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1.  Tracking Official Development Assistance for Reproductive Health in Conflict-Affected Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(6):e1000090.
Preeti Patel and colleagues report inequity in the disbursement of official development assistance for reproductive health between countries affected by conflict and those unaffected.
Background
Reproductive health needs are particularly acute in countries affected by armed conflict. Reliable information on aid investment for reproductive health in these countries is essential for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of aid. The purpose of this study was to analyse official development assistance (ODA) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries from 2003 to 2006.
Methods and Findings
The Creditor Reporting System and the Financial Tracking System databases were the chosen data sources for the study. ODA disbursement for reproductive health activities to 18 conflict-affected countries was analysed for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. An average of US$20.8 billion in total ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006, of which US$509.3 million (2.4%) was allocated to reproductive health. This represents an annual average of US$1.30 disbursed per capita in the 18 sampled countries for reproductive health activities. Non-conflict-affected least-developed countries received 53.3% more ODA for reproductive health activities than conflict-affected least-developed countries, despite the latter generally having greater reproductive health needs. ODA disbursed for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment increased by 119.4% from 2003 to 2006. The ODA disbursed for other direct reproductive health activities declined by 35.9% over the same period.
Conclusions
This study provides evidence of inequity in disbursement of reproductive health ODA between conflict-affected countries and non-conflict-affected countries, and between different reproductive health activities. These findings and the study's recommendations seek to support initiatives to make aid financing more responsive to need in the context of armed conflict.
Editors' Summary
Background
Reproductive health concerns the bodily functions and systems that are involved in conceiving and bearing offspring. A reproductively healthy person is able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and to reproduce if and when they chose to do so. More specifically, to ensure their reproductive health, both men and women need access to safe and effective birth control methods, they need to know how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), and they need access to treatment should they become infected. Women also need access to appropriate health-care services to safeguard their own health and their offspring's health during pregnancy and childbirth. Reproductive health is essential for the wellbeing of individuals and families and for the social and economic development of nations. Consequently, some of the official development assistance (ODA) given to developing countries by wealthier nations and by international agencies is being used to improve reproductive health. Indeed, several of the Millennium Development Goals (internationally agreed targets designed to eradicate global poverty by 2015) are directly related to reproductive health, including the improvement of maternal health and the control of HIV/AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many developing countries, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Sudan, are experiencing violent conflicts. Such conflicts tend to slow down the development of low-income countries, and can also cause harm to reproductive health by damaging the health-service infrastructure and by increasing exposure to sexual violence. Although conflict-affected low-income countries rely heavily on international and humanitarian aid for basic health-care provision, there is little reliable information about how much of this aid is invested in reproductive health in such countries. This information is needed to ensure that development aid is used effectively. In this study, therefore, the researchers analyze the amount of ODA disbursed (the amount of official development money paid to recipient countries) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified eighteen countries (mostly “least-developed” countries as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; OEDC) that had been at war at sometime during the study period. They obtained information on ODA disbursements for reproductive health activities mainly from the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database, which is maintained by the OECD, but also from the Financial Tracking System (FTS) database, which is maintained by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An average of US$20.8 billion in ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006. Only US$509.3 million (2.4%) of this was allocated to reproductive health. Put another way, each person living in these conflict-affected countries received US$1.30 per year for their reproductive health needs. By contrast, people in non-conflict-affected least-developed countries each received 50% more ODA for reproductive health activities, even though these countries often had better reproductive health indicators than the conflict-affected countries. The researchers also found that nearly half of ODA disbursed for reproductive health was used for HIV/AIDS-related activities. This portion of ODA increased slightly during the study period in the conflict-affected countries whereas ODA disbursed for other reproductive health activities fell by a third.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings do not take into account money provided to conflict-affected developing countries for reproductive health activities by large philanthropic organizations, they nevertheless reveal an inequality between conflict-affected and non-conflict affected countries in terms of the development money provided for reproductive health. This is a worrying finding given that reproductive health tends to suffer in countries affected by war and poor reproductive health can slow down development. The findings of this study also suggest that funding for non-HIV reproductive health activities is declining in conflict-affected countries. Importantly, they also highlight additional research that is needed to ensure that donors of development aid can be more responsive in future to the reproductive health needs of conflict-affected countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Paul Spiegel and colleagues
The World Health organization provides information about reproductive health, including information on its 2004 global strategy for reproductive health (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on reproductive health (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on reproductive health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages
The United Nations provides information on the Millennium Development Goals
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development provides information on ODA through its Creditor Reporting System database; the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provides similar information for other donors through its Financial Tracking System database
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium promotes access to reproductive health programs in emergencies and advocates for policies that support reproductive health of persons affected by armed conflict
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090
PMCID: PMC2682761  PMID: 19513098
2.  Community perceptions of mental health needs: a qualitative study in the Solomon Islands 
Background
Psychosocial and mental health needs in the aftermath of conflict and disaster have attracted substantial attention. In the Solomon Islands, the conceptualisation of mental health, for several decades regarded by policy makers as primarily a health issue, has broadened and been incorporated into the national development and social policy agendas, reflecting recognition of the impact of conflict and rapid social change on the psychosocial wellbeing of the community as a whole. We sought to understand how mental health and psychosocial wellbeing were seen at the community level, the extent to which these issues were identified as being associated with periods of 'tension', violence and instability, and the availability of traditional approaches and Ministry of Health services to address these problems.
Methods
This article reports the findings of qualitative research conducted in a rural district on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Key informant interviews were conducted with community leaders, and focus groups were held with women, men and young people. Wellbeing was defined broadly.
Results
Problems of common concern included excessive alcohol and marijuana use, interpersonal violence and abuse, teenage pregnancy, and lack of respect and cooperation. Troubled individuals and their families sought help for mental problems from various sources including chiefs, church leaders and traditional healers and, less often, trauma support workers, health clinic staff and police. Substance-related problems presented special challenges, as there were no traditional solutions at the individual or community level. Severe mental illness was also a challenge, with few aware that a community mental health service existed. Contrary to our expectations, conflict-related trauma was not identified as a major problem by the community who were more concerned about the economic and social sequelae of the conflict.
Conclusion
Communities identify and are responding to a wide range of mental health challenges; the health system generally can do more to learn about how this is being done, and build more comprehensive services and policy on this foundation. The findings underscore the need to promote awareness of those services which are available, to extend mental health care beyond urban centres to rural villages where the majority of the population live, and to promote community input to policy so as to ensure that it 'fits' the context.
doi:10.1186/1752-4458-3-6
PMCID: PMC2667440  PMID: 19284638
3.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
4.  How countries cope with competing demands and expectations: perspectives of different stakeholders on priority setting and resource allocation for health in the era of HIV and AIDS 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1071.
Background
Health systems have experienced unprecedented stress in recent years, and as yet no consensus has emerged as to how to deal with the multiple burden of disease in the context of HIV and AIDS and other competing health priorities. Priority setting is essential, yet this is a complex, multifaceted process. Drawing on a study conducted in five African countries, this paper explores different stakeholders′ perceptions of health priorities, how priorities are defined in practice, the process of resource allocation for HIV and Health and how different stakeholders perceive this.
Methods
A sub-analysis was conducted of selected data from a wider qualitative study that explored the interactions between health systems and HIV and AIDS responses in five sub-Saharan countries (Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar and Malawi). Key background documents were analysed and semi-structured interviews (n = 258) and focus group discussions (n = 45) were held with representatives of communities, health personnel, decision makers, civil society representatives and development partners at both national and district level.
Results
Health priorities were expressed either in terms of specific health problems and diseases or gaps in service delivery requiring a strengthening of the overall health system. In all five countries study respondents (with the exception of community members in Ghana) identified malaria and HIV as the two top health priorities. Community representatives were more likely to report concerns about accessibility of services and quality of care. National level respondents often referred to wider systemic challenges in relation to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Indeed, actual priority setting was heavily influenced by international agendas (e.g. MDGs) and by the ways in which development partners were supporting national strategic planning processes. At the same time, multi-stakeholder processes were increasingly used to identify priorities and inform sector-wide planning, whereby health service statistics were used to rank the burden of disease. However, many respondents remarked that health system challenges are not captured by such statistics.
In all countries funding for health was reported to fall short of requirements and a need for further priority setting to match actual resource availability was identified. Pooled health sector funds have been established to some extent, but development partners′ lack of flexibility in the allocation of funds according to country-generated priorities was identified as a major constraint.
Conclusions
Although we found consensus on health priorities across all levels in the study countries, current funding falls short of addressing these identified areas. The nature of external funding, as well as programme-specific investment, was found to distort priority setting. There are signs that existing interventions have had limited effects beyond meeting the needs of disease-specific programmes. A need for more comprehensive health system strengthening (HSS) was identified, which requires a strong vision as to what the term means, coupled with a clear strategy and commitment from national and international decision makers in order to achieve stated goals. Prospective studies and action research, accompanied by pilot programmes, are recommended as deliberate strategies for HSS.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1071
PMCID: PMC3549279  PMID: 23231820
HIV and AIDS; Health systems strengthening; Priority setting; Needs and priorities; Sector-wide approaches; Sub-Saharan Africa
5.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Introduction
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Conclusions
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
6.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Background
Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. Reproductive and maternal health indicators have not been measured in this setting but are necessary as part of an evaluation of a multi-ethnic pilot project exploring strategies to increase access to essential maternal health interventions. The goal of this study is to estimate coverage of maternal health services prior to this project and associations between exposure to human rights violations and access to such services.
Methods and Findings
Selected communities in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma that were accessible to community-based organizations operating from Thailand were surveyed to estimate coverage of reproductive, maternal, and family planning services, and to assess exposure to household-level human rights violations within the pilot-project target population. Two-stage cluster sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) documented access to essential antenatal care interventions, skilled attendance at birth, postnatal care, and family planning services. Mid-upper arm circumference, hemoglobin by color scale, and Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by rapid diagnostic dipstick were measured. Exposure to human rights violations in the prior 12 mo was recorded. Between September 2006 and January 2007, 2,914 surveys were conducted. Eighty-eight percent of women reported a home delivery for their last pregnancy (within previous 5 y). Skilled attendance at birth (5.1%), any (39.3%) or ≥ 4 (16.7%) antenatal visits, use of an insecticide-treated bed net (21.6%), and receipt of iron supplements (11.8%) were low. At the time of the survey, more than 60% of women had hemoglobin level estimates ≤ 11.0 g/dl and 7.2% were Pf positive. Unmet need for contraceptives exceeded 60%. Violations of rights were widely reported: 32.1% of Karenni households reported forced labor and 10% of Karen households had been forced to move. Among Karen households, odds of anemia were 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–2.40) times higher among women reporting forced displacement, and 7.47 (95% CI 2.21–25.3) higher among those exposed to food security violations. The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were 5.94 (95% CI 2.23–15.8) times higher among those forcibly displaced.
Conclusions
Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region. Considerable political, financial, and human resources are necessary to improve access to maternal health care in these communities.
Luke Mullany and colleagues examine access to essential maternal health interventions and human rights violations within vulnerable communities in eastern Burma.
Editors' Summary
Background.
After decades of military rule, Burma has one of the world's worst health-care systems and high levels of ill health. For example, maternal mortality (deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes) is around 360 per 100,000 live births in Burma, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44 per 100,000 live births. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states in eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, maternal mortality is thought to be about 1000 per 100, 000 live births. In an effort to improve access to life-saving maternal health interventions in these states, Burmese community-based health organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Global Health Access Program in the USA, and the Mae Tao Clinic (a health-worker training center in Thailand) recently set up the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project. In this pilot project, local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, emergency obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), blood transfusion, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic. Back in Burma, these maternal health workers trained additional local health workers and traditional birth attendants. All these individuals now provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The effectiveness of the MOM project can only be evaluated if accurate baseline information on women's access to maternal health-care services is available. This information is also needed to ensure the wise use of scarce health-care resources. However, very little is known about reproductive and maternal health in eastern Burma. In this study, the researchers analyze the information on women's access to reproductive and maternal health-care services that was collected during the initial field implementation stage of the MOM project. In addition, they analyze whether exposure to enforced village relocations and other human rights violations affect access to maternal health-care services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained survey workers asked nearly 3000 ever-married women of reproductive age in the selected communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. They measured each woman's mid-upper arm circumference (an indicator of nutritional status) and tested them for anemia (iron deficiency) and infection with malaria parasites (a common cause of anemia in tropical countries). Finally, they asked the women about any recent violations of their human rights such as forced labour or relocation. Nearly 90% of the women reported a home delivery for their last baby. A skilled attendant was present at only one in 20 births and only one in three women had any antenatal care. One third of the women received postnatal care and only a third said they had access to effective contraceptives. Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites. Many women also showed signs of poor nutrition. Finally, human rights violations were widely reported by the women. In Karen, the region containing most of the study communities, forced relocation tripled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that access to maternal health-care interventions is extremely limited and that poor nutrition, anemia, and malaria, all of which increase the risk of pregnancy complications, are widespread in the communities in the MOM project. Because these communities had some basic health services and access to training in Thailand before the project started, these results probably underestimate the lack of access to maternal health-care services in eastern Burma. Nevertheless, it is clear that considerable political, financial, and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region. Finally, the findings also reveal a link between human rights violations and reduced access to maternal health-care services. Thus, the scale of human rights violations will need to be considered when evaluating programs designed to improve maternal health in Burma and in other places where there is ongoing conflict.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Macaya Douoguih
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao Clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
More information about the MOM project is available in a previous publication by the researchers
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and ongoing efforts to save mothers' lives around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
7.  Facilitating the Recruitment of Minority Ethnic People into Research: Qualitative Case Study of South Asians and Asthma 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000148.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report on a qualitative study in the US and the UK to investigate ways to bolster recruitment of South Asians into asthma studies, including making inclusion of diverse populations mandatory.
Background
There is international interest in enhancing recruitment of minority ethnic people into research, particularly in disease areas with substantial ethnic inequalities. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that UK South Asians are at three times increased risk of hospitalisation for asthma when compared to white Europeans. US asthma trials are far more likely to report enrolling minority ethnic people into studies than those conducted in Europe. We investigated approaches to bolster recruitment of South Asians into UK asthma studies through qualitative research with US and UK researchers, and UK community leaders.
Methods and Findings
Interviews were conducted with 36 researchers (19 UK and 17 US) from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and ten community leaders from a range of ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds, followed by self-completion questionnaires. Interviews were digitally recorded, translated where necessary, and transcribed. The Framework approach was used for analysis. Barriers to ethnic minority participation revolved around five key themes: (i) researchers' own attitudes, which ranged from empathy to antipathy to (in a minority of cases) misgivings about the scientific importance of the question under study; (ii) stereotypes and prejudices about the difficulties in engaging with minority ethnic populations; (iii) the logistical challenges posed by language, cultural differences, and research costs set against the need to demonstrate value for money; (iv) the unique contexts of the two countries; and (v) poorly developed understanding amongst some minority ethnic leaders of what research entails and aims to achieve. US researchers were considerably more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities, which appeared to a large extent to reflect the longer-term impact of the National Institutes of Health's requirement to include minority ethnic people.
Conclusions
Most researchers and community leaders view the broadening of participation in research as important and are reasonably optimistic about the feasibility of recruiting South Asians into asthma studies provided that the barriers can be overcome. Suggested strategies for improving recruitment in the UK included a considerably improved support structure to provide academics with essential contextual information (e.g., languages of particular importance and contact with local gatekeepers), and the need to ensure that care is taken to engage with the minority ethnic communities in ways that are both culturally appropriate and sustainable; ensuring reciprocal benefits was seen as one key way of avoiding gatekeeper fatigue. Although voluntary measures to encourage researchers may have some impact, greater impact might be achieved if UK funding bodies followed the lead of the US National Institutes of Health requiring recruitment of ethnic minorities. Such a move is, however, likely in the short- to medium-term, to prove unpopular with many UK academics because of the added “hassle” factor in engaging with more diverse populations than many have hitherto been accustomed to.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In an ideal world, everyone would have the same access to health care and the same health outcomes (responses to health interventions). However, health inequalities—gaps in health care and in health between different parts of the population—exist in many countries. In particular, people belonging to ethnic minorities in the UK, the US, and elsewhere have poorer health outcomes for several conditions than people belonging to the ethnic majority (ethnicity is defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin). For example, in the UK, people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent (also known as South Asians and comprising in the main of people of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin) are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital for asthma as white Europeans. The reasons underpinning ethnic health inequalities are complex. Some inequalities may reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—some ethnic minorities may inherit genes that alter their susceptibility to a specific disease. Other ethnic health inequalities may arise because of differences in socioeconomic status or because different cultural traditions affect the uptake of health care services.
Why Was This Study Done?
Minority ethnic groups are often under-represented in health research, which could limit the generalizability of research findings. That is, an asthma treatment that works well in a trial where all the participants are white Europeans might not be suitable for South Asians. Clinicians might nevertheless use the treatment in all their patients irrespective of their ethnicity and thus inadvertently increase ethnic health inequality. So, how can ethnic minorities be encouraged to enroll into research studies? In this qualitative study, the investigators try to answer this question by talking to US and UK asthma researchers and UK community leaders about how they feel about enrolling ethnic minorities into research studies. The investigators chose to compare the feelings of US and UK asthma researchers because minority ethnic people are more likely to enroll into US asthma studies than into UK studies, possibly because the US National Institute of Health's (NIH) Revitalization Act 1993 mandates that all NIH-funded clinical research must include people from ethnic minority groups; there is no similar mandatory policy in the UK.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The investigators interviewed 16 UK and 17 US asthma researchers and three UK social researchers with experience of working with ethnic minorities. They also interviewed ten community leaders from diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds. They then analyzed the interviews using the “Framework” approach, an analytical method in which qualitative data are classified and organized according to key themes and then interpreted. By comparing the data from the UK and US researchers, the investigators identified several barriers to ethnic minority participation in health research including: the attitudes of researchers towards the scientific importance of recruiting ethnic minority people into health research studies; prejudices about the difficulties of including ethnic minorities in health research; and the logistical challenges posed by language and cultural differences. In general, the US researchers were more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities in health research. Finally, the investigators found that some community leaders had a poor understanding of what research entails and about its aims.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a large gap between US and UK researchers in terms of policy, attitudes, practices, and experiences in relation to including ethnic minorities in asthma research. However, they also suggest that most UK researchers and community leaders believe that it is both important and feasible to increase the participation of South Asians in asthma studies. Although some of these findings may have been affected by the study participants sometimes feeling obliged to give “politically correct” answers, these findings are likely to be generalizable to other diseases and to other parts of Europe. Given their findings, the researchers warn that a voluntary code of practice that encourages the recruitment of ethnic minority people into health research studies is unlikely to be successful. Instead, they suggest, the best way to increase the representation of ethnic minority people in health research in the UK might be to follow the US lead and introduce a policy that requires their inclusion in such research.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000148.
Families USA, a US nonprofit organization that campaigns for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, has information about many aspects of minority health in the US, including an interactive game about minority health issues
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a section on minority health
The UK Department of Health provides information on health inequalities and a recent report on the experiences of patients in Black and minority ethnic groups
The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology also has a short article on ethnicity and health
Information on the NIH Revitalization Act 1993 is available
NHS Evidences Ethnicity and Health has a variety of policy, clinical, and research resources on ethnicity and health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000148
PMCID: PMC2752116  PMID: 19823568
8.  Prospects of using community directed intervention strategy in delivering health services among Fulani Nomads in Enugu State, Nigeria 
Background
The Community Directed Interventions (CDI) strategy has proven effective in increasing access to health services in sedentary populations. It remains to be seen if CDI strategy is feasible among nomads given the dearth of demographic and medical data on the nomads. This study thus characterized the nomadic populations in Enugu State, Nigeria and outlined the potentials of implementing CDI among nomads.
Study design and methods
This exploratory study adopted qualitative methods. Forty focus group discussions (FGD) were held with members of 10 nomadic camps in 2 LGAs in Enugu State, as well as their host communities. Thirty in-depth interviews (IDIs) were held with leaders of nomadic camps and sedentary populations. Ten IDIs with traditional healers in the nomadic camps and 14 key informant interviews with health workers and programme officers were also conducted. Documents and maps were reviewed to ascertain the grazing routes of the nomads as well as existing health interventions in the area.
Results
Like sedentary populations, nomads have definable community structures with leaders and followers, which is amenable to implementation of CDI. Nomads move their cattle, in a definite pattern, in search of grass and water. In this movement, the old and vulnerable are left in the camps. The nomads suffer from immunization preventable health problems as their host communities. The priority health problems in relation to CDI include malaria, measles, anemia, and other vaccine preventable infections. However, unlike the sedentary populations, the nomads lack access to health interventions, due to the mutual avoidance between the nomads and the sedentary populations in terms of health services. The later consider the services as mainly theirs. The nomads, however, are desirous of the modern health services and often task themselves to access these modern health services in private for profit health facilities when the need arises.
Conclusion
Given the definable organizational structure of the nomads in Enugu State and their desire for modern health intervention, it is feasible to test the CDI strategy for equitable healthcare delivery among nomads. They are willing and capable to participate actively in their own health programmes with minimal support from professional health workers.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-24
PMCID: PMC3648442  PMID: 23566078
Access; Healthcare-delivery; Immunization; Infection; Mortality; Nomad
9.  Demand and access to mental health services: a qualitative formative study in Nepal 
Background
Nepal is experiencing a significant ‘treatment gap’ in mental health care. People with mental disorders do not always receive appropriate treatment due to a range of structural and individual issues, including stigma and poverty. The PRIME (Programme for Improving Mental Health Care) programme has developed a mental health care plan to address this issue in Nepal and four other low and middle income countries. This study aims to inform the development of this comprehensive care plan by investigating the perceptions of stakeholders at different levels of the care system in the district of Chitwan in southern Nepal: health professionals, lay workers and community members. It focuses specifically on issues of demand and access to care, and aims to identify barriers and potential solutions for reaching people with priority mental disorders.
Methods
This qualitative study consisted of key informant interviews (33) and focus group discussions (83 participants in 9 groups) at community and health facility levels. Data were analysed using a framework analysis approach.
Results
As well as pragmatic barriers at the health facility level, mental health stigma and certain cultural norms were found to reduce access and demand for services. Respondents perceived the lack of awareness about mental health problems to be a major problem underlying this, even among those with high levels of education or status. They proposed strategies to improve awareness, such as channelling education through trusted and respected community figures, and responding to the need for openness or privacy in educational programmes, depending on the issue at hand. Adapting to local perceptions of stigmatised treatments emerged as another key strategy to improve demand.
Conclusions
This study identifies barriers to accessing care in Nepal that reach beyond the health facility and into the social fabric of the community. Stakeholders in PRIME’s integrated care plan advocate strategic awareness raising initiatives to improve the reach of integrated services in this low-income setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-14-22
PMCID: PMC4126616  PMID: 25084826
Demand; Access; Mental health care; Stigma; Treatment gap; Nepal
10.  Impact of Community-Based Maternal Health Workers on Coverage of Essential Maternal Health Interventions among Internally Displaced Communities in Eastern Burma: The MOM Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000317.
Mullany and colleagues report outcomes from a project involving delivery of community-based maternal health services in eastern Burma, and report substantial increases in coverage of care.
Background
Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.
Methods
Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.
Results
Among 2,889 and 2,442 women of reproductive age in 2006 and 2008, respectively, population characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic distribution, literacy) were similar. Compared to baseline, women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period were substantially more likely to receive antenatal care (71.8% versus 39.3%, prevalence rate ratio [PRR] = 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.04]) and specific interventions such as urine testing (42.4% versus 15.7%, PRR = 2.69 [95% CI 2.69–3.54]), malaria screening (55.9% versus 21.9%, PRR = 2.88 [95% CI 2.15–3.85]), and deworming (58.2% versus 4.1%, PRR = 14.18 [95% CI 10.76–18.71]. Postnatal care visits within 7 d doubled. Use of modern methods to avoid pregnancy increased from 23.9% to 45.0% (PRR = 1.88 [95% CI 1.63–2.17]), and unmet need for contraception was reduced from 61.7% to 40.5%, a relative reduction of 35% (95% CI 28%–40%). Attendance at birth by those trained to deliver elements of emergency obstetric care increased almost 10-fold, from 5.1% to 48.7% (PRR = 9.55 [95% CI 7.21–12.64]).
Conclusions
Coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project's focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care (including family planning) is particularly bad in war-torn countries. In Burma, for example, where there have been decades of conflict between the military junta and ethnic minority resistance groups, the maternal mortality rate (the number of deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births) is around 380, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, the maternal mortality rate is around 1,200. In an effort to improve access to maternal health services in these regions, community-based organizations in Burma, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and the Global Health Access Program undertook an innovative pilot project—the Mobile Obstetric Medics (MOM) project—between 2005 and 2008. Local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), postnatal care, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. These “maternal health workers” then returned to Burma where they trained local health workers and traditional birth attendants to provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before the MOM project started, nearly 3,000 women living in the study communities were surveyed to evaluate the coverage of essential antenatal care interventions such as urine testing for infections during pregnancy, screening for malaria, and deworming; Urinary tract infections, malaria, and hookworm infections all increase the risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. The preproject survey also evaluated how many births were attended by people able to deal with complications, and the provision of postnatal care and family planning services. In this study, the researchers undertake a similar postproject survey to evaluate the impact of MOM on the coverage of essential maternal health interventions among internally displaced communities in eastern Burma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2008 and December 2008, trained survey workers asked nearly 2,500 ever-married women of reproductive age from the project's study communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. The results of the postproject survey were then compared with those of the “baseline,” preproject survey. The general characteristics (age, marital status, ethnicity, and literacy) of the women included in the two surveys were very similar. However, 71.8% of the women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period of the MOM project had received antenatal care compared to only 39.3% of women surveyed at baseline. Similarly, among the women questioned during the postproject survey, 42.4% had had their urine tested and 55.9% had been screened for malaria during pregnancy compared to only 15.7% and 21.9%, respectively, of the women questioned in the preproject survey. Deworming had increased from 4.1% to 58.2% during the project, postnatal care visits within 7 days had doubled, and attendance at birth by people trained to deal with obstetric emergencies had increased 10-fold from 5.1% to 48.7%. Finally, the use of modern contraception methods (slow-release contraceptives, oral contraceptives, and condoms) had increased from 23.9% to 45.0%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a substantial improvement in access to maternal and reproductive health care in the study communities during the MOM project. However, because the study compared two independent groups of women before and after implementation of the MOM project rather than concurrently comparing groups of women who did and did not receive the services provided by the MOM project, this study does not prove that the MOM approach was the cause of the changes in the coverage of essential maternal health care. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the type of approach used in the MOM project—the expansion of interventions (including components of emergency obstetric care) delivered outside healthcare facilities by community-based providers—might be an effective way to deliver maternal and reproductive health services in other parts of Burma and in other places where there are ongoing conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317.
More information about the MOM project is available in previous publications by the researchers in PLoS Medicine, in Reproductive Health Matters, and in Social Science and Medicine
Additional resources are also available on the MOM Project
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium provides information on how conflicts affect reproductive health
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations, including those that affect maternal health in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and maternal and reproductive health during conflicts and among refugees (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
11.  Male involvement in sexual and reproductive health in the Mendi district, Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea: a descriptive study 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:46.
Background
Lack of male involvement and support for sexual and reproductive health services is seen by many Papua New Guinean women as a barrier to accessing services. Poor utilization of services by both men and women is reflected in high maternal mortality and high rates of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections in the Southern Highlands Province. It is therefore important to understand the type of services provided, men’s perceptions of these services and the Health Sector’s capacity to involve men in its programs.
Methods
Information from interviews of married men, officers in charge of health facilities, and information from a focus group discussion with village leaders was collected to assess possible constraints to reproductive and sexual health care delivery.
Results
Although many men had heard about antenatal care, supervised births, family planning and sexually transmitted infections including, HIV/AIDS, many were unaware of their importance and of the types of services provided to address these issues. There was a very strong association between men’s literacy and their knowledge of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) issues, their discussion of these issues with their wives and their wives’ utilisation of sexual and reproductive health services. Some men considered SRH services to be important but gave priority to social obligations. Although men made most decisions for sexual and reproductive issues, pregnancy, child birth and rearing of children were regarded as women’s responsibilities. Knowledge of HIV/AIDS appeared to have changed sexual behaviour in some men. Services for men in this rural setting were inadequate and service providers lacked the capacity to involve men in reproductive health issues.
Conclusion
Poor knowledge, socio-cultural factors and inadequate and inappropriate services for men hampered utilization of services and impaired support for their wives’ service utilization. Programmatic and policy initiatives should focus on improving service delivery to accommodate men in sexual and reproductive health.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-46
PMCID: PMC3847125  PMID: 24020945
Married men; Knowledge; Male involvement; Wives’ reproductive health; Sexual behaviour
12.  An assessment of attitudes toward gender inequitable sexual and reproductive health norms in South Sudan: a community-based participatory research approach 
Conflict and Health  2013;7:24.
Background
Communities in South Sudan have endured decades of conflict. Protracted conflict exacerbated reproductive health disparities and gender inequities. This study, conducted prior to the country’s 2011 independence, aimed to assess attitudes toward gender inequitable norms related to sexual relationships and reproductive health and the effects of sex, age, and education on these attitudes.
Methods
Applying a community-based participatory research approach and quota sampling, 680 adult male and female respondents were interviewed in seven sites within South Sudan in 2009–2011. The verbally administered survey assessed attitudes using the Gender Equitable Men scale. Data were stratified by sex, age (≤35 years and >35 years), and education.
Results
Of 680 respondents, 352 were female, 326 were male, and 2 did not indicate their sex. The majority of women (77%) and men (74%) agreed “a man needs other women, even if things with his wife are fine”. Respondents who reported no education (60%) were more likely than those who reported any education (45%) to agree “if a woman is married, she should have sex with her husband whenever he wants to, even if she doesn’t want to” (p = 0.002). The majority of women (74%) and men (73%) agreed “it is a woman’s responsibility to avoid getting pregnant”. Respondents who reported no education (81%) were more likely than those who reported any education (72%) to agree with this statement (p = 0.04). When asked about condom use, the majority of respondents, across both sexes and both age groups, agreed “it would be outrageous for a wife to ask her husband to use a condom” and “women who carry condoms are easy”. There were no statistically significant differences between the two age groups for any of the assessed gender inequitable norms.
Conclusion
The study reveals differences in attitudes toward gender inequitable sexual and reproductive health norms among those surveyed in South Sudan when stratified by sex and education. As a new nation seeks to strengthen its health system, these data can inform sexual and reproductive health policies and programming in South Sudan.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-7-24
PMCID: PMC3826838  PMID: 24209789
South Sudan; Conflict; Sexual health; Reproductive health; Gender; Inequitable norms; Gender Inequitable Men scale
13.  What Gets Measured Gets Done: An Assessment of Local Data Uses and Needs in Large Urban Health Departments 
This study describes an assessment of local data uses and needs in large urban health departments.
Context:
The epidemiologic shift in the leading causes of mortality from infectious disease to chronic disease has created significant challenges for public health surveillance at the local level.
Objective:
We describe how the largest US city health departments identify and use data to inform their work and we identify the data and information that local public health leaders have specified as being necessary to help better address specific problems in their communities.
Design:
We used a mixed-methods design that included key informant interviews, as well as a smaller embedded survey to quantify organizational characteristics related to data capacity. Interview data were independently coded and analyzed for major themes around data needs, barriers, and achievements.
Participants:
Forty-five public health leaders from each of 3 specific positions—local health official, chief of policy, and chief science or medical officer—in 16 large urban health departments.
Results:
Public health leaders in large urban local health departments reported that timely data and data on chronic disease that are available at smaller geographical units are difficult to obtain without additional resources. Despite departments' successes in creating ad hoc sources of local data to effect policy change, all participants described the need for more timely data that could be geocoded at a neighborhood or census tract level to more effectively target their resources. Electronic health records, claims data, and hospital discharge data were identified as sources of data that could be used to augment the data currently available to local public health leaders.
Conclusions:
Monitoring the status of community health indicators and using the information to identify priority issues are core functions of all public health departments. Public health professionals must have access to timely “hyperlocal” data to detect trends, allocate resources to areas of greatest priority, and measure the effectiveness of interventions. Although innovations in the largest local health departments in large urban areas have established some methods to obtain local data on chronic disease, leaders recognize that there is an urgent need for more timely and more geographically specific data at the neighborhood or census tract level to efficiently and effectively address the most pressing problems in public health.
doi:10.1097/PHH.0000000000000169
PMCID: PMC4243790  PMID: 25423055
BCHC; informatics; informatics needs; information; public health data
14.  The role of community-based health planning and services strategy in involving males in the provision of family planning services: a qualitative study in Southern Ghana 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:36.
Background
Reproductive health and Family Planning (FP) services have been of global concern especially in developing countries where fertility rates are high. Traditionally FP services had always targeted females with little or no attention given to males. To ensure equitable distribution of health services, Ministry of Health (MOH), Ghana adopted the Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) as a nationwide health policy with the aim of reducing obstacles to physical and geographical access to health care delivery including FP services. However, not much is known about the extent to which this policy has contributed to male involvement in FP services. This qualitative descriptive study was therefore designed to explore male involvement in FP services in communities with well functioning CHPS and those with less or no functioning CHPS structures. The study further solicited views of the community on the health status of children.
Methods
This was a qualitative descriptive study and adapted the design of an ongoing study to assess the impact of male involvement in FP referred to as the Navrongo experiment in Northern Ghana. Twelve focus group discussions were held with both male and female community members, six in communities with functional CHPS and six for communities with less/no-functional CHPS. In addition, fifty- nine (59) in-depth interviews were held with Community Health Officers (CHOs), Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and Health Managers at both the districts and regional levels. The interviews and discussions were tape recorded digitally, transcribed and entered into QSR Nvivo 10© for analysis.
Results
The results revealed a general high perception of an improved health status of children in the last ten years in the communities. These improvements were attributed to immunization of children, exclusive breastfeeding, health education given to mothers on childcare, growth monitoring of children and accessible health care. Despite these achievements in the health of children, participants reported that malnutrition was still rife in the community. The results also revealed that spousal approval was still relevant for women in the use of contraceptives; however, the matrilineal system appears to give more autonomy to women in decision-making. The CHPS strategy was perceived as very helpful with full community participation at all levels of the implementation process. Males were more involved in FP services in communities with functioning CHPS than those without functioning CHPS.
Conclusion
The CHPS strategy has increased access to FP services but spousal consent was very important in the use of FP services. Involving males in reproductive health issues including FP is important to attain reproductive health targets.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-36
PMCID: PMC3726500  PMID: 23890362
Community-based health planning and services; Family planning; Male involvement; Reproductive health; Contraceptive use; Spousal communication; Southern Ghana
15.  Sexual and reproductive health issues facing Southeast Asian beer promoters: a qualitative pilot study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:389.
Background
In Southeast Asia, hundreds of thousands of young rural women migrate from their villages to the larger cities in search of work. Many find employment with beer companies or in the clubs where beer is sold, promoting the sale of beer. Previous research suggests these young migrants are in a highly vulnerable position. This paper will describe the findings of an October 2009 meeting to develop a research agenda on the sexual and reproductive health of beer promoters and a subsequent pilot study of focus groups with beer promoters to review this agenda.
Methods
Participants of the research meeting representing beer promoters, academics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government and the beer industry from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam collaborated in the development of three key research themes. The themes were verified in focus group discussions with beer promoters organized by local research partners in all four countries. The focus group participants were asked what they felt were the key sexual and reproductive health issues facing them in a non-directive and unstructured manner, and then asked to comment more specifically on the research priorities developed at the meeting. The focus groups were recorded digitally, transcribed, and translated into English. The data were analyzed by coding for common themes and then developing matrices to compare themes between groups.
Results
The participants of the meeting identified three key research themes: occupational health (including harassment and violence, working conditions, and fair pay), gender and social norms (focusing on the impact of power relations between the genders on women's health), and reproductive health (knowledge and access to reproductive health care services). The participants in the focus groups in all four countries agreed that these were key priorities for them, though the emphasis on the most important issues varied between groups of women. Sexual harassment in the workplace and challenges in accessing reproductive health care services because of the barriers of cost, shyness, and stigmatizing attitudes of health care providers were common problems for many of the women.
Conclusions
There is a need for regional research and programming for beer promotion women in Southeast Asia focusing on the three research themes of occupational health, gender norms and reproductive health. Such research and programs could provide important benefits for many beer promotion women who currently face significant risks to their sexual and reproductive health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-389
PMCID: PMC2906467  PMID: 20594342
16.  Community-based participatory research (CBPR) in South Africa: Engaging multiple constituents to shape the research question 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2005;61(12):2577-2587.
Community engagement is an on-going, arduous, and necessary process for developing effective health promotion programs. The challenges are amplified when the particular health issue or research question is not prominent in the consciousness of the targeted community. In this paper, we explore the community-based participatory research (CBPR) model as a means to negotiate a mutual agenda between communities and researchers.
The paper is focused on the (perceived) need for cervical cancer screening in an under-resourced community in Cape Town, South Africa. Cervical cancer is a significant health problem in this community and elsewhere in South Africa. Unlike HIV-AIDS, however, many Black South Africans have not been educated about cervical cancer and the importance of obtaining screening. Many may not consider screening a priority in their lives.
Our research included extensive consultations and informal interviews with diverse community and regional stakeholders. Following these, we conducted 27 focus groups and 106 demographic surveys with randomly selected youth, parents, local health care personnel, educators and school staff. Focus group data were summarized and analyzed cross-sectionally. Community stakeholders were involved throughout this research.
Our consultations, interviews, and focus group data were key in identifying the concerns and priorities of the community. By engaging community stakeholders, we developed a research framework that incorporated the community’s concerns and priorities, and stressed the intersecting roles of poverty, violence, and other cultural forces in shaping community members’ health and wellbeing. Community members helped to refocus our research from cervical cancer to ‘cervical health,’ a concept that acknowledged the impact on women’s bodies and lives of HIV-AIDS and STDs, sexual violence, poverty, and multiple social problems. We conclude that the research agenda and questions in community-based health research should not be considered immutable. They need to be open to negotiation, creativity, and constant reinvention.
doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.04.041
PMCID: PMC3248692  PMID: 15955605
South Africa; Community-based participatory research; Cervical cancer; Community engagement
17.  Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness in Western Rwanda: Blindness in a Postconflict Setting 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(7):e217.
Background
The World Health Organization estimates that there were 37 million blind people in 2002 and that the prevalence of blindness was 9% among adults in Africa aged 50 years or older. Recent surveys indicate that this figure may be overestimated, while a survey from southern Sudan suggested that postconflict areas are particularly vulnerable to blindness. The aim of this study was to conduct a Rapid Assessment for Avoidable Blindness to estimate the magnitude and causes of visual impairment in people aged ≥ 50 y in the postconflict area of the Western Province of Rwanda, which includes one-quarter of the population of Rwanda.
Methods and Findings
Clusters of 50 people aged ≥ 50 y were selected through probability proportionate to size sampling. Households within clusters were selected through compact segment sampling. Visual acuity (VA) was measured with a tumbling “E” chart, and those with VA below 6/18 in either eye were examined by an ophthalmologist. The teams examined 2,206 people (response rate 98.0%). The unadjusted prevalence of bilateral blindness was 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2%–2.4%), 1.3% (0.8%–1.7%) for severe visual impairment, and 5.3% (4.2%–6.4%) for visual impairment. Most bilateral blindness (65%) was due to cataract. Overall, the vast majority of cases of blindness (80.0%), severe visual impairment (67.9%), and visual impairment (87.2%) were avoidable (i.e.. due to cataract, refractive error, aphakia, trachoma, or corneal scar). The cataract surgical coverage was moderate; 47% of people with bilateral cataract blindness (VA < 3/60) had undergone surgery. Of the 29 eyes that had undergone cataract surgery, nine (31%) had a best-corrected poor outcome (i.e., VA < 6/60). Extrapolating these estimates to Rwanda's Western Province, among the people aged 50 years or above 2,565 are expected to be blind, 1,824 to have severe visual impairment, and 8,055 to have visual impairment.
Conclusions
The prevalence of blindness and visual impairment in this postconflict area in the Western Province of Rwanda was far lower than expected. Most of the cases of blindness and visual impairment remain avoidable, however, suggesting that the implementation of an effective eye care service could reduce the prevalence further.
A survey of 2,250 people aged 50 y or over in Rwanda, based on clusters of 50 people, found a much lower prevalence of blindness than expected.
Editors' Summary
Background.
VISION 2020, a global initiative that aims to eliminate avoidable blindness, has estimated that 75% of blindness worldwide is treatable or preventable. The WHO estimates that in Africa, around 9% of adults aged over 50 are blind. Some data suggest that people living in regions affected by violent conflict are more likely to be blind than those living in unaffected regions. Currently no data exist on the likely prevalence of blindness in Rwanda, a central African country that is rebuilding following the 1994 genocide and civil war. Parts of the country, such as the Western Province, currently have no eye care services at all, but the government is trying to plan what services are necessary for this part of the country.
Why Was This Study Done?
These researchers wanted to collect data that would help them estimate the number of people suffering from avoidable blindness in Western Province, Rwanda, and to find out the main causes of blindness in this region. The approach they adopted is known as the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research project used survey methods based on the 2002 Rwandan national census. The researchers used the census to produce a list of settlements in Western Province, together with the number of individuals living in each settlement. Settlements were randomly picked from the list using a technique that was more likely to pick out bigger settlements than smaller ones. Each settlement was then divided into “cells,” with each cell containing around 500–700 people. One cell was randomly chosen from each settlement. Then, the researchers visited households within the cells, making sure that they visited 50 people aged over 50 y within each cell. They followed a standard procedure for collecting information from each person included in the survey. Each individual was examined by a nurse to measure their clearness of sight (“visual acuity”), using a Snellen chart (a chart with several rows of letters, where the size of the letters gets smaller as you go down the rows). The people being surveyed were examined by an ophthalmologist and the main cause of blindness was recorded, as well as general information on age, sex, details of any cataract operations, and why a cataract operation had not been done if one was needed.
Around 2 million people live in Western Province. The researchers included 2,250 people in the survey, for whom detailed examinations were done for 2,206 survey participants. Overall, 1.8% of the individuals examined were blind in both eyes. The main causes of blindness in the individuals surveyed were avoidable, and included cataract (clouding of the lens), focusing problems, and scarring of the cornea. Although 65% of cases of blindness were caused by cataract, and the availability of cataract surgery for those who needed it was reasonable, the outcomes of surgery were judged to be poor.
What Do These Findings Mean?
>The overall proportion of individuals in this survey who were found to be blind was quite low—1.8% instead of the expected prevalence of 9%. The researchers estimated that the overall proportion of blind people in all age groups in this region of Rwanda would be around 0.2%, and they calculated that 365 cataract surgeries would be needed in the region every year to meet international targets for correcting cataracts. It is not clear why the prevalence of blindness was lower than expected in this survey; one factor might be the low proportion of people in the 50 y age group in the Rwandan population. However, this survey suggests that most of the cases of blindness in this population are avoidable, and the data produced here are important in planning future eye care services within Rwanda.
PLoS Medicine, as a leading general medical journal, would not usually publish the results of a survey of blindness (or any other medical condition) in just one part of one country. The editors felt this one was of particular interest for several reasons. There has previously been very little information about blindness prevalence in Rwanda. The idea of Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) is also fairly new. Furthermore, the results are a striking contrast with what was found in two studies that we recently published from the southern Sudan (see below for references), another part of Africa that has experienced devastating conflict. The Sudan studies found a very much higher prevalence of blindness. However, it must be noted that the fighting in the Sudan continued over a much longer period (several decades) and the Sudanese environment is different in many respects; for example, it is much drier (which raises the risk of blindness due to trachoma) and many people live in extremely remote locations.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040217
World Health Organization Health Topics maintains a minisite on blindness that includes links to fact sheets, statistics, official publications, and other information
Wikipedia has an entry on visual acuity (clearness of sight), including details of how acuity is measured (note: Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization publishes detailed country health profiles, including one for Rwanda (click on the relevant country name to download a PDF fact sheet)
VISION 2020 is a global initiative aiming to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. Its Web site provides information on the main causes of avoidable blindness
Two papers recently published in PLoS Medicine about blindness in the war-afflicted southern Sudan dealt with overall blindness prevalence (Ngondi J, Ole-Sempele F, Onsarigo A, Matende I, Baba S, et al. [2006] Prevalence and causes of blindness and low vision in southern Sudan. PLoS Med 3: e477) and blindness due to trachoma (Ngondi J, Ole-Sempele F, Onsarigo A, Matende I, Baba S, et al. [2006] Blinding trachoma in postconflict southern Sudan. PLoS Med 3: e478)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040217
PMCID: PMC1904464  PMID: 17608561
18.  Barriers to male involvement in contraceptive uptake and reproductive health services: a qualitative study of men and women’s perceptions in two rural districts in Uganda 
Reproductive Health  2014;11:21.
Background
Spousal communication can improve family planning use and continuation. Yet, in countries with high fertility rates and unmet need, men have often been regarded as unsupportive of their partner’s use of family planning methods. This study examines men and women’s perceptions regarding obstacles to men’s support and uptake of modern contraceptives.
Methods
A qualitative study using 18 focus group discussions (FGDs) with purposively selected men aged 15–54 and women aged 15–49 as well as eight key informant interviews (KIIs) with government and community leaders was conducted in 2012 in Bugiri and Mpigi Districts, Uganda. Open-ended question guides were used to explore men and women’s perceptions regarding barriers to men’s involvement in reproductive health. All FGDs and KIIs were recorded, translated, and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically using ATLAS.ti.
Results
Five themes were identified as rationale for men’s limited involvement: (i) perceived side effects of female contraceptive methods which disrupt sexual activity, (ii) limited choices of available male contraceptives, including fear and concerns relating to vasectomy, (iii) perceptions that reproductive health was a woman’s domain due to gender norms and traditional family planning communication geared towards women, (iv) preference for large family sizes which are uninhibited by prolonged birth spacing; and (v) concerns that women’s use of contraceptives will lead to extramarital sexual relations. In general, knowledge of effective contraceptive methods was high. However, lack of time and overall limited awareness regarding the specific role of men in reproductive health was also thought to deter men’s meaningful involvement in issues related to fertility regulation.
Conclusion
Decision-making on contraceptive use is the shared responsibility of men and women. Effective development and implementation of male-involvement family planning initiatives should address barriers to men’s supportive participation in reproductive health, including addressing men's negative beliefs regarding contraceptive services.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-11-21
PMCID: PMC3946591  PMID: 24597502
Male involvement; Contraception; Family planning; Reproductive health; Qualitative research; Uganda
19.  Interactions between Global Health Initiatives and Country Health Systems: The Case of a Neglected Tropical Diseases Control Program in Mali 
Background
Recently, a number of Global Health Initiatives (GHI) have been created to address single disease issues in low-income countries, such as poliomyelitis, trachoma, neonatal tetanus, etc.. Empirical evidence on the effects of such GHIs on local health systems remains scarce. This paper explores positive and negative effects of the Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Control Initiative, consisting in mass preventive chemotherapy for five targeted NTDs, on Mali's health system where it was first implemented in 2007.
Methods and Findings
Campaign processes and interactions with the health system were assessed through participant observation in two rural districts (8 health centres each). Information was complemented by interviews with key informants, website search and literature review. Preliminary results were validated during feedback sessions with Malian authorities from national, regional and district levels. We present positive and negative effects of the NTD campaign on the health system using the WHO framework of analysis based on six interrelated elements: health service delivery, health workforce, health information system, drug procurement system, financing and governance. At point of delivery, campaign-related workload severely interfered with routine care delivery which was cut down or totally interrupted during the campaign, as nurses were absent from their health centre for campaign-related activities. Only 2 of the 16 health centres, characterized by a qualified, stable and motivated workforce, were able to keep routine services running and to use the campaign as an opportunity for quality improvement. Increased workload was compensated by allowances, which significantly improved staff income, but also contributed to divert attention away from core routine activities. While the campaign increased the availability of NTD drugs at country level, parallel systems for drug supply and evaluation requested extra efforts burdening local health systems. The campaign budget barely financed institutional strengthening. Finally, though the initiative rested at least partially on national structures, pressures to absorb donated drugs and reach short-term coverage results contributed to distract energies away from other priorities, including overall health systems strengthening.
Conclusions
Our study indicates that positive synergies between disease specific interventions and nontargeted health services are more likely to occur in robust health services and systems. Disease-specific interventions implemented as parallel activities in fragile health services may further weaken their responsiveness to community needs, especially when several GHIs operate simultaneously. Health system strengthening will not result from the sum of selective global interventions but requires a comprehensive approach.
Author Summary
Prevention of neglected tropical diseases was recently significantly scaled up in sub-Saharan Africa, protecting entire populations with mass distribution of drugs: five different diseases are now addressed simultaneously with a package of four drugs. Some argue however that, similarly to other major control programs dealing with specific diseases, this NTD campaign fails to strengthen health systems and might even negatively affect regular care provision. In 2007, we conducted an exploratory field study in Mali, observing how the program was implemented in two rural areas and how it affected the health system. At the local level, we found that the campaign effects of care delivery differed across health services. In robust and well staffed health centres, the personnel successfully facilitated mass drug distribution while running routine consultations, and overall service functioning benefitted from programme resources. In more fragile health centres however, additional program workload severely disturbed access to regular care, and we observed operational problems affecting the quality of mass drug distribution. Strong health services appeared to be profitable to the NTD control program as well as to general care.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000798
PMCID: PMC2923152  PMID: 20808908
20.  A grander challenge: the case of how Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) contributes to health outcomes in Africa 
Background
“Grand challenges” in global health have focused on discovery and development of technologies to save lives. The “grander challenge” involves building institutions, systems, capacity and demand to effectively deliver strategies to improve health. In 2008, Makerere University began a radical institutional change to bring together four schools under one College of Health Sciences. This paper’s objective is to demonstrate how its leadership in training, research, and services can improve health in Uganda and internationally, which lies at the core of the College’s vision.
Methods
A comprehensive needs assessment involved five task forces that identified MakCHS’s contribution to the Ugandan government health priorities. Data were collected through analysis of key documents; systematic review of MakCHS publications and grants; surveys of patients, students and faculty; and key informant interviews of the College’s major stakeholders. Four pilot projects were conducted to demonstrate how the College can translate research into policy and practice, extend integrated outreach community-based education and service, and work with communities and key stakeholders to address their priority health problems.
Results
MakCHS inputs to the health sector include more than 600 health professionals graduating per year through 23 degree programs, many of whom assume leadership positions. MakCHS contributions to processes include strengthened approaches to engaging communities, standardized clinical care procedures, and evidence-informed policy development. Outputs include the largest number of outpatients and inpatient admissions in Uganda. From 2005-2009, MakCHS also produced 837 peer-reviewed research publications (67% in priority areas). Outcomes include an expanded knowledge pool, and contributions to coverage of health services and healthy behaviors. Impacts include discovery and applications of global significance, such as the use of nevirapine to prevent HIV transmission in childbirth and male circumcision for HIV prevention. Pilot projects have applied innovative demand and supply incentives to create a rapid increase in safe deliveries (3-fold increase after 3 months), and increased quality and use of HIV services with positive collateral improvements on non-HIV health services at community clinics.
Conclusion
MakCHS has made substantial contributions to improving health in Uganda, and shows great potential to enhance this in its new transformational role – a model for other Universities.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3059474  PMID: 21411002
21.  Listening to local voices: adapting rapid appraisal to assess health and social needs in general practice. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;308(6930):698-700.
OBJECTIVES--To explore the use of rapid appraisal in defining the health and social needs of a community and to formulate joint action plans between the residents and service providers. DESIGN--Collection of data by an extended primary care team from three sources: existing documents about the neighbourhood, interviews with a range of informants, and direct observations to build a profile of the community. SETTING--Council estate of 670 homes in Edinburgh. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Perceived problems of the community and suggestions for change. RESULTS--The interviews and focus groups identified six priorities for change, many of which were not health related. These changes have been or are being implemented. CONCLUSIONS--An expanded primary care team can use rapid appraisal as a first step in identifying and meeting local health needs. It facilitates a multidisciplinary approach and complements quantitative methods of assessing need.
PMCID: PMC2539376  PMID: 8142796
22.  Lack of effective communication between communities and hospitals in Uganda: a qualitative exploration of missing links 
Background
Community members are stakeholders in hospitals and have a right to participate in the improvement of quality of services rendered to them. Their views are important because they reflect the perspectives of the general public. This study explored how communities that live around hospitals pass on their views to and receive feedback from the hospitals' management and administration.
Methods
The study was conducted in eight hospitals and the communities around them. Four of the hospitals were from three districts from eastern Uganda and another four from two districts from western Uganda. Eight key informant interviews (KIIs) were conducted with medical superintendents of the hospitals. A member from each of three hospital management boards was also interviewed. Eight focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with health workers from the hospitals. Another eight FGDs (four with men and four with women) were conducted with communities within a five km radius around the hospitals. Four of the FGDs (two with men and two with women) were done in western Uganda and the other four in eastern Uganda. The focus of the KIIs and FGDs was exploring how hospitals communicated with the communities around them. Analysis was by manifest content analysis.
Results
Whereas health unit management committees were supposed to have community representatives, the representatives never received views from the community nor gave them any feed back from the hospitals. Messages through the mass media like radio were seen to be non specific for action. Views sent through suggestion boxes were seen as individual needs rather than community concerns. Some community members perceived they would be harassed if they complained and had reached a state of resignation preferring instead to endure the problems quietly.
Conclusion
There is still lack of effective communication between the communities and the hospitals that serve them in Uganda. This deprives the communities of the right to participate in the improvement of the services they receive, to assume their position as stakeholders. Various avenues could be instituted including using associations in communities, rapid appraisal methods and community meetings.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-146
PMCID: PMC2731748  PMID: 19671198
23.  Reproductive health and quality of life of young Burmese refugees in Thailand 
Background
Of the 140 000 Burmese* refugees living in camps in Thailand, 30% are youths aged 15-24. Health services in these camps do not specifically target young people and their problems and needs are poorly understood. This study aimed to assess their reproductive health issues and quality of life, and identifies appropriate service needs.
Methods
We used a stratified two-stage random sample questionnaire survey of 397 young people 15-24 years from 5,183 households, and 19 semi-structured qualitative interviews to assess and explore health and quality of life issues.
Results
The young people in the camps had very limited knowledge of reproductive health issues; only about one in five correctly answered at least one question on reproductive health. They were clear that they wanted more reproductive health education and services, to be provided by health workers rather than parents or teachers who were not able to give them the information they needed. Marital status was associated with sexual health knowledge; having relevant knowledge of reproductive health was up to six times higher in married compared to unmarried youth, after adjusting for socio-economic and demographic factors. Although condom use was considered important, in practice a large proportion of respondents felt too embarrassed to use them. There was a contradiction between moral views and actual behaviour; more than half believed they should remain virgins until marriage, while over half of the youth experienced sex before marriage. Two thirds of women were married before the age of 18, but two third felt they did not marry at the right age. Forced sex was considered acceptable by one in three youth. The youth considered their quality of life to be poor and limited due to confinement in the camps, the limited work opportunities, the aid dependency, the unclear future and the boredom and unhappiness they face.
Conclusions
The long conflict in Myanmar and the resultant long stay in refugee camps over decades affect the wellbeing of these young people. Lack of sexual health education and relevant services, and their concerns for their future are particular problems, which need to be addressed. Issues of education, vocational training and job possibilities also need to be considered.
*Burmese is used for all ethnic groups
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-4-5
PMCID: PMC2907534  PMID: 20338037
24.  Using consecutive Rapid Participatory Appraisal studies to assess, facilitate and evaluate health and social change in community settings 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:68.
Background
To investigate how a relatively socio-economically deprived community's needs have changed over time, assess which recommendations from an earlier assessment were implemented and sustained, and consider whether serial Rapid Participatory Appraisal is an effective health research tool that can promote community development and has utility in assessing longitudinal change.
Methods
Rapid Participatory Appraisal involves communities in identifying and challenging their own health-related needs. Information on ten health and social aspects was collated from existing documentation, neighbourhood observations, and interviews with a range of residents and key informants, providing a composite picture of the community's structure, needs and services.
Results
The perceived needs after 10 years encompassed a wide construct of health, principally the living environment, housing, and lack of finance. Most identified upstream determinants of health rather than specific medical conditions as primary concerns. After the initial Rapid Participatory Appraisal many interviewees took the recommendations forward, working to promote a healthier environment and advocate for local resources. Interventions requiring support from outwith the community were largely not sustained.
Conclusion
Rapid Participatory Appraisal proved valuable in assessing long-term change. The community's continuing needs were identified, but they could not facilitate and sustain change without the strategic support of key regional and national agencies. Many repeatedly voiced concerns lay outwith local control: local needs assessment must be supported at higher levels to be effective.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-68
PMCID: PMC1435890  PMID: 16539712
25.  Promoting community participation in priority setting in district health systems: experiences from Mbarali district, Tanzania 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.22669.
Background
Community participation in priority setting in health systems has gained importance all over the world, particularly in resource-poor settings where governments have often failed to provide adequate public-sector services for their citizens. Incorporation of public views into priority setting is perceived as a means to restore trust, improve accountability, and secure cost-effective priorities within healthcare. However, few studies have reported empirical experiences of involving communities in priority setting in developing countries. The aim of this article is to provide the experience of implementing community participation and the challenges of promoting it in the context of resource-poor settings, weak organizations, and fragile democratic institutions.
Design
Key informant interviews were conducted with the Council Health Management Team (CHMT), community representatives, namely women, youth, elderly, disabled, and people living with HIV/AIDS, and other stakeholders who participated in the preparation of the district annual budget and health plans. Additionally, minutes from the Action Research Team and planning and priority-setting meeting reports were analyzed.
Results
A number of benefits were reported: better identification of community needs and priorities, increased knowledge of the community representatives about priority setting, increased transparency and accountability, promoted trust among health systems and communities, and perceived improved quality and accessibility of health services. However, lack of funds to support the work of the selected community representatives, limited time for deliberations, short notice for the meetings, and lack of feedback on the approved priorities constrained the performance of the community representatives. Furthermore, the findings show the importance of external facilitation and support in enabling health professionals and community representatives to arrive at effective working arrangement.
Conclusion
Community participation in priority setting in developing countries, characterized by weak democratic institutions and low public awareness, requires effective mobilization of both communities and health systems. In addition, this study confirms that community participation is an important element in strengthening health systems.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.22669
PMCID: PMC3841300  PMID: 24280341
community participation; priority setting; district health systems; Tanzania

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