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1.  Factors influencing the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors: a systematic review 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:76.
Multisource feedback (MSF) is currently being introduced in the UK as part of a cycle of performance review for doctors. However, although it is suggested that the provision of feedback can lead to a positive change in performance and learning for medical professionals, the evidence supporting these assumptions is unclear. The aim of this review, therefore, was to identify the key factors that influence the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors.
Relevant electronic bibliographic databases were searched for studies that aimed to assess the impact of MSF on professional practice. Two reviewers independently selected and quality assessed the studies and abstracted data regarding study design, setting, MSF instrument, behaviour changes identified and influencing factors using a standard data extraction form.
A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria and quality assessment criteria. While seven studies reported only a general change in professional practice, a further seven studies identified specific changes in behaviour. The main professional behaviours that were found to be influenced by the feedback were communication, both with colleagues and patients and an improvement in clinical competence/skills. The main factors found to influence the acceptance and use of MSF were the format of the feedback, specifically in terms of whether it was facilitated, or if narrative comments were included in the review, and if the feedback was from sources that the physician believed to be knowledgeable and credible.
While there is limited evidence suggesting that MSF can influence professional performance, the quality of this evidence is variable. Further research is necessary to establish how this type of feedback actually influences behaviours and what factors have greatest influence.
PMCID: PMC4011765  PMID: 24725268
Systematic review; Multisource Feedback; Physicians; Assessment; Revalidation
2.  Description of 3,180 Courses of Chelation with Dimercaptosuccinic Acid in Children ≤5 y with Severe Lead Poisoning in Zamfara, Northern Nigeria: A Retrospective Analysis of Programme Data 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001739.
Jane Greig and colleagues from the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières describe the use of the oral chelating agent dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) in several thousand young children with severe lead poisoning as a result of an environmental disaster in Zamfara, northern Nigeria.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
In 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) discovered extensive lead poisoning impacting several thousand children in rural northern Nigeria. An estimated 400 fatalities had occurred over 3 mo. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed widespread contamination from lead-rich ore being processed for gold, and environmental management was begun. MSF commenced a medical management programme that included treatment with the oral chelating agent 2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA, succimer). Here we describe and evaluate the changes in venous blood lead level (VBLL) associated with DMSA treatment in the largest cohort of children ≤5 y of age with severe paediatric lead intoxication reported to date to our knowledge.
Methods and Findings
In a retrospective analysis of programme data, we describe change in VBLL after DMSA treatment courses in a cohort of 1,156 children ≤5 y of age who underwent between one and 15 courses of chelation treatment. Courses of DMSA of 19 or 28 d duration administered to children with VBLL ≥ 45 µg/dl were included. Impact of DMSA was calculated as end-course VBLL as a percentage of pre-course VBLL (ECP). Mixed model regression with nested random effects was used to evaluate the relative associations of covariates with ECP. Of 3,180 treatment courses administered, 36% and 6% of courses commenced with VBLL ≥ 80 µg/dl and ≥ 120 µg/dl, respectively. Overall mean ECP was 74.5% (95% CI 69.7%–79.7%); among 159 inpatient courses, ECP was 47.7% (95% CI 39.7%–57.3%). ECP after 19-d courses (n = 2,262) was lower in older children, first-ever courses, courses with a longer interval since a previous course, courses with more directly observed doses, and courses with higher pre-course VBLLs. Low haemoglobin was associated with higher ECP. Twenty children aged ≤5 y who commenced chelation died during the period studied, with lead poisoning a primary factor in six deaths. Monitoring of alanine transaminase (ALT), creatinine, and full blood count revealed moderate ALT elevation in <2.5% of courses. No clinically severe adverse drug effects were observed, and no laboratory findings required discontinuation of treatment. Limitations include that this was a retrospective analysis of clinical data, and unmeasured variables related to environmental exposures could not be accounted for.
Oral DMSA was a pharmacodynamically effective chelating agent for the treatment of severe childhood lead poisoning in a resource-limited setting. Re-exposure to lead, despite efforts to remediate the environment, and non-adherence may have influenced the impact of outpatient treatment.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Lead, a toxic metal that occurs naturally in the earth's crust, is now present throughout the environment because of human activities. For many years, lead was added to paint and gasoline and used in solder for water pipes. In addition, the mining, smelting, and refining of some metallic ores releases lead into the environment. Inhalation of contaminated air, consumption of contaminated food and water, and contact with dust that contains lead raises venous blood lead levels (VBLLs) and causes many health problems, particularly in children. Children who ingest large amounts of lead can develop anemia, muscle weakness, kidney damage, and life-threatening encephalopathy (brain swelling). Although fatal lead poisoning is now rare in resource-rich countries, it nevertheless remains a major global health problem. Over a three-month period in early 2010, for example, about 400 young children died in Zamfara State, Nigeria, from unexplained, intractable fits. By May 2010, it was clear that recently expanded gold mining had caused widespread environmental lead contamination in the region, and an environmental management program was begun to reduce lead levels in the surface soils.
Why Was This Study Done?
In response to the lead poisoning outbreak, the not-for-profit organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began a medical management program to reduce VBLLs that included treatment with the oral chelation agent dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). Chelation agents bind metal ions and facilitate their removal from the body, thereby reducing the likelihood of lead moving from the blood to the brain. Lead encephalopathy has been commonly treated by injecting another chelator called CaNa2EDTA, but the discovery of more than 1,000 cases of childhood lead poisoning in rural villages in Nigeria meant that MSF needed a chelation approach that could be applied rapidly in a remote resource-limited setting. Additionally, although CaNa2EDTA has been in common use for severe lead poisoning for longer than DMSA, and is commonly recommended in guidelines, the evidence base does not support one treatment as superior. Here, in a retrospective analysis of MSF program data, the researchers evaluate the changes in VBLLs before and after courses of oral DMSA treatment in children aged five years and below living in Zamfara to gain new insights into this understudied treatment for severe childhood lead poisoning.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured VBLLs before and after treatment with DMSA in 1,156 children (inpatient and outpatient) with high amounts of lead in their blood who underwent one or more courses of chelation treatment lasting 19 or 28 days by calculating each child's end-course VBLL as a percentage of the child's pre-course VBLL (ECP). Considering all the treatment courses given between June 2010 and June 2011, the mean (average) ECP was 74.5%. That is, on average, VBLLs measured at the end of treatment courses were reduced by a quarter compared to VBLLs at the start of treatment courses. Among 159 inpatient courses of DMSA, the ECP was 47.7% (a halving of pre-course VBLLs). The ECP after 19-day courses was lower in older children, after first-ever courses, after courses with a longer interval since a previous course, after courses that included more directly observed doses (DMSA given in the presence of a health-care worker), and in children with higher pre-course VBLLs. Nine of the children included in this analysis died during the study period; lead poisoning was probably involved in three of these deaths. Importantly, no clinically severe adverse effects related to DMSA were seen during the study period, and no laboratory findings were recorded that required treatment discontinuation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because many changes were made to the treatment given to the affected children in Zamfara during the study period and because no information is presented here on clinical outcomes, these findings cannot be used to reach any definitive conclusions about the effectiveness or safety of oral DMSA as a treatment for lead poisoning in young children. However, these findings show that chelation was associated with a large reduction in the death rate among probable or suspected cases of childhood lead poisoning in Zamfara and provide new information about oral chelation that may help agencies such as MSF provide urgent treatment for lead poisoning in resource-limited settings where intravenous chelation is not feasible. Moreover, the finding of a lower ECP after inpatient treatment courses compared to after outpatient courses suggests that re-exposure to lead and non-adherence to treatment may have influenced the impact of outpatient treatments. Thus, it is essential that medical management of lead poisoning in resource-limited settings be accompanied by environmental remediation and that efforts are made to support adherence to treatment in the community by implementing directly observed treatment wherever possible.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
A related PLOS ONE Research Article by Greig et al. provides information about the association between VBLLs and neurological features in children affected by the acute lead poisoning outbreak in Zamfara
MSF provides information about the lead poisoning crisis in Zamfara State
Human Rights Watch, an international organization that works to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all, also provides information about lead poisoning in Zamfara State, including photographs and a video
Tox Town, an interactive site about environmental health concerns from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead and lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about lead in the environment and about its lead poisoning prevention program
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to further information about lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4188566  PMID: 25291378
3.  Evaluation of physicians' professional performance: An iterative development and validation study of multisource feedback instruments 
There is a global need to assess physicians' professional performance in actual clinical practice. Valid and reliable instruments are necessary to support these efforts. This study focuses on the reliability and validity, the influences of some sociodemographic biasing factors, associations between self and other evaluations, and the number of evaluations needed for reliable assessment of a physician based on the three instruments used for the multisource assessment of physicians' professional performance in the Netherlands.
This observational validation study of three instruments underlying multisource feedback (MSF) was set in 26 non-academic hospitals in the Netherlands. In total, 146 hospital-based physicians took part in the study. Each physician's professional performance was assessed by peers (physician colleagues), co-workers (including nurses, secretary assistants and other healthcare professionals) and patients. Physicians also completed a self-evaluation. Ratings of 864 peers, 894 co-workers and 1960 patients on MSF were available. We used principal components analysis and methods of classical test theory to evaluate the factor structure, reliability and validity of instruments. We used Pearson's correlation coefficient and linear mixed models to address other objectives.
The peer, co-worker and patient instruments respectively had six factors, three factors and one factor with high internal consistencies (Cronbach's alpha 0.95 - 0.96). It appeared that only 2 percent of variance in the mean ratings could be attributed to biasing factors. Self-ratings were not correlated with peer, co-worker or patient ratings. However, ratings of peers, co-workers and patients were correlated. Five peer evaluations, five co-worker evaluations and 11 patient evaluations are required to achieve reliable results (reliability coefficient ≥ 0.70).
The study demonstrated that the three MSF instruments produced reliable and valid data for evaluating physicians' professional performance in the Netherlands. Scores from peers, co-workers and patients were not correlated with self-evaluations. Future research should examine improvement of performance when using MSF.
PMCID: PMC3349515  PMID: 22448816
4.  The construct and criterion validity of the multi-source feedback process to assess physician performance: a meta-analysis 
The purpose of this study was to conduct a meta-analysis on the construct and criterion validity of multi-source feedback (MSF) to assess physicians and surgeons in practice.
In this study, we followed the guidelines for the reporting of observational studies included in a meta-analysis. In addition to PubMed and MEDLINE databases, the CINAHL, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases were searched from January 1975 to November 2012. All articles listed in the references of the MSF studies were reviewed to ensure that all relevant publications were identified. All 35 articles were independently coded by two authors (AA, TD), and any discrepancies (eg, effect size calculations) were reviewed by the other authors (KA, AD, CV).
Physician/surgeon performance measures from 35 studies were identified. A random-effects model of weighted mean effect size differences (d) resulted in: construct validity coefficients for the MSF system on physician/surgeon performance across different levels in practice ranged from d=0.14 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.40–0.69) to d=1.78 (95% CI 1.20–2.30); construct validity coefficients for the MSF on physician/surgeon performance on two different occasions ranged from d=0.23 (95% CI 0.13–0.33) to d=0.90 (95% CI 0.74–1.10); concurrent validity coefficients for the MSF based on differences in assessor group ratings ranged from d=0.50 (95% CI 0.47–0.52) to d=0.57 (95% CI 0.55–0.60); and predictive validity coefficients for the MSF on physician/surgeon performance across different standardized measures ranged from d=1.28 (95% CI 1.16–1.41) to d=1.43 (95% CI 0.87–2.00).
The construct and criterion validity of the MSF system is supported by small to large effect size differences based on the MSF process and physician/surgeon performance across different clinical and nonclinical domain measures.
PMCID: PMC3942110  PMID: 24600300
multi-source feedback system; meta-analysis; clinical performance; construct validity; criterion validity
5.  Multisource Feedback in the Ambulatory Setting 
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has mandated multisource feedback (MSF) in the ambulatory setting for internal medicine residents. Few published reports demonstrate actual MSF results for a residency class, and fewer still include clinical quality measures and knowledge-based testing performance in the data set.
Residents participating in a year-long group practice experience called the “long-block” received MSF that included self, peer, staff, attending physician, and patient evaluations, as well as concomitant clinical quality data and knowledge-based testing scores. Residents were given a rank for each data point compared with peers in the class, and these data were reviewed with the chief resident and program director over the course of the long-block.
Multisource feedback identified residents who performed well on most measures compared with their peers (10%), residents who performed poorly on most measures compared with their peers (10%), and residents who performed well on some measures and poorly on others (80%). Each high-, intermediate-, and low-performing resident had a least one aspect of the MSF that was significantly lower than the other, and this served as the basis of formative feedback during the long-block.
Use of multi-source feedback in the ambulatory setting can identify high-, intermediate-, and low-performing residents and suggest specific formative feedback for each. More research needs to be done on the effect of such feedback, as well as the relationships between each of the components in the MSF data set.
PMCID: PMC2941386  PMID: 21975632
6.  Feasibility of Implementing a Standardized Multisource Feedback Program in the Graduate Medical Education Environment 
Multisource feedback (MSF) is emerging as a central assessment method for several medical education competencies. Planning and resource requirements for a successful implementation can be significant. Our goal is to examine barriers and challenges to a successful multisite MSF implementation, and identify the benefits of MSF as perceived by participants.
We analyzed the 2007–2008 field trial implementation of the Assessment of Professional Behaviors, an MSF program of the National Board of Medical Examiners, conducted with 8 residency and fellowship programs at 4 institutions. We use a multimethod analysis that draws on quantitative process indicators and qualitative participant experience data. Process indicators include program attrition, completion of implementation milestones, number of participants at each site, number of MSF surveys assigned and completed, and adherence to an experimental rater training protocol. Qualitative data include communications with each program and semistructured interviews conducted with key field trial staff to elicit their experiences with implementation.
Several implementation challenges are identified, including communication gaps and difficulty scheduling implementation and training workshops. Participant interviews indicate several program changes that should enhance feasibility, including increasing communication and streamlining the training process.
Multisource feedback is a complex educational intervention that has the potential to provide users with a better understanding of performance expectations in the graduate medical education environment. Standardization of the implementation processes and tools should reduce the burden on program administrators and participants. Further study is warranted to broaden our understanding of the resource requirements for a successful MSF implementation and to show how outcomes change as MSF gains broader acceptance.
PMCID: PMC3244317  PMID: 23205200
7.  Feasibility and Reliability of a Multisource Feedback Tool for Emergency Medicine Residents 
While the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recommends multisource feedback (MSF) of resident performance, there is no uniformly accepted MSF tool for emergency medicine (EM) trainees, and the process of obtaining MSF in EM residencies is untested.
To determine the feasibility of an MSF program and evaluate the intraclass and interclass correlation of a previously reported resident professionalism evaluation, the Humanism Scale (HS).
To assess 10 third-year EM residents, we distributed an anonymous 9-item modified HS (EM-HS) to emergency department nursing staff, faculty physicians, and patients. The evaluators rated resident performance on a 1 to 9 scale (needs improvement to outstanding). Residents were asked to complete a self-evaluation of performance, using the same scale.
Generalizability coefficients (Eρ2) were used to assess the reliability within evaluator classes. The mean score for each of the 9 questions provided by each evaluator class was calculated for each resident. Correlation coefficients were used to evaluate correlation between rater classes for each question on the EM-HS. Eρ2 and correlation values greater than 0.70 were deemed acceptable.
EM-HSs were obtained from 44 nurses and 12 faculty physicians. The residents had an average of 13 evaluations by emergency department patients. Reliability within faculty and nurses was acceptable, with Eρ2 of 0.79 and 0.83, respectively. Interclass reliability was good between faculty and nurses.
An MSF program for EM residents is feasible. Intraclass reliability was acceptable for faculty and nurses. However, reliable feedback from patients requires a larger number of patient evaluations.
PMCID: PMC3179243  PMID: 22942962
8.  Teledermatology in Low-Resource Settings: The MSF Experience with a Multilingual Tele-Expertise Platform 
Introduction: In 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a tele-expertise system to improve the access to specialized clinical support for its field health workers. Among medical specialties, dermatology is the second most commonly requested type of tele-expertise. The aim of the present study was to review all MSF teledermatology cases in the first 4 years of operation. Our hypothesis was that the review would enable the identification of key areas for improvement in the current MSF teledermatology system.
Methods: We carried out a retrospective analysis of all dermatology cases referred by MSF field doctors through the MSF platform from April 2010 until February 2014. We conducted a quantitative and qualitative analysis based on a survey sent to all referrers and specialists involved in these cases.
Results: A total of 65 clinical cases were recorded by the system and 26 experts were involved in case management. The median delay in providing the first specialist response was 10.2 h (IQR 3.7–21.1). The median delay in allocating a new case was 0.96 h (IQR 0.26–3.05). The three main countries of case origin were South Sudan (29%), Ethiopia (12%), and Democratic Republic of Congo (10%). The most common topics treated were infectious diseases (46%), inflammatory diseases (25%), and genetic diseases (14%). One-third of users completed the survey. The two main issues raised by specialists and/or referrers were the lack of feedback about patient follow-up and the insufficient quality of clinical details and information supplied by referrers.
Discussion: The system clearly delivered a useful service to referrers because the workload rose steadily during the 4-year study period. Nonetheless, user surveys and retrospective analysis suggest that the MSF teledermatology system can be improved by providing guidance on best practice, using pre-filled referral forms, following-up the cases after teleconsultation, and establishing standards for clinical photography.
PMCID: PMC4231841  PMID: 25453029
telemedicine; telehealth; dermatology; LMICs; low-resource settings
9.  Assessing the Quality of Teleconsultations in a Store-And-Forward Telemedicine Network 
Store-and-forward telemedicine in resource-limited settings is becoming a relatively mature activity. However, there are few published reports about quality measurement in telemedicine, except in image-based specialties, and they mainly relate to high- and middle-income countries. In 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began to use a store-and-forward telemedicine network to assist its field staff in obtaining specialist advice. To date, more than 1000 cases have been managed with the support of telemedicine, from a total of 40 different countries. We propose a method for assessing the overall quality of the teleconsultations provided in a store-and-forward telemedicine network. The assessment is performed at regular intervals by a panel of observers, who – independently – respond to a questionnaire relating to a randomly chosen past case. The answers to the questionnaire allow two different dimensions of quality to be assessed: the quality of the process itself and the outcome, defined as the value of the response to three of the four parties concerned, i.e., the patient, the referring doctor, and the organization. It is not practicable to estimate the value to society by this technique. The feasibility of the method was demonstrated by using it in the MSF telemedicine network, where process quality scores, and user-value scores, appeared to be stable over a 9-month trial period. This was confirmed by plotting the cusum of a portmanteau statistic (the sum of the four scores) over the study period. The proposed quality-assessment method appears feasible in practice, and will form one element of a quality assurance program for MSF’s telemedicine network in future. The method is a generally applicable one, which can be used in many forms of medical interaction.
PMCID: PMC4100061  PMID: 25077138
telemedicine; telehealth; quality assurance; process control; LMICs
10.  User reception of a simple online multisource feedback tool for residents 
Receiving feedback on daily clinical activities, in whatever form, is crucial for the development of clinical proficiency. Multisource or 360-degree feedback procedures have been recommended to include various co-workers as sources of feedback. In 2008, a web-based multisource feedback (MSF) tool for medical residents was developed at the University Medical Center Utrecht and launched nationally in the Netherlands and has been widely used since then. In 2012, an evaluation was carried out to collect opinions on its use, on the quality of the instrument and on its experienced effectiveness. We approached 408 residents and 59 residency programme directors with an anonymous online survey.
Completed surveys were received from 108 residents (26 %) and 22 programme directors (37 %). The tool was well received among the respondents and proved to be a simple, efficient and effective instrument to prepare for information-rich progress interviews of programme directors with their residents. Despite a relatively low response rate, indications were found for the effectiveness of MSF use at four levels of Kirkpatrick’s hierarchy based on user impressions: reaction, learning, behaviour change, and impact. This MSF tool, designed for effective formative feedback, was found to meet its purpose and was well received.
PMCID: PMC4404451  PMID: 25822123
Multi-source feedback; Postgraduate medical education
11.  A Retrospective Analysis of Pediatric Cases Handled by the MSF Tele-Expertise System 
We conducted a retrospective analysis of all pediatric cases referred by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) field doctors via the MSF telemedicine system during a 4-year period from April 2010. A total of 467 pediatric cases were submitted, representing approximately 40% of all telemedicine cases. The median age of the patients was 4 years. The median response time (i.e., the interval between the case being submitted and the first response from a specialist) was 13 h (interquartile range 4–32 h). We selected a random sample of 12 pediatric cases in each of four age categories for detailed analysis by an experienced MSF pediatrician. In the 48 randomly selected cases, the mean rating for the quality of information provided by the referrer was 2.8 (on a scale from 1 = very poor to 5 = very good), and the mean rating for the appropriateness of the response was 3.3 (same scale). More than two-thirds of the responses were considered to be useful to the patient, and approximately three-quarters were considered to be useful to the medical team. The usefulness of the responses tended to be higher for the medical team than for the patient, and there was some evidence that usefulness to both groups was lower in newborns and adolescent patients. The telemedicine system allows the quality of the medical support given to medical teams in the field to be controlled objectively as there is a record of all cases and answers. Telemedicine has an important role in supporting the aims of medical humanitarian organizations such as MSF.
PMCID: PMC4260224  PMID: 25538935
low income countries; limited resource settings; telemedicine; telehealth; pediatric; humanitarian; emergency medicine
12.  Counselling in humanitarian settings: a retrospective analysis of 18 individual-focused non-specialised counselling programmes 
Conflict and Health  2013;7:19.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides individual counselling interventions in medical humanitarian programmes in contexts affected by conflict and violence. Although mental health and psychosocial interventions are a common part of the humanitarian response, little is known about how the profile and outcomes for individuals seeking care differs across contexts. We did a retrospective analysis of routine programme data to determine who accessed MSF counselling services and why, and the individual and programmatic risk factors for poor outcomes.
We analysed data from 18 mental health projects run by MSF in 2009 in eight countries. Outcome measures were client-rating scores (1–10 scale; 1 worst) for complaint severity and functioning and counsellor assessment. The effect of client and programme factors on outcomes was assessed by multiple regression analysis. Logistic regression was used to assess binary outcome variables.
48704 counselling sessions were held with 14963 individuals. Excluding women-focused projects, 66.8% of patients were women. Mean (SD) age was 33.3 (14.1) years. Anxiety-related complaints were the most common (35.0%), followed by family-related problems (15.7%), mood-related problems (14.1%) and physical complaints (13.7%). Only 2.0% presented with a serious mental health condition. 27.2% did not identify a traumatic precipitating event. 24.6% identified domestic discord or violence and 17.5% psychological violence as the precipitating event. 6244 (43.9%) had only one session. For 91% of 7837 who returned, the counsellor reported the problem had decreased or resolved. The mean (SD) complaint rating improved by 4.7 (2.4) points (p < 0.001) and by 4.2 (2.3, p < 0.001) for functional rating. Risk factors for poorer outcomes were few sessions, non-conflict setting (stable or societal violence settings), serious mental health condition, or attending a large, recently opened project.
The majority of clients accessing counselling services present with anxiety related complaints. Attrition rates were high. Good outcomes were recorded among those who attended for more than one visit. Lessons learned included the importance of adaptation of approach in non-conflict contexts such as societal violence or post-conflict contexts. There is a need for further research to evaluate the intervention against a control group.
PMCID: PMC3849884  PMID: 24041036
Mental health; Humanitarian; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); Counselling; Conflict; Violence
13.  The Development of a Multilingual Tool for Facilitating the Primary-Specialty Care Interface in Low Resource Settings: the MSF Tele-Expertise System 
In 2009, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started a pilot trial of store-and-forward telemedicine to support field workers. One network was operated in French and one in English; a third, Spanish network was brought into operation in 2012. The three telemedicine pilots were then combined to form a single multilingual tele-expertise system, tailored to support MSF field staff. We conducted a retrospective analysis of all telemedicine cases referred from April 2010 to March 2014. We also carried out a survey of all users in December 2013. A total of 1039 referrals were received from 41 countries, of which 89% were in English, 10% in French, and 1% in Spanish. The cases covered a very wide range of medical and surgical specialties. The median delay in providing the first specialist response to the referrer was 5.3 h (interquartile range 1.8, 16.4). The survey was sent to 294 referrers and 254 specialists. Of these, 224 were considered as active users (41%). Out of the 548 users, 163 (30%) answered the survey. The majority of referrers (79%) reported that the advice received via the system improved their management of the patient. The main concerns raised by referrers and specialists were the lack of support or promotion of system at headquarters’ level and the lack of feedback about patient follow-up. Because of the size of the MSF organization, it is clear that there is potential for further organizational adoption.
PMCID: PMC4144007  PMID: 25207266
telemedicine; telehealth; developing countries; tele-expertise; multilingual network
14.  Assessment of Resident Physicians in Professionalism, Interpersonal and Communication Skills: a Multisource Feedback 
Objective: To assess the internal validity and reliability of a multisource feedback (MSF) program by China Medical Board for resident physicians in China.
Method: Multisource feedback was used to assess professionalism, interpersonal and communication skills. 258 resident physicians were assessed by attending doctors, self-evaluation, resident peers, nurses, office staffs, and patients who completed a sealed questionnaire at 19 hospitals in China. Cronbach's alpha coefficient was used to assess reliability. Validity was assessed by exploratory factor analyses and by profile ratings.
Results: 4128 questionnaires were collected from this study. All responses had high internal consistency and reliability (Cronbach's α> 0.90), which suggests that both questions and form data were internally consistent. The exploratory factor analysis with varimax rotation for the evaluators' questionnaires was able to account for 70 to 74% of the total variance.
Conclusion: The current MSF assessment tools are internally valid and reliable for assessing resident physician professionalism and interpersonal and communication skills in China.
PMCID: PMC3348527  PMID: 22577337
Resident physician; Multisource feedback; Professionalism; Interpersonal and Communication Skills; international
15.  The Utility of Amnioinfusion in the Prophylaxis of Meconium-Stained Amniotic Fluid Infectious Morbidity 
Objectives: To evaluate the utility of intrapartum amnioinfusion (AI) in reducing the infectious morbidity of patients with meconium-stained fluid (MSF). Previous studies have shown increased intraamniotic infection (IAI) and postpartum endometritis (PPE) rates in patients with MSF. Intraamniotic infection has been reduced with the prophylactic administration of ampicillin–sulbactam in MSF. Intraamniotic infection and PPE have been reduced with the use of AI in patients with clear fluid. No investigators have specifically examined the efficacy of AI in reducing meconium-stained, amniotic-fluid-associated infectious morbidity.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study of all cases of MSF was conducted and included patients who delivered at Louisiana State University Medical Center–Shreveport during the one-year period from January to December 1996. Patients were identified from the perinatal database by the diagnosis code of MSF. The medical records were reviewed to determine the consistency of MSF and the presence or absence of infectious morbidity. Patient demographics, labor characteristics, and various risk factors for infection were sought. The main outcome measures were the occurrence of clinical IAI or PPE. Statistical analysis included two-tailed unpaired t-test, X2, ANOVA, and Fisher exact test when appropriate.
Results: Two hundred seventy-three medical records of patients with MSF were studied. One hundred twenty nine patients received AI, and 144 did not receive AI. No significant differences in demographics, labor characteristics, or outcome variables were noted between the two groups. The incidences of IAI were 18.6% and 24.3%, P = 0.13, in the AI and non-AI groups, respectively. Postpartum endometritis occurred in 22.5% of AI patients and 21.5% of non-AI patients, P = 0.97.
Conclusions: The use of AI confers no benefit for the reduction of infectious morbidity in patients with MSF.
PMCID: PMC2364586  PMID: 18476189
16.  Innovations in research ethics governance in humanitarian settings 
BMC Medical Ethics  2015;16:10.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the world’s leading humanitarian medical organizations. The increased emphasis in MSF on research led to the creation of an ethics review board (ERB) in 2001. The ERB has encouraged innovation in the review of proposals and the interaction between the ERB and the organization. This has led to some of the advances in ethics governance described in this paper.
We first update our previous work from 2009 describing ERB performance and then highlight five innovative practices:
• A new framework to guide ethics review
• The introduction of a policy exempting a posteriori analysis of routinely collected data
• The preapproval of “emergency” protocols
• General ethical approval of “routine surveys”
• Evaluating the impact of approved studies
The new framework encourages a conversation about ethical issues, rather than imposing quasi-legalistic rules, is more engaged with the specific MSF research context and gives greater prominence to certain values and principles. Some of the innovations implemented by the ERB, such as review exemption or approval of generic protocols, may run counter to many standard operating procedures. We argue that much standard practice in research ethics review ought to be open to challenge and revision. Continued interaction between MSF researchers and independent ERB members has allowed for progressive innovations based on a trustful and respectful partnership between the ERB and the researchers. In the future, three areas merit particular attention. First, the impact of the new framework should be assessed. Second, the impact of research needs to be defined more precisely as a first step towards being meaningfully assessed, including changes of impact over time. Finally, the dialogue between the MSF ERB and the ethics committees in the study countries should be enhanced.
We hope that the innovations in research ethics governance described may be relevant for other organisations carrying out research in fragile contexts and for ethics committees reviewing such research.
PMCID: PMC4351683  PMID: 25890281
Research ethics; Humanitarian contexts; Framework for ethics review; Research impact
17.  Implementation and utilisation of community-based mortality surveillance: a case study from Chad 
Conflict and Health  2012;6:11.
Prospective surveillance is a recognised approach for measuring death rates in humanitarian emergencies. However, there is limited evidence on how such surveillance should optimally be implemented and on how data are actually used by agencies. This case study investigates the implementation and utilisation of mortality surveillance data by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in eastern Chad. We aimed to describe and analyse the community-based mortality surveillance system, trends in mortality data and the utilisation of these data to guide MSF’s operational response.
The case study included 5 MSF sites including 2 refugee camps and 3 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Data were obtained through key informant interviews and systematic review of MSF operational reports from 2004–2008.
Mortality data were collected using community health workers (CHWs). Mortality generally decreased progressively. In Farchana and Breidjing refugee camps, crude death rates (CDR) decreased from 0.9 deaths per 10,000 person-days in 2004 to 0.2 in 2008 and from 0.7 to 0.1, respectively. In Gassire, Ade and Kerfi IDP camps, CDR decreased from 0.4 to 0.04, 0.3 to 0.04 and 1.0 to 0.3. Death rates among children under 5 years (U5DR) followed similar trends. CDR and U5DR crossed emergency thresholds in one site, Kerfi, where CDR rapidly rose to 2.1 and U5DR to 7.9 in July 2008 before rapidly decreasing to below emergency levels by September 2008.
Mortality data were used regularly to monitor population health status and on two occasions as a tool for advocacy. Lessons learned included the need for improved population estimates and standardized reporting procedures for improved data quality and dissemination; the importance of a simple and flexible model for data collection; and greater investment in supervising CHWs.
This model of community based mortality surveillance can be adapted and used by humanitarian agencies working in complex settings. Humanitarian organisations should however endeavour to disseminate routinely collected mortality data and improve utilisation of data for operational planning and evaluation. Accurate population estimation continues to be a challenge, limiting the accuracy of mortality estimates.
PMCID: PMC3560199  PMID: 23186330
Mortality; Surveillance; Death rate; Humanitarian; Conflict; Post-emergency; Chad; Refugees; Internally displaced persons (IDPs); Médecins sans frontières (MSF); Community health workers
18.  Predictors of Raised Viral Load during Antiretroviral Therapy in Patients with and without Prior Antiretroviral Use: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71407.
In Lagos, Nigeria, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) commenced free antiretroviral treatment (ART) in a hospital-based clinic. We performed a cross-sectional study to compare factors associated with raised viral load between patients with (“experienced”) and without (“naïve”) prior antiretroviral (ARV) exposure at commencement of ART at the clinic. We also examined factors influencing ARV adherence in experienced patients prior to clinic entry.
We included adult patients receiving ART from MSF who answered a questionnaire about previous antiretroviral use. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) for raised viral load (≥1000 copies/mL).
1246 (96%) patients answered: 1075 (86%) reported no, and 171 (14%) some, prior ARV exposure. ARV-naïve patients were more immunosuppressed at baseline: 65% vs 37% (p<0.001) had CD4<200; 17% vs 9% (p = 0.013) were WHO stage 4. Proportionately more experienced than naïve patients had raised viral loads (20% vs 9%, p<0.001) on ART in the MSF/MoH clinic. Raised viral load was associated with prior ARV experience (adjusted OR = 3.74, 95%CI 2.09–6.70, p<0.001) and complete interruption of current ART (adjusted OR = 3.71, 95%CI 2.06–6.68, p<0.001). Higher CD4 at time of VL and a higher self-rated score of recent adherence were associated with lower OR of a raised viral load. Among experienced patients who missed pills before joining MSF/MoH, most common reasons were because ARVS were not affordable (58%) or available (33%), with raised viral load associated with being unsure how to take them (OR = 3.16, 95%CI 1.10–9.12, p = 0.033).
Patients previously exposed to ARVs had increased OR of raised viral load. The cost and availability of ARVs were common reasons for missing ARVs before joining the MSF/MoH clinic, and inadequate patient knowledge was associated with raised viral load.
PMCID: PMC3743819  PMID: 23967207
19.  Commercial Serological Antibody Detection Tests for the Diagnosis of Pulmonary Tuberculosis: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e202.
The global tuberculosis epidemic results in nearly 2 million deaths and 9 million new cases of the disease a year. The vast majority of tuberculosis patients live in developing countries, where the diagnosis of tuberculosis relies on the identification of acid-fast bacilli on unprocessed sputum smears using conventional light microscopy. Microscopy has high specificity in tuberculosis-endemic countries, but modest sensitivity which varies among laboratories (range 20% to 80%). Moreover, the sensitivity is poor for paucibacillary disease (e.g., pediatric and HIV-associated tuberculosis). Thus, the development of rapid and accurate new diagnostic tools is imperative. Immune-based tests are potentially suitable for use in low-income countries as some test formats can be performed at the point of care without laboratory equipment. Currently, dozens of distinct commercial antibody detection tests are sold in developing countries. The question is “do they work?”
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review to assess the accuracy of commercial antibody detection tests for the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis. Studies from all countries using culture and/or microscopy smear for confirmation of pulmonary tuberculosis were eligible. Studies with fewer than 50 participants (25 patients and 25 control participants) were excluded. In a comprehensive search, we identified 68 studies. The results demonstrate that (1) overall, commercial tests vary widely in performance; (2) sensitivity is higher in smear-positive than smear-negative samples; (3) in studies of smear-positive patients, Anda-TB IgG by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay shows limited sensitivity (range 63% to 85%) and inconsistent specificity (range 73% to 100%); (4) specificity is higher in healthy volunteers than in patients in whom tuberculosis disease is initially suspected and subsequently ruled out; and (5) there are insufficient data to determine the accuracy of most commercial tests in smear microscopy–negative patients, as well as their performance in children or persons with HIV infection.
None of the commercial tests evaluated perform well enough to replace sputum smear microscopy. Thus, these tests have little or no role in the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis. Lack of methodological rigor in these studies was identified as a concern. It will be important to review the basic science literature evaluating serological tests for the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis to determine whether useful antigens have been described but their potential has not been fully exploited. Activities leading to the discovery of new antigens with immunodiagnostic potential need to be intensified.
Based on a systematic review, Madhukar Pai and colleagues conclude that none of the commercial immune-based tests for pulmonary tuberculosis so far evaluated perform well enough to replace sputum smear microscopy.
Editors' Summary
Tuberculosis (TB) is, globally, one of the most important infectious diseases. It is thought that in 2005 around 1.6 million people died as a result of TB. Controlling TB requires that the disease is correctly diagnosed so that it can then be promptly treated, which will reduce the risk of infection being passed on to other individuals. The method normally used for diagnosing TB disease in poor countries (where most people with TB disease live) involves taking a sample of mucus coughed up from the lungs; this mucus is then spread thinly onto a glass slide, dyed, and viewed under the microscope. The bacteria responsible for TB take up the dye in a particular pattern and can be clearly seen under the microscope. Although this test (sputum smear) is relatively straightforward to carry out even where facilities are basic, it is not particularly good at identifying TB disease in children or amongst individuals who are HIV-positive. Finally, the sputum smear test is also not very sensitive; that is, many people who have TB disease may not give a positive reading. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop and evaluate new tests that are suitable for use in poor countries, which will accurately diagnose TB disease, especially amongst children and people who are HIV-positive.
Why Was This Study Done?
New tests for TB have become available which detect whether an individual has raised antibodies against particular proteins and other substances present on the surface of the TB bacterium. These tests are carried out on blood samples, once blood cells and other factors have been taken out. These antibody tests are often quite simple to carry out, so in principle they could be suitable for use in developing countries. Since the tests are available on the market and can be freely used in some developing countries without any need for government regulatory bodies to approve them, it is important to know how good these tests are at diagnosing TB disease. The researchers here wanted, therefore, to evaluate all of the available data relating to the accuracy of antibody detection tests for diagnosis of TB disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to evaluate all of the information available on commercial antibody detection tests for diagnosis of TB disease of the lungs, the researchers carried out a systematic review. First, they searched biomedical literature databases using specific terms to identify studies for inclusion. A study was included in their analysis if the commercial test was compared against one of two other standard tests (sputum smear microscopy, or growth of TB bacteria in culture). One researcher from the team then pulled out specific pieces of information from each published study: these included the type of study design; information on study participants; the type of test; what the test was compared against; and finally the results of evaluation of the test. A second researcher pulled out pieces of information from several of the same studies. The researchers then compared the information to ensure that it was recorded correctly. Each study was also assigned a quality rating, based on four distinct criteria. For each type of test, the researchers used the data in the published studies to work out the test's accuracy, both in terms of its ability to give a positive reading for people who have TB disease as well as its ability to give a negative reading for people who do not have TB disease.
The researchers found 27 papers meeting their criteria. These papers reported the results of 68 original studies. Nine different commercial tests were examined in the studies. Overall, the studies seemed to be of relatively poor quality, with only 25% of them meeting all four of the researchers' criteria for a good-quality study. The different studies appeared to produce varying results for the accuracy of these commercial tests. In particular, the tests seemed to be less accurate at detecting TB disease amongst people who had a negative sputum smear than amongst people with a positive sputum smear. When all the data for these different studies were combined, the statistics indicated that the commercial tests, overall, were only modestly accurate for diagnosis of TB disease. None of the studies had been carried out in children or in HIV-positive people.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this systematic review suggest that the commercial antibody detection tests considered here are not particularly useful in diagnosis of TB disease as compared to other tests, such as sputum smear and bacterial culture. Some people are concerned that there is pressure in certain developing countries to start using these tests, but the current data do not support greater use. This systematic review also highlights the fact that many studies evaluating commercial TB tests are of poor quality, and that further research needs to be done to evaluate the accuracy of different TB tests amongst children and HIV-positive patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
World Health Organization Stop TB Department website. Information about the current Stop TB strategy, data and factsheets about TB, and other resources are available
Questions and Answers about Tuberculosis provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Information about TB tests from Médicins sans Frontières (MSF). Links to MSF reports on new diagnostic tests are also available
Wikipedia entry on Systematic Reviews (Note: Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1891320  PMID: 17564490
20.  Do 360-degree Feedback Survey Results Relate to Patient Satisfaction Measures? 
There is evidence that feedback from 360-degree surveys—combined with coaching—can improve physician team performance and quality of patient care. The Physicians Universal Leadership-Teamwork Skills Education (PULSE) 360 is one such survey tool that is used to assess work colleagues’ and coworkers’ perceptions of a physician’s leadership, teamwork, and clinical practice style. The Clinician & Group-Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System (CG-CAHPS), developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services to serve as the benchmark for quality health care, is a survey tool for patients to provide feedback that is based on their recent experiences with staff and clinicians and soon will be tied to Medicare-based compensation of participating physicians. Prior research has indicated that patients and coworkers often agree in their assessment of physicians’ behavioral patterns. The goal of the current study was to determine whether 360-degree, also called multisource, feedback provided by coworkers could predict patient satisfaction/experience ratings. A significant relationship between these two forms of feedback could enable physicians to take a more proactive approach to reinforce their strengths and identify any improvement opportunities in their patient interactions by reviewing feedback from team members. An automated 360-degree software process may be a faster, simpler, and less resource-intensive approach than telephoning and interviewing patients for survey responses, and it potentially could facilitate a more rapid credentialing or quality improvement process leading to greater fiscal and professional development gains for physicians.
Our primary research question was to determine if PULSE 360 coworkers’ ratings correlate with CG-CAHPS patients’ ratings of overall satisfaction, recommendation of the physician, surgeon respect, and clarity of the surgeon’s explanation. Our secondary research questions were to determine whether CG-CAHPS scores correlate with additional composite scores from the Quality PULSE 360 (eg, insight impact score, focus concerns score, leadership-teamwork index score, etc).
We retrospectively analyzed existing quality improvement data from CG-CAHPS patient surveys as well as from a department quality improvement initiative using 360-degree survey feedback questionnaires (Quality PULSE 360 with coworkers). Bivariate analyses were conducted to identify significant relationships for inclusion of research variables in multivariate linear analyses (eg, stepwise regression to determine the best fitting predictive model for CG-CAHPS ratings). In all higher order analyses, CG-CAHPS ratings were treated as the dependent variables, whereas PULSE 360 scores served as independent variables. This approach led to the identification of the most predictive linear model for each CG-CAHPS’ performance rating (eg, [1] overall satisfaction; [2] recommendation of the physician; [3] surgeon respect; and [4] clarity of the surgeon’s explanation) regressed on all PULSE scores with which there was a significant bivariate relationship. Backward stepwise regression was then used to remove unnecessary predictors from the linear model based on changes in the variance explained by the model with or without inclusion of the predictor.
The Quality PULSE 360 insight impact score correlated with patient satisfaction (0.50, p = 0.01), patient recommendation (0.58, p = 0.002), patient rating of surgeon respect (0.74, p < 0.001), and patient impression of clarity of the physician explanation (0.69, p < 0.001). Additionally, leadership-teamwork index also correlated with patient rating of surgeon respect (0.46, p = 0.019) and patient impression of clarity of the surgeon’s explanation (0.39, p = 0.05). Multivariate analyses supported retention of insight impact as a predictor of patient overall satisfaction, patient recommendation of the surgeon, and patient rating of surgeon respect. Both insight impact and leadership-teamwork index were retained as predictors of patient impression of explanation. Several other PULSE 360 variables were correlated with CG-CAHPS ratings, but none were retained in the linear models post stepwise regression.
The relationship between Quality PULSE 360 feedback scores and measures of patient satisfaction reaffirm that feedback from work team members may provide helpful information into how patients may be perceiving their physicians’ behavior and vice versa. Furthermore, the findings provide tentative support for the use of team-based feedback to improve the quality of relationships with both coworkers and patients. The 360-degree survey process may offer an effective tool for physicians to obtain feedback about behavior that could directly impact practice reimbursement and reputation or potentially be used for bonuses to incentivize better team professionalism and patient satisfaction, ie, “pay-for-professionalism.” Further research is needed to expand on this line of inquiry, determine which interventions can improve 360-degree and patient satisfaction scores, and explain the shared variance in physician performance that is captured in the perceptions of patients and coworkers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11999-014-3981-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4385380  PMID: 25287521
21.  Feasibility, Drug Safety, and Effectiveness of Etiological Treatment Programs for Chagas Disease in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia: 10-Year Experience of Médecins Sans Frontières 
Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is a zoonotic or anthropozoonotic disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Predominantly affecting populations in poor areas of Latin America, medical care for this neglected disease is often lacking. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has provided diagnostic and treatment services for Chagas disease since 1999. This report describes 10 years of field experience in four MSF programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia, focusing on feasibility protocols, safety of drug therapy, and treatment effectiveness.
From 1999 to 2008, MSF provided free diagnosis, etiological treatment, and follow-up care for patients <18 years of age seropositive for T. cruzi in Yoro, Honduras (1999–2002); Olopa, Guatemala (2003–2006); Entre Ríos, Bolivia (2002–2006); and Sucre, Bolivia (2005–2008). Essential program components guaranteeing feasibility of implementation were information, education, and communication (IEC) at the community and family level; vector control; health staff training; screening and diagnosis; treatment and compliance, including family-based strategies for early detection of adverse events; and logistics. Chagas disease diagnosis was confirmed by testing blood samples using two different diagnostic tests. T. cruzi-positive patients were treated with benznidazole as first-line treatment, with appropriate counseling, consent, and active participation from parents or guardians for daily administration of the drug, early detection of adverse events, and treatment withdrawal, when necessary. Weekly follow-up was conducted, with adverse events recorded to assess drug safety. Evaluations of serological conversion were carried out to measure treatment effectiveness. Vector control, entomological surveillance, and health education activities were carried out in all projects with close interaction with national and regional programs.
Total numbers of children and adolescents tested for T. cruzi in Yoro, Olopa, Entre Ríos, and Sucre were 24,471, 8,927, 7,613, and 19,400, respectively. Of these, 232 (0.9%), 124 (1.4%), 1,475 (19.4%), and 1,145 (5.9%) patients, respectively, were diagnosed as seropositive. Patients were treated with benznidazole, and early findings of seroconversion varied widely between the Central and South American programs: 87.1% and 58.1% at 18 months post-treatment in Yoro and Olopa, respectively; 5.4% by up to 60 months in Entre Ríos; and 0% at an average of 18 months in Sucre. Benznidazole-related adverse events were observed in 50.2% and 50.8% of all patients treated in Yoro and Olopa, respectively, and 25.6% and 37.9% of patients in Entre Ríos and Sucre, respectively. Most adverse events were mild and manageable. No deaths occurred in the treatment population.
These results demonstrate the feasibility of implementing Chagas disease diagnosis and treatment programs in resource-limited settings, including remote rural areas, while addressing the limitations associated with drug-related adverse events. The variability in apparent treatment effectiveness may reflect differences in patient and parasite populations, and illustrates the limitations of current treatments and measures of efficacy. New treatments with improved safety profiles, pediatric formulations of existing and new drugs, and a faster, reliable test of cure are all urgently needed.
Author Summary
Chagas disease was discovered 100 years ago by the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas. Predominantly affecting poor populations throughout Latin America, recognition and treatment of this parasitic disease are often neglected. Since 1999, the international medical humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has offered diagnostic and therapeutic care for Chagas disease, and here we describe four of our programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia, 1999–2008. The earliest programs focused on treating young children and in subsequent programs expanded up to 18 years of age. We identified six program components essential for project viability: information, education, and communication; vector control; health staff training; screening and diagnosis; treatment and compliance; and logistics. The number of children and adolescents screened for Chagas disease ranged from over 7,500 to nearly 25,000 in each program. Early analysis of cure rates ranged widely: from 87% and 58%, respectively, in Honduras and Guatemala, to 0%–5% in Bolivia. No deaths occurred in any of the programs, though drug-related side effects were observed in a quarter to half of all patients. Through our findings and experience, we discuss the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of treatment programs for Chagas disease in resource-limited settings.
PMCID: PMC2700957  PMID: 19582142
22.  Factors associated with variability in the assessment of UK doctors’ professionalism: analysis of survey results 
Objectives To investigate potential sources of systematic bias arising in the assessment of doctors’ professionalism.
Design Linear regression modelling of cross sectional questionnaire survey data.
Setting 11 clinical practices in England and Wales.
Participants 1065 non-training grade doctors from various clinical specialties and settings, 17 031 of their colleagues, and 30 333 of their patients.
Main outcome measures Two measures of a doctor’s professional performance using patient and colleague questionnaires from the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (GMC). We selected potential predictor variables from the characteristics of the doctors and of their patient and colleague assessors.
Results After we adjusted for characteristics of the doctor as well as characteristics of the patient sample, less favourable scores from patient feedback were independently predicted by doctors having obtained their primary medical degree from any non-European country; doctors practising as a psychiatrist; lower proportions of white patients providing feedback; lower proportions of patients rating their consultation as being very important; and lower proportions of patients reporting that they were seeing their usual doctor. Lower scores from colleague feedback were independently predicted by doctors having obtained their primary medical degree from countries outside the UK and South Asia; currently employed in a locum capacity; working as a general practitioner or psychiatrist; being employed in a staff grade, associate specialist, or other equivalent role; and with a lower proportion of colleagues reporting they had daily or weekly professional contact with the doctor. In fully adjusted models, the doctor’s age, sex, and ethnic group were not independent predictors of patient or colleague feedback. Neither the age or sex profiles of the patient or colleague samples were independent predictors of doctors’ feedback scores, and nor was the ethnic group of colleague samples.
Conclusions Caution is necessary when considering patient and colleague feedback regarding doctors’ professionalism. Multisource feedback undertaken for revalidation using the GMC patient and colleague questionnaires should, at least initially, be principally formative in nature.
PMCID: PMC3203200  PMID: 22034193
23.  Questions on Mediterranean Spotted Fever a Century after Its Discovery 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2008;14(9):1360-1367.
New findings in MSF epidemiology, clinical features, and severe forms have changed the general perception of MSF.
Mediterranean spotted fever (MSF) was first described in 1910. Twenty years later, it was recognized as a rickettsial disease transmitted by the brown dog tick. In contrast to Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), MSF was thought to be a benign disease; however, the first severe case that resulted in death was reported in France in the 1980s. We have noted important changes in the epidemiology of MSF in the last 10 years, with emergence and reemergence of MSF in several countries. Advanced molecular tools have allowed Rickettsia conorii conorii to be classified as a subspecies of R. conorii. New clinical features, such as multiple eschars, have been recently reported. Moreover, MSF has become more severe than RMSF; the mortality rate was as high as 32% in Portugal in 1997. Whether Rhipicephalus sanguineus is the only vector and reservoir for R. conorii conorii is a question not yet answered.
PMCID: PMC2603122  PMID: 18760001
Mediterranean spotted fever; Rickettsia conorii; synopsis
24.  In utero methanesulfonyl fluoride differentially affects learning and maze performance in the absence of long-lasting cholinergic changes in the adult rat 
There is increasing evidence that acetylcholinesterase (AChE) may have various specific developmental roles in brain development. Nevertheless, specific effects of AChE inhibition during early brain development have not been adequately described. Therefore, methanesulfonyl fluoride (MSF), an irreversible AChE inhibitor that shows high selectivity for the CNS was used to produce AChE inhibition in utero to study subsequent adult behaviors, sleep, and cholinergic markers. Rats exposed to MSF in utero showed a deficit in spatial learning tasks using appetitive motivation but, surprisingly, they performed equally well or better than controls when aversive motivation was used. One hypothesis was that MSF treatment in utero affected the response to stress. Tests of anxiety however showed no differences in basal levels of anxiety. Studies of sleep behavior, however, indicated a higher level of REM sleep which is only seen during the light phase of male rats exposed to MSF in utero as compared to controls. No differences in cholinergic markers in the brains of adults were found except that females exposed to MSF in utero had a higher level of ChAT activity in the synaptosomal fraction of the hippocampus. Even so, whether cholinergic alterations accompany the in utero MSF exposure remains to be determined. The failure to find widespread changes in cholinergic markers in the adult brains suggests changes in behaviors should be further investigated by testing the participation of postsynaptic mechanisms, measuring of cholinergic markers during earlier development periods and the possible participation of other neurotransmitter systems to clearly reveal the role of the cholinergic system following in utero MSF exposure.
PMCID: PMC2278117  PMID: 17920111
Acetylcholine; Acetylcholinesterase; Methanesulfonyl fluoride (msf); Development; Choline acetyltransferase; Choline uptake; Sleep
25.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800

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