern Ethiopia studied, the proportion of patients not completing their treatment has declined from 38% to 18% between 1994 and 2000. However, the World Health Organization's targets have not been met, with 20% of patients currently failing to complete treatment. These researchers wanted, therefore, to identify the factors that play a part in determining whether a patient completes their course of treatment. They hope that once such factors are identified, they could ultimately be overcome with appropriate interventions and the level of treatment success improved.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers carried out a cohort study, in which all patients diagnosed with clinical tuberculosis during a particular period of time at a major regional hospital in southern Ethiopia were included. Patients were followed up throughout their treatment course and then counted as either having defaulted from treatment (if they had been on treatment for at least 4 weeks and then interrupted for at least 8 weeks), or having completed. The researchers carried out interviews with each participant at the start of the study, to collect information on factors which might affect how each participant might stick to their treatment plan. These factors included basic information such as whether the patient was male or female, their age, marital status, educational level and occupation, as well as others including family income, whether their home was rural or urban, and the distance to the treatment centre. Finally, patients who stopped their treatment were asked an open-ended question: “Why did you stop taking TB medication?”
404 patients were included in the study and 20% defaulted, most of these within the first few months of treatment. The researchers found that a number of factors seemed to be linked to an increased chance that the person would default from treatment. These included age (patients over 25 were less likely to complete); living in a rural setting; having a lower level of education; greater distances from home to the treatment centre; the need for transport to get to treatment; and whether the patient was admitted to hospital in a serious condition. When defaulters were questioned about the reasons they did not complete treatment, the main reasons were related to physical access to the treatment clinic—for example that it was too far, they could not afford to get there, or were not able to walk to get treatment.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The proportion of patients failing to complete their tuberculosis treatment here supports the view that the default rate in Ethiopia has been falling over the past two decades; but that it is still higher than that recommended by the World Health Organization. The researchers also found that physical access to treatment poses a significant barrier to completing treatment. In this study 72% of patients were within two hours' walk of the health facility, a much greater proportion than is the case for the general population in that region. These findings suggest that government initiatives will be needed in order to address the problem of access to treatment and therefore improve adherence. New initiatives are underway in Ethiopia to train health service workers who can provide community-based care.
Additional Information
World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet on tuberculosis. More detailed information from WHO is available on DOTS, including the five key elements of DOTS
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a minisite dedicated to tuberculosis, including a questions-and-answers page
The Stop TB Partnership was established in 2000 to realize the goal of eliminating TB as a public health problem and, ultimately, to obtain a world free of TB. It comprises a network of international organizations, countries, donors from the public and private sectors, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and individuals that have expressed an interest in working together to achieve this goal
Médecins Sans Frontières, an international medical humanitarian organization, has information on its website about its activities in Ethiopia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040037
PMCID: PMC1796905  PMID: 17298164
17.  The impact of Fogarty International Center research training programs on public health policy and program development in Kenya and Uganda 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:770.
Background
The Fogarty International Center (FIC) has supported research capacity development for over twenty years. While the mission of FIC is supporting and facilitating global health research conducted by U.S. and international investigators, building partnerships between health research institutions in the U.S. and abroad, and training the next generation of scientists to address global health needs, research capacity may impact health policies and programs and therefore have positive impacts on public health. We conducted an exploratory analysis of how FIC research training investments affected public health policy and program development in Kenya and Uganda.
Methods
We explored the long term impacts of all FIC supported research training programs using case studies, in Kenya and Uganda. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 53 respondents and 29 focus group discussion participants across the two countries. Qualitative methods were supplemented by structured surveys of trainees and document review, including a review of evidence cited in policy documents.
Results
In the primary focal areas of FIC grants, notably HIV/AIDS, there were numerous examples of work conducted by former FIC trainees that influenced national and global policies. Facilitators for this influence included the strong technical skills and scientific reputations of the trainees, and professional networks spanning research and policy communities. Barriers included the fact that trainees typically had not received training in research communication, relatively few policy makers had received scientific training, and institutional constraints that undermined alignment of research with policy needs.
Conclusions
While FIC has not focused its programs on the goal of policy and program influence, its investments have affected global and national public health policies and practice. These influences have occurred primarily through strengthening research skills of scientists and developing strong in-country networks. Further success of FIC and similar initiatives could be stimulated by investing more in the training of policy-makers, seeking to better align research with policy needs through more grants that are awarded directly to developing country institutions, and grants that better incorporate policy maker perspectives in their design and governance. Addressing structural constraints, for example supporting the development of national research agendas that inform university research, would further support such efforts.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-770
PMCID: PMC3851767  PMID: 23964653
Research capacity; Policy influence; HIV/AIDS
18.  A Quick Guide for Building a Successful Bioinformatics Community 
PLoS Computational Biology  2015;11(2):e1003972.
“Scientific community” refers to a group of people collaborating together on scientific-research-related activities who also share common goals, interests, and values. Such communities play a key role in many bioinformatics activities. Communities may be linked to a specific location or institute, or involve people working at many different institutions and locations. Education and training is typically an important component of these communities, providing a valuable context in which to develop skills and expertise, while also strengthening links and relationships within the community. Scientific communities facilitate: (i) the exchange and development of ideas and expertise; (ii) career development; (iii) coordinated funding activities; (iv) interactions and engagement with professionals from other fields; and (v) other activities beneficial to individual participants, communities, and the scientific field as a whole. It is thus beneficial at many different levels to understand the general features of successful, high-impact bioinformatics communities; how individual participants can contribute to the success of these communities; and the role of education and training within these communities. We present here a quick guide to building and maintaining a successful, high-impact bioinformatics community, along with an overview of the general benefits of participating in such communities. This article grew out of contributions made by organizers, presenters, panelists, and other participants of the ISMB/ECCB 2013 workshop “The ‘How To Guide’ for Establishing a Successful Bioinformatics Network” at the 21st Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) and the 12th European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB).
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003972
PMCID: PMC4318577  PMID: 25654371
19.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Background
Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. Reproductive and maternal health indicators have not been measured in this setting but are necessary as part of an evaluation of a multi-ethnic pilot project exploring strategies to increase access to essential maternal health interventions. The goal of this study is to estimate coverage of maternal health services prior to this project and associations between exposure to human rights violations and access to such services.
Methods and Findings
Selected communities in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma that were accessible to community-based organizations operating from Thailand were surveyed to estimate coverage of reproductive, maternal, and family planning services, and to assess exposure to household-level human rights violations within the pilot-project target population. Two-stage cluster sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) documented access to essential antenatal care interventions, skilled attendance at birth, postnatal care, and family planning services. Mid-upper arm circumference, hemoglobin by color scale, and Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by rapid diagnostic dipstick were measured. Exposure to human rights violations in the prior 12 mo was recorded. Between September 2006 and January 2007, 2,914 surveys were conducted. Eighty-eight percent of women reported a home delivery for their last pregnancy (within previous 5 y). Skilled attendance at birth (5.1%), any (39.3%) or ≥ 4 (16.7%) antenatal visits, use of an insecticide-treated bed net (21.6%), and receipt of iron supplements (11.8%) were low. At the time of the survey, more than 60% of women had hemoglobin level estimates ≤ 11.0 g/dl and 7.2% were Pf positive. Unmet need for contraceptives exceeded 60%. Violations of rights were widely reported: 32.1% of Karenni households reported forced labor and 10% of Karen households had been forced to move. Among Karen households, odds of anemia were 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–2.40) times higher among women reporting forced displacement, and 7.47 (95% CI 2.21–25.3) higher among those exposed to food security violations. The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were 5.94 (95% CI 2.23–15.8) times higher among those forcibly displaced.
Conclusions
Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region. Considerable political, financial, and human resources are necessary to improve access to maternal health care in these communities.
Luke Mullany and colleagues examine access to essential maternal health interventions and human rights violations within vulnerable communities in eastern Burma.
Editors' Summary
Background.
After decades of military rule, Burma has one of the world's worst health-care systems and high levels of ill health. For example, maternal mortality (deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes) is around 360 per 100,000 live births in Burma, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44 per 100,000 live births. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states in eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, maternal mortality is thought to be about 1000 per 100, 000 live births. In an effort to improve access to life-saving maternal health interventions in these states, Burmese community-based health organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Global Health Access Program in the USA, and the Mae Tao Clinic (a health-worker training center in Thailand) recently set up the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project. In this pilot project, local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, emergency obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), blood transfusion, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic. Back in Burma, these maternal health workers trained additional local health workers and traditional birth attendants. All these individuals now provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The effectiveness of the MOM project can only be evaluated if accurate baseline information on women's access to maternal health-care services is available. This information is also needed to ensure the wise use of scarce health-care resources. However, very little is known about reproductive and maternal health in eastern Burma. In this study, the researchers analyze the information on women's access to reproductive and maternal health-care services that was collected during the initial field implementation stage of the MOM project. In addition, they analyze whether exposure to enforced village relocations and other human rights violations affect access to maternal health-care services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained survey workers asked nearly 3000 ever-married women of reproductive age in the selected communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. They measured each woman's mid-upper arm circumference (an indicator of nutritional status) and tested them for anemia (iron deficiency) and infection with malaria parasites (a common cause of anemia in tropical countries). Finally, they asked the women about any recent violations of their human rights such as forced labour or relocation. Nearly 90% of the women reported a home delivery for their last baby. A skilled attendant was present at only one in 20 births and only one in three women had any antenatal care. One third of the women received postnatal care and only a third said they had access to effective contraceptives. Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites. Many women also showed signs of poor nutrition. Finally, human rights violations were widely reported by the women. In Karen, the region containing most of the study communities, forced relocation tripled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that access to maternal health-care interventions is extremely limited and that poor nutrition, anemia, and malaria, all of which increase the risk of pregnancy complications, are widespread in the communities in the MOM project. Because these communities had some basic health services and access to training in Thailand before the project started, these results probably underestimate the lack of access to maternal health-care services in eastern Burma. Nevertheless, it is clear that considerable political, financial, and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region. Finally, the findings also reveal a link between human rights violations and reduced access to maternal health-care services. Thus, the scale of human rights violations will need to be considered when evaluating programs designed to improve maternal health in Burma and in other places where there is ongoing conflict.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Macaya Douoguih
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao Clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
More information about the MOM project is available in a previous publication by the researchers
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and ongoing efforts to save mothers' lives around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
20.  Primary Care Research Team Assessment (PCRTA): development and evaluation. 
BACKGROUND: Since the early 1990s the United Kingdom (UK) Department of Health has explicitly promoted a research and development (R&D) strategy for the National Health Service (NHS). General practitioners (GPs) and other members of the primary care team are in a unique position to undertake research activity that will complement and inform the research undertaken by basic scientists and hospital-based colleagues and lead directly to a better evidence base for decision making by primary care professionals. Opportunities to engage in R&D in primary care are growing and the scope for those wishing to become involved is finally widening. Infrastructure funding for research-active practices and the establishment of a range of support networks have helped to improve the research capacity and blur some of the boundaries between academic departments and clinical practice. This is leading to a supportive environment for primary care research. There is thus a need to develop and validate nationally accepted quality standards and accreditation of performance to ensure that funders, collaborators and primary care professionals can deliver high quality primary care research. Several strategies have been described in national policy documents in order to achieve an improvement in teaching and clinical care, as well as enhancing research capacity in primary care. The development of both research practices and primary care research networks has been recognised as having an important contribution to make in enabling health professionals to devote more protected time to undertake research methods training and to undertake research in a service setting. The recognition and development of primary care research has also brought with it an emphasis on quality and standards, including an approach to the new research governance framework. PRIMARY CARE RESEARCH TEAM ASSESSMENT: In 1998, the NHS Executive South and West, and later the London Research and Development Directorate, provided funding for a pilot project based at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to develop a scheme to accredit UK general practices undertaking primary care R&D. The pilot began with initial consultation on the development of the process, as well as the standards and criteria for assessment. The resulting assessment schedule allowed for assessment at one of two levels: Collaborative Research Practice (Level I), with little direct experience of gaining project or infrastructure funding Established Research Practice (Level II), with more experience of research funding and activity and a sound infrastructure to allow for growth in capacity. The process for assessment of practices involved the assessment of written documentation, followed by a half-day assessment visit by a multidisciplinary team of three assessors. IMPLEMENTATION--THE PILOT PROJECT: Pilot practices were sampled in two regions. Firstly, in the NHS Executive South West Region, where over 150 practices expressed an interest in participating. From these a purposive sample of 21 practices was selected, providing a range of research and service activity. A further seven practices were identified and included within the project through the East London and Essex Network of Researchers (ELENoR). Many in this latter group received funding and administrative support and advice from ELENoR in order to prepare written submissions for assessment. Some sample loss was encountered within the pilot project, which was attributable largely to conflicting demands on participants' time. Indeed, the preparation of written submissions within the South West coincided with the introduction of primary care groups (PCGs) in April 1999, which several practices cited as having a major impact on their participation in the pilot project. A final sample of 15 practices (nine in the South West and six through ELENoR) underwent assessment through the pilot project. EVALUATION: A formal evaluation of the Primary Care Research Team Assessment (PCRTA) pilot was undertaken by an independent researcher (FM). This was supplemented with feedback from the assessment team members. The qualitative aspect of the evaluation, which included face-to-face and telephone interviews with assessors, lead researchers and other practice staff within the pilot research practices, as well as members of the project management group, demonstrated a positive view of the pilot scheme. Several key areas were identified in relation to particular strengths of research practices and areas for development including: Strengths Level II practices were found to have a strong primary care team ethos in research. Level II practices tended to have a greater degree of strategic thinking in relation to research. Development areas Level I practices were found to lack a clear and explicit research strategy. Practices at both levels had scope to develop their communication processes for dissemination of research and also for patient involvement. Practices at both levels needed mechanisms for supporting professional development in research methodology. The evaluation demonstrated that practices felt that they had gained from their participation and assessors felt that the scheme had worked well. Some specific issues were raised by different respondents within the qualitative evaluation relating to consistency of interpretation of standards and also the possible overlap of the assessment scheme with other RCGP quality initiatives. NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PRIMARY CARE RESEARCH TEAM ASSESSMENT: The pilot project has been very successful and recommendations have been made to progress to a UK scheme. Management and review of the scheme will remain largely the same, with a few changes focusing on the assessment process and support for practices entering the scheme. Specific changes include: development of the support and mentoring role of the primary care research networks increased peer and external support and mentoring for research practices undergoing assessment development of assessor training in line with other schemes within the RCGP Assessment Network work to ensure consistency across RCGP accreditation schemes in relation to key criteria, thereby facilitating comparable assessment processes refinement of the definition of the two groups, with Level I practices referred to as Collaborators and Level II practices as Investigator-Led. The project has continued to generate much enthusiasm and support and continues to reflect current policy. Indeed, recent developments include the proposed new funding arrangements for primary care R&D, which refer to the RCGP assessment scheme and recognise it as a key component in the future R&D agenda. The assessment scheme will help primary care trusts (PCTs) and individual practices to prepare and demonstrate their approach to research governance in a systematic way. It will also provide a more explicit avenue for primary care trusts to explore local service and development priorities identified within health improvement programmes and the research priorities set nationally for the NHS.
PMCID: PMC2560501  PMID: 12049028
21.  Elimination of HIV in South Africa through Expanded Access to Antiretroviral Therapy: A Model Comparison Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001534.
Using nine structurally different models, Jan Hontelez and colleagues investigate timeframes for HIV elimination in South Africa using a universal test and treat strategy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) using universal test and treat (UTT) has been suggested as a strategy to eliminate HIV in South Africa within 7 y based on an influential mathematical modeling study. However, the underlying deterministic model was criticized widely, and other modeling studies did not always confirm the study's finding. The objective of our study is to better understand the implications of different model structures and assumptions, so as to arrive at the best possible predictions of the long-term impact of UTT and the possibility of elimination of HIV.
Methods and Findings
We developed nine structurally different mathematical models of the South African HIV epidemic in a stepwise approach of increasing complexity and realism. The simplest model resembles the initial deterministic model, while the most comprehensive model is the stochastic microsimulation model STDSIM, which includes sexual networks and HIV stages with different degrees of infectiousness. We defined UTT as annual screening and immediate ART for all HIV-infected adults, starting at 13% in January 2012 and scaled up to 90% coverage by January 2019. All models predict elimination, yet those that capture more processes underlying the HIV transmission dynamics predict elimination at a later point in time, after 20 to 25 y. Importantly, the most comprehensive model predicts that the current strategy of ART at CD4 count ≤350 cells/µl will also lead to elimination, albeit 10 y later compared to UTT. Still, UTT remains cost-effective, as many additional life-years would be saved. The study's major limitations are that elimination was defined as incidence below 1/1,000 person-years rather than 0% prevalence, and drug resistance was not modeled.
Conclusions
Our results confirm previous predictions that the HIV epidemic in South Africa can be eliminated through universal testing and immediate treatment at 90% coverage. However, more realistic models show that elimination is likely to occur at a much later point in time than the initial model suggested. Also, UTT is a cost-effective intervention, but less cost-effective than previously predicted because the current South African ART treatment policy alone could already drive HIV into elimination.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and every year another 2.5 million people become infected. HIV, which is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, gradually destroys CD4 lymphocytes and other immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, people infected with HIV often died within ten years of infection. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART) became available, and, for people living in affluent countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition. However, ART was expensive, so HIV/AIDS remained a fatal condition for people living in resource-limited countries. In 2006, the international community set a target of achieving universal ART coverage by 2010, and ART programs were initiated in many resource-limited countries. Although universal ART coverage has still not been achieved in South Africa, where nearly 6 million people are HIV-positive, 80% of people in need of ART were receiving a World Health Organization–recommended ART regimen by October 2012.
Why Was This Study Done?
ART is usually started when a person's CD4 count falls below 350 cells/µl blood, but it is thought that treatment of all HIV-positive individuals, regardless of their CD4 count, could reduce HIV transmission by reducing the infectiousness of HIV-positive individuals (“treatment as prevention”). Might it be possible, therefore, to eliminate HIV by screening everyone annually for infection and treating all HIV-positive individuals immediately? In 2009, a mathematical modeling study suggested that seven years of universal test and treat (UTT) could eliminate HIV in South Africa. The deterministic (nonrandom) model used in that study has been widely criticized, however, and some subsequent modeling studies have reached different conclusions, probably because of differences in the models' structures and in the assumptions built into them. A better understanding of the reasons for the discrepancies between models would help policy-makers decide whether to introduce UTT, so, here, the researchers developed several increasingly complex and realistic models of the South African HIV epidemic and used these models to predict the long-term impact of UTT in South Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed nine structurally different mathematical models of the South African HIV epidemic based on the STDSIM framework, a stochastic microsimulation model that simulates the life course of individuals in a dynamic network of sexual contacts and in which events such as HIV infection are random processes. The simplest model, which resembled the original deterministic model, was extended by sequentially adding in factors such as different HIV transmission rates at different stages of HIV infection and up-to-date assumptions regarding the ability of ART to reduce HIV infectiousness. All the models replicated the prevalence of HIV in South Africa (the proportion of the population that was HIV-positive) between 1990 and 2010, and all predicted that UTT (defined as annual screening of individuals age 15+ years and immediate ART for all HIV-infected adults starting in 2012 and scaled up to 90% coverage by 2019) would result in HIV elimination (less than one new infection per 1,000 person-years). However, whereas the simplest model predicted that UTT would eliminate HIV after seven years, the more complex, realistic models predicted elimination at much later time points. Importantly, the most comprehensive model predicted that, although elimination would be reached after about 17 years of UTT, the current strategy of ART initiation for HIV-positive individuals at a CD4 cell count at or below 350 cells/µl would also lead to HIV elimination, albeit ten years later than UTT.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings confirm previous predictions that UTT could eliminate HIV in South Africa, but the development of more realistic models than those used in the past suggests that HIV elimination would occur substantially later than originally predicted. Importantly, the most comprehensive model suggests that HIV could be eliminated in South Africa using the current strategy for ART treatment alone. As with all modeling studies, the accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions built into the models and on the structure of the models. Thus, although these findings support the use of UTT as an intervention to eliminate HIV, more research with comprehensive models that incorporate factors such as data from ongoing trials of treatment as prevention is needed to determine the population-level impact and overall cost-effectiveness of UTT.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001534.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Ford and Hirnschall
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, on HIV treatment as prevention and the possibility of HIV elimination (in English and Spanish)
The 2012 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in several languages); its 2010 ART guidelines can be downloaded
The PLOS Medicine Collection Investigating the Impact of Treatment on New HIV Infections provides more information about HIV treatment as prevention
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through NAM/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001534
PMCID: PMC3805487  PMID: 24167449
22.  Human Resource and Funding Constraints for Essential Surgery in District Hospitals in Africa: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000242.
In the second of two papers investigating surgical provision in eight district hospitals in Saharan African countries, Margaret Kruk and colleagues describe the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimate the related costs.
Background
There is a growing recognition that the provision of surgical services in low-income countries is inadequate to the need. While constrained health budgets and health worker shortages have been blamed for the low rates of surgery, there has been little empirical data on the providers of surgery and cost of surgical services in Africa. This study described the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimated the resources dedicated to surgery at district hospitals in three African countries.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional survey of data from eight district hospitals in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. There were no specialist surgeons or anesthetists in any of the hospitals. Most of the health workers were nurses (77.5%), followed by mid-level providers (MLPs) not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to perform surgical procedures (3.8%). There were one to six medical doctors per hospital (4.2% of clinical staff). Most major surgical procedures were performed by doctors (54.6%), however over one-third (35.9%) were done by MLPs. Anesthesia was mainly provided by nurses (39.4%). Most of the hospital expenditure was related to staffing. Of the total operating costs, only 7% to 14% was allocated to surgical care, the majority of which was for obstetric surgery. These costs represent a per capita expenditure on surgery ranging from US$0.05 to US$0.14 between the eight hospitals.
Conclusion
African countries have adopted different policies to ensure the provision of surgical care in their respective district hospitals. Overall, the surgical output per capita was very low, reflecting low staffing ratios and limited expenditures for surgery. We found that most surgical and anesthesia services in the three countries in the study were provided by generalist doctors, MLPs, and nurses. Although more information is needed to estimate unmet need for surgery, increasing the funds allocated to surgery, and, in the absence of trained doctors and surgeons, formalizing the training of MLPs appears to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to make basic surgical services available in underserved areas.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Infectious diseases remain the major killers in developing countries, but traumatic injuries, complications of childbirth, and other conditions that need surgery are important contributors to the overall burden of disease in these countries. Unfortunately, the provision of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries is often insufficient. There are many fewer operations per a head of population in developing countries than in developed countries, essential operations such as cesarean sections for complicated deliveries are not always available, and elective operations such as male and female sterilization can be difficult to obtain. Lack of funding for surgical procedures and shortages of trained health workers have often been blamed for the low rates of surgery in developing countries. For example, anesthesiologists (doctors who are trained to give anesthetics and other pain-relieving agents) and trained anesthetists (usually nurses and technicians) are rare in many African countries, as are surgeons and obstetricians (doctors who look after women during pregnancy and childbirth). To make matters worse, these specialists often work in tertiary referral hospitals in large cities. In district hospitals, which provide most of the primary health care needs of rural populations, basic surgical care is usually provided by “mid-level health care providers” (MLPs)—individuals with a level of training between that of nurses and physicians.
Why Was This Study Done?
Various organizations are currently working to improve emergency and essential surgical care in developing countries. For example, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG) seeks to define, quantify, and address the problem of unmet surgical needs in sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, however, before any programs can be introduced to improve access to surgical services in developing countries, better baseline data on existing surgical services needs to be collected—most of the available information on these services is anecdotal. In this study, the researchers (most of whom are members of the BESG) investigate the provision of surgical procedures and anesthesia in district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries and estimate the costs of surgery performed in the same hospitals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected recent data on the number of doctors, MLPs, and nurses in two district hospitals in Tanzania and in Mozambique, and from four district hospitals in Uganda and information on each hospital's expenditure. Most of the health workers in these hospitals (which care for 3 million people between them) were nurses (77.5%), followed by MLPs not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to provide surgical care (3.8%). The hospitals had between one and six medical doctors each (28 across all the hospitals), but there were no trained surgeons or anesthesiologists posted at any of the hospitals. About half of the major surgical procedures undertaken at these hospitals were performed by doctors but more than a third were done by MLPs although the exact pattern of personnel involved in surgery varied among the three countries. Anesthesia was mostly provided by nurses and doctors; again the pattern of anesthesia provision varied among countries and hospitals. Only 7%–14% of overall hospital expenditure was allocated to surgical care and most of this allocation was used for obstetric services. Finally, the researchers estimate that, on the basis of district populations, the district hospitals spent between US$0.05 and US$0.14 per head on surgical services.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in the district hospitals investigated in this study, physicians, MLPs, and nurses provide most of the surgical care. Furthermore, although all the hospitals in the study provide some surgical care, it accounts for a small part of the hospitals' overall operating costs. These findings may not be generalizable to other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and provide no information about the unmet needs for surgical care. Nevertheless, these findings and those of a separate paper that investigates the range and volume of surgical procedures undertaken in the same district hospitals provide a valuable baseline for planning the expansion of health care services in Africa. They also suggest that increasing the funds allocated to surgery and formalizing the training of MLPs might be a cost-effective way of increasing access to surgical care in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000242.
The range and volume of surgery in the same hospitals is investigated in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Moses Galukande et al.
Information on the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group is available
WHO's Global initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care plans to take essential emergency, basic surgery and anesthesia skills to health care staff in low- and middle-income countries around the world; WHO also has a page describing the importance of emergency and essential surgery in primary health care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000242
PMCID: PMC2834706  PMID: 20231869
23.  Impact of Community-Based Maternal Health Workers on Coverage of Essential Maternal Health Interventions among Internally Displaced Communities in Eastern Burma: The MOM Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000317.
Mullany and colleagues report outcomes from a project involving delivery of community-based maternal health services in eastern Burma, and report substantial increases in coverage of care.
Background
Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.
Methods
Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.
Results
Among 2,889 and 2,442 women of reproductive age in 2006 and 2008, respectively, population characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic distribution, literacy) were similar. Compared to baseline, women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period were substantially more likely to receive antenatal care (71.8% versus 39.3%, prevalence rate ratio [PRR] = 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.04]) and specific interventions such as urine testing (42.4% versus 15.7%, PRR = 2.69 [95% CI 2.69–3.54]), malaria screening (55.9% versus 21.9%, PRR = 2.88 [95% CI 2.15–3.85]), and deworming (58.2% versus 4.1%, PRR = 14.18 [95% CI 10.76–18.71]. Postnatal care visits within 7 d doubled. Use of modern methods to avoid pregnancy increased from 23.9% to 45.0% (PRR = 1.88 [95% CI 1.63–2.17]), and unmet need for contraception was reduced from 61.7% to 40.5%, a relative reduction of 35% (95% CI 28%–40%). Attendance at birth by those trained to deliver elements of emergency obstetric care increased almost 10-fold, from 5.1% to 48.7% (PRR = 9.55 [95% CI 7.21–12.64]).
Conclusions
Coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project's focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care (including family planning) is particularly bad in war-torn countries. In Burma, for example, where there have been decades of conflict between the military junta and ethnic minority resistance groups, the maternal mortality rate (the number of deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births) is around 380, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, the maternal mortality rate is around 1,200. In an effort to improve access to maternal health services in these regions, community-based organizations in Burma, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and the Global Health Access Program undertook an innovative pilot project—the Mobile Obstetric Medics (MOM) project—between 2005 and 2008. Local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), postnatal care, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. These “maternal health workers” then returned to Burma where they trained local health workers and traditional birth attendants to provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before the MOM project started, nearly 3,000 women living in the study communities were surveyed to evaluate the coverage of essential antenatal care interventions such as urine testing for infections during pregnancy, screening for malaria, and deworming; Urinary tract infections, malaria, and hookworm infections all increase the risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. The preproject survey also evaluated how many births were attended by people able to deal with complications, and the provision of postnatal care and family planning services. In this study, the researchers undertake a similar postproject survey to evaluate the impact of MOM on the coverage of essential maternal health interventions among internally displaced communities in eastern Burma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2008 and December 2008, trained survey workers asked nearly 2,500 ever-married women of reproductive age from the project's study communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. The results of the postproject survey were then compared with those of the “baseline,” preproject survey. The general characteristics (age, marital status, ethnicity, and literacy) of the women included in the two surveys were very similar. However, 71.8% of the women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period of the MOM project had received antenatal care compared to only 39.3% of women surveyed at baseline. Similarly, among the women questioned during the postproject survey, 42.4% had had their urine tested and 55.9% had been screened for malaria during pregnancy compared to only 15.7% and 21.9%, respectively, of the women questioned in the preproject survey. Deworming had increased from 4.1% to 58.2% during the project, postnatal care visits within 7 days had doubled, and attendance at birth by people trained to deal with obstetric emergencies had increased 10-fold from 5.1% to 48.7%. Finally, the use of modern contraception methods (slow-release contraceptives, oral contraceptives, and condoms) had increased from 23.9% to 45.0%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a substantial improvement in access to maternal and reproductive health care in the study communities during the MOM project. However, because the study compared two independent groups of women before and after implementation of the MOM project rather than concurrently comparing groups of women who did and did not receive the services provided by the MOM project, this study does not prove that the MOM approach was the cause of the changes in the coverage of essential maternal health care. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the type of approach used in the MOM project—the expansion of interventions (including components of emergency obstetric care) delivered outside healthcare facilities by community-based providers—might be an effective way to deliver maternal and reproductive health services in other parts of Burma and in other places where there are ongoing conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317.
More information about the MOM project is available in previous publications by the researchers in PLoS Medicine, in Reproductive Health Matters, and in Social Science and Medicine
Additional resources are also available on the MOM Project
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium provides information on how conflicts affect reproductive health
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations, including those that affect maternal health in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and maternal and reproductive health during conflicts and among refugees (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
24.  Development of the VBLaST™: A Virtual Basic Laparoscopic Skill Trainer 
Background
Minimally invasive surgery has become more and more important in modern hospitals. In this context, increasingly more surgeons need to be trained to master the necessary laparoscopic surgical skills. The Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) training tool box has now been adopted by the Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) as an official training tool. While useful, there are major drawbacks of such physical tool boxes including the need to constantly replace training materials, inability to perform objective quantification of skill and the inability to easily adapt to training surgeons on surgical robots such as the da Vinci® which provides high resolution stereo visualization.
Methods
To overcome the limitations of the FLS training tool box, we have developed a Virtual Basic Laparoscopic Skill Trainer (VBLaST™) system, which will allow trainees to acquire basic laparoscopic skill training through the bimanual performance of four tasks including peg transfer, pattern cutting, ligating loop and suturing. A high update rate of about 1 kHz is necessary to ensure continuous haptic interactions and smooth transitions.
Results
The outcome of this work is the development of an integrated visio-haptic workstation environment including two Phantom® Omni™ force feedback devices and a 3D display interface from Planar Systems, Inc whereby trainees can practice on virtual versions of the FLS tasks in 2D as well as in 3D, thereby allowing them to practice both for traditional laparoscopic surgery as well as that using the da Vinci® system. Realistic graphical rendering and high fidelity haptic interactions are achieved through several innovations in modeling complex interactions of tissues and deformable objects.
Conclusions
Surgical skill training is a long and tedious process of acquiring fine motor skills. Even when complex and realistic surgical trainers with realistic organ geometries and tissue properties, which are currently being developed by academic researchers as well as the industry, mature to the stage of being routinely used in surgical training, basic skill trainers such as VBLaST™ will not lose their relevance. It is expected that residents would start on trainers such as VBLaST™ and after reaching a certain level of competence would progress to the more complex trainers for training on specific surgical procedures. In this regard, the development of the VBLaST™ is highly significant and timely.
doi:10.1002/rcs.185
PMCID: PMC2804952  PMID: 18348181
Computer Graphics; Interaction techniques; Minimally Invasive Surgery; User Interfaces—Haptic I/O
25.  Meeting the needs of people with AIDS: local initiatives and Federal support. 
Public Health Reports  1988;103(3):293-298.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), one of the seven agencies of the Public Health Service, is working to meet some of the resource and patient service needs engendered by the epidemic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Those actions derived from, and support the continuation, expansion, and replication of, initiatives at the community and State levels. HRSA is carrying out many of the recommendations of the Intragovernmental Task Force on AIDS Health Care Delivery by enhancing the AIDS training of health care personnel in prevention, diagnosis, and care and by counseling and encouraging the expansion of facilities outside hospitals to care for AIDS patients. The agency, through its pediatric AIDS demonstration projects, is working on models for the care of children with HIV infections. The needs of AIDS patients are being addressed through a drug therapy reimbursement program; demonstration grants to 13 projects to promote coordinated, integrated systems of care in the community; and grants for the development of intermediate and long-term care facilities for patients. Ten regional education and training centers, funded in 1987 and 1988, will increase the supply of health care providers prepared to diagnose and treat persons with HIV infections. Programs will be conducted for several thousand providers over the next 3 years, using such modalities as televised programs and train-the-trainer courses. The centers will also offer support and referral services for providers.
PMCID: PMC1478074  PMID: 3131821

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