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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.  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
3.  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
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.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Home care in Europe: a systematic literature review 
Background
Health and social services provided at home are becoming increasingly important. Hence, there is a need for information on home care in Europe. The objective of this literature review was to respond to this need by systematically describing what has been reported on home care in Europe in the scientific literature over the past decade.
Methods
A systematic literature search was performed for papers on home care published in English, using the following data bases: Cinahl, the Cochrane Library, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, and Social Care Online. Studies were only included if they complied with the definition of home care, were published between January 1998 and October 2009, and dealt with at least one of the 31 specified countries. Clinical interventions, instrument developments, local projects and reviews were excluded. The data extracted included: the characteristics of the study and aspects of home care 'policy & regulation', 'financing', 'organisation & service delivery', and 'clients & informal carers'.
Results
Seventy-four out of 5,133 potentially relevant studies met the inclusion criteria, providing information on 18 countries. Many focused on the characteristics of home care recipients and on the organisation of home care. Geographical inequalities, market forces, quality and integration of services were also among the issues frequently discussed.
Conclusions
Home care systems appeared to differ both between and within countries. The papers included, however, provided only a limited picture of home care. Many studies only focused on one aspect of the home care system and international comparative studies were rare. Furthermore, little information emerged on home care financing and on home care in general in Eastern Europe. This review clearly shows the need for more scientific publications on home care, especially studies comparing countries. A comprehensive and more complete insight into the state of home care in Europe requires the gathering of information using a uniform framework and methodology.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-207
PMCID: PMC3170599  PMID: 21878111
home care; European Union; care systems; international comparison
14.  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
15.  Viewing the Kenyan health system through an equity lens: implications for universal coverage 
Introduction
Equity and universal coverage currently dominate policy debates worldwide. Health financing approaches are central to universal coverage. The way funds are collected, pooled, and used to purchase or provide services should be carefully considered to ensure that population needs are addressed under a universal health system. The aim of this paper is to assess the extent to which the Kenyan health financing system meets the key requirements for universal coverage, including income and risk cross-subsidisation. Recommendations on how to address existing equity challenges and progress towards universal coverage are made.
Methods
An extensive review of published and gray literature was conducted to identify the sources of health care funds in Kenya. Documents were mainly sourced from the Ministry of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. Country level documents were the main sources of data. In cases where data were not available at the country level, they were sought from the World Health Organisation website. Each financing mechanism was analysed in respect to key functions namely, revenue generation, pooling and purchasing.
Results
The Kenyan health sector relies heavily on out-of-pocket payments. Government funds are mainly allocated through historical incremental approach. The sector is largely underfunded and health care contributions are regressive (i.e. the poor contribute a larger proportion of their income to health care than the rich). Health financing in Kenya is fragmented and there is very limited risk and income cross-subsidisation. The country has made little progress towards achieving international benchmarks including the Abuja target of allocating 15% of government's budget to the health sector.
Conclusions
The Kenyan health system is highly inequitable and policies aimed at promoting equity and addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable have not been successful. Some progress has been made towards addressing equity challenges, but universal coverage will not be achieved unless the country adopts a systemic approach to health financing reforms. Such an approach should be informed by the wider health system goals of equity and efficiency.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-22
PMCID: PMC3129586  PMID: 21612669
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Mapping mental health finances in Ghana, Uganda, Sri Lanka, India and Lao PDR 
Background
Limited evidence about mental health finances in low and middle-income countries is a key challenge to mental health care policy initiatives. This study aimed to map mental health finances in Ghana, Uganda, India (Kerala state), Sri Lanka and Lao PDR focusing on how much money is available for mental health, how it is spent, and how this impacts mental health services.
Methods
A researcher in each region reviewed public mental health-related budgets and interviewed key informants on government mental health financing. A total of 43 key informant interviews were conducted. Quantitative data was analyzed in an excel matrix using descriptive statistics. Key informant interviews were coded a priori against research questions.
Results
National ring-fenced budgets for mental health as a percentage of national health spending for 2007-08 is 1.7% in Sri Lanka, 3.7% in Ghana, 2.0% in Kerala (India) and 6.6% in Uganda. Budgets were not available in Lao PDR. The majority of ring-fenced budgets (76% to 100%) is spent on psychiatric hospitals. Mental health spending could not be tracked beyond the psychiatric hospital level due to limited information at the health centre and community levels.
Conclusions
Mental health budget information should be tracked and made publically accessible. Governments can adapt WHO AIMS indicators for reviewing national mental health finances. Funding allocations work more effectively through decentralization. Mental health financing should reflect new ideas emerging from community based practice in LMICs.
doi:10.1186/1752-4458-4-11
PMCID: PMC2889860  PMID: 20507558
19.  Developing integrated health and social care services for older persons in Europe 
Abstract
Purpose
This paper is to distribute first results of the EU Fifth Framework Project ‘Providing integrated health and social care for older persons—issues, problems and solutions’ (PROCARE—http://www.euro.centre.org/procare/). The project's first phase was to identify different approaches to integration as well as structural, organisational, economic and social-cultural factors and actors that constitute integrated and sustainable care systems. It also served to retrieve a number of experiences, model ways of working and demonstration projects in the participating countries which are currently being analysed in order to learn from success—or failure—and to develop policy recommendations for the local, national and European level.
Theory
The paper draws on existing definitions of integrated care in various countries and by various scholars. Given the context of an international comparative study it tries to avoid providing a single, ready-made definition but underlines the role of social care as part and parcel of this type of integrated care in the participating countries.
Methods
The paper is based on national reports from researchers representing ten organisations (university institutes, consultancy firms, research institutes, the public and the NGO sector) from 9 European countries: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK. Literature reviews made intensive use of grey literature and evaluation studies in the context of at least five model ways of working in each country.
Results
As a result of the cross-national overview an attempt to classify different approaches and definitions is made and indicators of relative importance of the different instruments used in integrating health and social care services are provided.
Conclusions
The cross-national overview shows that issues concerning co-ordination and integration of services are high on the agenda in most countries. Depending on the state of service development, various approaches and instruments can be observed. Different national frameworks, in particular with respect to financing and organisation, systemic development, professionalisation and professional cultures, basic societal values (family ethics), and political approaches have to be taken into account during the second phase of PROCARE during which transversal and transnational analysis will be undertaken based on an in-depth analysis of two model ways of working in each country.
Discussion
Far from a European vision concerning integrated care, national health and social care systems remain—at best—loosely coupled systems that are facing increasing difficulties, given the current challenges, in particular in long-term care for older persons: increasing marketisation, lack of managerial knowledge (co-operation, co-ordination), shortage of care workers and a general trend towards down-sizing of social care services continue to hamper the first tentative pathways towards integrated care systems.
PMCID: PMC1393267  PMID: 16773149
health and social care; integrated service delivery; older persons in need of care; European overview
20.  Mapping and exploring health systems’ response to intimate partner violence in Spain 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1162.
Background
For a comprehensive health sector response to intimate partner violence (IPV), interventions should target individual and health facility levels, along with the broader health systems level which includes issues of governance, financing, planning, service delivery, monitoring and evaluation, and demand generation. This study aims to map and explore the integration of IPV response in the Spanish national health system.
Methods
Information was collected on five key areas based on WHO recommendations: policy environment, protocols, training, monitoring and prevention. A systematic review of public documents was conducted to assess 39 indicators in each of Spain’s 17 regional health systems. In addition, we performed qualitative content analysis of 26 individual interviews with key informants responsible for coordinating the health sector response to IPV in Spain.
Results
In 88% of the 17 autonomous regions, the laws concerning IPV included the health sector response, but the integration of IPV in regional health plans was just 41%. Despite the existence of a supportive national structure, responding to IPV still relies strongly on the will of health professionals. All seventeen regions had published comprehensive protocols to guide the health sector response to IPV, but participants recognized that responding to IPV was more complex than merely following the steps of a protocol. Published training plans existed in 43% of the regional health systems, but none had institutionalized IPV training in medical and nursing schools. Only 12% of regional health systems collected information on the quality of the IPV response, and there are many limitations to collecting information on IPV within health services, for example underreporting, fears about confidentiality, and underuse of data for monitoring purposes. Finally, preventive activities that were considered essential were not institutionalized anywhere.
Conclusions
Within the Spanish health system, differences exist in terms of achievements both between regions and between the areas assessed. Progress towards integration of IPV has been notable at the level of policy, less outstanding regarding health service delivery, and very limited in terms of preventive actions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1162
PMCID: PMC3890595  PMID: 24325328
Health system; Health policy; Intimate partner violence; Spain; Mixed methods; Content analysis
21.  The Influence of Health Systems on Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control: A Systematic Literature Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001490.
Will Maimaris and colleagues systematically review the evidence that national or regional health systems, including place of care and medication co-pays, influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Hypertension (HT) affects an estimated one billion people worldwide, nearly three-quarters of whom live in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). In both developed and developing countries, only a minority of individuals with HT are adequately treated. The reasons are many but, as with other chronic diseases, they include weaknesses in health systems. We conducted a systematic review of the influence of national or regional health systems on HT awareness, treatment, and control.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies were those that analyzed the impact of health systems arrangements at the regional or national level on HT awareness, treatment, control, or antihypertensive medication adherence. The following databases were searched on 13th May 2013: Medline, Embase, Global Health, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information, IMSEAR, IMEMR, and WPRIM. There were no date or language restrictions. Two authors independently assessed papers for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. A narrative synthesis of the findings was conducted. Meta-analysis was not conducted due to substantial methodological heterogeneity in included studies. 53 studies were included, 11 of which were carried out in LMICs. Most studies evaluated health system financing and only four evaluated the effect of either human, physical, social, or intellectual resources on HT outcomes. Reduced medication co-payments were associated with improved HT control and treatment adherence, mainly evaluated in US settings. On balance, health insurance coverage was associated with improved outcomes of HT care in US settings. Having a routine place of care or physician was associated with improved HT care.
Conclusions
This review supports the minimization of medication co-payments in health insurance plans, and although studies were largely conducted in the US, the principle is likely to apply more generally. Studies that identify and analyze complexities and links between health systems arrangements and their effects on HT management are required, particularly in LMICs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, one billion people, three-quarters of whom were living in low- and middle-income countries, had high blood pressure (hypertension). Worldwide, hypertension, which rarely has any symptoms, leads to about 7.5 million deaths annually from heart attacks, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases, and kidney disease. Hypertension, selected by the World Health Organization as the theme for World Health Day 2013, is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure, the force that blood circulating in the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. Blood pressure is highest when the heart is contracts to pump blood out (systolic blood pressure) and lowest when the heart relaxes and refills (diastolic blood pressure). Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg (a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mmHg). A blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 mmHg indicates hypertension. Many factors affect blood pressure, but overweight people and individuals who eat fatty or salty foods are at high risk of developing hypertension.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most individuals can achieve good hypertension control, which reduces death and disability from cardiovascular and kidney disease, by making lifestyle changes (mild hypertension) and/or by taking antihypertensive drugs. Yet, in both developed and developing countries, many people with hypertension are not aware of their condition and are not adequately treated. As with other chronic diseases, weaknesses in health care systems probably contribute to the inadequate treatment of hypertension. A health care system comprises all the organizations, institutions, and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health. Weaknesses in health care systems can exist at the national, regional, district, community, and household level. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers investigate how national and regional health care system arrangements influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control. Actions that might influence hypertension care at this level of health care systems include providing treatment for hypertension at no or reduced cost, the introduction of financial incentives to healthcare practitioners for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, and enhanced insurance coverage in countries such as the US where people pay for health care through insurance policies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 53 studies that analyzed whether regional or national health care systems arrangements were associated with patient awareness of hypertension, treatment of hypertension, adherence to antihypertensive medication treatment, and control of hypertension. The researchers used an established conceptual framework for health care systems and an approach called narrative synthesis to analyze the results of these studies, most of which were conducted in the US (36 studies) and other high-income countries (eight studies). Nearly all the studies evaluated the effects of health system financing on hypertension outcomes, although several looked at the effects of delivery and governance of health systems on these outcomes. The researchers' analysis revealed an association between reduced medication co-payments (drug costs that are not covered by health insurance and that are paid by patients in countries without universal free healthcare) and improved hypertension control and treatment adherence, mainly in US settings. In addition, in US settings, health insurance coverage was associated with improved hypertension outcomes, as was having a routine physician or place of care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that minimizing co-payments for health care and expansion of health insurance coverage in countries without universal free health care may improve the awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension. Although these findings are based mainly on US studies, they are likely to apply more generally but, importantly, these findings indicate that additional, high-quality studies are needed to unravel the impact of health systems arrangements on the management of hypertension. In particular, they reveal few studies in low- and middle-income countries where most of the global burden of hypertension lies and where weaknesses in health systems often result in deficiencies in the care of chronic diseases. Moreover, they highlight a need for studies that evaluate how aspects of health care systems other than financing (for example, delivery and governance mechanisms) and interactions between health care system arrangements affect hypertension outcomes. Without the results of such studies, governments and national and international organizations will not know the best ways to deal effectively with the global public-health crisis posed by hypertension.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490.
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has patient information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
The American Heart Association provides information on high blood pressure (in several languages) and personal stories about dealing with high blood pressure
The UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices website provides detailed information for patients about hypertension and a personal story about hypertension
The World Health Organization provides information on controlling blood pressure and on health systems (in several languages); its "A Global Brief on Hypertension" was published on World Health Day 2013
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490
PMCID: PMC3728036  PMID: 23935461
22.  Science-based health innovation in Tanzania: bednets and a base for invention 
Background
Tanzania is East Africa’s largest country. Although it is socially diverse, it has experienced general political stability since independence in 1964. Despite gradual economic development and Tanzania’s status as one of the biggest recipients of aid in Africa, health status remains poor. This paper explores Tanzania’s science-based health innovation system, and highlights areas which can be strengthened.
Methods
Qualitative case study research methodology was used. Data were collected through reviews of academic literature and policy documents, and through open-ended, face-to-face interviews with 52 people from across the science-based health innovation system over two visits to Tanzania from July to October 2007.
Results and discussion
Tanzania has a rich but complex S&T governance landscape, with the public sector driving the innovation agenda through a series of different bodies which are not well-coordinated. It has some of the leading health research on the continent at the University of Dar es Salaam, Muhimbili University of Health and Applied Sciences, the National Institute for Medical Research and the Ifakara Medical Institute, with strong donor support. Tanzania has found developing an entrepreneurial culture difficult; nevertheless projects such as the clusters initiative at the University of Dar es Salaam are encouraging low-tech innovation and overcoming knowledge-sharing barriers. In the private sector, one generics company has developed a South-South collaboration to enable technology transfer and hence the local production of anti-retrovirals. Local textile company A to Z Textiles is now manufacturing 30 million insecticide impregnated bednets a year.
Conclusions
To have a coherent vision for innovation, Tanzania may wish to address some key issues: coordination across stakeholders involved with health research, increasing graduates in health-related disciplines, and building capabilities in biological testing, preclinical testing, formulation and standardization, and related areas important to moving from basic research to applications. The private sector can be encouraged to innovate through improved access to financing, and incentives for R&D. The diaspora community represents an untapped source for partnerships and access to other developing world markets and technology. The government may wish to set up mechanisms to encourage south-south collaborations, and to bring the public and private sector together around specific projects to help realize the country’s innovation potential.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3001612  PMID: 21144075
23.  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
24.  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
25.  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

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