The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Malawi poses multiple challenges from an equity perspective. It is estimated that 12% of Malawians are living with HIV or AIDS among the 15-49 age group. This paper synthesises available information to bring an equity lens on Counselling and Testing (CT) and Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) policy, practice and provision in Malawi.
A synthesis of a wide range of published and unpublished reports and studies using a variety of methodological approaches was undertaken. The analysis and recommendations were developed, through consultation with key stakeholders in Malawi.
At the policy level Malawi is unique in having an equity in access to ART policy, and equity considerations are also included in key CT documents. The number of people accessing CT has increased considerably from 149,540 in 2002 to 482,364 in 2005. There is urban bias in provision of CT and more women than men access CT. ART has been provided free since June 2004 and scale up of ART provision is gathering pace. By end December 2006, there were 85,168 patients who had ever started on ART in both the public and private health sector, 39% of the patients were male while 61% were female. The majority of patients were adults, and 7% were children, aged 14 years or below. Despite free ART services, patients, especially poor rural patients face significant barriers in access and adherence to services. There are missed opportunities in strengthening integration between CT and ART and TB, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and maternal health services.
To promote equitable access for CT and ART in Malawi there is need to further invest in human resources for health, and seize opportunities to integrate CT and ART services with tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections and maternal health services. This should not only promote access to services but also ensure that resources available for CT and ART strengthen rather than undermine the provision of the essential health package in Malawi. Ongoing equity analysis of services is important in analyzing which groups are unrepresented in services and developing initiatives to address these. Creative models of decentralization, whilst maintaining quality of services are needed to further enhance access of poor rural women, men, girls and boys.
Public-private collaborations are increasingly being utilized to universalize health care. In Malawi, the Ministry of Health contracts selected health facilities owned by the main faith-based provider, the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM), to deliver care at no fee to the most vulnerable and underserved populations in the country through Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This study examined the features of SLAs and their effectiveness in expanding universal coverage. The study involved a policy analysis focusing on key stakeholders around SLAs as well as a case study approach to analyse how design and implementation of SLAs affect efficiency, equity and sustainability of services delivered by SLAs.
The study employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods to address the research questions and was conducted in five CHAM health facilities: Mulanje Mission, Holy Family, and Mtengowanthenga Hospitals, and Mabiri and Nkope Health Centres. National and district level decision makers were interviewed while providers and clients associated with the health facilities were surveyed on their experiences. A total of 155 clients from an expected 175 were recruited in the study.
The study findings revealed key aspects of how SLAs were operating, the extent to which their objectives were being attained and why. In general, the findings demonstrated that SLAs had the potential to improve health and universal health care coverage, particularly for the vulnerable and underserved populations. However, the findings show that the performance of SLAs in Malawi were affected by various factors including lack of clear guidelines, non-revised prices, late payment of bills, lack of transparency, poor communication, inadequate human and material resources, and lack of systems to monitor performance of SLAs, amongst others.
There was strong consensus and shared interest between the government and CHAM regarding SLAs. It was clear that free services provided by SLAs had a great impact on the impoverished locals that used the facilities. However, lack of supporting systems, inadequate infrastructure and shortage of health care providers affected SLA performance. The paper provides recommendations to policy makers for the replication and strengthening of SLA implementation in the roll-out of universalization policy.
Health policy; Financial risk protection; Policy analysis; Universal coverage
Two crises dominate the health sectors of sub-Saharan African countries: those of human resources and of HIV. Nevertheless, there is considerable variation in the extent to which these two phenomena affect sub-Saharan countries, with a few facing extreme levels of both: Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Malawi.
This paper reviews the continent-wide situation with respect to this double burden before considering the case of Malawi in more detail. In Malawi, there has been significant concurrent investment in both an Emergency Human Resource Programme and an antiretroviral therapy programme which was treating 60,000 people by the end of 2006. Both areas of synergy and conflict have arisen, as the two programmes have been implemented. These highlight important issues for programme planners and managers to address and emphasize that planning for the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy while simultaneously strengthening health systems and the human resource situation requires prioritization among compelling cases for support, and time (not just resources).
In Malawi, high case fatality rates in patients with tuberculosis, who were also co-infected with HIV, and high early death rates in people living with HIV during the initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) adversely impacted on treatment outcomes for the national tuberculosis and ART programmes respectively. This article i) discusses the operational research that was conducted in the country on cotrimoxazole preventive therapy, ii) outlines the steps that were taken to translate these findings into national policy and practice, iii) shows how the implementation of cotrimoxazole preventive therapy for both TB patients and HIV-infected patients starting ART was associated with reduced death rates, and iv) highlights lessons that can be learnt for other settings and interventions.
District and facility-based operational research was undertaken between 1999 and 2005 to assess the effectiveness of cotrimoxazole preventive therapy in reducing death rates in TB patients and subsequently in patients starting ART under routine programme conditions. Studies demonstrated significant reductions in case fatality in HIV-infected TB patients receiving cotrimoxazole and in HIV-infected patients about to start ART. Following the completion of research, the findings were rapidly disseminated nationally at stakeholder meetings convened by the Ministry of Health and internationally through conferences and peer-reviewed scientific publications. The Ministry of Health made policy changes based on the available evidence, following which there was countrywide distribution of the updated policy and guidelines. Policy was rapidly moved to practice with the development of monitoring tools, drug procurement and training packages. National programme performance improved which showed a significant decrease in case fatality rates in TB patients as well as a reduction in early death in people with HIV starting ART.
Key lessons for moving this research endeavour through to policy and practice were the importance of placing operational research within the programme, defining relevant questions, obtaining "buy-in" from national programme staff at the beginning of projects and having key actors or "policy entrepreneurs" to push forward the policy-making process. Ultimately, any change in policy and practice has to benefit patients, and the ultimate judge of success is whether treatment outcomes improve or not.
Operational research; cotrimoxazole preventive therapy; tuberculosis; HIV/AIDS; Malawi; Africa
The sector wide approach (SWAp) used in many developing countries is difficult to assess. One way is to consider the essential health package (EHP) which is commonly the vehicle for a SWAp's policies and plans. It is not possible to measure the impact of an EHP by measuring health outcomes in countries such as Malawi. But it is possible to assess the choice of interventions and their delivery in terms of coverage. This paper describes an attempt to assess the Malawi SWAp through its EHP using these available measures of technical efficiency.
A burden of disease model was used to identify the priority diseases and their estimated incidence. Data from the health management information system (HMIS) were used to measure the coverage of these interventions. A review of the cost-effectiveness of the chosen and potential interventions was undertaken to assess the appropriateness of each intervention used in the EHP. Expenditure data were used to assess the level of funding of the EHP.
33 of the 55 EHP interventions were found to be potentially cost-effective (<$150/DALY), 12 were not so cost-effective (>$150/DALY) and cost-effective estimates were not available for ten. 15 potential interventions, which were cost-effective and tackling one of the top 20 ranked diseases, were identified.
Provision had increased in nearly all EHP services over the period of the SWAp. The rates of out patient attendances and inpatient days per 1000 population had both increased from 929 attendances in 2002/3 to 1135 in 2007/08 and from 124 inpatient days in 2002/03 to 179 in 2007/08.
However, by 2007/08 the mean gap between what was required and what was provided was 0.68 of the estimated need. Two services involving the treatment of malaria were overprovided, but the majority were underprovided, with some such as maternity care providing less than half of what was required.
The EHP was under-funded throughout the period covering on average 57% of necessary costs. By 2007/08 the funding paid by SWAp partners including the government of Malawi to fund the EHP was at US$13.5 per capita per annum, which was almost half of the revised EHP estimated required expenditure per capita per annum.
The SWAp had invested in some very cost-effective health interventions. In terms of numbers of patients treated, the EHP had delivered two thirds of the services required. This was despite serious under-funding of the EHP, an increase in the population and shortage of staff.
The identification of interventions of proven effectiveness and good value for money and earmarked funding through a SWAp process can produce measurable improvement in health service delivery at extremely low cost.
The rise in tuberculosis (TB) incidence following generalized HIV epidemics can overwhelm TB control programmes in resource-limited settings, sometimes accompanied by rising rates of drug resistance. This has led to claims that DOTS-based TB control has failed in such settings. However, few studies have described the effect of a sustained and well-supported DOTS programme on TB incidence and drug resistance over a long period. We present long-term trends in incidence and drug resistance in rural Malawi.
Karonga District in northern Malawi has an adult HIV prevalence of ∼10%. A research group, the Karonga Prevention Study, collaborates with the National Tuberculosis Programme to support core TB control activities. Bacteriological, demographic and clinical (including HIV status) information from all patients starting TB treatment in the District have been recorded since 1988. During that period isolates from each culture-positive TB patient were exported for drug sensitivity testing. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been widely available since 2005.
Incidence of new smear-positive adult TB peaked at 124/100,000/year in the mid-90s, but has since fallen to 87/100,000/year. Drug sensitivity information was available for 95% (3132/3307) of all culture-positive cases. Initial resistance to isoniazid was around 6% with no evidence of an increase. Fewer than 1% of episodes involved a multi-drug resistant strain.
In this setting with a generalised HIV epidemic and medium TB burden, a well-supported DOTS programme enhanced by routine culture and drug sensitivity testing may well have reduced TB incidence and maintained drug resistance at low levels.
HIV/AIDS affects all sectors of the population and the defence forces are not exempt. A national survey was conducted in all public and private sectors in Malawi that provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to determine the uptake of ART by army personnel, their outcomes while on treatment, and the impact of ART on mortality in the Malawi Defence Force.
A retrospective cohort analysis was carried out, collecting data on access and retention on treatment from all 103 public and 38 private sector ART clinics in Malawi, using standardised patient master cards and clinic registers. Observations were censored on December 31st 2006. Independent data on mortality trends in army personnel from all causes between 2002 and 2006 were available from army records. By December 31st 2006, there were 85,168 patients ever started on ART in both public and private sectors, of whom 547 (0.7%) were army personnel. Of these, 22% started ART in WHO clinical stage 1 or 2 with a CD4-lymphocyte count of ≤250/mm3 and 78% started in stage 3 or 4. Treatment outcomes of army personnel by December 31st 2006 were:−365 (67%) alive and on ART at their registration facility, 98 (18%) transferred out to another facility, 71 (13%) dead, 9 (2%) lost to follow-up, and 4 (<1%) stopped treatment. The probability of being alive on ART at 6-, 12- and 18-months was 89.8%, 83.4% and 78.8% respectively. All-cause mortality in army personnel declined dramatically over the five year period from 2002–2006.
There has been a good access of army personnel to ART during the last five years with excellent outcomes, and this should serve as an example for other defence forces and large companies in the region.
The STOP TB Partnership aims to improve global tuberculosis (TB) control through expanding access to the directly observed treatment short course (DOTS) strategy. One approach to this is 'Engaging all Care Providers', which evolved from 'Public-Private Mix (PPM) DOTS'. The overall aim of this study was to systematically assess whether and to what degree the STOP TB Partnership's four global objectives of engaging all care providers are met through existing PPM interventions. These four objectives are; 1) Increase TB case detection; 2) Improve TB treatment outcomes; 3) Enhance access and equity; 4) Reduce financial burden on patients. The specific objectives of this assessment were to 1) Understand what PPM means to the STOP TB Partnership's PPM Subgroup and to National Tuberculosis Programme managers; 2) Scope the nature of existing country-level PPM interventions and 3) Review PPM practice against the global PPM objectives.
We undertook a systematic, multi-facetted assessment. The methods included interviews with National Tuberculosis Programme managers from high burden countries, clarification of key issues with the STOP TB Partnership PPM secretariat and a review of publicly accessible reports and published articles on PPM projects. Both the literature review and interviews with the National Tuberculosis Programme managers yielded data on project characteristics; PPM models at country level; National Tuberculosis Programme partners; and mechanisms for engagement. Matrices were developed from the literature review and the interviews to show the relationship between services and service providers for different PPM projects. Data from the literature were assessed against each of the four global PPM objectives.
Twelve National Tuberculosis Programme managers from high burden countries were interviewed about the scope of PPM partnerships. Understanding of PPM and types of engaged providers varied considerably; 'private-for-profit qualified clinical providers' were the dominant category. The literature review yielded information on 22 projects in which 'private-for-profit qualified clinical providers' were again the dominant category. The contributions made by 'private-for-profit qualified clinical providers' and 'Non Governmental Organisation qualified clinical providers', were assessed against the four global PPM objectives. Reporting on tuberculosis case detection and treatment outcomes was generally good and demonstrated important PPM contributions in these areas. Reporting on equity, access and reduced patient costs was often lacking or inconclusive.
PPM has improved case detection and treatment outcomes among patients seeking care with private providers. Evidence on reducing patient costs is inconclusive, and there is scope for increasing equity in access to care by systematically engaging those providers who are the primary agents for poor people seeking health care. Guidelines outlining which types of providers best contribute to achieving the four global objectives, along with the resources required by National Tuberculosis Programs for such engagement is needed.
Tuberculosis; Public-Private Mix; case detection; treatment outcome; equity; access; cost
In Africa, national governments and international organizations are focusing on rapidly "scaling up" malaria control interventions to at least 60 percent of vulnerable populations. The potential health and economic benefits of "scaling up" will depend on the equitable access to malaria control measures by the poor. This paper analyses the present inequalities in access to malaria interventions in Malawi.
Equity in access to malaria control measures was assessed using the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2000 and the 2004 national survey on malaria control. Utilisation of malaria control methods was compared across the wealth quintiles, to determine whether the poor were being reached with malaria control measures.
Overall ITN coverage increased from 5% in 2000 to 35% in 2004. However, there was a disproportionate concentration of ITNs amongst the least poor compared to the poorest group. Effective treatment of fever remains unacceptably low with only 17% of the under-five children being promptly treated with an effective antimalarial drug. And only 29 percent of pregnant women received the recommended dose of at least two doses during the pregnancy. No income related inequalities were associated with prompt treatment and IPT use.
The present distribution strategies for ITNs are not addressing the needs of the vulnerable groups, especially the poor. Increasing access to ITNs by the poor will require innovative distribution models which deliberately target the poorest of the poor.
In 2008 the Healthy Community Challenge Fund commissioned nine ‘Healthy Towns’ in England to implement and evaluate community-based environmental interventions to prevent obesity. This paper examines the role of evidence in informing intervention development, innovation, and the potential for programmes to contribute to the evidence base on the effectiveness of interventions that tackle population obesity.
Twenty qualitative interviews with local programme stakeholders and national policy actors were conducted. Interview transcripts were coded and thematically analysed. Initial analyses were guided by research questions regarding the nature and role of evidence in the development and implementation of the Healthy Towns programme and the capacity for evidence generation to inform future intervention design, policy and practice.
Stakeholders relied on local anecdotal and observational evidence to guide programme development. While the programme was considered an opportunity to trial new and innovative approaches, the requirement to predict likely health impacts and adopt evidence-based practice was viewed contradictory to this aim. Stakeholders believed there were missed opportunities to add to the existing empirical evidence base due to a lack of clarity and planning, particularly around timing, in local and national evaluations.
A strong emphasis on relying on existing evidence based practice and producing positive impacts and outcomes may have impeded the opportunity to implement truly innovative programmes because of fear of failure. Building more time for development, implementation and evaluation into future initiatives would maximise the use and generation of robust and relevant evidence for public health policy and practice.
Obesity; Public health policy; Health promotion; Health behaviour; Qualitative methods
In 2004, the Malawian Ministry of Health declared a human resource crisis and launched a six year Emergency Human Resources Programme. This included salary supplements for key health workers and a tripling of doctors in training. By 2010, the number of medical graduates had doubled and significantly more doctors were working in rural district hospitals. Yet there has been little research into the views of this next generation of doctors in Malawi, who are crucial to the continuing success of the programme. The aim of this study was to explore the factors influencing the career plans of medical students and recent graduates with regard to four policy-relevant aspects: emigration outside Malawi; working at district level; private sector employment and postgraduate specialisation.
Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with fourth year medical students and first year graduates, recruited through purposive and snowball sampling. Key informant interviews were also carried out with medical school faculty. Recordings were transcribed and analysed using a framework approach.
Opportunities for postgraduate training emerged as the most important factor in participants’ career choices, with specialisation seen as vital to career progression. All participants intended to work in Malawi in the long term, after a period of time outside the country. For nearly all participants, this was in the pursuit of postgraduate study rather than higher salaries. In general, medical students and young doctors were enthusiastic about working at district level, although this is curtailed by their desire for specialist training and frustration with resource shortages. There is currently little intention to move into the private sector.
Future resourcing of postgraduate training opportunities is crucial to preventing emigration as graduate numbers increase. The lesser importance put on salary by younger doctors may be an indicator of the success of salary supplements. In order to retain doctors at district levels for longer, consideration should be given to the introduction of general practice/family medicine as a specialty. Returning specialists should be encouraged to engage with younger colleagues as role models and mentors.
Doctors; Medical students; Postgraduate education; Specialisation; Malawi; Rural health; Brain drain; Emigration
Recent years have seen growing awareness of the importance of human resources for health in health systems and with it an intensifying of the international and national policies in place to steer a response. This paper looks at how governments and donors in five countries – Cameroon, Indonesia, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania – have translated such policies into action. More detailed information with regard to initiatives of German development cooperation brings additional depth to the range and entry doors of human resources for health initiatives from the perspective of donor cooperation.
This qualitative study systematically presents different approaches and stages to human resources for health development in a cross-country comparison. An important reference to capture implementation at country level was grey literature such as policy documents and programme reports. In-depth interviews along a predefined grid with national and international stakeholders in the five countries provided information on issues related to human resources for health policy processes and implementation.
All five countries have institutional entities in place and have drawn up national policies to address human resources for health. Only some of the countries have translated policies into strategies with defined targets and national programmes with budgets and operational plans. Traditional approaches of supporting training for individual health professionals continue to dominate. In some cases partners have played an advocacy and technical role to promote human resources for health development at the highest political levels, but usually they still focus on the provision of ad hoc training within their programmes, which may not be in line with national human resources for health development efforts or may even be counterproductive to them. Countries that face an emergency, such as Malawi, have intensified their efforts within a relatively short time and by using donor funding support also through new initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The country case studies illustrate the range of initiatives that have surged in recent years and some main trends in terms of donor initiatives. Though attention and priority attributed to human resources for health is increasing, there is still a focus on single initiatives and programmes. This can be explained in part by the complexity of the issue, and in part by its need to be addressed through a long-term approach including public sector and salary reforms that go beyond the health sector.
Long term retention of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa's rapidly expanding programmes is said to be 60% at 2 years. Many reports from African ART programmes make little mention of patients who are transferred out to another facility, yet Malawi's national figures show a transfer out of 9%. There is no published information about what happens to patients who transfer-out, but this is important because if they transfer-in and stay alive in these other facilities then national retention figures will be better than previously reported.
Of all patients started on ART over a three year period in Mzuzu Central Hospital, North Region, Malawi, those who transferred out were identified from the ART register and master cards. Clinic staff attempted to trace these patients to determine whether they had transferred in to a new ART facility and their outcome status. There were 805 patients (19% of the total cohort) who transferred out, of whom 737 (92%) were traced as having transferred in to a new ART facility, with a median time of 1.3 months between transferring-out and transferring-in. Survival probability was superior and deaths were lower in the transfer-out patients compared with those who did not transfer.
In Mzuzu Central Hospital, patients who transfer-out constitute a large proportion of patients not retained on ART at their original clinic of registration. Good documentation of transfer-outs and transfer-ins are needed to keep track of national outcomes. Furthermore, the current practice of regarding transfer-outs as being double counted in national cohorts and subtracting this number from the total national registrations to get the number of new patients started on ART is correct.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. In many settings, including South Africa, treatment outcomes remain poor. In contrast, many antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes are achieving high levels of adherence and good outcomes. The ART programme model for maintaining treatment adherence may therefore hold promise for TB treatment. Changing treatment models, however, requires an assessment of how staff receive the new model, as they are responsible for programme implementation. Using the normalization process model as an analytic framework, this paper aims to explore staff perceptions of a new TB treatment programme modelled on the ART treatment programme.
A qualitative approach was used. Interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with clinic staff from five intervention clinics. Data were analysed initially using qualitative content analysis. The resulting categories were then organised under the constructs of the normalization process model.
Staff recounted a number of challenges with implementing the programme. Interviews and focus group discussions identified factors relating to the main categories of the normalization process model. The key issues hindering the normalisation of the programme within clinics related to the interactional workability, relational integration and skill-set workability constructs of the model. These included hierarchical relationships, teamwork, training needs and insufficient internalisation by staff of the empowerment approach included in the programme. Logistical and management issues also impacted negatively on the normalization of the programme at the clinics.
The normalization process model assisted in categorising the challenges experienced during implementation of the intervention. The results suggest that issues remain that need to be resolved before the programme is implemented more widely. Considerable work is needed in order to embed the intervention in routine clinic practice.
Routine ART programme statistics generally only provide information about individuals who start treatment. We aimed to investigate the outcome of those who are eligible but do not start ART in the Malawi programme, factors associated with this dropout, and reasons for not starting treatment, in a prospective cohort study.
Individuals having a first screening visit at the ART clinic at Karonga District Hospital, northern Malawi, between September 2005 and July 2006 were interviewed. Study follow-up to identify treatment outcomes was conducted at the clinic and in the community. Logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with dropout before ART initiation among participants identified as clinically eligible for ART.
88 participants eligible for ART at their first screening visit (out of 633, 13.9%) defaulted before starting ART. Participants with less education, difficulties in dressing, a more delayed ART initiation appointment, and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) < 22 cm were significantly less likely to have visited the clinic subsequently. Thirty-five (58%) of the 60 participants who defaulted and were tracked at home had died, 21 before their ART initiation appointment.
MUAC and reported difficulties in dressing may provide useful screening indicators to identify sicker ART-eligible individuals at high risk of dropping out of the programme who might benefit from being brought back quickly or admitted to hospital for observation. Individuals with less education may need adapted health information at screening. Deaths of ART-eligible individuals occurring prior to ART initiation are not included in routine programme statistics. Considering all those who are eligible for ART as a denominator for programme indicators would help to highlight this vulnerable group, in order to identify new opportunities for further improving ART programmes.
HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect on the education sector in sub-Saharan Africa. A national survey was conducted in all public sector and private sector facilities in Malawi providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to determine the uptake of ART by teachers and their outcomes while on treatment.
A retrospective cohort study was carried out based on patient follow-up records from ART Registers and treatment master cards in all 138 ART clinics in Malawi; observations were censored on September 30th 2006. By this date, Malawi's 102 public sector and 36 private sector ART clinics had registered a total of 72,328 patients for treatment. Of these, 2,643 (3.7%) were teachers. Adjusting for double-registration caused by clinic transfers, it is estimated that 2,380 individual teachers had ever accessed ART. There were 15% of teachers starting ART in WHO clinical stage 1 or 2 with a CD4-lymphocyte count of ≤250/mm3 and 85% starting in stage 3 or 4. By 30th September 2006, 1,850 teachers were alive on ART (3.5% of all teachers in Malawi). The probability of being alive on ART at 6-months, 12-months, 18-months and 24-months after treatment initiation was 84%, 79%, 75% and 73% respectively. Retention in treatment was better for women (adjusted HR = 1.8) and in those starting ART in WHO Clinical Stage 1 and 2 (adjusted HR = 1.8).
Rapid scale up of ART has allowed 2,380 HIV-positive teachers to access life-prolonging treatment. There is evidence that this intervention can help to mitigate some of the shortages of teaching personnel in resource-poor countries affected by a generalised HIV epidemic.
Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem in India with the country accounting for one-fifth or 21% of all tuberculosis cases reported globally. The purpose of the study was to obtain an understanding on pro-poor initiatives within the framework of tuberculosis control programme in India and to identify mechanisms to improve the uptake and access to TB services among the poor.
A national level workshop was held with participation from all relevant stakeholder groups. This study conducted during the stakeholder workshop adopted participatory research methods. The data was elicited through consultative and collegiate processes. The research study also factored information from primary and secondary sources that included literature review examining poverty headcount ratios and below poverty line population in the country; and quasi-profiling assessments to identify poor, backward and tribal districts as defined by the TB programme in India.
Results revealed that current pro-poor initiatives in TB control included collaboration with private providers and engaging community to improve access among the poor to TB diagnostic and treatment services. The participants identified gaps in existing pro-poor strategies that related to implementation of advocacy, communication and social mobilisation; decentralisation of DOT; and incentives for the poor through the available schemes for public-private partnerships and provided key recommendations for action. Synergies between TB control programme and centrally sponsored social welfare schemes and state specific social welfare programmes aimed at benefitting the poor were unclear.
Further in-depth analysis and systems/policy/operations research exploring pro-poor initiatives, in particular examining service delivery synergies between existing poverty alleviation schemes and TB control programme is essential. The understanding, reflection and knowledge of the key stakeholders during this participatory workshop provides recommendations for action, further planning and research on pro-poor TB centric interventions in the country.
Tuberculosis control; Poverty; India
Maternal death reviews is a tool widely recommended to improve the quality of obstetric care and reduce maternal mortality. Our aim was to explore the challenges encountered in the process of facility-based maternal death review in Malawi, and to suggest sustainable and logically sound solutions to these challenges.
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the process of maternal death review during a workshop in Malawi.
Strengths: Availability of data from case notes, support from hospital management, and having maternal death review forms. Weaknesses: fear of blame, lack of knowledge and skills to properly conduct death reviews, inadequate resources and missing documentation. Opportunities: technical assistance from expatriates, support from the Ministry of Health, national protocols and high maternal mortality which serves as motivation factor. Threats: Cultural practices, potential lawsuit, demotivation due to the high maternal mortality and poor planning at the district level. Solutions: proper documentation, conducting maternal death review in a blame-free manner, good leadership, motivation of staff, using guidelines, proper stock inventory and community involvement.
Challenges encountered during facility-based maternal death review are provider-related, administrative, client related and community related. Countries with similar socioeconomic profiles to Malawi will have similar 'pull-and-push' factors on the process of facility-based maternal death reviews, and therefore we will expect these countries to have similar potential solutions.
Recent studies have shown evidence of a direct and positive causal link between the number of health workers and health outcomes. Several studies have identified an adequate health workforce as one of the key ingredients to achieving improved health outcomes. Global health initiatives are faced with human resources issues as a major, system-wide constraint. This article explores how the Global Fund addresses the challenges of a health workforce bottleneck to the successful implementation of priority disease programmes.
Possibilities for investment in human resources in the Global Fund's policy documents and guidelines are reviewed. This is followed by an in-depth study of 35 Global Fund proposals from five African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. The discussion presents specific human resources interventions that can be found in proposals. Finally, the comments on human resources interventions in the Global Fund's Technical Review Panel and the budget allocation for human resources for health were examined.
Policy documents and guidelines of the Global Fund foster taking account of human resources constraints in recipient countries and interventions to address them. However, the review of actual proposals clearly shows that countries do not often take advantage of their opportunities and focus mainly on short-term, in-service training in their human resources components.
The comments of the Technical Review Panel on proposed health system-strengthening interventions reveal a struggle between the Global Fund's goal to fight the three targeted diseases, on the one hand, and the need to strengthen health systems as a prerequisite for success, on the other. In realizing the opportunities the Global Fund provides for human resources interventions, countries should go beyond short-term objectives and link their activities to a long-term development of their human resources for health.
Mapping distribution of lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a prerequisite for planning national elimination programmes. Results from a nation wide mapping survey for lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Malawi are presented. Thirty-five villages were sampled from 23 districts excluding three districts (Karonga, Chikwawa and Nsanje) that had already been mapped and Likoma, an Island, where access was not possible in the time frame of the survey. Antigenaemia prevalence [based on immunochromatographic card tests (ICT)] ranged from 0% to 35.9%. Villages from the western side of the country and distant from the lake tended to be of lower prevalence. The exception was a village in Mchinji district on the Malawi-Zambia border where a prevalence of 18.2% was found. In contrast villages from lake shore districts [Salima, Mangochi, Balaka and Ntcheu (Bwanje valley)] and Phalombe had prevalences of over 20%.
A national map is developed which incorporates data from surveys in Karonga, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts, carried out in 2000. There is a marked decline in prevalence with increasing altitude. Further analysis revealed a strong negative correlation (R2 = 0.7 p < 0.001) between altitude and prevalence. These results suggest that the lake shore, Phalombe plain and the lower Shire valley will be priority areas for the Malawi LF elimination programme. Implications of these findings as regards implementing a national LF elimination programme in Malawi are discussed.
India's Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is deemed highly successful in terms of detection and cure rates. However, some patients experience delays in accessing diagnosis and treatment. Patients falling between the 96th and 100th percentiles for these access indicators are often ignored as atypical 'outliers' when assessing programme performance. They may, however, provide clues to understanding why some patients never reach the programme. This paper examines the underlying vulnerabilities of patients with extreme values for delays in accessing the RNTCP in Mumbai city, India.
We conducted a cross-sectional study with 266 new sputum positive patients registered with the RNTCP in Mumbai. Patients were classified as 'outliers' if patient, provider and system delays were beyond the 95th percentile for the respective variable. Case profiles of 'outliers' for patient, provider and system delays were examined and compared with the rest of the sample to identify key factors responsible for delays.
Forty-two patients were 'outliers' on one or more of the delay variables. All 'outliers' had a significantly lower per capita income than the remaining sample. The lack of economic resources was compounded by social, structural and environmental vulnerabilities. Longer patient delays were related to patients' perception of symptoms as non-serious. Provider delays were incurred as a result of private providers' failure to respond to tuberculosis in a timely manner. Diagnostic and treatment delays were minimal, however, analysis of the 'outliers' revealed the importance of social support in enabling access to the programme.
A proxy for those who fail to reach the programme, these case profiles highlight unique vulnerabilities that need innovative approaches by the RNTCP. The focus on 'outliers' provides a less resource- and time-intensive alternative to community-based studies for understanding the barriers to reaching public health programmes.
About 80% of new tuberculosis cases in Norway occur among immigrants from high incidence countries. On arrival to the country all asylum seekers are screened with Mantoux test and chest x-ray aimed to identify cases of active tuberculosis and, in the case of latent tuberculosis, to offer follow-up or prophylactic treatment.
We assessed a national programme for screening, treatment and follow-up of tuberculosis infection and disease in a cohort of asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers ≥ 18 years who arrived at the National Reception Centre from January 2005 to June 2006, were included as the total cohort. Those with a Mantoux test ≥ 6 mm or positive x-ray findings were included in a study group for follow-up.
Data were collected from public health authorities in the municipality to where the asylum seekers had moved, and from hospital based internists in case they had been referred to specialist care.
Individual subjects included in the study group were matched with the Norwegian National Tuberculosis Register which receive reports of everybody diagnosed with active tuberculosis, or who had started treatment for latent tuberculosis.
The total cohort included 4643 adult asylum seekers and 97.5% had a valid Mantoux test. At least one inclusion criterion was fulfilled by 2237 persons. By end 2007 municipal public health authorities had assessed 758 (34%) of them. Altogether 328 persons had been seen by an internist. Of 314 individuals with positive x-rays, 194 (62%) had seen an internist, while 86 of 568 with Mantoux ≥ 15, but negative x-rays (16%) were also seen by an internist. By December 31st 2006, 23 patients were diagnosed with tuberculosis (prevalence 1028/100 000) and another 11 were treated for latent infection.
The coverage of screening was satisfactory, but fewer subjects than could have been expected from the national guidelines were followed up in the community and referred to an internist. To improve follow-up of screening results, a simplification of organisation and guidelines, introduction of quality assurance systems, and better coordination between authorities and between different levels of health care are all required.
Process evaluations of environmental public health interventions tend not to consider issues of spatial equity in programme delivery. However, an intervention is unlikely to be effective if it is not accessible to those in need. Methods are required to enable these considerations to be integrated into evaluations. Using the Healthy Towns programme in England, we demonstrate the potential of spatial equity analysis in the evaluation of environmental interventions for diet and physical activity, examining whether the programme was delivered to those in greatest need.
Locations of new physical infrastructure, such as cycle lanes, gyms and allotments, were mapped using a geographic information system. A targeting ratio was computed to indicate how well-located the infrastructure was in relation to those at whom it was specifically aimed, as detailed in the relevant project documentation, as well as to generally disadvantaged populations defined in terms of UK Census data on deprivation, age and ethnicity. Differences in targeting were examined using Kruskal-Wallis and t-tests.
The 183 separate intervention components identified were generally well located, with estimated targeting ratios above unity for all population groups of need, except for black and ethnic minorities and children aged 5–19 years. There was no evidence that clustering of population groups influenced targeting, or that trade-offs existed when components were specifically targeted at more than one group.
The analysis of spatial equity is a valuable initial stage in assessing the provision of environmental interventions. The Healthy Towns programme can be described as well targeted in that interventions were for the most part located near populations of need.
Spatial inequalities; Healthy towns; Process evaluation; Intervention
Childhood tuberculosis (TB) is a preventable and curable infectious disease that remains overlooked by public health authorities, health policy makers and TB control programmes. Childhood TB contributes significantly to the burden of disease and represents the failure to control transmission in the community. Furthermore, the pool of infected children constitutes a reservoir of infection for the future burden of TB. It is time to prioritise childhood TB, advocate for addressing the challenges and grasp the opportunities in its prevention and control. Herein, we propose a scientifically informed advocacy agenda developed at the International Childhood TB meeting held in Stockholm, Sweden, from March 17 to 18, 2011, which calls for a renewed effort to improve the situation for children affected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis exposure, infection or disease. The challenges and needs in childhood TB are universal and apply to all settings and must be addressed more effectively by all stakeholders.
Control; infectious disease; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; public health
This article discusses the link between disability and malaria in a poor rural setting. Global malaria programmes and rehabilitation programmes are organized as vertical and separate programmes, and as such they focus on prevention, cure and control, and disability respectively. When looking at specific conditions and illnesses, the impairing long-term consequences of illness incidents during childhood are not questioned.
The study design was ethnographic with an open, exploratory approach. Data were collected in Mangochi District in Malawi through qualitative in-depth interviews and participant observation.
Despite a local-based health service system, people living in poor rural areas are confronted with a multitude of barriers when accessing malaria prevention and treatment. Lack of skilled health personnel and equipment add to the general burden of poverty: insufficient knowledge about health care, problems connected to accessing the health facility in time, insufficient initiatives to prevent malaria attacks, and a general lack of attention to the long term disabling effects of a malaria attack.
This study points to the importance of building malaria programmes, research and statistics that take into consideration the consequences of permanent impairment after a malaria attack, as well as the context of poverty in which they often occur. In order to do so, one needs to develop methods for detecting people whose disabilities are a direct result of not having received health services after a malaria episode. This may be done through qualitative approaches in local communities and should also be supplemented by suitable surveys in order to estimate the problem on a larger scale.
Health policy; Disability; Poverty; Rehabilitation