Multiple micronutrient deficiencies, in particular iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is a severe public health problem in Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Because of the practical difficulties encountered in improving the nutritional adequacy of traditional complementary foods and the limitations associated with the use of liquid iron supplementation for the treatment and prevention of IDA in infants and young children, recently, home-fortification with multivitamins and minerals sprinkles was recommended. This study aims to compare the effect of twice weekly versus daily supplementation with multivitamins and minerals powder (MMP) on anaemia prevalence, haemoglobin concentration, and growth in infants and young children in a rural community in Lao PDR.
A randomized trial was conducted in six rural communities. Children aged 6 to 52 months (n = 336) were randomly assigned to a control group (n = 110) or to one of two intervention groups receiving either two sachets per week (n = 115) or a daily sachet (n = 111) of MMP for 24 weeks; 331 children completed the study. A finger prick of blood was taken at baseline, at week 12, and again at week 24 to determine haemoglobin concentration. Anthropometric measurements were taken every 4 weeks. The McNemar test was used to assess within group differences at three time points in the study subjects with anaemia and one-way ANOVA was used to assess changes in mean haemoglobin concentration in the treatment groups.
MMP supplementation resulted in significant improvements in haemoglobin concentration and in the reduction of anaemia prevalence in the two treatment groups compared with the control group (p <0.001). The severely to moderately anaemic children (Hb <100 g/L) on daily supplementation recovered faster than those on twice weekly supplementation. MMP was well accepted and compliance was high in both treatment groups. Overall, the improvement in the weight for age Z-score was very small and not statistically significant across the three study groups.
MMP supplementation had positive effects in reduction of anaemia prevalence and in improving haemoglobin concentration. For severely to moderately anaemic children, daily MMP supplementation was more effective in improving haemoglobin concentration and reducing anaemia prevalence. A longer intervention period is probably needed to have a positive effect on growth.
Anaemia; multiple micronutrient powder; supplementation; home fortified food; Lao PDR
Delivery by a skilled birth attendant (SBA) in a hospital is advocated to improve maternal health; however, hospital expenses for delivery care services are a concern for women and their families, particularly for women who pay out-of-pocket. Although health insurance is now implemented in Lao PDR, it is not universal throughout the country. The objectives of this study are to estimate the total health care expenses for vaginal delivery and caesarean section, to determine the association between health insurance and family income with health care expenditure and assess the effect of health insurance from the perspectives of the women and the skilled birth attendants (SBAs) in Lao PDR.
A cross-sectional study was carried out in two provincial hospitals in Lao PDR, from June to October 2010. Face to face interviews of 581 women who gave birth in hospital and 27 SBAs was carried out. Both medical and non-medical expenses were considered. A linear regression model was used to assess influencing factors on health care expenditure and trends of medical and non-medical expenditure by monthly family income stratified by mode of delivery were assessed.
Of 581 women, 25% had health care insurance. Health care expenses for delivery care services were significantly higher for caesarean section (270 USD) than for vaginal delivery (59 USD). After adjusting for the effect of hospital, family income was significantly associated with all types of expenditure in caesarean section, while it was associated with non-medical and total expenditures in vaginal delivery. Both delivering women and health providers thought that health insurance increased the utilisation of delivery care.
Substantially higher delivery care expenses were incurred for caesarean section compared to vaginal delivery. Three-fourths of the women who were not insured needed to be responsible for their own health care payment. Women who had higher family incomes were able to pay for more non-medical care expenses. The effect of health insurance on service utilization was noted by women and SBAs. To achieve the goal of utilizing delivery care in the hospitals, coverage of health insurance needs to be expanded.
The aim of the programme was to ultimately affect public health practice and policy in the Kingdom of Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) by training key health professionals to conduct tobacco control research.
Encouraged by the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global partnership formed to build effective leadership to develop and guide national tobacco control agendas. The partners were the Ministries of Health (Cambodia and Lao PDR), non‐government organisations (Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Cambodia and Laos) and an academic institution (Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, USA).
16 health professionals, 10 from Cambodia and 6 from Lao PDR, were selected by local advisory committees to enter a two‐year, intensive tobacco research graduate certificate and research training programme.
We developed a “Global Tobacco Control Methods” (GTCM) 28 unit certificate programme that was offered in five sessions from September 2003 to September 2005 at the National Institute of Public Health, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As part of their coursework, the 16 trainees actively participated in the development and implementation of two research projects. In the first project, “Healthy Doc Healthy Patient” (HDHP), trainees adapted an existing, self‐administered questionnaire designed to assess health practices and beliefs of medical students in Cambodia and Lao PDR. The second project involved the design of a national prevalence of tobacco use and health beliefs study in Cambodia using a multi‐stage, cluster sample method. Trainees were sponsored to attend and present at international tobacco control conferences to enhance their awareness of the tobacco epidemic.
As of September 2005, 14 trainees (8 from Cambodia and 6 from Lao PDR) completed the courses in the GTCM certificate programme. The HDHP study sampled four medical school classes (years 3, 4, 5 and 6) in both Cambodia (n = 330, 71.1% response rate) and Lao PDR (n = 386, 87.3% response rate). As part of the Cambodian adult tobacco prevalence study in Cambodia, 13 988 adults (ages ⩾ 18 years) were interviewed from all 22 provinces during the summer of 2005. Over the two years, more than half of the trainees participated substantially in local and regional tobacco control and research activities. Programme challenges included the trainees' limited English language and computer proficiency skills, both of which improved during the two years.
With the successful completion of the certificate programme, the remaining two years of the grant will be used to prepare the trainees for positions of leadership within their Ministries of Health and other agencies to implement effective tobacco control policies based on locally‐derived research findings.
tobacco control; capacity building; health professional education; Kingdom of Cambodia; Lao People's Democratic Republic
Anemia is a severe public health problem in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). Consequently, a new control strategy to reduce the burden of anemia has been introduced for preschool children (aged 6–52 months). The objective of this study was to assess the current prevalence of anemia and related factors in preschool children in southern rural Lao PDR. A population-based cross-sectional study was carried out in six communities in Songkhone district, Savannakheth province, in February 2009. As a result, the prevalence of anemia was found to be 48.9% (95% confidence interval (CI), 43.5–54.3), although most cases were mild. A multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that there was no protective effect of breastfeeding against anemia. The anemia prevalence was higher in 1) children aged 6–23 months (Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.73, 95% CI, 1.02–2.90) than in older children, 2) children in large families (6 or more members) (OR = 1.96, 95% CI, 1.17–3.29), and 3) children in three remote villages with relatively difficult access to markets (OR = 3.01, 95% CI, 1.25–7.47).
In Lao PDR, improvement of food practices and home-fortified food supplementation interventions are essential. High-risk groups should be targeted and a long-term health education program that aims to modify food habits implemented. Furthermore, in settings where iron deficiency is not the only cause of anemia, combining an iron supplement with other measures is necessary.
Anemia; prevalence; potential factors; preschool children; Lao PDR
To date, the sharing behaviors associated with the homemade tobacco waterpipe used in rural areas of the Western Pacific Region have not been studied. Evidence from studies of manufactured waterpipes raises the possibility of infectious disease transmission due to waterpipe sharing. The objective of our pilot study in rural Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) was to identify and measure the prevalence of waterpipe sharing behaviors. We first conducted ethnographic studies to investigate waterpipe-smoking behaviors. These findings were then used to develop an interviewer-administered household survey that was used in a sampling of waterpipe smokers from three villages of the Luang Namtha province of Lao PDR (n = 43). Sampled waterpipe smokers were predominantly male (90.7%), older (mean age 49, SD 13.79), married (95.4%), farmers (78.6%), and had completed no primary education. Pipes were primarily made from bamboo (92.9%). Almost all (97.6%) smokers were willing to share their pipe with others. At the last time they smoked, smokers shared a pipe with at least one other person (1.2 ± 0.5 persons). During the past week, they had shared a pipe with five other persons (5.2 ± 3.8 persons). The high prevalence of sharing behaviors among waterpipe smokers in rural Southeast Asia raises the possibility that this behavior provides important and unmeasured social network pathways for the transmission of infectious agents.
infectious disease; waterpipe; mode of transmission; person-to-person; communicable
An ethnobotany-based approach in the selection of raw plant materials to study was implemented.
To acquire raw plant materials using ethnobotanical field interviews as starting point to discover new bioactive compounds from medicinal plants of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
Using semi-structured field interviews with healers in the Lao PDR, plant samples were collected, extracted, and bio-assayed to detect bioactivity against cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria. Plant species demonstrating activity were recollected and the extracts subjected to a bioassay-guided isolation protocol to isolate and identify the active compounds.
Field interviews with 118 healers in 15 of 17 provinces of Lao PDR yielded 753 collections (573 species) with 955 plant samples. Of these 955, 50 extracts demonstrated activity in the anticancer, 10 in the anti-HIV, 30 in the anti-TB, and 52 in the antimalarial assay. Recollection of actives followed by bioassay-guided isolation processes yielded a series of new and known in vitro-active anticancer and antimalarial compounds from 5 species.
Laos has a rich biodiversity, harboring an estimated 8000–11,000 species of plants. In a country highly dependent on traditional medicine for its primary health care, this rich plant diversity serves as a major source of their medication.
Ethnobotanical survey has demonstrated the richness of plant-based traditional medicine of Lao PDR, taxonomically and therapeutically. Biological assays of extracts of half of the 955 samples followed by in-depth studies of a number of actives have yielded a series of new bioactive compounds against the diseases of cancer and malaria.
Laos; biodiversity; ethnobotanical survey; interview methods; medicinal plants; bioactive compounds; cancer; HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; malaria
Liver fluke infection caused by Opisthorchis viverrini is a major public health problem in Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR; Laos). Currently, more than 600 million people are at risk of infection with these fish-borne trematodes and/or their close relatives. Opisthorchiasis has been studied extensively in Thailand, where about 8 million people are infected with the liver fluke. Here we review the pathogenesis, control and re-emergence of O. viverrini infection, in particular in Thailand and, to a lesser extent in Lao PDR given the contiguous geographical range of O. viverrini through these two regions. We also review the association of O. viverrini infection and cholangiocarcinoma, bile duct cancer, and highlight new findings on pathogenesis of liver fluke induced cholangiocarcinogenesis. Last, we comment on national control strategies in Thailand for the control of O. viverrini infection aimed at reduction in the prevalence of O. viverrini-associated liver cancer in the longer term.
Opisthorchiasis; Opisthorchis; Clonorchis; cholangiocarcinoma; liver fluke; liver cancer; food borne trematodiases; anthelmintic; praziquantel; hepatobiliary disease
Trained birth attendants at delivery are important for preventing both maternal and newborn deaths. West Java is one of the provinces on Java Island, Indonesia, where many women still deliver at home and without the assistance of trained birth attendants. This study aims to explore the perspectives of community members and health workers about the use of delivery care services in six villages of West Java Province.
A qualitative study using focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews was conducted in six villages of three districts in West Java Province from March to July 2009. Twenty FGDs and 165 in-depth interviews were conducted involving a total of 295 participants representing mothers, fathers, health care providers, traditional birth attendants and community leaders. The FGD and in-depth interview guidelines included reasons for using a trained or a traditional birth attendant and reasons for having a home or an institutional delivery.
The use of traditional birth attendants and home delivery were preferable for some community members despite the availability of the village midwife in the village. Physical distance and financial limitations were two major constraints that prevented community members from accessing and using trained attendants and institutional deliveries. A number of respondents reported that trained delivery attendants or an institutional delivery were only aimed at women who experienced obstetric complications. The limited availability of health care providers was reported by residents in remote areas. In these settings the village midwife, who was sometimes the only health care provider, frequently travelled out of the village. The community perceived the role of both village midwives and traditional birth attendants as essential for providing maternal and health care services.
A comprehensive strategy to increase the availability, accessibility, and affordability of delivery care services should be considered in these West Java areas. Health education strategies are required to increase community awareness about the importance of health services along with the existing financing mechanisms for the poor communities. Public health strategies involving traditional birth attendants will be beneficial particularly in remote areas where their services are highly utilized.
The Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) committed to pandemic detection and response preparations when faced with the threat of avian influenza. Since 2006, the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology of Lao PDR has developed credible laboratory, surveillance, and epidemiological (human) capacity and as a result was designated a World Health Organization National Influenza Center in 2010. The Lao PDR experience in building influenza capacities provides a case study of the considerable crossover effect of such investments to augment the capacity to combat emerging and re-emerging diseases other than influenza.
The etiological agents of diarrhea in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), were studied in the period from October 1996 to August 1997. A total of 880 patients with diarrhea visiting medical facilities were examined for Shigella, Salmonella, diarrheagenic Escherichia coli, Vibrio, Aeromonas, Campylobacter, and rotavirus. Shigella spp., heat-stable enterotoxin (ST)-producing E. coli, and serogroup-based enteropathogenic E. coli were found to be the main organisms causing diarrhea in Vientiane, with frequencies of 16.8% (148 of 880), 17.2% (111 of 645), and 11.0% (97 of 880), respectively. Relatively low incidences were observed in the cases of Salmonella spp., (0.6%; 5 of 880), Campylobacter spp. (4.4%; 39 of 880), and rotavirus (6.1%; 9 of 148), and no isolates of V. cholerae O1 or O139 or Aeromonas were recovered. An analysis of the incidences of enteropathogens with respect to age and seasonal variations demonstrated that the frequencies of isolation of Shigella spp. and heat-labile enterotoxin-producing E. coli were significantly higher in those aged 1 to 5 years than in those younger than 1 year of age and those older than 5 years of age (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.05, respectively) and that the frequencies of isolation of Shigella spp. and ST-producing E. coli were significantly higher in the rainy season than in the dry season (P < 0.005 and P < 0.001, respectively). Almost all strains of Shigella spp. tested were resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin and were susceptible to cefdinir and ofloxacin. This is the first intensive and longitudinal study to define the etiologic agents of diarrheal diseases in Lao PDR.
Since 2001, antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV (PLHIV) has been available in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). A key factor in the effectiveness of ART is good adherence to the prescribed regimen for both individual well-being and public health. Poor adherence can contribute to the emergence of drug resistant strains of the virus and transmission during risky behaviors. Increased access to ART in low-income country settings has contributed to an interest in treatment adherence in resource–poor contexts. This study aims to investigate the proportion of adherence to ART and identify possible factors related to non-adherence to ART among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Lao PDR.
A cross-sectional study was conducted with adults living with HIV receiving free ART at Setthathirath hospital in the capital Vientiane and Savannakhet provincial hospitals from June to November 2011. Three hundred and forty six PLHIV were interviewed using an anonymous questionnaire. The estimation of the adherence rate was based on the information provided by the PLHIV about the intake of medicine during the previous three days. The statistical software Epidata 3.1 and Stata 10.1 were used for data analysis. Frequencies and distribution of each variable were calculated by conventional statistical methods. The chi square test, Mann–Whitney test and logistic regression were used for bivariate analyses. Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine the predictors of non-adherence to ART. A p-value < 0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance.
Of a total of 346 patients, 60% reported more than 95% adherence to ART. Reasons for not taking medicine as required were being busy (97.0%), and being forgetful (62.2%). In the multivariate analysis, educational level at secondary school (OR=3.7, 95% CI:1.3-10.1, p=0.012); illicit drug use (OR=16.1, 95% CI:1.9-128.3, p=0.011); dislike exercise (OR=0.6, 95% CI:0.4-0.9, p=0.028), and forgetting to take ARV medicine during the last month (OR=2.3, 95% CI:1.4-3.7, p=0.001) were independently associated with non-adherence.
Non-adherence to ART was associated with individual factors and exposure to ART. Priority measures to increase adherence to ART should aim to intensify counseling and comprehensive interventions, such as guidance for PLHIV on medication self-management skills, tailoring the regimen to the PLHIV life style, and improving adherence monitoring and health care services.
Antiretroviral therapy; Adherence; PLWHIV; Self-report; Lao PDR
Delay in decision-making to use skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth is an important factor for maternal death in many developing countries. This paper examines how decisions for maternal care are made in two rural communities in Burkina Faso.
Focus group discussions (FGDs) and individual interviews (IDIs)) were used to collect information with 30 women in Ouargaye and Diapaga medical districts. All interviews were tape recorded and analyzed using QSR Nvivo 2.0.
Decision-making for use of obstetric care in the family follows the logic of the family’s management. Husbands, brothers-in-law and parents-in-law make the decision about whether to use a health facility for antenatal care or for delivery. In general, decision-makers are those who can pay, including the woman herself. Payment of care is the responsibility of men, according to women interviewed, because of their social role and status.
To increase use of health facilities in Ouargaye and Diapaga, the empowerment of women could be helpful as well as exemption of fees or cost sharing for care.
Decision-making process; Maternal care; Rural medical district; Burkina Faso
To investigate the prevalence of and attitudes to smoking among third year medical, pharmacy, dentistry and nursing students in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).
A cross-sectional survey conducted among third year university level, health professional students. The survey used a self-administered questionnaire which was originally developed by WHO, and modified to suit the setting.
The setting was the University of Health Sciences in Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR. Participants were recruited from the Faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing. At the time of the survey, 521 third year students were enrolled.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
The primary outcome measure was prevalence of current cigarette smoking and other tobacco use. Smoking status was categorised as: current smoker, ex-smoker and non-smoker with current smokers defined as those who had smoked cigarettes or used other tobacco on one or more days during the previous 30 days.
In total, 506 respondents completed the questionnaire, giving a response rate of 97.1% to 98.5% across the different faculties. Overall smoking prevalence was 5.07% (95% CI 3.2% to 7.1%), which is lower than previously reported national prevalence rates. Women reported smoking less than men did (OR=0.56, 95% CI=0.013 to 0.242; p=0.003). The majority of students supported tobacco control measures. The number of people who reported receiving formal training in tobacco cessation counselling ranged from 10.9% (95% CI 5.3% to 19.1%) among nursing students to 51.1% (95% CI 40.4% to 61.7%) among medical students.
Smoking prevalence among this cohort was relatively low. Students were supportive of tobacco control policies. Further research is needed to understand what is working in this context, in order to apply lessons learnt in similar settings. In the meantime, health professional students should be provided health education to discourage tobacco use. Information on tobacco control policies needs to be more widely disseminated.
EPIDEMIOLOGY; PUBLIC HEALTH; SOCIAL MEDICINE
We compared the chest radiographic findings of patients with pulmonary paragonimiasis in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) with a report from Korea. The clinical and radiological characteristics of 50 confirmed Laotian pleuropulmonary paragonimiasis patients were studied between March 2003 and June 2007. In 49 patients, the chest radiographs showed abnormal findings (98%). Pulmonary parenchymal abnormalities were found in all 49 patients, whereas pleural effusion was only found in 11 patients (22%). The three most common intraparenchymal findings were multiple small cysts (90%), irregular linear densities (68%), and nodular opacities (40%). The numbers of patients who had these three findings were significantly different from the Korean report (P < 0.001). In conclusion, radiographic findings of pulmonary paragonimiasis may vary among countries.
In Vietnam, primary government health services are now accessible for the whole population including ethnic minority groups (EMGs) living in rural and mountainous areas. However, little is known about EMGs' own perspectives on illness treatment and use of health services. This study investigates treatment seeking strategies for child diarrhoea among ethnic minority caregivers in Northern Vietnam in order to suggest improvements to health services for EMGs and other vulnerable groups.
The study obtained qualitative data from eight months of field work among four EMGs in lowland and highland villages in the Northern Lao Cai province. Triangulation of methods included in-depth interviews with 43 caregivers of pre-school children (six years and below) who had a case of diarrhoea during the past month, three focus group discussions (FGDs) with men, and two weeks of observations at two Communal Health Stations (CHGs). Data was content-analyzed by ordering data into empirically and theoretically inspired themes and sub-categories assisted by the software NVivo8.
This study identified several obstacles for EMG caregivers seeking health services, including: gender roles, long travelling distances for highland villagers, concerns about the indirect costs of treatment and a reluctance to use government health facilities due to feelings of being treated disrespectfully by health staff. However, ethnic minority caregivers all recognized the danger signs of child diarrhoea and actively sought simultaneous treatment in different health care systems and home-based care. Treatments were selected by matching the perceived cause and severity of the disease with the 'compatibility' of different treatments to the child.
In order to improve EMGs' use of government health services it is necessary to improve the communication skills of health staff and to acknowledge both EMGs' explanatory disease models and the significant socio-economic constraints they experience. Broader health promotion programs should address the significant gender roles preventing highland mothers from seeking health services and include family elders and fathers in future health promotion programs. Encouraging existing child health care practices, including continued breastfeeding during illness and the use of home-made rehydration solutions, also present important opportunities for future child health promotion.
Artesunate-amodiaquine (AS-AQ) was introduced in Ghana as the first line drug for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in 2004. We report the perceptions of malaria and malaria treatment behaviour, the community awareness of and perceptions about AS-AQ two years after the introduction of this ACT treatment for malaria.
Two surveys were conducted; a cross-sectional survey of 729 randomly selected household heads (urban-362, rural-367) and 282 women with children < 5 years (urban-121, rural-161) was conducted in 2006. A district wide survey was conducted in 2007 to assess awareness of AS-AQ. These were complemented with twenty-eight focus group discussions (FGDs) and 16 key informant interviews (KII) among community members and major stakeholders in the health care delivery services. All nine (9) health facilities and five (5) purposively selected drug stores were audited in order to identify commonly used anti-malarials in the study area at the time of the survey.
Majority of respondents ( > 75%) in the sampled survey mentioned mosquito bites as the cause of malaria. Other causes mentioned include environmental factors (e.g. dirty surroundings) and standing in the sun. Close to 60% of the household heads and 40% of the care-givers interviewed did not know about AS-AQ. The community respondents who knew about and had ever taken AS-AQ perceived it to be a good drug; although they mentioned they had experienced some side effects including headaches and body weakness. Co-blistered AS-AQ was available in all the government health facilities in the study area. Different formulations of ACTs were however found in urban chemical shops but not in rural chemical stores where monotherapy antimalarials were predominant.
The knowledge of fever as a symptom of malaria is high among the study population. The awareness of AS-AQ therapy and its side-effect was low in the study area. Community education and sensitization, targeting all categories of the population, has to be intensified to ensure an efficient implementation process.
Melioidosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Southeast Asia, where the causative organism (Burkholderia pseudomallei) is present in the soil. In the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos), B. pseudomallei is a significant cause of sepsis around the capital, Vientiane, and has been isolated in soil near the city, adjacent to the Mekong River. We explored whether B. pseudomallei occurs in Lao soil distant from the Mekong River, drawing three axes across northwest, northeast, and southern Laos to create nine sampling areas in six provinces. Within each sampling area, a random rice field site containing a grid of 100 sampling points each 5 m apart was selected. Soil was obtained from a depth of 30 cm and cultured for B. pseudomallei. Four of nine sites (44%) were positive for B. pseudomallei, including all three sites in Saravane Province, southern Laos. The highest isolation frequency was in east Saravane, where 94% of soil samples were B. pseudomallei positive with a geometric mean concentration of 464 CFU/g soil (95% confidence interval, 372 to 579 CFU/g soil; range, 25 to 10,850 CFU/g soil). At one site in northwest Laos (Luangnamtha), only one sample (1%) was positive for B. pseudomallei, at a concentration of 80 CFU/g soil. Therefore, B. pseudomallei occurs in Lao soils beyond the immediate vicinity of the Mekong River, alerting physicians to the likelihood of melioidosis in these areas. Further studies are needed to investigate potential climatic, soil, and biological determinants of this heterogeneity.
Women in both Bangladesh and Uganda face a number of barriers to delivery in professional health facilities, including costs, transportation problems, and sociocultural norms to deliver at home. Some women in both the countries manage to overcome these barriers. This paper reports on a comparative qualitative study investigating how some women and their families were able to use professional delivery services. The study provides insights into the decision-making processes and overcoming access barriers. Husbands were found to be particularly important in Uganda, while, in Bangladesh, a number of individuals could influence care-seeking, including unqualified local healers or traditional birth attendants. In both the settings, cost and transport barriers were often overcome through social networks. Social prohibitions on birth in the health facility did not feature strongly in women's accounts, with several Ugandan women explaining that friends or peers also used facilities, while, in Bangladesh, perceived complications apparently justified the use of professional medical care. Investigating the ways in which some women can overcome common barriers can help inform policy and planning to increase the use of health facilities for child delivery.
Maternal health; Delivery; Health services; Healthcare; Health facilities; Comparative studies; Uganda; Bangladesh
The treatment gap for epilepsy is considerable in low and middle-income countries. In the Lao PDR it is estimated at over 90%. Health workers play a significant role in bridging the gap between people with epilepsy (PWE) and access to epilepsy care. In a national survey we assessed: 1) the knowledge and practices of health workers in the Lao PDR towards the disease, and, 2) patient attendance at health facilities.
We conducted a random three-stage sampling of health workers at the provincial, district and health center levels in 2009.
Overall, 284 health workers were enrolled in 50 health facilities of 11 provinces: health centers 24.7%; district hospitals 23.2%; and province hospitals 52.1%. Only a minority of these (2.5%) recalled ever having received training or seeking information on epilepsy. Our survey showed a lack of knowledge in diagnosing and prescribing drugs for epilepsy, including phenobarbital, the first-line of treatment. The majority of respondents (59.9%) was unaware of the availability of antiepileptic drugs in health facilities. Only 10 (20%) health facilities, and no health centres, received people with epilepsy. It was estimated that one PWE per month receives medical attention. Traditional beliefs about PWE were common; such as the idea that epilepsy could be transmitted through saliva (63.2%). A higher attendance of PWE was observed in province hospitals where the knowledge of epilepsy care was higher. Global acceptance of people with epilepsy was low.
The low level of knowledge of epilepsy on the part of health workers may be contributing to the wide treatment gap in the Lao PDR. Improving knowledge of this disease and increasing the availability of antiepileptic drugs will reduce misconceptions about epilepsy, thus encouraging more PWE to seek treatment. Community-based educational programs and extensive advocacy for people with epilepsy only began in 2009.
Epilepsy; Treatment gap; Knowledge; Medical staff; Nurse; Interventions
This study examines the potential of aid effectiveness to positively influence human resources for health in developing countries, based on research carried out in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Efforts to make aid more effective – as articulated in the 2005 Paris Declaration and recently reiterated in the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action – are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the development agenda. A common criticism, though, is that these discussions have limited impact at sector level. Human resources for health are characterized by a rich and complex network of interactions and influences – both across government and the donor community. This complexity provides a good prism through which to assess the potential of the aid effectiveness agenda to support health development and, conversely, possibilities to extend the impact of aid-effectiveness approaches to sector level.
The research adopted a case study approach using mixed research methods. It draws on a quantitative analysis of human resources for health in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, supplementing this with a documentary and policy analysis. Qualitative methods, including key informant interviews and observation, were also used.
The research revealed a number pathways through which aid effectiveness is promoting an integrated, holistic response to a range of human resources for health challenges, and has identified further opportunities for stronger linkages. The pathways include: (1) efforts to improve governance and accountability, which are often central to the aid effectiveness agenda, and can be used as an entry point for reforming workforce planning and regulation; (2) financial management reforms, typically linked to provision of budget support, that open the way for greater transparency and better management of health monies and, ultimately, higher salaries and revenues for health facilities; (3) commitments to harmonization that can be used to improve coherence of donor support in areas such as salary supplementation, training and health information management.
If these opportunities are to be fully exploited, a number of constraints will need to be overcome: limited awareness of the aid effectiveness agenda beyond a core group in government; a perception that this is a donor-led agenda; and different views among partners as to the optimal pace of aid management reforms. In conclusion, we recommend strategic engagement of health stakeholders in the aid effectiveness agenda as one means of strengthening the health workforce.
A household survey was undertaken in Matlab, a rural area of Bangladesh, to estimate the costs incurred during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period for women delivering at home and in a health facility. Those interviewed included 121 women who delivered at home, 120 who delivered in an ICDDR,B basic obstetric care (BEOC) facility, 27 who delivered in a public comprehensive obstetric care (CEOC) hospital, and 58 who delivered in private hospitals. There was no significant difference in total costs incurred by those delivering at home and those delivering in a BEOC facility. Costs for those delivering in CEOC facilities were over nine times greater than for those delivering in BEOC facilities. Costs of care during delivery were predominant. Antenatal and postnatal care added between 7% and 30% to the total cost. Services were more equitable at home and in a BEOC facility compared to services provided at CEOC facilities. The study highlights the regressive nature of the financing of CEOC services and the need for a financing strategy that covers both the costs of referral and BEOC care for those in need.
Healthcare costs; Health expenditure; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Health equity; Retrospective studies; Bangladesh
Nepal's Safe Delivery Incentive Programme (SDIP) was introduced nationwide in 2005 with the intention of increasing utilisation of professional care at childbirth. It provided cash to women giving birth in a health facility and an incentive to the health provider for each delivery attended, either at home or in the facility. We explored early implementation of the programme at the district-level to understand the factors that have contributed to its low uptake.
We conducted in ten study districts a series of key informant interviews and focus group discussions with staff from health facilities and the district health office and other stakeholders involved in implementation. Manual content analysis was used to categorise data under emerging themes.
Problems at the central level imposed severe constraints on the ability of district-level actors to implement the programme. These included bureaucratic delays in the disbursement of funds, difficulties in communicating the policy, both to implementers and the wider public and the complexity of the programme's design. However, some district implementers were able to cope with these problems, providing reasons for why uptake of the programme varied considerably between districts. Actions appeared to be influenced by the pressure to meet local needs, as well individual perceptions and acceptance of the programme. The experience also sheds light on some of the adverse effects of the programme on the wider health system.
The success of conditional cash transfer programmes in Latin America has led to a wave of enthusiasm for their adoption in other parts of the world. However, context matters and proponents of similar programmes in south Asia should give due attention to the challenges to implementation when capacity is weak and health services inadequate.
HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Kenya is high. Furthermore, there is a high risk of maternal mortality, as many women do not give birth with a skilled healthcare provider. Previous research suggests that fears of HIV testing and unwanted disclosure of HIV status may be important barriers to utilizing maternity services. We explored relationships between women’s perceptions of HIV-related stigma and their attitudes and intentions regarding facility-based childbirth.
1,777 pregnant women were interviewed at their first antenatal care visit. We included socio-demographic characteristics, stigma scales, HIV knowledge measures, and an 11-item scale measuring health facility birth attitudes (HFBA). HFBA includes items on cost, transport, comfort, interpersonal relations, and services during delivery at a health facility versus at home. A higher mean HFBA score indicates a more positive attitude towards facility-based childbirth. The mean HFBA score was dichotomized at the median and analyses were conducted with this dichotomized HFBA score using mixed effects logit models.
Women who anticipated HIV-related stigma from their male partner had lower adjusted odds of having positive attitudes about giving birth at the health facility (adjusted OR = .63, 95% CI 0.50–0.78) and less positive attitudes about health facility birth were strongly related to women’s intention to give birth outside a health facility (adjusted OR = 5.56, 95% CI 2.69–11.51).
In this sample of pregnant women in rural Kenya, those who anticipated HIV-related stigma were less likely to have positive attitudes towards facility-based childbirth. Furthermore, negative attitudes about facility-based childbirth were associated with the intention to deliver outside a health facility. Thus, HIV-related stigma reduction efforts might result in more positive attitudes towards facility-based childbirth, and thereby lead to an increased level of skilled birth attendance, and reductions in maternal and infant mortality.
In many developing countries, the maternal mortality ratio remains high with huge poor-rich inequalities. Programmes aimed at improving maternal health and preventing maternal mortality often fail to reach poor women. Vouchers in health and Health Equity Funds (HEFs) constitute a financial mechanism to improve access to priority health services for the poor. We assess their effectiveness in improving access to skilled birth attendants for poor women in three rural health districts in Cambodia and draw lessons for further improvement and scaling-up.
Data on utilisation of voucher and HEF schemes and on deliveries in public health facilities between 2006 and 2008 were extracted from the available database, reports and the routine health information system. Qualitative data were collected through focus group discussions and key informant interviews. We examined the trend of facility deliveries between 2006 and 2008 in the three health districts and compared this with the situation in other rural districts without voucher and HEF schemes. An operational analysis of the voucher scheme was carried out to assess its effectiveness at different stages of operation.
Facility deliveries increased sharply from 16.3% of the expected number of births in 2006 to 44.9% in 2008 after the introduction of voucher and HEF schemes, not only for voucher and HEF beneficiaries, but also for self-paid deliveries. The increase was much more substantial than in comparable districts lacking voucher and HEF schemes. In 2008, voucher and HEF beneficiaries accounted for 40.6% of the expected number of births among the poor. We also outline several limitations of the voucher scheme.
Vouchers plus HEFs, if carefully designed and implemented, have a strong potential for reducing financial barriers and hence improving access to skilled birth attendants for poor women. To achieve their full potential, vouchers and HEFs require other interventions to ensure the supply of sufficient quality maternity services and to address other non-financial barriers to demand. If these conditions are met, voucher and HEF schemes can be further scaled up under close monitoring and evaluation.
Mycetoma is a chronic, localized, slowly progressing infection of the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues caused either by fungi (eumycetoma or implantation mycosis) or by aerobic actinomycetes (actinomycetoma). It is acquired by traumatic implantation, most commonly in the tropics and subtropics, especially in rural agricultural communities. Although well recognized elsewhere in Asia, it has not been reported from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos).
A 30 year-old female elementary school teacher and rice farmer from northeast Laos was admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, with a massive growth on her left foot, without a history of trauma. The swelling had progressed slowly but painlessly over 5 years and multiple draining sinuses had developed. Ten days before admission the foot had increased considerably in size and became very painful, with multiple sinuses and discharge, preventing her from walking. Gram stain and bacterial culture of tissue biopsies revealed a branching filamentous Gram-positive bacterium that was subsequently identified as Actinomadura madurae by 16S rRNA gene amplification and sequencing. She was treated with long-term co-trimoxazole and multiple 3-week cycles of amikacin with a good therapeutic response.
We report the first patient with actinomycetoma from Laos. The disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis of chronic skin and bone infections in patients from rural SE Asia.
Mycetoma; Madura foot; Actinomadura madurae; Lao PDR; Laos; Southeast Asia