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1.  Effect of combining a health program with a microfinance-based self-help group on health behaviors and outcomes 
Public Health  2015;129(11):1510-1518.
Women's participation in microfinance-based self-help groups (SHGs) and the resultant social capital may provide a basis to address the gap in health attainment for poor women and their children. We investigated the effect of combining a health program designed to improve health behaviours and outcomes with a microfinance-based SHG program.
A mixed method study was conducted among 34 villages selected from three blocks or district subdivisions of India; one in Gujarat, two in Karnataka.
A set of 17 villages representing new health program areas were pair-matched with 17 comparison villages. Two rounds of surveys were conducted with a total of 472 respondents, followed by 17 key informant interviews and 17 focus group discussions.
Compared to a matched comparison group, women in SHGs that received the health program had higher odds of delivering their babies in an institution (OR: 5.08, 95% CI 1.21–21.35), feeding colostrum to their newborn (OR: 2.83, 95% CI 1.02–5.57), and having a toilet at home (OR: 1.53, 95% CI 0.76–3.09). However, while the change was in the expected direction, there was no statistically significant reduction in diarrhoea among children in the intervention community (OR: 0.86, 95% CI 0.42–1.76), and the hypothesis that the health program would result in decreased out-pocket expenditures on treatment was not supported.
Our study found evidence that health programs implemented with microfinance-based SHGs is associated with improved health behaviours. With broad population coverage of SHGs and the social capital produced by their activities, microfinance-based SHGs may provide an avenue for addressing the health needs of poor women.
•Combining a health program with SHGs is associated with an improvement in key health behaviours in the study population.•However, the program led to no significant improvement in diarrhoea among children, and no effect on spending on treatment.•The structure of SHGs and duration of association played a role in promoting trust between members and the host organization.•Working with SHGs provides a basis for addressing the gap in health attainment for women and their children.
PMCID: PMC4652626  PMID: 26304181
Microfinance; Self-help group; Difference-in-difference; Health behaviours; India
2.  Feasibility and pilot study of the effects of microfinance on mortality and nutrition in children under five amongst the very poor in India: study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:298.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include targets for the health of children under five years old. Poor health is linked to poverty and microfinance initiatives are economic interventions that may improve health by breaking the cycle of poverty. However, there is a lack of reliable evidence to support this. In addition, microfinance schemes may have adverse effects on health, for example due to increased indebtedness. Rojiroti UK and the Centre for Promoting Sustainable Livelihood run an innovative microfinance scheme that provides microcredit via women’s self-help groups (SHGs). This pilot study, conducted in rural Bihar (India), will establish whether it is feasible to collect anthropometric and mortality data on children under five years old and to conduct a limited cluster randomized trial of the Rojiroti intervention.
We have designed a cluster randomized trial in which participating tolas (small communities within villages) will be randomized to either receive early (SHGs and microfinance at baseline) or late intervention (SHGs and microfinance after 18 months). Using predesigned questionnaires, demographic, and mortality data for the last year and information about participating mothers and their children will be collected and the weight, height, and mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) of children will be measured at baseline and at 18 months. The late intervention group will establish SHGs and microfinance support at this point and data collection will be repeated at 36 months.
The primary outcome measure will be the mean weight for height z-score of children under five years old in the early and late intervention tolas at 18 months. Secondary outcome measures will be the mortality rate, mean weight for age, height for age, prevalence of underweight, stunting, and wasting among children under five years of age.
Despite economic progress, marked inequalities in child health persist in India and Bihar is one of the worst affected states. There is a need to evaluate programs that may alleviate poverty and improve health. This study will help to inform the design of a definitive trial to determine if the Rojiroti scheme can improve the nutrition and survival of children under five years of age in deprived rural communities.
Trial registration (study ID: NCT01845545). Registered on 24 April 2013.
PMCID: PMC4119203  PMID: 25052420
Malnutrition; Under five mortality rate; Microfinance; Cluster randomized control trials
3.  The effect of Self-Help Groups on access to maternal health services: evidence from rural India 
The main challenge for achieving universal health coverage in India is ensuring effective coverage of poor and vulnerable communities in the face of high levels of income and gender inequity in access to health care. Drawing on the social capital generated through women’s participation in community organizations like SHGs can influence health outcomes. To date, evidence about the impact of SHGs on health outcomes has been derived from pilot-level interventions, some using randomised controlled trials and other rigorous methods. While the evidence from these studies is convincing, our study is the first to analyse the impact of SHGs at national level.
We analyzed the entire dataset from the third national District Level Household Survey from 601 districts in India to assess the impact of the presence of SHGs on maternal health service uptake. The primary predictor variable was presence of a SHG in the village. The outcome variables were: institutional delivery; feeding new-borns colostrum; knowledge about family planning methods; and ever used family planning. We controlled for respondent education, wealth, heard or seen health messages, availability of health facilities and the existence of a village health and sanitation committee.
Stepwise logistic regression shows respondents from villages with a SHG were 19 per cent (OR: 1.19, CI: 1.13-1.24) more likely to have delivered in an institution, 8 per cent (OR: 1.08, CI: 1.05-1.14) more likely to have fed newborns colostrum, have knowledge (OR: 1.48, CI 1.39 – 1.57) and utilized (OR: 1.19, CI 1.11 – 1.27) family planning products and services. These results are significant after controlling for individual and village-level heterogeneities and are consistent with existing literature that the social capital generated through women’s participation in SHGs influences health outcome.
The study concludes that the presence of SHGs in a village is associated with higher knowledge of family planning and maternal health service uptake in rural India. To achieve the goal of improving public health nationally, there is a need to understand more fully the benefits of systematic collaboration between the public health community and these grassroots organizations.
PMCID: PMC3673812  PMID: 23714337
Self help group; Institutional delivery; Family planning; Barriers; India
4.  Promoting Household Water Treatment through Women's Self Help Groups in Rural India: Assessing Impact on Drinking Water Quality and Equity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44068.
Household water treatment, including boiling, chlorination and filtration, has been shown effective in improving drinking water quality and preventing diarrheal disease among vulnerable populations. We used a case-control study design to evaluate the extent to which the commercial promotion of household water filters through microfinance institutions to women's self-help group (SHG) members improved access to safe drinking water. This pilot program achieved a 9.8% adoption rate among women targeted for adoption. Data from surveys and assays of fecal contamination (thermotolerant coliforms, TTC) of drinking water samples (source and household) were analyzed from 281 filter adopters and 247 non-adopters exposed to the program; 251 non-SHG members were also surveyed. While adopters were more likely than non-adopters to have children under 5 years, they were also more educated, less poor, more likely to have access to improved water supplies, and more likely to have previously used a water filter. Adopters had lower levels of fecal contamination of household drinking water than non-adopters, even among those non-adopters who treated their water by boiling or using traditional ceramic filters. Nevertheless, one-third of water samples from adopter households exceeded 100 TTC/100ml (high risk), and more than a quarter of the filters had no stored treated water available when visited by an investigator, raising concerns about correct, consistent use. In addition, the poorest adopters were less likely to see improvements in their water quality. Comparisons of SHG and non-SHG members suggest similar demographic characteristics, indicating SHG members are an appropriate target group for this promotion campaign. However, in order to increase the potential for health gains, future programs will need to increase uptake, particularly among the poorest households who are most susceptible to disease morbidity and mortality, and focus on strategies to improve the correct, consistent and sustained use of these water treatment products.
PMCID: PMC3434210  PMID: 22957043
5.  Sitting with others: mental health self-help groups in northern Ghana 
Over the past four decades, there has been increasing interest in Self-Help Groups, by mental health services users and caregivers, alike. Research in high-income countries suggests that participation in SHGs is associated with decreased use of inpatient facilities, improved social functioning among service users, and decreased caregiver burden. The formation of SHGs has become an important component of mental health programmes operated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in low-income countries. However, there has been relatively little research examining the benefits of SHGs in this context.
Qualitative research with 18 SHGs, five local non-governmental organisations, community mental health nurses, administrators in Ghana Health Services, and discussions with BasicNeeds staff.
SHGs have the potential to serve as key components of community mental health programmes in low-resource settings. The strongest evidence concerns how SHGs provide a range of supports, e.g., social, financial, and practical, to service users and caregivers. The groups also appear to foster greater acceptance of service users by their families and by communities at large. Membership in SHGs appears to be associated with more consistent treatment and better outcomes for those who are ill.
This study highlights the need for longitudinal qualitative and quantitative evaluations of the effect of SHGs on clinical, social and economic outcomes of service users and their carers.
The organisation of SHGs appears to be associated with positive outcomes for service users and caregivers. However, there is a need to better understand how SHGs operate and the challenges they face.
PMCID: PMC3366888  PMID: 22436354
6.  Microcredit participation and women’s health: results from a cross-sectional study in Peru 
Social and economic conditions are powerful determinants of women’s health status. Microcredit, which involves the provision of small loans to low-income women in the hopes of improving their living conditions, is an increasingly popular intervention to improve women’s socioeconomic status. Studies examining the health effects of microcredit programs have had mixed results.
We conduct a cross-sectional study among female clients of a non-profit microcredit program in Peru (N = 1,593). The predictor variable is length of microcredit participation. We conduct bivariate and multivariate linear regressions to examine the associations between length of microcredit participation and a variety of measures of women’s health. We control for participants’ sociodemographic characteristics.
We find that longer participation is associated with decreased depressive symptoms, increased social support, and increased perceived control, but these differences are attenuated with the inclusion of covariates. We find no association between length of participation and contraception use, cancer screening, or self-reported days sick.
These results demonstrate a positive association between length of microcredit participation and measures of women’s psychological health, but not physical health. These findings contribute to the discussion on the potential of microcredit programs to address the socioeconomic determinants of health, and suggest that addressing socioeconomic status may be a key way to improve women’s health worldwide.
PMCID: PMC4523998  PMID: 26242582
Microcredit; Poverty alleviation; Women’s health; Socioeconomic determinants of health; Latin America; Peru
7.  Where Do the Poorest Go to Seek Outpatient Care in Bangladesh: Hospitals Run by Government or Microfinance Institutions? 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121733.
Health programs implemented by microfinance institutions (MFIs) aim to benefit the poor, but whether these services reach the poorest remains uncertain. This study intended to investigate the socioeconomic distribution of patients in hospitals operated by microfinance institutions (i.e. MFI hospitals) in Bangladesh and compare the differences with public hospitals to determine if the programs were consistent with their pro-poor mandate.
In this cross-sectional study, we used the convenience sampling method to conduct an interviewer-assisted questionnaire survey among 347 female outpatients, with 170 in public hospitals and 177 in MFI hospitals. Independent variables were patient characteristics categorized into predisposing factors (age, education, marital status, family size), enabling factors (microcredit membership, household income) and need factors (self-rated health, perceived needs for care). We employed Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) to evaluate how these factors contributed to MFI hospital use.
Use of MFI hospitals was associated with microcredit membership over 5 years (OR=2.9, p<.01), moderately poor household (OR=4.09, p<.001), non-poor household (OR=7.34, p<.01) and need for preventive care (OR=3.4, p<.01), compared with public hospitals. Combining membership and income, we found microcredit members had a higher tendency towards utilization but membership effect pertained to the non- and moderately-poor. Compared with the group who were non-members and the poorest, microcredit members who were non-poor had the highest likelihood (OR=7.46, p<.001) to visit MFI hospitals, followed by members with moderate income (OR=6.91, p<.001) and then non-members in non-poor households (OR=4.48, p<.01). Those who were members but the poorest had a negative association (OR=0.42), though not significant. Despite a higher utilization of preventive services in MFI hospitals, expenditure there was significantly higher.
Inequity was more pronounced in MFI hospitals than public ones. MFI hospitals appeared to miss their target population. We suggest that MFIs reorganize health programs toward primary health care to make care equitable and universally accessible. This study holds practical implications for governments, development agencies and microfinance practitioners working at the grassroots level.
PMCID: PMC4373946  PMID: 25807500
8.  Women's health in a rural community in Kerala, India: do caste and socioeconomic position matter? 
To examine the social patterning of women's self‐reported health status in India and the validity of the two hypotheses: (1) low caste and lower socioeconomic position is associated with worse reported health status, and (2) associations between socioeconomic position and reported health status vary across castes.
Cross‐sectional household survey, age‐adjusted percentages and odds ratios, and multilevel multinomial logistic regression models were used for analysis.
A panchayat (territorial decentralised unit) in Kerala, India, in 2003.
4196 non‐elderly women.
Outcome measures
Self‐perceived health status and reported limitations in activities in daily living.
Women from lower castes (scheduled castes/scheduled tribes (SC/ST) and other backward castes (OBC) reported a higher prevalence of poor health than women from forward castes. Socioeconomic inequalities were observed in health regardless of the indicators, education, women's employment status or household landholdings. The multilevel multinomial models indicate that the associations between socioeconomic indicators and health vary across caste. Among SC/ST and OBC women, the influence of socioeconomic variables led to a “magnifying” effect, whereas among forward caste women, a “buffering” effect was found. Among lower caste women, the associations between socioeconomic factors and self‐assessed health are graded; the associations are strongest when comparing the lowest and highest ratings of health.
Even in a relatively egalitarian state in India, there are caste and socioeconomic inequalities in women's health. Implementing interventions that concomitantly deal with caste and socioeconomic disparities will likely produce more equitable results than targeting either type of inequality in isolation.
PMCID: PMC2465509  PMID: 17108296
9.  Community-Based Mental Health Intervention for Underprivileged Women in Rural India: An Experiential Report 
Objective. To share experiences from a project that integrates a mental health intervention within a developmental framework of microcredit activity for economically underprivileged women in rural India. Method. The mental health intervention had two components: group counseling and stress management. The former comprised of ventilation and reassurance and the latter strengthening of coping skills and a relaxation technique. Focus group discussions were used to understand women's perception of how microcredit economic activity and the mental health intervention had affected their lives. Results. Women in the mental health intervention group reported reduction in psychological distress and bodily aches and pains. Majority (86%) reported that the quality of their sleep had improved with regular practice of relaxation and that sharing their problems in the group had helped them to unburden. The social support extended by the members to each other, made them feel that they were not alone and could face any life situation. Conclusion. The study provided qualitative evidence that adding the mental health intervention to the ongoing economic activity had made a positive difference in the lives of the women. Addressing mental health concerns along with livelihood initiatives can help to enhance both economic and social capital in rural poor women.
PMCID: PMC3263843  PMID: 22295190
10.  Empowering the people: Development of an HIV peer education model for low literacy rural communities in India 
Despite ample evidence that HIV has entered the general population, most HIV awareness programs in India continue to neglect rural areas. Low HIV awareness and high stigma, fueled by low literacy, seasonal migration, gender inequity, spatial dispersion, and cultural taboos pose extra challenges to implement much-needed HIV education programs in rural areas. This paper describes a peer education model developed to educate and empower low-literacy communities in the rural district of Perambalur (Tamil Nadu, India).
From January to December 2005, six non-governmental organizations (NGO's) with good community rapport collaborated to build and pilot-test an HIV peer education model for rural communities. The program used participatory methods to train 20 NGO field staff (Outreach Workers), 102 women's self-help group (SHG) leaders, and 52 barbers to become peer educators. Cartoon-based educational materials were developed for low-literacy populations to convey simple, comprehensive messages on HIV transmission, prevention, support and care. In addition, street theatre cultural programs highlighted issues related to HIV and stigma in the community.
The program is estimated to have reached over 30 000 villagers in the district through 2051 interactive HIV awareness programs and one-on-one communication. Outreach workers (OWs) and peer educators distributed approximately 62 000 educational materials and 69 000 condoms, and also referred approximately 2844 people for services including voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), care and support for HIV, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually-transmitted infections (STI). At least 118 individuals were newly diagnosed as persons living with HIV (PLHIV); 129 PLHIV were referred to the Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine (in Tambaram) for extra medical support. Focus group discussions indicate that the program was well received in the communities, led to improved health awareness, and also provided the peer educators with increased social status.
Using established networks (such as community-based organizations already working on empowerment of women) and training women's SHG leaders and barbers as peer educators is an effective and culturally appropriate way to disseminate comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS to low-literacy communities. Similar models for reaching and empowering vulnerable populations should be expanded to other rural areas.
PMCID: PMC2377249  PMID: 18423006
11.  Second Harmonic Generation microscopy reveals collagen fibres are more organised in the cervix of postmenopausal women 
During labour, the cervix undergoes a series of changes to allow the passage of the fetoplacental unit. While this visible transformation is well-described, the underlying and causative microscopic changes, in which collagen plays a major role, are poorly understood and difficult to visualise. Recent studies in mice and humans have shown that Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) microscopy, a non-destructive imaging technique, can detect changes in the cervical collagen. However, the question of whether SHG can identify changes in the arrangement of cervical collagen at different physiological stages still needs addressing. Therefore, this study aimed to compare the cervical collagen alignment between pre- and postmenopausal women using SHG and to generate proof-of-concept data prior to assessing this technique in pregnancy.
Cervical biopsies from premenopausal (n = 4) and postmenopausal (n = 4) multiparous women undergoing hysterectomy for benign conditions were cross-sectionally scanned using an upright confocal microscope. SHG images were collected in Z-stacks and qualitatively evaluated using semi-quantitative scoring (0–3 in ascending degree of alignment) by assessors who were unaware of the classification of the SHG images, and quantitatively, using 2D Fourier transformation analysis. The dominant orientation and difference in dispersion of collagen fibres in each z-stack (X ± SD) was calculated and compared between groups.
Qualitatively, collagen fibres appeared more organised in postmenopausal women, [premenopausal: median 0, range (0–1), postmenopausal: median 1.25, range (1–3); X 2 (df = 5) = 19.35, p = 0.002]. Quantitatively, there was a statistically significant difference in collagen fibre dispersion between premenopausal (5.39° ± 12.68°) and postmenopausal women (−1.58° ± 8.24°), [Welch’s t-test (245.54) = 5.54, p < 0.01], with no significant differences in dispersion within each group [premenopausal, Welch’s F (7, 57.23) = 1.84, p = 0.098; postmenopausal, Welch’s F (7, 57.28) = 1.39, p = 0.23].
These results suggest an increased alignment of cervical collagen in postmenopausal women which may result in increased stiffness and reduced compliance, confirm that SHG microscopy can provide qualitative and quantitative information about cervical collagen orientation without sample preparation, and support further research to explore SHG as a means of assessing cervical remodelling to predict the timing of term and preterm labour.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12958-016-0204-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5073459  PMID: 27769268
Second harmonic generation microscopy; Collagen; Cervix; Menopause; Human; Alignment
12.  Health education for microcredit clients in Peru: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:51.
Poverty, lack of female empowerment, and lack of education are major risk factors for childhood illness worldwide. Microcredit programs, by offering small loans to poor individuals, attempt to address the first two of these risk factors, poverty and gender disparity. They provide clients, usually women, with a means to invest in their businesses and support their families. This study investigates the health effects of also addressing the remaining risk factor, lack of knowledge about important health issues, through randomization of members of a microcredit organization to receive a health education module based on the World Health Organization's Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) community intervention.
Baseline data were collected in February 2007 from clients of a microcredit organization in Pucallpa, Peru (n = 1,855) and their children (n = 598). Loan groups, consisting of 15 to 20 clients, were then randomly assigned to receive a health education intervention involving eight monthly 30-minute sessions given by the organization's loan officers at monthly loan group meetings. In February 2008, follow-up data were collected, and included assessments of sociodemographic information, knowledge of child health issues, and child health status (including child height, weight, and blood hemoglobin levels). To explore the effects of treatment (i.e., participation in the health education sessions) on the key outcome variables, multivariate regressions were implemented using ordinary least squares.
Individuals in the IMCI treatment arm demonstrated more knowledge about a variety of issues related to child health, but there were no changes in anthropometric measures or reported child health status.
Microcredit clients randomized to an IMCI educational intervention showed greater knowledge about child health, but no differences in child health outcomes compared to controls. These results imply that the intervention did not have sufficient intensity to change behavior, or that microcredit organizations may not be an appropriate setting for the administration of child health educational interventions of this type.
Trial Registration
This study is registered with, NCT01047033.
PMCID: PMC3037866  PMID: 21261988
13.  Three dimensional multiphoton imaging of fresh and whole mount developing mouse mammary glands 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:373.
The applications of multiphoton microscopy for deep tissue imaging in basic and clinical research are ever increasing, supplementing confocal imaging of the surface layers of cells in tissue. However, imaging living tissue is made difficult by the light scattering properties of the tissue, and this is extraordinarily apparent in the mouse mammary gland which contains a stroma filled with fat cells surrounding the ductal epithelium. Whole mount mammary glands stained with Carmine Alum are easily archived for later reference and readily viewed using bright field microscopy to observe branching architecture of the ductal network. Here, we report on the advantages of multiphoton imaging of whole mount mammary glands. Chief among them is that optical sectioning of the terminal end bud (TEB) and ductal epithelium allows the appreciation of abnormalities in structure that are very difficult to ascertain using either bright field imaging of the stained gland or the conventional approach of hematoxylin and eosin staining of fixed and paraffin-embedded sections. A second advantage is the detail afforded by second harmonic generation (SHG) in which collagen fiber orientation and abundance can be observed.
GFP-mouse mammary glands were imaged live or after whole mount preparation using a Zeiss LSM510/META/NLO multiphoton microscope with the purpose of obtaining high resolution images with 3D content, and evaluating any structural alterations induced by whole mount preparation. We describe a simple means for using a commercial confocal/ multiphoton microscope equipped with a Ti-Sapphire laser to simultaneously image Carmine Alum fluorescence and collagen fiber networks by SHG with laser excitation set to 860 nm. Identical terminal end buds (TEBs) were compared before and after fixation, staining, and whole mount preparation and structure of collagen networks and TEB morphologies were determined. Flexibility in excitation and emission filters was explored using the META detector for spectral emission scanning. Backward scattered or reflected SHG (SHG-B) was detected using a conventional confocal detector with maximum aperture and forward scattered or transmitted SHG (SHG-F) detected using a non-descanned detector.
We show here that the developing mammary gland is encased in a thin but dense layer of collagen fibers. Sparse collagen layers are also interspersed between stromal layers of fat cells surrounding TEBs. At the margins, TEBs approach the outer collagen layer but do not penetrate it. Abnormal mammary glands from an HAI-1 transgenic FVB mouse model were found to contain TEBs with abnormal pockets of cells forming extra lumens and zones of continuous lateral bud formation interspersed with sparse collagen fibers.
Parameters influencing live imaging and imaging of fixed unstained and Carmine Alum stained whole mounts were evaluated. Artifacts induced by light scattering of GFP and Carmine Alum signals from epithelial cells were identified in live tissue as primarily due to fat cells and in whole mount tissue as due to dense Carmine Alum staining of epithelium. Carmine Alum autofluorescence was detected at excitation wavelengths from 750 to 950 nm with a peak of emission at 623 nm (~602-656 nm). Images of Carmine Alum fluorescence differed dramatically at emission wavelengths of 565–615 nm versus 650–710 nm. In the latter, a mostly epithelial (nuclear) visualization of Carmine Alum predominates. Autofluorescence with a peak emission of 495 nm was derived from the fixed and processed tissue itself as it was present in the unstained whole mount. Contribution of autofluorescence to the image decreases with increasing laser excitation wavelengths. SHG-B versus SHG-F signals revealed collagen fibers and could be found within single fibers, or in different fibers within the same layer. These differences presumably reflected different states of collagen fiber maturation. Loss of SHG signals from layer to layer could be ascribed to artifacts rendered by light scattering from the dense TEB structures, and unless bandpass emissions were selected, contained unfiltered non-SHG fluorescence and autofluorescent emissions. Flexibility in imaging can be increased using spectral emission imaging to optimize emission bandwidths and to separate SHG-B, GFP, and Carmine Alum signals, although conventional filters were also useful.
Collagen fibril arrangement and TEB structure is well preserved during the whole mount procedure and light scattering is reduced dramatically by extracting fat resulting in improved 3D structure, particularly for SHG signals originating from collagen. In addition to providing a bright signal, Carmine Alum stained whole mount slides can be imaged retrospectively such as performed for the HAI-1 mouse gland revealing new aspects of abnormal TEB morphology. These studies demonstrated the intimate contact, but relatively sparse abundance of collagen fibrils adjacent to normal and abnormal TEBS in the developing mammary gland and the ability to obtain these high resolution details subject to the discussed limitations. Our studies demonstrated that the TEB architecture is essentially unchanged after processing.
PMCID: PMC3750743  PMID: 23919456
14.  Biological characteristics of a new human glioma cell line transformed into A2B5+ stem cells 
Molecular Cancer  2015;14:75.
The new glioma cell line SHG-139 was established and its phenotype, tumorigenicity, pathological characteristics, derived stem cells SHG139S were studied.
Immunohistochemistry was used to assess expressions in the patient and mouse tumor tissues, SHG-139 and SHG-139S. Primary SHG-139 culture was performed, cell proliferation, cell cycle and genetic characteristics were assessed. MiRNA (Micro RNA) and LncRNA (Long non-coding RNA) microarray was performed.
We found that the glioma tissue was positive for A2B5 (Glial precursors ganglioside), GFAP (Glial fibrillary acidic protein), S-100 (Acid calcium bingding protein), VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor), VEGFR (Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor) and negative for Ki-67 (Nuclcar- associated antigen). SHG-139 proliferated significantly within 24h; its total number of chromosomes was 68; ratios of SHG-139 and SHG-139S cells in G1 phase were highest. SHG-139 cells were positive for A2B5, GalC (Galactocerebrosides), GFAP, S-100 and Vimentin, while SHG-139S cells were positive for A2B5, Nestin, and NG2 (Neuron-glia antigen2), and negative for Vimentin and IDHR132H (Isocitrate dehydrogenase); cells rarely stained for CD133 (Cluster of differentiation133). SHG-139 intracranial xenografts expressed GFAP, but no overt oligodendroglioma was observed. In SHG-139S xenografts, GFAP and S-100 were expressed, while CD133 was not detected; a few A2B5+ cells were found at tumor edges, and typical oligodendroglioma were obtained. In addition, SHG-139S xenograft tumors were more aggressive than those of SHG-139. Anti-mouse CD31 (Cluster of differentiation31) staining revealed murine vessels at the border between xenograft tumor and normal brain tissue; Anti-human CD34 (Cluster of differentiation34) staining was negative. Biochip technology of SHG139S showed several miRNA and lncRNA were differently expressed in SHG139 and SHG139S.
SHG-139 was an astroglioma cell line which yielded stem cells SHG-139S. SHG-139S cells constituted an A2B5+/CD133− GSC subgroup.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12943-015-0343-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4392480  PMID: 25879429
Glioma stem cells; Xenograft tumor; A2B5; CD133
15.  Chemerin in peritoneal sepsis and its associations with glucose metabolism and prognosis: a translational cross-sectional study 
Critical Care  2016;20:39.
Stress hyperglycaemia (SHG) is a common complication in sepsis associated with poor outcome. Chemerin is an adipocytokine associated with inflammation and impaired glucose homeostasis in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2D). We aimed to investigate how alterations of circulating chemerin levels and corresponding visceral adipose tissue (VAT) expression are linked to glucose metabolism and prognosis in sepsis.
Clinical data and tissue samples were taken from a cross-sectional study including control, T2D and sepsis patients, all undergoing laparotomy. A second independent patient cohort of patients with sepsis was included to evaluate associations with prognosis. This was complemented by a murine model of peritoneal infection and a high-fat diet. We analysed circulating chemerin by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and VAT messenger RNA (mRNA) expression by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Circulating chemerin was increased in sepsis 1.69-fold compared with controls (p = 0.012) and 1.47-fold compared with T2D (p = 0.03). Otherwise, chemerin VAT mRNA expression was decreased in patients with sepsis (p = 0.006) and in septic diabetic animals (p = 0.009). Circulating chemerin correlated significantly with intra-operative glucose (r = 0.662; p = 0.01) and in trend with fasting glucose (r = 0.528; p = 0.052). After adjusting for body mass index or haemoglobin A1c, chemerin correlated in trend with insulin resistance evaluated using the logarithmised homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (r = 0.539, p = 0.071; r = 0.553, p = 0.062). Chemerin was positively associated with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score in patients with sepsis (p = 0.036) and with clinical severity in septic mice (p = 0.031). In an independent study population, we confirmed association of chemerin with glucose levels in multivariate linear regression analysis (β = 0.556, p = 0.013). In patients with sepsis with SHG, non-survivors had significantly lower chemerin levels than survivors (0.38-fold, p = 0.006), while in patients without SHG, non-survivors had higher chemerin levels, not reaching significance (1.64-fold, p = 0.089). No difference was apparent in patients with pre-existing T2D (p = 0.44).
We show, for the first time to our knowledge, that chemerin is increased in sepsis and that it associates with impaired glucose metabolism and survival in these patients. It could be further evaluated as a biomarker to stratify mortality risk of patients with SHG.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13054-016-1209-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4751629  PMID: 26873079
Chemerin; Sepsis; Glucose homeostasis; Stress hyperglycaemia; Adipose tissue
16.  Capability Development among the Ultra-poor in Bangladesh: A Case Study 
Microcredit is advocated as a development tool that has the potential to reduce poverty, empower participants, and improve health. Results of several studies have shown that the extreme poor, or the ultra-poor, often are unable to benefit from traditional microcredit programmes and can, as a result of taking a loan they cannot repay, sink deeper into economic and social poverty. This case study describes an intervention directed at enabling the ultra-poor rural populations to pull themselves out of poverty. The intervention integrates multiple components, including asset grants for income generation, skills training, a time-bound monthly stipend for subsistence, social development and mobilization of local elite, and health support. Results of an evaluation showed that, after 18 months, the programme positively impacted livelihood, economic, social and health status to the extent that 63% of households (n=5,000) maintained asset growth and joined (or intended to join) a regular microcredit programme. Impacts included improved income, improved food security, and improved health knowledge and behaviour. Applying a social exclusion framework to the intervention helps identify the different dynamic forces that can exclude or include the ultra-poor in Bangladesh in development interventions such as microcredit.
PMCID: PMC2928093  PMID: 19761086
Capacity-building; Economic assistance; Poverty; Ultra-poor; Bangladesh
17.  Financial incentives and coverage of child health interventions: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMC Public Health  2013;13(Suppl 3):S30.
Financial incentives are widely used strategies to alleviate poverty, foster development, and improve health. Cash transfer programs, microcredit, user fee removal policies and voucher schemes that provide direct or indirect monetary incentives to households have been used for decades in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and more recently in Southeast Asia. Until now, no systematic review of the impact of financial incentives on coverage and uptake of health interventions targeting children under 5 years of age has been conducted. The objective of this review is to provide estimates on the effect of six types of financial incentive programs: (i) Unconditional cash transfers (CT), (ii) Conditional cash transfers (CCT), (iii) Microcredit (MC), (iv) Conditional Microcredit (CMC), (v) Voucher schemes (VS) and (vi) User fee removal (UFR) on the uptake and coverage of health interventions targeting children under the age of five years.
We conducted systematic searches of a series of databases until September 1st, 2012, to identify relevant studies reporting on the impact of financial incentives on coverage of health interventions and behaviors targeting children under 5 years of age. The quality of the studies was assessed using the CHERG criteria. Meta-analyses were undertaken to estimate the effect when multiple studies meeting our inclusion criteria were available.
Our searches resulted in 1671 titles identified 25 studies reporting on the impact of financial incentive programs on 5 groups of coverage indicators: breastfeeding practices (breastfeeding incidence, proportion of children receiving colostrum and early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and duration of breastfeeding); vaccination (coverage of full immunization, partial immunization and specific antigens); health care use (seeking healthcare when child was ill, visits to health facilities for preventive reasons, visits to health facilities for any reason, visits for health check-up including growth control); management of diarrhoeal disease (ORS use during diarrhea episode, continued feeding during diarrhea, healthcare during diarrhea episode) and other preventive health interventions (iron supplementation, vitamin A, zinc supplementation, preventive deworming). The quality of evidence on the effect of financial incentives on breastfeeding practices was low but seems to indicate a potential positive impact on receiving colostrum, early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding and mean duration of exclusive breastfeeding. There is no effect of financial incentives on immunization coverage although there was moderate quality evidence of conditional cash transfers leading to a small but non-significant increase in coverage of age-appropriate immunization. There was low quality evidence of impact of CCT on healthcare use by children under age 5 (Risk difference: 0.14 [95%CI: 0.03; 0.26]) as well as low quality evidence of an effect of user fee removal on use of curative health services (RD=0.62 [0.41; 0.82]).
Financial incentives may have potential to promote increased coverage of several important child health interventions, but the quality of evidence available is low. The more pronounced effects seem to be achieved by programs that directly removed user fees for access to health services. Some indication of effect were also observed for programs that conditioned financial incentives on participation in health education and attendance to health care visits. This finding suggest that the measured effect may be less a consequence of the financial incentive and more due to conditionalities addressing important informational barriers.
PMCID: PMC3847540  PMID: 24564520
18.  Mobilizing community-based health insurance to enhance awareness & prevention of airborne, vector-borne & waterborne diseases in rural India 
Background & objectives:
Despite remarkable progress in airborne, vector-borne and waterborne diseases in India, the morbidity associated with these diseases is still high. Many of these diseases are controllable through awareness and preventive practice. This study was an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of a preventive care awareness campaign in enhancing knowledge related with airborne, vector-borne and waterborne diseases, carried out in 2011 in three rural communities in India (Pratapgarh and Kanpur-Dehat in Uttar Pradesh and Vaishali in Bihar).
Data for this analysis were collected from two surveys, one done before the campaign and the other after it, each of 300 randomly selected households drawn from a larger sample of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) members invited to join community-based health insurance (CBHI) schemes.
The results showed a significant increase both in awareness (34%, p<0.001) and in preventive practices (48%, P=0.001), suggesting that the awareness campaign was effective. However, average practice scores (0.31) were substantially lower than average awareness scores (0.47), even in post-campaign. Awareness and preventive practices were less prevalent in vector-borne diseases than in airborne and waterborne diseases. Education was positively associated with both awareness and practice scores. The awareness scores were positive and significant determinants of the practice scores, both in the pre- and in the post-campaign results. Affiliation to CBHI had significant positive influence on awareness and on practice scores in the post-campaign period.
Interpretation & conclusions:
The results suggest that well-crafted health educational campaigns can be effective in raising awareness and promoting health-enhancing practices in resource-poor settings. It also confirms that CBHI can serve as a platform to enhance awareness to risks of exposure to airborne, vector-borne and waterborne diseases, and encourage preventive practices.
PMCID: PMC4613436  PMID: 26354212
Airborne disease; awareness campaign; community-based health insurance; preventive healthcare; rural India; vector-borne disease; waterborne disease
19.  A Qualitative Exploration of the Economic and Social Effects of Microcredit among People Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda 
AIDS Research and Treatment  2012;2012:318957.
HIV medical care, including antiretroviral therapy (ART), is often successful in restoring physical health and functioning. But in developing countries, HIV medical care is often insufficient to achieve social and economic health, and hence innovative economic support programs are much needed. We conducted semistructured interviews with 30 adults receiving ART and microcredit loans operated by Uganda Cares. Using content analysis, we explored the impact of the microcredit loans on the economic, social, and psychological well-being of respondents. Most respondents indicated that the microcredit loans played a positive role in their lives, helped them to keep their children in school and sustain their families, and improved their self-esteem and status in the community. In addition, we also found significant positive knowledge spill-over and network effects in the program with regard to business management and support. However, more than half of the participants indicated experiencing repayment problems either personally or with other group members due to unexpected emergencies and sickness. These findings highlight that microcredit programs have the potential of being an economic support system for HIV clients trying to reestablish their livelihoods, especially in resource-constrained settings, though more research is needed to determine the overall economic viability of such programs.
PMCID: PMC3388281  PMID: 22778923
20.  Seniors' Recreation Centers in Rural India: Need of the Hour 
To empower and bring the underprivileged senior citizens in the rural areas to the mainstream of life through setting up of model “senior citizens' recreation centers” that can be replicated in the other parts of the country.
Materials and Methods:
Six senior citizens' recreation centers are run in six villages under a community health program of a leading Medical College in South India, which were started by looking into their perceived needs and in a location where organized self-help women groups (SHGs) showed willingness to take the role of caretakers. Together there are 140 members in 6 centers and the most deserving members were identified using a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) method. These centers are open for 5 days a week and the main attraction of the center has been provision of one good, wholesome, noon-meal a day, apart from several recreational activities. The members were also assessed for chronic energy deficiency (CED) and quality of life at the beginning of enrolment using body mass index (BMI) and WHO-BREF scale.
The attendance to these centers was nearly 90% of the enrolled beneficiaries. A statistically significant improvement was noticed in quality of life in the physical, psychological, social, and environmental domain (P < 0.05). There was also a significant increase in the average BMI after 1 year of the intervention (P < 0.05).
Care of underprivileged senior citizens is a growing need in the rural areas and the “Recreation centers” proved to be a beneficial model that can be easily replicated.
PMCID: PMC4919936  PMID: 27385876
Aged; nutrition; quality of life; senior citizens' recreation centers
21.  Utilisation of rheumatology care services in Germany: the case of physical therapy and self-help groups 
Physical Therapy (PT) and self-help groups (SHG) are important components of health care in rheumatic diseases. The utilisation of PT and SHG by patients with rheumatic diseases may be influenced by several factors. The aim of this study is to summarize the evidence on PT and SHG utilisation of patients with rheumatic diseases in Germany. We systematically searched the MEDLINE-database for studies that evaluated the utilisation and factors that possibly influence the utilisation of PT and SHG. Eight studies were found for PT-utilisation and one for SHG-utilisation. Between 25 and 59 percent of patients with rheumatic diseases received PT services. Several individual and contextual factors that may influence the utilisation could be identified. In conclusion, evidence exists for wide variations in the utilisation of PT services and an underuse of such services among patients with rheumatic diseases in Germany. By contrast, little evidence exists on the utilisation of SHG.
PMCID: PMC3488804  PMID: 23133502
rheumatic disease; physical therapy; self-help; utilisation
22.  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.
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.
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
23.  Group Interventions were not Effective for Female Turkish Migrants with Recurrent Depression – Recommendations from a Randomized Controlled Study 
Social behavior and personality  2011;39(9):1217-1234.
We tested group interventions for women with a Turkish migration background living in Austria and suffering from recurrent depression. N = 66 participants were randomized to: (1) Self-Help Groups (SHG), (2) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Groups, and (3) a Wait-List (WL) Control condition. Neither SHG nor CBT were superior to WL. On an individual basis, about one third of the participants showed significant improvements with respect to symptoms of depression. Younger women, women with a longer duration of stay in Austria and those who had encountered a higher number of traumatic experiences, showed increased improvement of depressive symptoms. The results suggest that individual treatment by ethnic, female psychotherapists should be preferred to group interventions.
PMCID: PMC3184506  PMID: 21976784
Self-Help Group; group therapy; acculturation; migration; depression
24.  Cervical cancer screening: Current knowledge & practice among women in a rural population of Kerala, India 
Background & objectives:
Cervical cancer has a major impact on woman's lives worldwide and one in every five women suffering from cervical cancer belongs to India. Hence the objectives of this study were to find the knowledge of women regarding cervical cancer, to determine screening practices and determinants, and to identify factors for non screening.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in Vypin Block of Ernakulam District, Kerala, India where four of the seven Panchayats were randomly chosen. Households were selected by systematic random sampling taking every second house in the tenth ward of the Panchayat till at least 200 women were interviewed. Thus, 809 women were interviewed from four Panchayats.
Mean age of the study population was 34.5 + 9.23 yr. Three fourths of the population (74.2%) knew that cervical cancer could be detected early by a screening test. Majority of respondents (89.2%) did not know any risk factor for cervical cancer. Of the 809 women studied, only 6.9 per cent had undergone screening. One third of the population were desirous of undergoing screening test but had not done it due to various factors. These factors related to knowledge (51.4%) such as no symptoms, not being aware of Pap test, not necessary, etc. This was followed by resource factors (15.1%) like no time, no money, etc. and psychosocial factors (10.2%) included lack of interest, fear of procedure, etc. Independent predictors for doing Pap test included age >35, having knowledge of screening for cervical cancer and Pap test (P<0.05).
Interpretation & conclusions:
Specific knowledge on cervical cancer screening is a critical element in determining whether a woman will undergo Pap test in addition to making cancer screening facilities available in the primary health centre.
PMCID: PMC3461731  PMID: 22960886
Cervical cancer; knowledge; practice; screening
25.  The Role of Health Systems Factors in Facilitating Access to Psychotropic Medicines: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the WHO-AIMS in 63 Low- and Middle-Income Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(1):e1001166.
In a cross-sectional analysis of WHO-AIMS data, Ryan McBain and colleagues investigate the associations between health system components and access to psychotropic drugs in 63 low and middle income countries.
Neuropsychiatric conditions comprise 14% of the global burden of disease and 30% of all noncommunicable disease. Despite the existence of cost-effective interventions, including administration of psychotropic medicines, the number of persons who remain untreated is as high as 85% in low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). While access to psychotropic medicines varies substantially across countries, no studies to date have empirically investigated potential health systems factors underlying this issue.
Methods and Findings
This study uses a cross-sectional sample of 63 LAMICs and country regions to identify key health systems components associated with access to psychotropic medicines. Data from countries that completed the World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) were included in multiple regression analyses to investigate the role of five major mental health systems domains in shaping medicine availability and affordability. These domains are: mental health legislation, human rights implementations, mental health care financing, human resources, and the role of advocacy groups. Availability of psychotropic medicines was associated with features of all five mental health systems domains. Most notably, within the domain of mental health legislation, a comprehensive national mental health plan was associated with 15% greater availability; and in terms of advocacy groups, the participation of family-based organizations in the development of mental health legislation was associated with 17% greater availability. Only three measures were related with affordability of medicines to consumers: level of human resources, percentage of countries' health budget dedicated to mental health, and availability of mental health care in prisons. Controlling for country development, as measured by the Human Development Index, health systems features were associated with medicine availability but not affordability.
Results suggest that strengthening particular facets of mental health systems might improve availability of psychotropic medicines and that overall country development is associated with affordability.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Mental disorders—conditions that involve impairment of thinking, emotions, and behavior—are extremely common. Worldwide, mental illness affects about 450 million people and accounts for 13.5% of the global burden of disease. About one in four people will have a mental health problem at some time in their life. For some people, this will be a short period of mild depression, anxiety, or stress. For others, it will be a serious, long-lasting condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. People with mental health problems need help and support from professionals and from their friends and families to help them cope with their illness but are often discriminated against, which can make their illness worse. Treatments include counseling and psychotherapy (talking therapies), and psychotropic medicines—drugs that act mainly on the brain. Left untreated, many people with serious mental illnesses commit suicide.
Why Was This Study Done?
About 80% of people with mental illnesses live in low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs) where up to 85% of patients remain untreated. Access to psychotropic medicines, which constitute an essential and cost-effective component in the treatment of mental illnesses, is particularly poor in many LAMICs. To improve this situation, it is necessary to understand what health systems factors limit the availability and affordability of psychotropic drugs; a health system is the sum of all the organizations, institutions, and resources that act together to improve health. In this cross-sectional study, the researchers look for associations between specific health system components and access to psychotropic medicines by analyzing data collected from LAMICs using the World Health Organization's Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS). A cross-sectional study analyzes data collected at a single time. WHO-AIMS, which was created to evaluate mental health systems primarily in LAMICs, is a 155-item survey that Ministries of Health and other country-based agencies can use to collect information on mental health indicators.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used WHO-AIMS data from 63 countries/country regions and multiple regression analysis to evaluate the role of mental health legislation, human rights implementation, mental health care financing, human resources, and advocacy in shaping medicine availability and affordability. For each of these health systems domains, the researchers developed one or more summary measurements. For example, they measured financing as the percentage of government health expenditure directed toward mental health. Availability of psychotropic medicines was defined as the percentage of mental health facilities in which at least one psychotropic medication for each therapeutic category was always available. Affordability was measured by calculating the percentage of daily minimum wage needed to purchase medicine by the average consumer. The availability of psychotropic medicines was related to features of all five mental health systems domains, report the researchers. Notably, having a national mental health plan (part of the legislation domain) and the participation (advocacy) of family-based organizations in mental health legislation formulation were associated with 15% and 17% greater availability of medicines, respectively. By contrast, only the levels of human resources and financing, and the availability of mental health care in prisons (part of the human rights domain) were associated with the affordability of psychotropic medicines. Once overall country development was taken into account, most of the associations between health systems factors and medicine availability remained significant, while the associations between health systems factors and medicine affordability were no longer significant. In part, this was because country development was more strongly associated with affordability and explained most of the relationships: for example, countries with greater overall development have higher expenditures on mental health and greater medicine affordability compared to availability.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that access to psychotropic medicines in LAMICs is related to key components within the mental health systems of these countries but that availability and affordability are affected to different extents by these components. They also show that country development plays a strong role in determining affordability but has less effect on determining availability. Because cross-sectional data were used in this study, these findings only indicate associations; they do not imply causality. They are also limited by the relatively small number of observations included in this study, by the methods used to collect mental health systems data in many LAMICs, and by the possibility that some countries may have reported biased results. Despite these limitations, these findings suggest that strengthening specific mental health system features may be an important way to facilitate access to psychotropic medicines but also highlight the role that country wealth and development play in promoting the treatment of mental disorders.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001166.
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of mental health (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information on mental health; its Live Well feature provides practical advice on dealing with mental health problems and personal stories
The UK charity Mind provides further information about mental illness, including personal stories
MedlinePlus provides links to many other sources of information on mental health (in English and Spanish)
Information on WHO-AIMS, including versions of the instrument in several languages, and WHO-AIMS country reports are available
PMCID: PMC3269418  PMID: 22303288

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