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1.  The Iranian Health Insurance System; Past Experiences, Present Challenges And Future Strategies 
Background:
The Iranian healthcare system is primarily an insurance based system. This structure has an important influence on the efficiency and equity of the provision of healthcare in Iran. This paper reviews the history of the Iranian healthcare system and the impact of the Iranian health insurance system on healthcare performance based on the results of interviews with key opinion leaders and empirical evidence.
Methods:
This review uses mixed methods: a systematic literature review of electronic databases supplemented by hand searching of books and journals including Government publications and other grey literature. The issues identified were explored through a series of semi-structured interviews with key informants from within the Iranian healthcare system. The interviews were recorded transcribed, coded, classified, and analysed thematically. Empirical evidence was also sought to support or contradict the views expressed in the interviews.
Results:
Sixteen interviews with key informants were conducted and presented anonymously. The interviewees raised many issues which were summarised into five main issues: increasing health expenditures, lack of systematic health technology assessment, very limited financial resources, challenging management and regulation, and uncovered population.
Conclusion:
A wide range of issues have affected the efficiency, quality and equity of the services provided by the Iranian healthcare system. The initial and most important step toward improving the efficiency, equity and quality of the health insurance system is to focus on evidence-based policy making to generate feasible, reasonable and comprehensive reforms.
PMCID: PMC3494208  PMID: 23193499
Health; Insurance; Strategy; Iran
2.  The role of insurance in the achievement of universal coverage within a developing country context: South Africa as a case study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12(Suppl 1):S5.
Background
Achieving universal coverage as an objective needs to confront the reality of multiple mechanisms, with healthcare financing and provision occurring in both public and private settings. South Africa has both large and mature public and private health systems offering useful insights into how they can be effectively harmonized to optimise coverage. Private healthcare in South Africa has also gone through many phases and regulatory regimes which, through careful review, can help identify potential policy frameworks that can optimise their ability to deepen coverage in a manner that complements the basic coverage of public arrangements.
Research question
Using South Africa as a case study, this review examines whether private health systems are susceptible to regulation and therefore able to support an extension and deepening of coverage when complementing a pre-existing publicly funded and delivered health system?
Methods
The approach involves a review of different stages in the development of the South African private health system and its response to policy changes. The focus is on the time-bound characteristics of the health system and associated policy responses and opportunities. A distinction is consequently made between the early, largely unregulated, phases of development and more mature phases with alternative regulatory regimes.
Results
The private health system in South Africa has played an important supplementary role in achieving universal coverage throughout its history, but more especially in the post-Apartheid period. However, the quality of this role has been erratic, influenced predominantly by policy vacillation.
The private system expanded rapidly during the 1980s mainly due to the pre-existence of a mature health insurance system and a weakening public hospital system which could accommodate and facilitate an increased demand for private hospital services. This growth served to expand commercial interest in health insurance, in the form of regulated medical schemes, which until this point took the form of non-commercial occupational (employer-based) schemes. During the 1980s government acquiesced to industry lobbies arguing for the deregulation of health insurance from 1989, with an extreme deregulation occurring in 1994, evidently in anticipation of the change of government associated with the democratic dispensation. Dramatic unintended consequences followed, with substantial increases in provider and funder costs coinciding with uncontrolled discrimination against poor health risks.
Against significant industry opposition, including legal challenges, partial re-regulation took effect from 2000 which removed the discretion of schemes to discriminate against poor health risks. This included: the implementation of a strong regulator of health insurance; the establishment of one allowable vehicle able to provide health insurance; open enrolment, whereby schemes could not refuse membership applications; mandatory minimum benefit requirements; and a prohibition on setting contributions or premiums on the basis of health status. After a two-year lag, dramatically reduced cost trends and contributions became evident. Aside from generally tighter regulation across a range of fronts, this appears related to the need for schemes to compete more on the basis of healthcare provider costs than demographic risk profiles. Despite an incomplete reform improved equitable coverage and cost-containment was nevertheless achieved.
A more complete regulatory regime is consequently likely to deepen coverage by: further stabilising and even decreasing costs; enhanced risk pooling; and access for low income groups. This would occur if South Africa: improved the quality of free public services, thereby creating competitive constraints for medical schemes; introduced risk-equalisation, increasing the pressure on schemes to compete on the cost and quality of coverage rather than their risk profile; and through the establishment of improved price regulation.
Conclusions
The objective of universal coverage can be seen in two dimensions, horizontal extension and vertical deepening. Private systems play an important role in deepening coverage by mobilising revenue from income earners for health services over-and-above the horizontal extension role of public systems and related subsidies. South Africa provides an example of how this natural deepening occurs whether regulated or unregulated. It also demonstrates how poor regulation of mature private systems can severely undermine this role and diminish achievements below attainable levels of social protection. The mature South African system has demonstrated its sensitivity to regulatory design and responds rapidly to changes both positive and negative. When measures to enhance risk pooling are introduced, coverage is expanded and becomes increasingly fair and sustainable. When removed, however, the system becomes less stable and fair as costs rise and people with poor health status are systematically excluded from cover. This susceptibility to regulation therefore presents an opportunity to policymakers to achieve social protection objectives through the strategic management of markets rather than exclusively through less responsive systems based on tax-funded direct provision. This is especially relevant as private markets for healthcare are inevitable, with policy discretion reduced to a choice between functional or dysfunctional regimes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC3381693  PMID: 22992410
3.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
Background
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Conclusions
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
4.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Introduction
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Conclusions
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
5.  Financing Universal Coverage in Malaysia: a case study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12(Suppl 1):S7.
One of the challenges to maintain an agenda for universal coverage and equitable health system is to develop effective structuring and management of health financing. Global experiences with different systems of health financing suggests that a strong public role in health financing is essential for health systems to protect the poor and health systems with the strongest state role are likely the more equitable and achieve better aggregate health outcomes. Using Malaysia as a case study, this paper seeks to evaluate the progress and capacity of a middle income country in terms of health financing for universal coverage, and also to highlight some of the key underlying health systems challenges.
The WHO Health Financing Strategy for the Asia Pacific Region (2010-2015) was used as the framework to evaluate the Malaysian healthcare financing system in terms of the provision of universal coverage for the population, and the Malaysian National Health Accounts (2008) provided the latest Malaysian data on health spending. Measuring against the four target indicators outlined, Malaysia fared credibly with total health expenditure close to 5% of its GDP (4.75%), out-of-pocket payment below 40% of total health expenditure (30.7%), comprehensive social safety nets for vulnerable populations, and a tax-based financing system that fundamentally poses as a national risk-pooled scheme for the population.
Nonetheless, within a holistic systems framework, the financing component interacts synergistically with other health system spheres. In Malaysia, outmigration of public health workers particularly specialist doctors remains an issue and financing strategies critically needs to incorporate a comprehensive workforce compensation strategy to improve the health workforce skill mix. Health expenditure information is systematically collated, but feedback from the private sector remains a challenge. Service delivery-wise, there is a need to enhance financing capacity to expand preventive care, in better managing escalating healthcare costs associated with the increasing trend of non-communicable diseases. In tandem, health financing policies need to infuse the element of cost-effectiveness to better manage the purchasing of new medical supplies and equipment. Ultimately, good governance and leadership are needed to ensure adequate public spending on health and maintain the focus on the attainment of universal coverage, as well as making healthcare financing more accountable to the public, particularly in regards to inefficiencies and better utilisation of public funds and resources.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-S1-S7
PMCID: PMC3381695  PMID: 22992444
6.  Survey of social health insurance structure in selected countries; providing framework for basic health insurance in Iran 
Introduction and Objectives:
Health system reforms are the most strategic issue that has been seriously considered in healthcare systems in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency and effectiveness. The costs of health system finance in our country, lack of universal coverage in health insurance, and related issues necessitate reforms in our health system financing. The aim of this research was to prepare a structure of framework for social health insurance in Iran and conducting a comparative study in selected countries with social health insurance.
Materials and Methods:
This comparative descriptive study was conducted in three phases. The first phase of the study examined the structure of health social insurance in four countries – Germany, South Korea, Egypt, and Australia. The second phase was to develop an initial model, which was designed to determine the shared and distinguishing points of the investigated structures, for health insurance in Iran. The third phase was to validate the final research model. The developed model by the Delphi method was given to 20 professionals in financing of the health system, health economics and management of healthcare services. Their comments were collected in two stages and its validity was confirmed.
Findings:
The study of the structure of health insurance in the selected countries shows that health social insurance in different countries have different structures. Based on the findings of the present study, the current situation of the health system, and the conducted surveys, the following framework is suitable for the health social insurance system in Iran. The Health Social Insurance Organization has a unique service by having five funds of governmental employees, companies and NGOs, self-insured, villagers, and others, which serves as a nongovernmental organization under the supervision of public law and by decision- and policy-making of the Health Insurance Supreme Council. Membership in this organization is based on the nationality or residence, which the insured by paying the insurance premiums within 6-10% of their income and employment status, are entitled to use the services. Providing services to the insured are performed by indirect forms. Payments to the service providers for the fee of inpatient and outpatient services are conservative and the related diagnostic groups system.
Conclusions:
Paying attention to the importance of modification of the fragmented health insurance system and financing the country's healthcare can reduce much of the failure of the health system, including the access of the public to health services. The countries according to the degree of development, governmental, and private insurance companies and existing rules must use the appropriate structure, comprehensive approach to the structure, and financing of the health social insurance on the investigated basis and careful attention to the intersections and differentiation. Studied structures, using them in the proposed approach and taking advantages of the perspectives of different beneficiaries about discussed topics can be important and efficient in order to achieve the goals of the health social insurance.
doi:10.4103/2277-9531.145919
PMCID: PMC4275610  PMID: 25540789
Health insurance; health insurance structure; insurance; selected countries
7.  Health in the 5th 5-years Development Plan of Iran: Main Challenges, General Policies and Strategies 
Iranian Journal of Public Health  2013;42(Supple1):42-49.
Access to the right to the highest attainable level of health is a constitutional right that obliges governments and other players to take step to increase all individuals’ chances of obtaining good health. At the least, health and education are two crucial requirements for this as well. Iran’s vision 2025 is going to lead the country to a developed state with the highest rank of economic, scientific and technological status in the region. Enjoying health, welfare, food security, social security, equal opportunities, etc, are also considered as part of characteristics of Iranian society in 2025. Although health system of Iran has many achievements in providing health services specially for the poor following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but the evidences gathered to develop the 5th 5-years economical, social and cultural plan (5th5YDP:2011–2015), listed a variety of main challenges in stewardship, financing, resources generation and service provision functions of the existing health system. Thus, to overcome the main challenges, about 11% of general policies of 5th5YDP are directly address health related issues with emphasizing on healthy human and comprehensive health approach with considering: Integration of policy making, planning, evaluation, supervision and public financing; Developing both quantity and quality of health insurance system and reducing out-of-pocket expenditures for health services to 30% by the end of the 5th plan. The strategies of 5th5YDP adopted by the parliament as an Act will change the health system fundamentally through tuning the main drivers; so, its implementation needs brave leaders, capable managers, motivated technical staff and social mobilization.
PMCID: PMC3712611  PMID: 23865015
Health; Policy; Plan; Iran
8.  Factors that affect the uptake of community-based health insurance in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic protocol 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e004167.
Introduction
Many people residing in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) are regularly exposed to catastrophic healthcare expenditure. It is therefore pertinent that LMICs should finance their health systems in ways that ensure that their citizens can use needed healthcare services and are protected from potential impoverishment arising from having to pay for services. Ways of financing health systems include government funding, health insurance schemes and out-of-pocket payment. A health insurance scheme refers to pooling of prepaid funds in a way that allows for risks to be shared. The health insurance scheme particularly suitable for the rural poor and the informal sector in LMICs is community-based health insurance (CBHI), that is, insurance schemes operated by organisations other than governments or private for-profit companies. We plan to search for and summarise currently available evidence on factors associated with the uptake of CBHI, as we are not aware of previous systematic reviews that have looked at this important topic.
Methods
This is a protocol for a systematic review of the literature. We will include both quantitative and qualitative studies in this review. Eligible quantitative studies include intervention and observational studies. Qualitative studies to be included are focus group discussions, direct observations, interviews, case studies and ethnography. We will search EMBASE, PubMed, Scopus, ERIC, PsycInfo, Africa-Wide Information, Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, WHOLIS, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library for eligible studies available by 31 October 2013, regardless of publication status or language of publication. We will also check reference lists of included studies and proceedings of relevant conferences and contact researchers for eligible studies. Two authors will independently screen the search output, select studies and extract data, resolving discrepancies by consensus and discussion. Qualitative data will be extracted using standardised data extraction tools adapted from the Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) qualitative appraisal checklist and put together in a thematic analysis where applicable. We will statistically pool data from quantitative studies in a meta-analysis; but if included quantitative studies differ significantly in study settings, design and/or outcome measures, we will present the findings in a narrative synthesis. This protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (ID=CRD42013006364).
Dissemination
Recommendations will be made to health policy makers, managers and researchers in LMICs to help inform them on ways to strengthen and increase the uptake of CBHI.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004167
PMCID: PMC3927816  PMID: 24531450
Health Economics; Public Health
9.  Integration of care systems in Portugal: anatomy of recent reforms 
Background
Integrated care is increasingly present in the agenda of policy-makers, health professionals and researchers as a way to improve care services in relation to access, quality, user satisfaction and efficiency. These are overarching objectives of most sectoral reforms. However, health care and social care services and systems are more and more dependent on the performance of each other, imposing the logic of network. Demographic, epidemiologic and cultural changes result in pressure to increase efficiency and efficacy of services and organisations in both sectors and that is why integrated care has become so relevant in the last years.
Methods
We first used concept maps to organise and systematise information that we had gathered through deep literature review in order to set a framework where to base the subsequent work. Then, we interviewed informants at several levels of the health and social care systems and we built a list of major recent reforms addressing integrated care in Portugal. In a third step, we conducted two independent focus groups where those reforms were discussed and evaluated within the context of the concepts and frameworks identified from the literature. Results were confronted and reconciled, giving place to a list of requisites and guidelines that oriented further search for documentation on those reforms.
Results
Several important health reforms are in course in primary and hospital care in Portugal, while a so-called third level of care has been introduced with the launch of the National Network of Long-Term Integrated Care (RNCCI – Rede Nacional de Cuidados Continuados Integrados). The social care sector has itself been a subject of alternative models springing from opposite political orientations. All these changes are having repercussions on the way the systems work with each other as they are leading to ongoing and ill-evaluated reformulations on the way they are governed, financed, structured and operated.
Conclusions
Care integration is not absent from policy-making and implementation endeavour in Portugal. However, recurrent issues seem to be consistently hampering the efforts regarding the integration of care in the country. It is urgent to assess current situation as experienced by those closely involved and directly affected.
PMCID: PMC4113913  PMID: 25114663
care systems integration; health care reform; social care reform; Portugal
10.  The experience of implementing the board of trustees’ policy in teaching hospitals in Iran: an example of health system decentralization 
Background: In 2004, the health system in Iran initiated an organizational reform aiming to increase the autonomy of teaching hospitals and make them more decentralized. The policy led to the formation of a board of trustees in each hospital and significant modifications in hospitals’ financing. Since the reform aimed to improve its predecessor policy (implementation of hospital autonomy began in 1995), it expected to increase user satisfaction, as well as enhance effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services in targeted hospitals. However, such expectations were never realized. In this research, we explored the perceptions and views of expert stakeholders as to why the board of trustees’ policy did not achieve its perceived objectives.
Methods: We conducted 47 semi-structured face-to-face interviews and two focus group discussions (involving 8 and 10 participants, respectively) with experts at high, middle, and low levels of Iran’s health system, using purposive and snowball sampling. We also collected a comprehensive set of relevant documents. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically, following a mixed inductive-deductive approach.
Results: Three main themes emerged from the analysis. The implementation approach (including the processes, views about the policy and the links between the policy components), using research evidence about the policy (local and global), and policy context (health system structure, health insurers capacity, hospitals’ organization and capacity and actors’ interrelationships) affected the policy outcomes. Overall, the implementation of hospital decentralization policies in Iran did not seem to achieve their intended targets as a result of assumed failure to take full consideration of the above factors in policy implementation into account.
Conclusion: The implementation of the board of trustees’ policy did not achieve its desired goals in teaching hospitals in Iran. Similar decentralization policies in the past and their outcomes were overlooked, while the context was not prepared appropriately and key stakeholders, particularly the government, did not support the decentralization of Iran’s health system.
doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2014.115
PMCID: PMC4380562  PMID: 25844379
Decentralization; Policy Implementation; Health Policy; Organizational Reform; Health System; Iran
11.  Institutional public private partnerships for core health services: evidence from Italy 
Background
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are potential instruments to enable private collaboration in the health sector. Despite theoretical debate, empirical analyses have thus far tended to focus on the contractual or project dimension, overlooking institutional PPPs, i.e., formal legal entities run by proper corporate-governance mechanisms and jointly owned by public and private parties for the provision of public-health goods. This work aims to fill this gap by carrying out a comparative analysis of the reasons for the adoption of institutional PPPs and the governance and managerial features necessary to establish them as appropriate arrangements for public-health services provisions.
Methods
A qualitative analysis is carried out on experiences of institutional PPPs within the Italian National Health Service (Sistema Sanitario Nazionale, SSN). The research question is addressed through a contextual and comparative embedded case study design, assuming the entire population of PPPs (4) currently in force in one Italian region as the unit of analysis: (i) a rehabilitation hospital, (ii), an orthopaedic-centre, (iii) a primary care and ambulatory services facility, and (iv) a health- and social-care facility. Internal validity is guaranteed by the triangulation of sources in the data collection phase, which included archival and interview data.
Results
Four governance and managerial issues were found to be critical in determining the positive performance of the case examined: (i) a strategic market orientation to a specialised service area with sufficient potential demand, (ii) the allocation of public capital assets and the consistent financial involvement of the private partner, (iii) the adoption of private administrative procedures in a regulated setting while guaranteeing the respect of public administration principles, and (iv) clear regulation of the workforce to align the contracts with the organisational culture.
Conclusions
Findings suggests that institutional PPPs enable national health services to reap great benefits when introduced as a complement to the traditional public-service provisions for a defined set of services and goals.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-82
PMCID: PMC3103412  PMID: 21504580
12.  “They Know, They Agree, but They Don’t Do”- The Paradox of Tuberculosis Case Notification by Private Practitioners in Alappuzha District, Kerala, India 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0123286.
Background
Despite being a recognized standard of tuberculosis (TB) care internationally, mandatory TB case notification brings forth challenges from the private sector. Only three TB cases were notified in 2013 by private practitioners compared to 2000 TB cases notified yearly from the public sector in Alappuzha district. The study objective was to explore the knowledge, opinion and barriers regarding TB Notification among private practitioners offering TB services in Alappuzha, Kerala state, India.
Methods & Findings
This was a mixed-methods study with quantitative (survey) and qualitative components conducted between December 2013 and July 2014. The survey, using a structured questionnaire, among 169 private practitioners revealed that 88% were aware of mandatory notification. All patient-related details requested in the notification form (except government-issued identification number) were perceived to be important and easy to provide by more than 80% of practitioners. While more than 95% felt that notification should be mandatory, punitive action in case of failure to notify was considered unnecessary by almost two third. General practitioners (98%) were more likely to be aware of notification than specialists (84 %). (P<0.01). Qualitative purposive personal interviews (n=34) were carried out among private practitioners and public health providers. On thematic framework analysis of the responses, barriers to TB notification were grouped into three themes: ‘private provider misconceptions about notification’, ‘patient confidentiality, and stigma and discrimination ’and ‘lack of cohesion and coordination between public and private sector’. Private practitioners did not consider it necessary to notify TB cases treated with daily regimen.
Conclusion
Communication strategies like training, timely dissemination of information of policy changes and one-to-one dialogue with private practitioners to dispel misconceptions may enhance TB notification. Trust building strategies like providing feedback about referred cases from private sector, health personnel visit or a liaison private doctor may ensure compliance to public health activities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123286
PMCID: PMC4409371  PMID: 25909330
13.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Conclusions
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498.
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
14.  The Cost of Universal Health Care in India: A Model Based Estimate 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30362.
Introduction
As high out-of-pocket healthcare expenses pose heavy financial burden on the families, Government of India is considering a variety of financing and delivery options to universalize health care services. Hence, an estimate of the cost of delivering universal health care services is needed.
Methods
We developed a model to estimate recurrent and annual costs for providing health services through a mix of public and private providers in Chandigarh located in northern India. Necessary health services required to deliver good quality care were defined by the Indian Public Health Standards. National Sample Survey data was utilized to estimate disease burden. In addition, morbidity and treatment data was collected from two secondary and two tertiary care hospitals. The unit cost of treatment was estimated from the published literature. For diseases where data on treatment cost was not available, we collected data on standard treatment protocols and cost of care from local health providers.
Results
We estimate that the cost of universal health care delivery through the existing mix of public and private health institutions would be INR 1713 (USD 38, 95%CI USD 18–73) per person per annum in India. This cost would be 24% higher, if branded drugs are used. Extrapolation of these costs to entire country indicates that Indian government needs to spend 3.8% (2.1%–6.8%) of the GDP for universalizing health care services.
Conclusion
The cost of universal health care delivered through a combination of public and private providers is estimated to be INR 1713 per capita per year in India. Important issues such as delivery strategy for ensuring quality, reducing inequities in access, and managing the growth of health care demand need be explored.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030362
PMCID: PMC3267714  PMID: 22299038
15.  Building consensus on key priorities for rural health care in South Africa using the Delphi technique 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19522.
Background
South Africa is currently undergoing major health system restructuring in an attempt to improve health outcomes and reduce inequities in access. Such inequities exist between private and public health care and within the public health system itself. Experience shows that rural health care can be disadvantaged in policy formulation despite good intentions. The objective of this study was to identify the major challenges and priority interventions for rural health care provision in South Africa thereby contributing to pro-rural health policy dialogue.
Methods
The Delphi technique was used to develop consensus on a list of statements that was generated through interviews and literature review. A panel of rural health practitioners and other stakeholders was asked to indicate their level of agreement with these statements and to rank the top challenges in and interventions required for rural health care.
Results
Response rates ranged from 83% in the first round (n=44) to 64% in the final round (n=34). The top five priorities were aligned to three of the WHO health system building blocks: human resources for health (HRH), governance, and finance. Specifically, the panel identified a need to focus on recruitment and support of rural health professionals, the employment of managers with sufficient and appropriate skills, a rural-friendly national HRH plan, and equitable funding formulae.
Conclusion
Specific policies and strategies are required to address the greatest rural health care challenges and to ensure improved access to quality health care in rural South Africa. In addition, a change in organisational climate and a concerted effort to make a career in rural health appealing to health care workers and adequate funding for rural health care provision are essential.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19522
PMCID: PMC3556680  PMID: 23364081
rural health; priorities; challenges; Delphi technique; health systems; leadership; management
16.  The practice of commissioning healthcare from a private provider: learning from an in-depth case study 
BMC Health Services Research  2013;13(Suppl 1):S4.
Background
The direction of health service policy in England is for more diversification in the design, commissioning and provision of health care services. The case study which is the subject of this paper was selected specifically because of the partnering with a private sector organisation to manage whole system redesign of primary care and to support the commissioning of services for people with long term conditions at risk of unplanned hospital admissions and associated service provision activities. The case study forms part of a larger Department of Health funded project on the practice of commissioning which aims to find the best means of achieving a balance between monitoring and control on the one hand, and flexibility and innovation on the other, and to find out what modes of commissioning are most effective in different circumstances and for different services.
Methods
A single case study method was adopted to explore multiple perspectives of the complexities and uniqueness of a public-private partnership referred to as the “Livewell project”. 10 single depth interviews were carried out with key informants across the GP practices, the PCT and the private provider involved in the initiative.
Results
The main themes arising from single depth interviews with the case study participants include a particular understanding about the concept of commissioning in the context of primary care, ambitions for primary care redesign, the importance of key roles and strong relationships, issues around the adoption and spread of innovation, and the impact of the current changes to commissioning arrangements. The findings identified a close and high trust relationship between GPs (the commissioners) and the private commissioning support and provider firm. The antecedents to the contract for the project being signed indicated the importance of leveraging external contacts and influence (resource dependency theory).
Conclusions
The study has surfaced issues around innovation adoption in the healthcare context. The case identifies ‘negotiated order’, managerial performance of providers and disciplinary control as three media of power used in combination by commissioners. The case lends support for stewardship and resource dependency governance theories as explanations of the underpinning conditions for effective commissioning in certain circumstances within a quasi marketised healthcare system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3663660  PMID: 23735082
17.  Community health insurance amidst abolition of user fees in Uganda: the view from policy makers and health service managers 
Background
This paper investigates knowledge of Community Health Insurance (CHI) and the perception of its relevance by key policy makers and health service managers in Uganda. Community Health Insurance schemes currently operate in the private-not-for-profit sector, in settings where church-based facilities function. They operate in a wider policy environment where user fees in the public sector have been abolished.
Methods
Semi-structured interviews were conducted during the second half of 2007 with District Health Officers (DHOs) and senior staff of the Ministry of Health (MOH). The qualitative data collected were analyzed using the framework method, facilitated by EZ-Text software.
Results
There is poor knowledge and understanding of CHI activities by staff of the MOH headquarters and DHOs. However, a comparison of responses reveals a relatively high level of awareness of CHI principles among DHOs compared to that of MOH staff. All the DHOs in the districts with schemes had a good understanding of CHI principles compared to DHOs in districts without schemes. Out-of-pocket expenditure remains an important feature of health care financing in Uganda despite blanket abolition of user fees in government facilities.
Conclusion
CHI is perceived as a relevant policy option and potential source of funds for health care. It is also considered a means of raising the quality of health care in both public and private health units. To assess whether it is also feasible to introduce CHI in the public sector, there is an urgent need to investigate the willingness and readiness of stakeholders, in particular high level political authorities, to follow this new path. The current ambiguity and contradictions in the health financing policy of the Uganda MOH need to be addressed and clarified.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-33
PMCID: PMC2827475  PMID: 20132539
18.  Establishing and Scaling-Up Clinical Social Franchise Networks: Lessons Learned From Marie Stopes International and Population Services International 
Family planning social franchising has succeeded in countries with an active private sector serving low- and middle-income clients, with services provided mostly by mid-level providers, such as nurses and midwives. Key support for social franchising includes: clinical training and supportive supervision, help building sustainable businesses, marketing and demand creation, and mechanisms to make services affordable for clients. The forward agenda includes selectively introducing other priority health services, improving cost-effectiveness of the model, and promoting sustainability and health system integration.
Family planning social franchising has succeeded in countries with an active private sector serving low- and middle-income clients, with services provided mostly by mid-level providers, such as nurses and midwives. Key support for social franchising includes: clinical training and supportive supervision, help building sustainable businesses, marketing and demand creation, and mechanisms to make services affordable for clients. The forward agenda includes selectively introducing other priority health services, improving cost-effectiveness of the model, and promoting sustainability and health systems integration.
In many low- and middle-income countries, a majority of people seek health care from the private sector. However, fragmentation, poor economies of scale, inadequate financing, political opposition, a bias toward curative services, and weak regulatory and quality control systems pose serious challenges for the private sector. Social franchising addresses a number of these challenges by organizing small, independent health care businesses into quality-assured networks. Global franchisors Marie Stopes International (MSI) and Population Services International (PSI) have rapidly scaled their family planning social franchising programs in recent years, jointly delivering over 10.8 million couple-years of protection (CYPs) in 2014—up 26% from 8.6 million CYPs just 1 year prior. Drawing on experience across MSI’s 17 and PSI’s 25 social franchise networks across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, this article documents the organizations’ operational approaches, challenges faced, and solutions implemented. The organizations provide intensive capacity building and support for private-sector providers, including clinical training, branding, monitoring quality of franchised services, and commodity support. In addition, franchising programs engage providers and clients through behavior change communication (BCC) and demand generation activities to raise awareness and to attract clients, and they implement initiatives to ensure services are affordable for the lowest-income clients. Social franchise programs offer the private sector a collective platform to better engage government in health policy advocacy and for integrating into new public health care financing and procurement mechanisms. The future of social franchising will require developing approaches to scale-up and sustain the model cost-effectively, selectively integrating other health services into the franchise package, and being responsive to evolving health care financing approaches with the potential to contribute to universal health coverage.
doi:10.9745/GHSP-D-15-00057
PMCID: PMC4476858  PMID: 26085017
19.  Reinterpreting Ethnic Patterns among White and African American Men Who Inject Heroin: A Social Science of Medicine Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e452.
Background
Street-based heroin injectors represent an especially vulnerable population group subject to negative health outcomes and social stigma. Effective clinical treatment and public health intervention for this population requires an understanding of their cultural environment and experiences. Social science theory and methods offer tools to understand the reasons for economic and ethnic disparities that cause individual suffering and stress at the institutional level.
Methods and Findings
We used a cross-methodological approach that incorporated quantitative, clinical, and ethnographic data collected by two contemporaneous long-term San Francisco studies, one epidemiological and one ethnographic, to explore the impact of ethnicity on street-based heroin-injecting men 45 years of age or older who were self-identified as either African American or white. We triangulated our ethnographic findings by statistically examining 14 relevant epidemiological variables stratified by median age and ethnicity. We observed significant differences in social practices between self-identified African Americans and whites in our ethnographic social network sample with respect to patterns of (1) drug consumption; (2) income generation; (3) social and institutional relationships; and (4) personal health and hygiene. African Americans and whites tended to experience different structural relationships to their shared condition of addiction and poverty. Specifically, this generation of San Francisco injectors grew up as the children of poor rural to urban immigrants in an era (the late 1960s through 1970s) when industrial jobs disappeared and heroin became fashionable. This was also when violent segregated inner city youth gangs proliferated and the federal government initiated its “War on Drugs.” African Americans had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families. Most of the whites were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime. These historical-structural conditions generated distinct presentations of self. Whites styled themselves as outcasts, defeated by addiction. They professed to be injecting heroin to stave off “dopesickness” rather than to seek pleasure. African Americans, in contrast, cast their physical addiction as an oppositional pursuit of autonomy and pleasure. They considered themselves to be professional outlaws and rejected any appearance of abjection. Many, but not all, of these ethnographic findings were corroborated by our epidemiological data, highlighting the variability of behaviors within ethnic categories.
Conclusions
Bringing quantitative and qualitative methodologies and perspectives into a collaborative dialog among cross-disciplinary researchers highlights the fact that clinical practice must go beyond simple racial or cultural categories. A clinical social science approach provides insights into how sociocultural processes are mediated by historically rooted and institutionally enforced power relations. Recognizing the logical underpinnings of ethnically specific behavioral patterns of street-based injectors is the foundation for cultural competence and for successful clinical relationships. It reduces the risk of suboptimal medical care for an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging patient population. Social science approaches can also help explain larger-scale patterns of health disparities; inform new approaches to structural and institutional-level public health initiatives; and enable clinicians to take more leadership in changing public policies that have negative health consequences.
Bourgois and colleagues found that the African American and white men in their study had a different pattern of drug use and risk behaviors, adopted different strategies for survival, and had different personal histories.
Editors' Summary
Background.
There are stark differences in the health of different ethnic groups in America. For example, the life expectancy for white men is 75.4 years, but it is only 69.2 years for African-American men. The reasons behind these disparities are unclear, though there are several possible explanations. Perhaps, for example, different ethnic groups are treated differently by health professionals (with some groups receiving poorer quality health care). Or maybe the health disparities are due to differences across ethnic groups in income level (we know that richer people are healthier). These disparities are likely to persist unless we gain a better understanding of how they arise.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to study the health of a very vulnerable community of people: heroin users living on the streets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The health status of this community is extremely poor, and its members are highly stigmatized—including by health professionals themselves. The researchers wanted to know whether African American men and white men who live on the streets have a different pattern of drug use, whether they adopt varying strategies for survival, and whether they have different personal histories. Knowledge of such differences would help the health community to provide more tailored and culturally appropriate interventions. Physicians, nurses, and social workers often treat street-based drug users, especially in emergency rooms and free clinics. These health professionals regularly report that their interactions with street-based drug users are frustrating and confrontational. The researchers hoped that their study would help these professionals to have a better understanding of the cultural backgrounds and motivations of their drug-using patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Over the course of six years, the researchers directly observed about 70 men living on the streets who injected heroin as they went about their usual lives (this type of research is called “participant observation”). The researchers specifically looked to see whether there were differences between the white and African American men. All the men gave their consent to be studied in this way and to be photographed. The researchers also studied a database of interviews with almost 7,000 injection drug users conducted over five years, drawing out the data on differences between white and African men. The researchers found that the white men were more likely to supplement their heroin use with inexpensive fortified wine, while African American men were more likely to supplement heroin with crack. Most of the white men were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime, and these men tended to consider themselves as destitute outcasts. African American men had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families, and these men tended to consider themselves as professional outlaws. The white men persevered less in attempting to find a vein in which to inject heroin, and so were more likely to inject the drug directly under the skin—this meant that they were more likely to suffer from skin abscesses. The white men generated most of their income from panhandling (begging for money), while the African American men generated most of their income through petty crime and/or through offering services such as washing car windows at gas stations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Among street-based heroin users, there are important differences between white men and African American men in the type of drugs used, the method of drug use, their social backgrounds, the way in which they identify themselves, and the health risks that they take. By understanding these differences, health professionals should be better placed to provide tailored and appropriate care when these men present to clinics and emergency rooms. As the researchers say, “understanding of different ethnic populations of drug injectors may reduce difficult clinical interactions and resultant physician frustration while improving patient access and adherence to care.” One limitation of this study is that the researchers studied one specific community in one particular area of the US—so we should not assume that their findings would apply to street-based heroin users elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a web page on HIV prevention among injection drug users
The World Health Organization has collected documents on reducing the risk of HIV in injection drug users and on harm reduction approaches
The International Harm Reduction Association has information relevant to a global audience on reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities
US-focused information on harm reduction is available via the websites of the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chicago Recovery Alliance
Canada-focused information can be found at the Street Works Web site
The Harm Reduction Journal publishes open-access articles
The CDC has a web page on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities
The Drug Policy Alliance has a web page on drug policy in the United States
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452
PMCID: PMC1621100  PMID: 17076569
20.  Universal Health Coverage for India by 2022: A Utopia or Reality? 
It is the obligation of the state to provide free and universal access to quality health-care services to its citizens. India continues to be among the countries of the world that have a high burden of diseases. The various health program and policies in the past have not been able to achieve the desired goals and objectives. 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva identified universal health coverage (UHC) as the key imperative for all countries to consolidate the public health advances. Accordingly, Planning Commission of India constituted a high level expert group (HLEG) on UHC in October 2010. HLEG submitted its report in Nov 2011 to Planning Commission on UHC for India by 2022. The recommendations for the provision of UHC pertain to the critical areas such as health financing, health infrastructure, health services norms, skilled human resources, access to medicines and vaccines, management and institutional reforms, and community participation. India faces enormous challenges to achieve UHC by 2022 such as high disease prevalence, issues of gender equality, unregulated and fragmented health-care delivery system, non-availability of adequate skilled human resource, vast social determinants of health, inadequate finances, lack of inter-sectoral co-ordination and various political pull and push of different forces, and interests. These challenges can be met by a paradigm shift in health policies and programs in favor of vulnerable population groups, restructuring of public health cadres, reorientation of undergraduate medical education, more emphasis on public health research, and extensive education campaigns. There are still areas of concern in fulfilling the objectives of achieving UHC by 2022 regarding financing model for health-care delivery, entitlement package, cost of health-care interventions and declining state budgets. However, the Government's commitment to provide adequate finances, recent bold social policy initiatives and enactments such as food security bill, enhanced participation by civil society in all health matters, major initiative by some states such as Tamil Nadu to improve health, water, and sanitation services are good enough reasons for hope that UHC can be achieved by 2022. However, in the absence of sustained financial support, strong political will and leadership, dedicated involvement of all stakeholders and community participation, attainment of UHC by 2022 will remain a Utopia.
doi:10.4103/0970-0218.112430
PMCID: PMC3714944  PMID: 23878417
Management reforms; public health; reality; universal health care; utopia
21.  Human resources for health at the district level in Indonesia: the smoke and mirrors of decentralization 
Background
In 2001 Indonesia embarked on a rapid decentralization of government finances and functions to district governments. One of the results is that government has less information about its most valuable resource, the people who provide the services. The objective of the work reported here is to determine the stock of human resources for health in 15 districts, their service status and primary place of work. It also assesses the effect of decentralization on management of human resources and the implications for the future.
Methods
We enumerated all health care providers (doctors, nurses and midwives), including information on their employment status and primary place of work, in each of 15 districts in Java. Data were collected by three teams, one for each province.
Results
Provider density (number of doctors, nurses and midwives/1000 population) was low by international standards – 11 out of 15 districts had provider densities less than 1.0. Approximately half of all three professional groups were permanent public servants. Contractual employment was also important for both nurses and midwives. The private sector as the primary source of employment is most important for doctors (37% overall) and increasingly so for midwives (10%). For those employed in the public sector, two-thirds of doctors and nurses work in health centres, while most midwives are located at village-level health facilities.
Conclusion
In the health system established after Independence, the facilities established were staffed through a period of obligatory service for all new graduates in medicine, nursing and midwifery. The last elements of that staffing system ended in 2007 and the government has not been able to replace it. The private sector is expanding and, despite the fact that it will be of increasing importance in the coming decades, government information about providers in private practice is decreasing. Despite the promise of decentralization to increase sectoral "decision space" at the district level, the central government now has control over essentially all public sector health staff at the district level, marking a return to the situation of 20 years ago. At the same time, Indonesia has changed dramatically. The challenge now is to envision a new health system that takes account of these changes. Envisioning the new system is a crucial first step for development of a human resources policy which, in turn, will require more information about health care providers, public and private, and increased capacity for human resource planning.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-7-6
PMCID: PMC2662783  PMID: 19192269
22.  Socio-Economics of Medical Care, Report of Bureau of Research and Planning 
California Medicine  1963;98(3):177-179.
Interest in the area of medical socio-economics has largely come about due to the proliferation of social welfare programs and advances in the distribution of health services in the private sector of the economy. The increasing role of our government has also been a stimulus. With the advent of new techniques for the financing of care, a large volume of institutional literature has appeared delving into issues which range from the role of the medical profession in the evaluation of quality of medical care to the measurement of demand for and prepayment of numerous types of health care services. Since the area of medical socio-economics is not considered “pure” enough to be categorized as a discipline, the range of periodicals, government and non-government publications and books, in which data are found, is vast. This report will briefly describe some of the more important sources of data in the area of medical socio-economics. Major emphasis is given to the literature which provides current statistical data on the operational aspects of public and private programs providing health care services, and ancillary activities which affect the market for health care activities. Leading publications of governmental and other community agencies are cited to illustrate the range of materials available to the public and to the medical profession.
PMCID: PMC1575698  PMID: 18732612
23.  A Taxonomy and Results from a Comprehensive Review of 28 Maternal Health Voucher Programmes 
Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition  2013;31(4 Suppl 2):S106-S128.
It is increasingly clear that Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5 will not be achieved in many low- and middle-income countries with the weakest gains among the poor. Recognizing that there are large inequalities in reproductive health outcomes, the post-2015 agenda on universal health coverage will likely generate strategies that target resources where maternal and newborn deaths are the highest. In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development convened an Evidence Summit to review the knowledge and gaps on the utilization of financial incentives to enhance the quality and uptake of maternal healthcare. The goal was to provide donors and governments of the low- and middle-income countries with evidence-informed recommendations on practice, policy, and strategies regarding the use of financial incentives, including vouchers, to enhance the demand and supply of maternal health services. The findings in this paper are intended to guide governments interested in maternal health voucher programmes with recommendations for sustainable implementation and impact. The Evidence Summit undertook a systematic review of five financing strategies. This paper presents the methods and findings for vouchers, building on a taxonomy to catalogue knowledge about voucher programme design and functionality. More than 120 characteristics under five major categories were identified: programme principles (objectives and financing); governance and management; benefits package and beneficiary targeting; providers (contracting and service pricing); and implementation arrangements (marketing, claims processing, and monitoring and evaluation). Among the 28 identified maternal health voucher programmes, common characteristics included: a stated objective to increase the use of services among the means-tested poor; contracted-out programme management; contracting either exclusively private facilities or a mix of public and private providers; prioritizing community-based distribution of vouchers; and tracking individual claims for performance purposes. Maternal voucher programmes differed on whether contracted providers were given training on clinical or administrative issues; whether some form of service verification was undertaken at facility or community-level; and the relative size of programme management costs in the overall programme budget. Evidence suggests voucher programmes can serve populations with national-level impact. Reaching scale depends on whether the voucher programme can: (i) keep management costs low, (ii) induce a large demand-side response among the bottom two quintiles, and (iii) achieve a quality of care that translates a greater number of facility-based deliveries into a reduction in maternal morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC4021701
Demand-side financing; Maternal healthcare; Results-based financing; Vouchers
24.  Promoting universal financial protection: a policy analysis of universal health coverage in Costa Rica (1940–2000) 
Background
This paper explores the implementation and sustenance of universal health coverage (UHC) in Costa Rica, discussing the development of a social security scheme that covered 5% of the population in 1940, to one that finances and provides comprehensive healthcare to the whole population today. The scheme is financed by mandatory, tri-partite social insurance contributions complemented by tax funding to cover the poor.
Methods
The analysis takes a historical perspective and explores the policy process including the key actors and their relative influence in decision-making. Data were collected using qualitative research instruments, including a review of literature, institutional and other documents, and in-depth interviews with key informants.
Results
Key lessons to be learned are: i) population health was high on the political agenda in Costa Rica, in particular before the 1980s when UHC was enacted and the transfer of hospitals to the social security institution took place. Opposition to UHC could therefore be contained through negotiation and implemented incrementally despite the absence of real consensus among the policy elite; ii) since the 1960s, the social security institution has been responsible for UHC in Costa Rica. This institution enjoys financial and managerial autonomy relative to the general government, which has also facilitated the UHC policy implementation process; iii) UHC was simultaneously constructed on three pillars that reciprocally strengthened each other: increasing population coverage, increasing availability of financial resources based on solidarity financing mechanisms, and increasing service coverage, ultimately offering comprehensive health services and the same benefits to every resident in the country; iv) particularly before the 1980s, the fruits of economic growth were structurally invested in health and other universal social policies, in particular education and sanitation. The social security institution became a flagship of Costa Rica’s national development strategy which reinforced its political importance and contributed to its longer-term sustainability and that of UHC.
Conclusions
UHC has been achieved in Costa Rica because it was supported at the highest political level within a favourable socio-economic and political context. Once achieved, UHC became an entitlement for the population and now enjoys broad public support.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-28
PMCID: PMC3766110  PMID: 24107407
Health policy; Social protection; Universal health coverage
25.  Evaluation of the impact of the voucher and accreditation approach on improving reproductive health behaviors and status in Kenya 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:177.
Abtsract
Background
Alternatives to the traditional 'supply-side' approach to financing service delivery are being explored. These strategies are termed results-based finance, demand-side health financing or output-based aid which includes a range of interventions that channel government or donor subsidies to the user rather than the provider. Initial pilot assessments of reproductive health voucher programs suggest that, they can increase access and use, reducing inequities and enhancing program efficiency and service quality. However, there is a paucity of evidence describing how the programs function in different settings, for various reproductive health services. Population Council, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, intends to generate evidence around the 'voucher and accreditation' approaches to improving the reproductive health of low income women in Kenya.
Methods/Design
A quasi-experimental study will investigate the impact of the voucher approach on improving reproductive health behaviors, reproductive health status and reducing inequities at the population level; and assessing the effect of vouchers on increasing access to, and quality of, and reducing inequities in the use of selected reproductive health services. The study comprises of four populations: facilities, providers, women of reproductive health age using facilities and women and men who have been pregnant and/or used family planning within the previous 12 months. The study will be carried out in samples of health facilities - public, private and faith-based in: three districts; Kisumu, Kiambu, Kitui and two informal settlements in Nairobi which are accredited to provide maternal and newborn health and family planning services to women holding vouchers for the services; and compared with a matched sample of non-accredited facilities. Health facility assessments (HFA) will be conducted at two stages to track temporal changes in quality of care and utilization. Facility inventories, structured observations, and client exit interviews will be used to collect comparable data across facilities. Health providers will also be interviewed and observed providing care. A population survey of about 3000 respondents will also be carried out in areas where vouchers are distributed and similar locations where vouchers are not distributed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-177
PMCID: PMC3074544  PMID: 21429207
Vouchers; Out-put based approach

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