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1.  Iraqi health system in kurdistan region: medical professionals' perspectives on challenges and priorities for improvement 
Conflict and Health  2010;4:19.
Background
The views of medical professionals on efficiency of health system and needs for any changes are very critical and constitute a cornerstone for any health system improvement. This is particularly relevant to Iraqi Kurdistan case as the events of the last few decades have significantly devastated the national Iraqi health system while the necessity for adopting a new health care system is increasingly recognized since 2004. This study aims to examine the regional health system in Iraqi Kurdistan from medical professionals' perspectives and try to define its problems and priorities for improvement.
Methods
A survey questionnaire was developed and administered to a convenience sample of 250 medical professionals in Erbil governorate. The questionnaire included four items; rating of the quality of services and availability of resources in the health institutions, view on different aspects of the health system, the perceived priority needs for health system improvement and gender and professional characteristics of the respondents.
Results
The response rate to the survey was 83.6%. A high proportion of respondents rated the different aspects of services and resources in the health institutions as weak or very weak including the availability of the required quantity and quality of medicines (68.7%), the availability of sufficient medical equipment and investigation tools (68.7%), and the quality of offered services (65.3%). Around 72% of respondents had a rather negative view on the overall health system. The weak role of medical research, the weak role of professional associations in controlling the system and the inefficient health education were identified as important problems in the current health system (87.9%, 87.1% and 84.9%, respectively). The priority needs of health system improvement included adoption of social insurance for medical care of the poor (82%), enhancing the role of family medicine (77.2%), adopting health insurance system (76.1%) and periodic scientific evaluation of physicians and other health staff (69.8%).
Conclusion
Medical professionals were generally unsatisfied with the different aspects of the health system in Iraqi Kurdistan region. A number of problems and different priority needs for health system improvement have been recognized that require to be studied in more details.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-4-19
PMCID: PMC3003630  PMID: 21118537
2.  Using Q-methodology to explore people’s health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:2.
Background
Information on health seeking behavior and beneficiaries’ perception of the quality of primary care can help policy makers to set strategies to improve health system. With scarcity of research on this particular field in Iraqi Kurdistan region, we sought to explore the patterns of health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services of a sample of population.
Methods
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq. Data were collected using the novel approach of Q-methodology for eliciting subjective viewpoints and identifying shared patterns among individuals. Forty persons representing different demographic and socioeconomic groups and living in different areas of Erbil governorate sorted 50 statements reflecting different aspects of health-seeking behavior and primary care services into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors were used to derive latent viewpoints.
Results
Four distinct patterns of health seeking behavior and viewpoints toward the primary care services were identified. People in factor 1 are extremely critical of the services at primary health care centers and are regular users of the private health sector. People in factor 2 positively recognize the services at primary health care centers but mainly turn to inappropriate health seeking behavior. People in factor 3 have satisfaction with the services at primary health care centers with minimal use of these services, but mainly turn to the private sector. People in factor 4 are slightly satisfied with the services at primary health care centers but mainly rely on these services.
Conclusions
This study highlighted the typical characterizations that were associated with each uncovered factor. Informing on the beneficiaries’ concerns about the primary care services can help to improve the system through further exploring the issues raised by the respondents and directing particular action on these issues. The characterizing and distinguishing statements can be used as a set of questions to conduct community-based survey on this important aspect of health services.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-2
PMCID: PMC3882479  PMID: 24387106
Primary care; Health seeking; Perception; Factors
3.  The range and diversity of providers’ viewpoints towards the Iraqi primary health care system: an exploration using Q-methodology 
Background
The increasingly recognized need for reorganizing the primary health care services in Iraq calls for a comprehensive assessment of the system to better understand its problems and needs for development. As part of such comprehensive assessment and due to the important role of primary health care providers in adopting any change, we ought to explore the range and diversity of viewpoints of primary health care providers towards the Iraqi primary health care system.
Methods
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq from May to July 2011. Data were collected from primary health care providers using Q-methodology to elicit subjective viewpoints and identify shared patterns among individuals. Forty primary health care providers representing eight primary health care centers sorted 41 statements reflecting different aspects of the Iraqi primary health care system into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was used to derive latent viewpoints through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors.
Results
Analysis of the participants’ Q-sorts resulted in four distinct viewpoints among primary health care providers toward the current primary health care system. One factor emphasized positive aspects of the current primary health care system that is content with the current primary health care system. The other three factors highlighted the negative aspects and they included (i) professionally-centered viewpoint, (ii) comprehensive perception and problem-based solutions and (iii) critical to leadership/governance aspects of the system.
Conclusions
This study revealed diverse viewpoints of primary health care providers toward the current Iraqi primary health care system and recognized the particular issues related to each viewpoint. The findings can contribute to a better understanding of health policy makers and primary health care managers concerning the problems facing the primary health care system that might contribute to change in the management of this system.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-18
PMCID: PMC3606603  PMID: 23514334
Primary health care; Q-methodology; Providers; Assessment
4.  Intimate partner violence against women in the Erbil city of the Kurdistan region, Iraq 
BMC Women's Health  2013;13:37.
Background
Violence against women is a worldwide problem and serious human rights abuse that occurs among all social, cultural, economic and religious groups. There is a paucity of research on intimate partner violence against women in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan region. This study assessed the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual intimate partner violence against women and the impact of physical violence in Erbil, the main city of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was carried out on a convenience sample of 800 Kurdish ever married women. Women (aged 16 to 65 years) attending two public hospitals in Erbil city for reproductive health problems were included in the study. The study was conducted between 1st of October 2009 and 30th of March 2011. Each woman was seen only once. Intimate partner violence was assessed by administering a modified version of the World Health Organization’s domestic violence questionnaire through direct interview by a female doctor. Prevalence of intimate partner violence was assessed by timing (lifetime or past year), frequency (once, 2–5 times, > 5 times), and type (emotional, physical, and sexual violence). Descriptive statistical analysis was conducted with calculation of frequencies and percentages of women who reported different types, severities and impact of intimate partner violence.
Results
The prevalence of the overall lifetime and the overall past year intimate partner violence against women was 58.6% and 45.3%, respectively. The proportions of women experienced at least one form of lifetime intimate partner violence were: 52.6% for emotional abuse; 38.9% for physical violence; and 21.1% for sexual violence, while 43.3%, 15.1%, and 12.1% of women experienced at least one form of past year emotional, physical and sexual violence, respectively. Among those with lifetime physical violence, 11.6% were subjected to more serious injuries like stab wound, broken teeth or broken bones.
Conclusions
There is a high prevalence of intimate partner violence, in particular emotional abuse behavior, against the women attending hospitals in Erbil. Physical violence is also a significant problem particularly in terms of its consequences.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-37
PMCID: PMC3852841  PMID: 24106885
5.  The impact of health system governance and policy processes on health services in Iraqi Kurdistan 
Background
Relative to the amount of global attention and media coverage since the first and second Gulf Wars, very little has been published in the health services research literature regarding the state of health services in Iraq, and particularly on the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Building on findings from a field visit, this paper describes the state of health services in Kurdistan, analyzes their underlying governance structures and policy processes, and their overall impact on the quality, accessibility and cost of the health system, while stressing the importance of reinvesting in public health and community-based primary care.
Discussion
Very little validated, research-based data exists relating to the state of population health and health services in Kurdistan. What little evidence exists, points to a region experiencing an epidemiological polarization, with different segments of the population experiencing rapidly-diverging rates of morbidity and mortality related to different etiological patterns of communicable, non-communicable, acute and chronic illness and disease. Simply put, the rural poor suffer from malnutrition and cholera, while the urban middle and upper classes deal with issues of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The inequity is exacerbated by a poorly governed, fragmented, unregulated, specialized and heavily privatized system, that not only leads to poor quality of care and catastrophic health expenditures, but also threatens the economic and political stability of the region. There is an urgent need to revisit and clearly define the core values and goals of a future health system, and to develop an inclusive governance and policy framework for change, towards a more equitable and effective primary care-based health system, with attention to broader social determinants of health and salutogenesis.
Summary
This paper not only frames the situation in Kurdistan in terms of a human rights or special political issue of a minority population, but provides important generalizable lessons for other constituencies, highlighting the need for political action before effective public health policies can be implemented - as embodied by Rudolf Virchow, the father of European public health and pathology, in his famous quote "politics is nothing but medicine at a larger scale".
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-14
PMCID: PMC2908065  PMID: 20529346
6.  Female genital mutilation among Iraqi Kurdish women: a cross-sectional study from Erbil city 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:809.
Background
Iraqi Kurdistan region is one of the areas where female genital mutilation is reportedly widely practiced but inadequately studied. The aim of this study was to determine (i) the prevalence of female genital mutilation among Muslim Kurdish women in Erbil city, (ii) the patterns and types of female genital mutilation, (iii) the factors associated with this practice and (iv) women’s knowledge and attitudes towards this practice.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted in the primary health care centers and the Maternity Teaching Hospital in Erbil city, involving 1987 women aged 15–49 years. Data were obtained about female genital mutilation status and knowledge and perception towards this practice. The participants were clinically examined to verify the self-reported female genital mutilation status.
Results
The self-reported prevalence of female genital mutilation was 70.3%, while it was 58.6% according to clinical examination of the women’s genitalia. The most common type of female genital mutilation was type I (99.6%) and the most common age at which mutilation was performed was 4–7 years (60.2%). This practice was mostly performed by traditional birth attendants (72.5%). Only 6.4% of mutilated women reported having complications after mutilation, most commonly bleeding (3.6%). The practice was more reported among housewives (OR = 3.3), those women whose mothers were mutilated (OR = 15.1) or with unknown mutilation status (OR = 7.3) and those women whose fathers were illiterate (OR = 1.4) or could only read and write (OR = 1.6). The common reasons for practicing female genital mutilation were cultural tradition (46.7%) and dictate of religion (38.9%). Only 30% of the participants were aware about the health consequences of female genital mutilation. More than one third (36.6%) of the women support the practice and 34.5% have intention to mutilate their daughters.
Conclusions
Prevalence of female genital mutilation among Muslim Kurdish women in Erbil city is very high; although, most cases are of type I. There is clear lack of knowledge about the health consequences of female genital mutilation and a relatively important segment of women support this practice. Custom or tradition and dictate of religion are the main reasons for this practice that need further in-depth exploration.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-809
PMCID: PMC3844478  PMID: 24010850
7.  Women’s perspectives of female genital cutting: Q-methodology 
BMC Women's Health  2014;14:11.
Background
Understanding women’s perspectives of female genital cutting is particularly critical for understanding the roots of the problem and enhancing effectiveness of any prevention program. Very limited research has examined how people in Iraqi Kurdistan Region think about this practice. This study aimed to explore the perspectives of women of female genital cutting with the aim of uncovering discrepancies and commonalities between women of different socio-educational groups.
Methods
An explorative study using Q-methodology was conducted with 29 women from different educational and socio-economic statuses in Erbil, the main city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Participants were asked to rank-order a set of 39 statements about different aspects of female genital cutting into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was performed with factors or latent viewpoints extracted through centroid method and varimax rotation.
Results
A four-factor solution and one consensus perspective provided the best conceptual fit for the women’s perspectives about female genital cutting. Factor 1, entitled “positive cultural tradition”, centers on recognizing female genital cutting as a positive cultural aspect and an essential part of the Kurdish culture. Factor 2, “active opponents”, positions around actively opposing the practice of female genital cutting and considering the practice a violation of human rights. Factor 3, “role of law”, stresses the importance of developing and enforcing law for combating female genital cutting. Factor 4, “health concerns and passive opposition”, represents the perspectives of recognizing the importance of health concerns resulting from female genital cutting and opposition of the practice but not in an active manner. A consensus perspective, “marital role”, centers primarily on lack of effect of female genital cutting on women’s marital role.
Conclusions
Female genital cutting is still a contentious issue among women in Iraqi Kurdistan Region. By identifying disagreement and consensus among women, four different perspectives on female genital cutting were uncovered with having perspectives at both extremes of accepting the practice and actively opposing it. The study highlighted the typical characterizations that are associated with each perspective.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-11
PMCID: PMC3898223  PMID: 24433509
8.  Perceptions and utilization of primary health care services in Iraq: findings from a national household survey 
Background
After many years of sanctions and conflict, Iraq is rebuilding its health system, with a strong emphasis on the traditional hospital-based services. A network exists of public sector hospitals and clinics, as well as private clinics and a few private hospitals. Little data are available about the approximately 1400 Primary Health Care clinics (PHCCs) staffed with doctors. How do Iraqis utilize primary health care services? What are their preferences and perceptions of public primary health care clinics and private primary care services in general? How does household wealth affect choice of services?
Methods
A 1256 household national survey was conducted in the catchment areas of randomly selected PHCCs in Iraq. A cluster of 10 households, beginning with a randomly selected start household, were interviewed in the service areas of seven public sector PHCC facilities in each of 17 of Iraq's 18 governorates. A questionnaire was developed using key informants. Teams of interviewers, including both males and females, were recruited and provided a week of training which included field practice. Teams then gathered data from households in the service areas of randomly selected clinics.
Results
Iraqi participants are generally satisfied with the quality of primary care services available both in the public and private sector. Private clinics are generally the most popular source of primary care, however the PHCCs are utilized more by poorer households. In spite of free services available at PHCCs many households expressed difficulty in affording health care, especially in the purchase of medications. There is no evidence of informal payments to secure health services in the public sector.
Conclusions
There is widespread satisfaction reported with primary health care services, and levels did not differ appreciably between public and private sectors. The public sector PHCCs are preferentially used by poorer populations where they are important providers. PHCC services are indeed free, with little evidence of informal payments to providers.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-15
PMCID: PMC3266634  PMID: 22176866
9.  Precipitating and Relieving Factors of Migraine Headache in 200 Iraqi Kurdish Patients 
Oman Medical Journal  2010;25(3):212-217.
Objectives
To study the precipitating and relieving factors of migraine headache in a group of Iraqi Kurdish patients including the effect of fasting in Ramadan, and to estimate the percentage of family history of migraine.
Methods
A series of 200 migraine cases from different parts of the Kurdistan region in the North of Iraq attending the out-patient Neurology clinic at Rizgary Teaching Hospital and a private Neurology clinic at Erbil City was carried out between October 2007 and May 2008 were reviewed. The precipitating factors and relieving factors for migraine headache were registered and tabulated to be compared with others. Case definition of migraine was based on the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria.
Results
33% of the patients were aged between 30-39 years, while 40.5% of patients experienced their first attack aged between 20-29 years. Stress or psychological upset was the commonest triggering factor (80%), followed by increasing physical activity (68%), change in weather (65.5%), and in relation to fasting (65%). Fasting in Ramadan was a triggering factor for headaches in 65% of patients. However, there was no significant association between the triggering factors with regards to sex difference. Relief of migraine in the studied sample was achieved using NSAIDs in 50% of patients, and sleep (45.5%). Hence, 61% of the study population had positive family history of migraine, 32.5% of them reported maternal history of migraine.
Conclusion
Psychological upset, stress and excessive physical activity were the commonest triggering factors of migraine headache, while NSAID was the commonest relieving factor of migraine in this population. Family history was present in 61% of migraine patients based mainly from maternal root.
doi:10.5001/omj.2010.59
PMCID: PMC3191636  PMID: 22043340
10.  Violent Deaths of Iraqi Civilians, 2003–2008: Analysis by Perpetrator, Weapon, Time, and Location 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000415.
Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks and colleagues provide a detailed analysis of Iraqi civilian violent deaths during 2003-2008 of the Iraq war and show that of 92,614 deaths, unknown perpetrators caused 74% of deaths, Coalition forces 12%, and Anti-Coalition forces 11%.
Background
Armed violence is a major public health and humanitarian problem in Iraq. In this descriptive statistical analysis we aimed to describe for the first time Iraqi civilian deaths caused by perpetrators of armed violence during the first 5 years of the Iraq war: over time; by weapon used; by region (governorate); and by victim demographics.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed the Iraq Body Count database of 92,614 Iraqi civilian direct deaths from armed violence occurring from March 20, 2003 through March 19, 2008, of which Unknown perpetrators caused 74% of deaths (n = 68,396), Coalition forces 12% (n = 11,516), and Anti-Coalition forces 11% (n = 9,954). We analyzed the subset of 60,481 civilian deaths from 14,196 short-duration events of lethal violence to link individual civilian deaths to events involving perpetrators and their methods. One-third of civilian violent death was from extrajudicial executions by Unknown perpetrators; quadratic regression shows these deaths progressively and disproportionately increased as deaths from other forms of violence increased across Iraq's governorates. The highest average number of civilians killed per event in which a civilian died were in Unknown perpetrator suicide bombings targeting civilians (19 per lethal event) and Coalition aerial bombings (17 per lethal event). In temporal analysis, numbers of civilian deaths from Coalition air attacks, and woman and child deaths from Coalition forces, peaked during the invasion. We applied a Woman and Child “Dirty War Index” (DWI), measuring the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths of known demographic status, to the 22,066 civilian victims identified as men, women, or children to indicate relatively indiscriminate perpetrator effects. DWI findings suggest the most indiscriminate effects on women and children were from Unknown perpetrators using mortar fire (DWI  = 79) and nonsuicide vehicle bombs (DWI  = 54) and from Coalition air attacks (DWI  = 69). Coalition forces had higher Woman and Child DWIs than Anti-Coalition forces, with no evidence of decrease over 2003–2008, for all weapons combined and for small arms gunfire, specifically.
Conclusions
Most Iraqi civilian violent deaths during 2003–2008 of the Iraq war were inflicted by Unknown perpetrators, primarily through extrajudicial executions that disproportionately increased in regions with greater numbers of violent deaths. Unknown perpetrators using suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and mortars had highly lethal and indiscriminate effects on the Iraqi civilians they targeted. Deaths caused by Coalition forces of Iraqi civilians, women, and children peaked during the invasion period, with relatively indiscriminate effects from aerial weapons.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Civilian deaths through armed violence is a public health and humanitarian problem in all wars, despite internationally agreed humanitarian standards regarding the treatment of civilians during wars—so-called laws of war such as the Geneva Conventions. Since the Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, when a multilateral force led by US and UK troops invaded Iraq, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians (women, children, noncombatants, and police carrying out nonparamilitary duties) have died because of armed violence, according to the Iraq Body Count (IBC), a nongovernmental project that collates media reports of deaths of individual Iraqi civilians and cross-checks these reports with data from hospitals, morgues, nongovernmental organizations, and official figures. Indeed, according to a recent assessment of the global burden of armed violence, in 2006, people living in Iraq had the highest risk of dying violently in conflict. In that year, there were 91 violent deaths per 100,000 people in the country.
Why Was This Study Done?
Detailed analysis of civilian deaths during wars is important because it can improve the understanding of the impact of these deaths on general public health and on vulnerable subgroups in the population. In addition, data collected on the nature and effects of violence can guide the development of preventative policies. For example, an analysis that reveals that air attacks by invading troops cause a high proportion of civilian deaths might encourage policy changes that prohibit air attacks on populated areas. Finally, by linking violent deaths to perpetrators, analyses of civilian deaths can provide an indicator of combatants' compliance with the laws of war, which require the protection of civilians from targeted or indiscriminate harm. Here, IBC researchers provide a descriptive statistical analysis of Iraqi civilian deaths directly caused by perpetrators of armed violence during the first 5 years of the Iraq war.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
According to data from the Iraq Body Count, more than 92,000 Iraqi civilians died because of armed violence during this period. Coalition forces (identified by uniforms) caused 12% of these deaths, anti-coalition forces (un-uniformed combatants identified by attacks on coalition targets) caused 11% of the deaths; and unknown perpetrators, who targeted civilians and were indistinguishable from their victims (for example, a suicide bomber in a market), were responsible for three-quarters of civilian deaths. To link individual deaths with perpetrators and their methods, the researchers analyzed the 60,481 civilian deaths caused by short-duration events of lethal violence (events that lasted less than 24 hours and that occurred in a specific location; for example, overnight air strikes). Extrajudicial executions by unknown perpetrators were responsible for one-third of these deaths and disproportionately increased as deaths from other forms of violence increased across Iraq. Unknown perpetrator suicide bombings that targeted civilians and coalition aerial bombings killed most civilians per lethal event (19 and 17 deaths per lethal event on average, respectively). Finally, the researchers calculated the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths. Because men are the main targets of armed violence, this proportion—the “Dirty War Index” (DWI)—indicates the scale of indiscriminate killing in a conflict. The most indiscriminate effects on women and children in Iraq were from unknown perpetrators firing mortars (DWI  = 79) and nonsuicide vehicle bombs (DWI  = 54), and from coalition air attacks (DWI  = 69). Coalition forces had a higher DWI than anti-coalition forces for all weapons combined, with no decrease over the study period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that during the first 5 years of the Iraq war, civilian deaths varied over time and location and in terms of victim characteristics and targeting of civilians. Although limited to direct deaths and possibly subject to some media bias, these findings show that most civilian deaths were inflicted by unknown perpetrators, and that unknown perpetrators had particularly lethal and indiscriminate effects on Iraqi civilians. However, they also show that Coalition forces had indiscriminate lethal effects on civilian populations. In part, this may be because Coalition forces had a high risk of killing civilians accidentally because they could not easily recognize anti-coalition combatants fighting without uniforms among civilians. Nevertheless, the relatively indiscriminate effects of Coalition aerial weapons highlight the need to change policies relating to the use of air power in future armed conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000415.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Robert Muggah
The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and International humanitarian law (in several languages)
The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development Web site provides information on the global burden of armed violence
More details on the Iraq Body Count are available
The Human Security Report Project tracks global and regional trends in organized violence, their causes, and consequences
Every Casualty supports and is a resource for the documentation of individual casualties of armed conflict
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000415
PMCID: PMC3039690  PMID: 21358813
11.  Improving mental health practices in primary care: findings from recent research. 
Public Health Reports  1985;100(3):294-300.
This paper reviews restraints on the provision of mental health services in primary health care under the broad categories of physician profile, patient behavior, the nature of psychiatric illness as presented in primary care, and service system characteristics. An extensive research agenda is proposed toward improving mental health care in primary care settings. Research recommendations focus on the following types of issues: seeking a better understanding of the clinical decision making process when confronted with psychological or emotional problems, designing more focused mental health training for primary care physicians and nurses, providing patient education to encourage communication of psychosocial problems to medical providers, clarifying the nature and course of psychiatric disorder in primary care, designing innovative clinical interventions applicable to primary care, and examining organizational models for better coordination of health and mental health services.
PMCID: PMC1424754  PMID: 3923537
12.  Care for post-stroke patients at Malaysian public health centres: self-reported practices of family medicine specialists 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:40.
Background
Provision of post stroke care in developing countries is hampered by discoordination of services and limited access to specialised care. Albeit shortcomings, primary care continues to provide post-stroke services in less than favourable circumstances. This paper aimed to review provision of post-stroke care and related problems among Family Medicine Specialists managing public primary health care services.
Methods
A semi-structured questionnaire was distributed to 121 Family Physicians servicing public funded health centres in a pilot survey focused on improving post stroke care provision at community level. The questionnaire assessed respondents background and practice details i.e. estimated stroke care burden, current service provision and opinion on service improvement. Means and frequencies described quantitative data. For qualitative data, constant comparison method was used until saturation of themes was reached.
Results
Response rate of 48.8% was obtained. For every 100 patients seen at public healthcentres each month, 2 patients have stroke. Median number of stroke patients seen per month is 5 (IQR 2-10). 57.6% of respondents estimated total stroke patients treated per year at each centre was less than 40 patients. 72.4% lacked a standard care plan although 96.6% agreed one was needed. Patients seen were: discharged from tertiary care (88.1%), shared care plan with specialists (67.8%) and patients who developed stroke during follow up at primary care (64.4%). Follow-ups were done at 8-12 weekly intervals (60.3%) with 3.4% on ‘as needed’ basis. Referrals ranked in order of frequency were to physiotherapy services, dietitian and speech and language pathologists in public facilities. The FMS’ perceived 4 important ‘needs’ in managing stroke patients at primary care level; access to rehabilitation services, coordinated care between tertiary centres and primary care using multidisciplinary care approach, a standardized guideline and family and caregiver support.
Conclusions
Post discharge stroke care guidelines and access to rehabilitation services at primary care is needed for post stroke patients residing at home in the community.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-40
PMCID: PMC3945040  PMID: 24580779
Post stroke; Primary care; Healthcare delivery
13.  Primary health care in the Czech Republic: brief history and current issues 
Abstract
The objective of this paper is to describe the recent history, current situation and perspectives for further development of the integrated system of primary care in the Czech Republic. The role of primary care in the whole health care system is discussed and new initiatives aimed at strengthening and integrating primary care are outlined. Changes brought about by the recent reform processes are generally seen as favourable, however, a lack of integration of health services under the current system is causing various kinds of problems. A new strategy for development of primary care in the Czech Republic encourages integration of care and defines primary care as co-ordinated and complex care provided at the level of the first contact of an individual with the health care system.
PMCID: PMC1534002  PMID: 16902697
primary health care; integrated care; Czech Republic
14.  Improving motivation among primary health care workers in Tanzania: a health worker perspective 
In Tanzania access to urban and rural primary health care is relatively widespread, yet there is evidence of considerable bypassing of services; questions have been raised about how to improve functionality.
The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of health workers working in the primary health care facilities in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania, in terms of their motivation to work, satisfaction and frustration, and to identify areas for sustainable improvement to the services they provide.
The primary issues arising pertain to complexities of multitasking in an environment of staff shortages, a desire for more structured and supportive supervision from managers, and improved transparency in career development opportunities. Further, suggestions were made for inter-facility exchanges, particularly on commonly referred cases.
The discussion highlights the context of some of the problems identified in the results and suggests that some of the preferences presented by the health workers be discussed at policy level with a view to adding value to most services with minimum additional resources.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-4-6
PMCID: PMC1450300  PMID: 16522213
15.  Malaysian primary care doctors' views on men's health: an unresolved jigsaw puzzle 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:29.
Background
Men have been noted to utilise health care services less readily then women. Primary care settings provide an opportunity to engage men in health care activities because of close proximity to the target group (men in the community). Understanding attitudes towards men's health among Malaysian primary care doctors is important for the effective delivery of health services to men. We aimed to explore the opinions and attitudes of primary care doctors (PCDs) relating to men's health and help-seeking behaviour.
Methods
A qualitative approach to explore the opinions of 52 PCDs was employed, using fourteen in-depth interviews and eight focus group discussions in public and private settings. Purposive sampling of PCDs was done to ensure maximum variation in the PCD sample. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis. Open coding with thematic analysis was used to identify key issues raised in the interview.
Results
The understanding of the concept of men's health among PCDs was fragmented. Although many PCDs were already managing health conditions relevant and common to men, they were not viewed by PCDs as "men's health". Less attention was paid to men's help-seeking behaviour and their gender roles as a potential determinant of the poor health status of men. There were opposing views about whether men's health should focus on men's overall health or a more focused approach to sexual health. There was also disagreement about whether special attention was warranted for men's health services. Some doctors would prioritise more common conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolaemia.
Conclusions
The concept of men's health was new to PCDs in Malaysia. There was wide variation in understanding and opposing attitudes towards men's health among primary care doctors. Creating awareness and having a systematic approach would facilitate PCDs in delivering health service to men.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-29
PMCID: PMC3117703  PMID: 21569395
men's health; attitude of health personnel; family practice; health promotion; general practice
16.  Providers' Perspectives on Challenges to Contraceptive Counseling in Primary Care Settings 
Journal of Women's Health  2010;19(6):1163-1170.
Abstract
Background
Although three quarters of reproductive-age women see a health provider annually, less than half receive recommended contraceptive counseling services. We sought to explore providers' perspectives on the challenges to contraceptive counseling in primary care clinics to develop strategies to improve counseling services.
Methods
A qualitative, focus group (n = 8) study was conducted in November and December 2007; 48 of 90 providers practicing in four primary care clinics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center participated. Providers included physicians, nurses, and pharmacists working in these clinics' multidisciplinary teams. Discussions explored perceived barriers to the provision of counseling services. All groups were audiorecorded, transcribed, and entered into Atlas.Ti, a qualitative data management software. The data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to content analysis.
Results
Perceived patient, provider, and health system barriers to contraceptive counseling were identified. Perceived patient barriers included infrequent sexual activity, familiarity with a limited number of methods, desire for pregnancy despite medical contraindications, and religious beliefs. Provider barriers included lack of knowledge, training, and comfort; assumptions about patient pregnancy risk; negative beliefs about contraceptive methods; reliance on patients to initiate discussions; and limited communication between primary care providers (PCPs) and subspecialists. Health system barriers included limited time and competing medical priorities.
Conclusions
PCPs vary widely in their knowledge, perceived competence, and comfort in providing contraceptive counseling. General efforts to improve integration of contraceptive counseling into primary care services in addition to electronic reminders and efficient delivery of contraceptive information are needed.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2009.1735
PMCID: PMC2940510  PMID: 20420508
17.  Promoting survival: A grounded theory study of consequences of modern health practices in Ouramanat region of Iranian Kurdistan 
The aim of this qualitative study is to explore the way people using modern health care perceive its consequences in Ouraman-e-Takht region of Iranian Kurdistan. Ouraman-e-Takht is a rural, highly mountainous and dry region located in the southwest Kurdistan province of Iran. Recently, modern health practices have been introduced to the region. The purpose of this study was to investigate, from the Ouramains' point of view, the impact that modern health services and practices have had on the Ouraman traditional way of life. Interview data from respondents were analyzed by using grounded theory. Promoting survival was the core category that explained the impact that modern health practices have had on the Ouraman region. The people of Ouraman interpreted modern health practices as increasing their quality of life and promoting their survival. Results are organized around this core category in a paradigm model consisting of conditions, interactions, and consequences. This model can be used to understand the impact of change from the introduction of modern health on a traditional society.
doi:10.3402/qhw.v5i2.5069
PMCID: PMC2875965  PMID: 20640020
Iranian Kurdistan; Ouramanat region; modern health; promoting survival; grounded theory
18.  Cost of maternal health services in selected primary care centres in Ghana: a step down allocation approach 
Background
There is a paucity of knowledge on the cost of health care services in Ghana. This poses a challenge in the economic evaluation of programmes and inhibits policy makers in making decisions about allocation of resources to improve health care. This study analysed the overall cost of providing health services in selected primary health centres and how much of the cost is attributed to the provision of antenatal and delivery services.
Methods
The study has a cross-sectional design and quantitative data was collected between July and December 2010. Twelve government run primary health centres in the Kassena-Nankana and Builsa districts of Ghana were randomly selected for the study. All health-care related costs for the year 2010 were collected from a public service provider’s perspective. The step-down allocation approach recommended by World Health Organization was used for the analysis.
Results
The average annual cost of operating a health centre was $136,014 US. The mean costs attributable to ANC and delivery services were $23,063 US and $11,543 US respectively. Personnel accounted for the largest proportion of cost (45%). Overall, ANC (17%) and delivery (8%) were responsible for less than a quarter of the total cost of operating the health centres. By disaggregating the costs, the average recurrent cost was estimated at $127,475 US, representing 93.7% of the total cost. Even though maternal health services are free, utilization of these services at the health centres were low, particularly for delivery (49%), leading to high unit costs. The mean unit costs were $18 US for an ANC visit and $63 US for spontaneous delivery.
Conclusion
The high unit costs reflect underutilization of the existing capacities of health centres and indicate the need to encourage patients to use health centres .The study provides useful information that could be used for cost effectiveness analyses of maternal and neonatal care interventions, as well as for policy makers to make appropriate decisions regarding the allocation and sustainability of health care resources.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-287
PMCID: PMC3728079  PMID: 23890185
Cost; Step-down allocation approach; Antenatal care; Delivery; Maternal health service; Ghana
19.  Perceptions of quality in primary health care: perspectives of patients and professionals based on focus group discussions 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:128.
Background
The EUprimecare project-team assessed the perception of primary health care (PHC) professionals and patients on quality of organization of PHC systems in the participating countries: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. This article presents the aggregated opinions, expectations and priorities of patients and professionals along some main dimensions of quality in primary health care, such as access, equity, appropriateness and patient- centeredness.
Methods
The focus group technique was applied in the study as a qualitative research method for exploration of attitudes regarding the health care system and health service. Discussions were addressing the topics of: general aspects of quality in primary health care; possibilities to receive/provide PHC services based on both parties needs; determinant factors of accessibility to PHC services; patient centeredness. The data sets collected during the focus group discussions were evaluated using the method of thematic analysis.
Results
There were 14 focus groups in total: a professional and a patient group in each of the seven partner countries. Findings of the thematic analysis were summarized along the following dimensions: access and equity, appropriateness (coordination, continuity, competency and comprehensiveness) and patient centeredness.
Conclusions
This study shows perceptions and views of patients in interaction with PHC and opinion of professionals working in PHC. It serves as source of criteria with relevance to everyday practice and experience. The criteria mentioned by patients and by health care professionals which were considered determining factors of the quality in primary care were quite similar among the investigated countries. However, the perception and the level of tolerance regarding some of the criteria differed among EUprimecare countries. Among these dissimilar criteria we especially note the gate-keeping role of GPs, the importance of nurses' competency and the acceptance of waiting times. The impact of waiting time on patient satisfaction is obvious; the influence of equity and access to PHC services are more dependent on the equal distribution of settings and doctors in urban and rural area. Foreseen shortage of doctors is expected to have a substantial influence on patient satisfaction in the near future.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-128
PMCID: PMC4083126  PMID: 24974196
Quality; Primary health care; Patient satisfaction; Gate-keeping
20.  The missing link – the role of primary care in global health 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.23693.
This chapter provides an overview of the role of primary care in the context of global health. Universal health coverage is a key priority for WHO and its member states, and provision of accessible and safe primary care is recognised as essential to meet this important international policy goal. Nevertheless, more than three decades after Alma Ata, the provision of primary health care remains inadequate, indicating that primary care has not received the priority it deserves, in many parts of the world. This is despite the proven health benefits that result from access to comprehensive primary health care. We highlight some examples of good practice and discuss the relevance of primary care in the context of health equity and cost-effectiveness. Challenges that influence the success of primary care include the availability of a qualified workforce, financing and system design and quality assurance and patient safety.
doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23693
PMCID: PMC3926992  PMID: 24560266
primary care; global health; universal health coverage; health equity
21.  Evaluation of a task-based community oriented teaching model in family medicine for undergraduate medical students in Iraq 
Background
The inclusion of family medicine in medical school curricula is essential for producing competent general practitioners. The aim of this study is to evaluate a task-based, community oriented teaching model of family medicine for undergraduate students in Iraqi medical schools.
Methods
An innovative training model in family medicine was developed based upon tasks regularly performed by family physicians providing health care services at the Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) in Mosul, Iraq. Participants were medical students enrolled in their final clinical year. Students were assigned to one of two groups. The implementation group (28 students) was exposed to the experimental model and the control group (56 students) received the standard teaching curriculum. The study took place at the Mosul College of Medicine and at the Al-Hadba PHCC in Mosul, Iraq, during the academic year 1999–2000. Pre- and post-exposure evaluations comparing the intervention group with the control group were conducted using a variety of assessment tools.
Results
The primary endpoints were improvement in knowledge of family medicine and development of essential performance skills. Results showed that the implementation group experienced a significant increase in knowledge and performance skills after exposure to the model and in comparison with the control group. Assessment of the model by participating students revealed a high degree of satisfaction with the planning, organization, and implementation of the intervention activities. Students also highly rated the relevancy of the intervention for future work.
Conclusion
A model on PHCC training in family medicine is essential for all Iraqi medical schools. The model is to be implemented by various relevant departments until Departments of Family medicine are established.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-5-31
PMCID: PMC1215485  PMID: 16115312
22.  Access to the US Department of Veterans Affairs health system: self-reported barriers to care among returnees of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom 
Background
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented the Polytrauma System of Care to meet the health care needs of military and veterans with multiple injuries returning from combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Studies are needed to systematically assess barriers to use of comprehensive and exclusive VA healthcare services from the perspective of veterans with polytrauma and with other complex health outcomes following their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. These perspectives can inform policy with regard to the optimal delivery of care to returning veterans.
Methods
We studied combat veterans (n = 359) from two polytrauma rehabilitation centers using structured clinical interviews and qualitative open-ended questions, augmented with data collected from electronic health records. Our outcomes included several measures of exclusive utilization of VA care with our primary exposure as reported access barriers to care.
Results
Nearly two thirds of the veterans reported one or more barriers to their exclusive use of VA healthcare services. These barriers predicted differences in exclusive use of VA healthcare services. Experiencing any barriers doubled the returnees’ odds of not using VA exclusively, the geographic distance to VA barrier resulted in a 7 fold increase in the returnees odds of not using VA, and reporting a wait time barrier doubled the returnee’s odds of not using VA. There were no striking differences in access barriers for veterans with polytrauma compared to other returning veterans, suggesting the barriers may be uniform barriers that predict differences in using the VA exclusively for health care.
Conclusions
This study provides an initial description of utilization of VA polytrauma rehabilitation and other medical care for veteran returnees from all military services who were involved in combat operations in Afghanistan or Iraq. Our findings indicate that these veterans reported important stigmatization and barriers to receiving services exclusively from the VA, including mutable health delivery system factors.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-498
PMCID: PMC3893594  PMID: 24289747
Access to care; Health/psychiatric services; Veterans/psychology; VA health system
23.  Health Care Reform and Integrated Care: A Golden Opportunity for Preventive Psychiatry 
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions to shift the U.S. health care system to address achieving wellness rather than just treating illness. In this Open Forum, the Prevention Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry describes opportunities created by the ACA for improving prevention of mental illnesses and promotion of mental health. These include improved coverage of preventive services, models to integrate primary and behavioral health care, and establishment of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which has developed a National Prevention Strategy. The authors describe the important role that psychiatrists can play in advancing prevention of mental illnesses, in particular by working to incorporate prevention strategies in integrated care initiatives and by collaborating with primary care providers to screen for risk factors and promote mental and emotional well-being.
doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201200072
PMCID: PMC4039288  PMID: 23203357
24.  Help Seeking and Access to Primary Care for People from “Hard-to-Reach” Groups with Common Mental Health Problems 
Background. In the UK, most people with mental health problems are managed in primary care. However, many individuals in need of help are not able to access care, either because it is not available, or because the individual's interaction with care-givers deters or diverts help-seeking. Aims. To understand the experience of seeking care for distress from the perspective of potential patients from “hard-to-reach” groups. Methods. A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews, analysed using a thematic framework. Results. Access to primary care is problematic in four main areas: how distress is conceptualised by individuals, the decision to seek help, barriers to help-seeking, and navigating and negotiating services. Conclusion. There are complex reasons why people from “hard-to-reach” groups may not conceptualise their distress as a biomedical problem. In addition, there are particular barriers to accessing primary care when distress is recognised by the person and help-seeking is attempted. We suggest how primary care could be more accessible to people from “hard-to-reach” groups including the need to offer a flexible, non-biomedical response to distress.
doi:10.1155/2011/490634
PMCID: PMC3268206  PMID: 22312546
25.  Gender Differences in Health Service Utilization Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
Journal of Women's Health  2012;21(6):666-673.
Abstract
Background
Little is known about gender differences in healthcare use among newly returning veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We investigated gender differences in Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center health service use among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD with and without comorbid depression and alcohol use disorders (AUD).
Methods
Using VA administrative data, bivariate and multivariate statistics were used to examine gender differences in health service use among 159,705 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans with PTSD seeking VA healthcare from October 7, 2001, to December 31, 2010.
Results
Female veterans with PTSD were more likely to be black and single and to have higher mental health, primary care, and emergency care use compared to men with PTSD. Men were more likely to have higher mental health inpatient use compared to women. Women and men with comorbid PTSD and depression or comorbid PTSD and AUD were more likely to have higher use in all domains compared to their counterparts with PTSD without these comorbid disorders. Women with comorbid PTSD and depression were 12.5 times more likely to have a mental health inpatient hospitalization compared to their female counterparts without depression and twice as likely to have a mental health hospitalization compared to men with comorbid PTSD and depression.
Conclusions
Women with PTSD had higher use than men in almost all areas, as did all veterans with comorbid PTSD and depression and comorbid PTSD and AUD, regardless of gender. Better understanding these health service use differences will allow for targeted evaluation and integrated treatment interventions in veterans with PTSD.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2011.3113
PMCID: PMC3366102  PMID: 22313026

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