Evidence from population-based studies on the economic burden imposed by chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) is still sparse in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our study aimed to fill this existing gap in knowledge by estimating both the household direct, indirect, and total costs incurred due to CNCDs and the economic burden households bear as a result of these costs in Malawi.
The study used data from the first round of a longitudinal household health survey conducted in 2012 in three rural districts in Malawi. A cost-of-illness method was applied to estimate the economic burden of CNCDs. Indicators of catastrophic spending and impoverishment were used to estimate the economic burden imposed by CNCDs on households.
A total 475 out of 5643 interviewed individuals reported suffering from CNCDs. Mean total costs of all reported CNCDs were 1,040.82 MWK, of which 56.8 % was contributed by direct costs. Individuals affected by chronic cardiovascular conditions and chronic neuropsychiatric conditions bore the highest levels of direct, indirect, and total costs. Using a threshold of 10 % of household non-food expenditure, 21.3 % of all households with at least one household member reporting a CNCD and seeking care for such a condition incurred catastrophic spending due to CNCDs. The poorest households were more likely to incur catastrophic spending due to CNCDs. An additional 1.7 % of households reporting a CNCD fell under the international poverty line once considering direct costs due to CNCDs.
Our study showed that the economic burden of CNCDs is high, causes catastrophic spending, and aggravates poverty in rural Malawi, a country where in principle basic care for CNCDs should be offered free of charge at point of use through the provision of an Essential Health Package (EHP). Our findings further indicated that particularly high direct, indirect, and total costs were linked to specific diagnoses, although costs were high even for conditions targeted by the EHP. Our findings point at clear gaps in coverage in the current Malawian health system and call for further investments to ensure adequate affordable care for people suffering from CNCDs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1716-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Chronic non-communicable diseases; Economic burden; Malawi; Catastrophic health expenditure
There is a global epidemic of non-communicable disease including chronic lung disease [1–3]. In the case of chronic lung disease, this challenge plays out in the context of a high burden of communicable diseases and pulmonary tuberculosis in particular.
Digital technology solutions pave the way for a lung health trial in rural Malawi
Equitable access to health care is a challenge in many low-income countries. The most vulnerable segments of any population face increased challenges, as their vulnerability amplifies problems of the general population. This implies a heavy burden on informal care-givers in their immediate and extended households. However, research falls short of explaining the particular challenges experienced by these individuals and households. To build an evidence base from the ground, we present a single case study to explore and understand the individual experience, to honour what is distinctive about the story, but also to use the individual story to raise questions about the larger context.
We use a single qualitative case study approach to provide an in-depth, contextual and household perspective on barriers, facilitators, and consequences of care provided to persons with disability and HIV.
The results from this study emphasise the burden that caring for an HIV positive and disabled family member places on an already impoverished household, and the need for support, not just for the HIV positive and disabled person, but for the entire household.
Disability and HIV do not only affect the individual, but the whole household, immediate and extended. It is crucial to consider the interconnectedness of the challenges faced by an individual and a household. Issues of health (physical and mental), disability, employment, education, infrastructure (transport/terrain) and poverty are all related and interconnected, and should be addressed as a whole in order to secure equity in health.
Disability; HIV; Care; Household; Malawi
Knowledge and perceptions about tuberculosis (TB) can influence care-seeking behavior and adherence to treatment. Previous studies in Malawi were conducted to assess knowledge and attitudes regarding TB in adults, with limited data on knowledge in children.
This study assessed knowledge and perceptions about TB in children aged 10–14 years attending primary school in Ntcheu District, Malawi.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in four primary schools in Ntcheu District. Data on knowledge and perception of TB were collected using a structured questionnaire. Pearson chi-square test was used to determine the association between socioeconomic factors and TB knowledge and perception. A P<0.05 was considered significant.
The study found that the learners had high knowledge regarding the cause, spread, and TB preventive measures. Almost 90% of learners knew that TB is caused by a germ, however, a lower proportion knew about TB symptoms ie, night sweats (49%) and enlarged cervical lymph nodes (40%). We found that 68% of learners did not know the duration of anti-TB treatment. No association was found between age, learners’ grade, and knowledge (P>0.05).
Lack of knowledge regarding TB and gaps identified, may be due to a deficiency in the content of the school curriculum or the availability of information, education, and communication materials. This is the first study to report on knowledge and perceptions of TB among primary school learners in Malawi. These results will inform the development of relevant information, education, and communication materials to enhance awareness about TB among school going children.
tuberculosis; knowledge; perceptions; health seeking; adherence; Malawi
In developing countries like Malawi, further investigation is rare after patients with chronic cough test negative for tuberculosis. Chronic airways disease has presentations that overlap with tuberculosis. However, chronic airways disease is often unrecognised due to a lack of diagnostic services. Within developing countries, referral systems at primary health care level are weak and patients turn to unskilled informal health providers to seek health care. Delayed diagnosis and treatment of these diseases facilitates increased severity and tuberculosis transmission.
The World Health Organisation developed the Practical Approach to Lung Health strategy which has been shown to improve the management of both tuberculosis and chronic airways disease. The guidelines address the need for integrated guidelines for tuberculosis and chronic airways disease. Engaging with informal health providers has been shown to be effective in improving health services uptake. However, it is not known whether engaging community informal health providers would have a positive impact in the implementation of the Practical Approach to Lung Health strategy. We will use a cluster randomised controlled trial to determine the effect of using the two interventions to improve case detection and treatment of patients with tuberculosis and chronic airways disease.
A three-arm cluster randomised trial design will be used. A primary health centre catchment population will form a cluster, which will be randomly allocated to one of the arms. The first arm personnel will receive the Practical Approach to Lung Health strategy intervention. In addition to this strategy, the second arm personnel will receive training of informal health providers. The third arm is the control. The effect of interventions will be evaluated by community surveys. Data regarding the diagnosis and management of chronic cough will be gathered from primary health centres.
This trial seeks to determine the effect of Informal Health Provider and Practical Approach to Lung Health interventions on the detection and management of chronic airways disease and tuberculosis at primary care level in Malawi.
The unique identification number for the registry is PACTR201411000910192 – 21 November 2014
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-1068-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Tuberculosis; Chronic airways disease; Non-communicable disease; Practical Approach to Lung Health
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the main causes of death in developing countries. Awareness and perception of risk of TB could influence early detection, diagnosis and care seeking at treatment centers. However, perceptions about TB are influenced by sources of information.
This study aimed to determine the association between multiple sources of information, and perceptions of risk of TB among adults aged 18–49 years.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in Ntcheu district in Malawi. A total of 121 adults were sampled in a three-stage simple random sampling technique. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire. Perceptions of risk were measured using specific statements that reflected common myths and misconceptions. Low risk perception implied a person having strong belief in myths and misconceptions about TB and high risk perception meant a person having no belief in myths or misconceptions and demonstrated understanding of the disease.
Females were more likely to have low risk perceptions about TB compared to males (67.7% vs. 32.5%, p = 0.01). The higher the household asset index the more likely an individual had higher risk perceptions about TB (p = 0.006). The perception of risk of TB was associated with sources of information (p = 0.03). Use of both interpersonal communication and mass media was 2.8 times more likely to be associated with increased perception of risk of TB (Odds Ratio [OR] = 2.8; 95% Confidence interva1[CI]: 3.1–15. 6; p = 0.01). After adjusting for sex and asset ownership, use of interpersonal communication and mass media were more likely to be associated with higher perception of risk of TB (OR, 2.0; 95% CI: 1.65–10.72; p = 0.003) compared with interpersonal communication only (OR 1.6, 95%; CI: 1.13–8.98, p = 0.027).
The study found that there was association between multiple sources of information, and higher perceptions of risk of TB among adults aged 18–49 years.
In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) the disease burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) is rising considerably. Given weaknesses in existing financial arrangements across SSA, expenditure on CNCDs is often borne directly by patients through out-of-pocket (OOP) payments. This study explored patterns and determinants of OOP expenditure on CNCDs in Malawi. We used data from the first round of a longitudinal household health survey conducted in 2012 on a sample of 1199 households in three rural districts in Malawi. We used a two-part model to analyze determinants of OOP expenditure on CNCDs. 475 respondents reported at least one CNCD. More than 60% of the 298 individuals who reported seeking care incurred OOP expenditure. The amount of OOP expenditure on CNCDs comprised 22% of their monthly per capita household expenditure. The poorer the household, the higher proportion of their monthly per capita household expenditure was spent on CNCDs. Higher severity of disease was significantly associated with an increased likelihood of incurring OOP expenditure. Use of formal care was negatively associated with the possibility of incurring OOP expenditure. The following factors were positively associated with the amount of OOP expenditure: being female, Alomwe and household head, longer duration of disease, CNCDs targeted through active screening programs, higher socio-economic status, household head being literate, using formal care, and fewer household members living with a CNCD within a household. Our study showed that, in spite of a context where care for CNCDs should in principle be available free of charge at point of use, OOP payments impose a considerable financial burden on rural households, especially among the poorest. This suggests the existence of important gaps in financial protection in the current coverage policy.
Chronic airway diseases pose a big challenge to health systems in most developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. A diagnosis for people with chronic or persistent cough is usually delayed because of individual and health system barriers. However, delayed diagnosis and treatment facilitates further transmission, severity of disease with complications and mortality. The objective of this study is to assess the cost-effectiveness of the practical approach to lung health strategy, a patient-centred approach for diagnosis and treatment of common respiratory illnesses in primary healthcare settings, as a means of strengthening health systems to improve the quality of management of respiratory diseases.
Economic evaluation nested in a cluster randomised controlled trial with three arms will be performed. Measures of effectiveness and costs for all arms of the study will be obtained from the cluster randomised controlled clinical trial. The main outcome measures are a combined rate of major respiratory diseases milestones and process indicators extracted from the practical approach to lung health strategy. For analysis, descriptive as well as regression techniques will be used. A cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed according to intention-to-treat principle and from a societal perspective. Cost-effectiveness ratios will be calculated using bootstrapping techniques.
We hope to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the practical approach to lung health and informal healthcare providers, see an improvement in patients’ quality of life, achieve a reduction in the duration and occurrence of episodes and the chronicity of respiratory diseases, and are able to report a decrease in the social cost. If the practical approach to lung health and informal healthcare provider’s interventions are cost-effective, they could be scaled up to all primary healthcare centres.
To document the prevalence of multidrug resistance among people newly diagnosed with – and those retreated for – tuberculosis in Malawi.
We conducted a nationally representative survey of people with sputum-smear-positive tuberculosis between 2010 and 2011. For all consenting participants, we collected demographic and clinical data, two sputum samples and tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).The samples underwent resistance testing at the Central Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe, Malawi. All Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates found to be multidrug-resistant were retested for resistance to first-line drugs – and tested for resistance to second-line drugs – at a Supranational Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in South Africa.
Overall, M. tuberculosis was isolated from 1777 (83.8%) of the 2120 smear-positive tuberculosis patients. Multidrug resistance was identified in five (0.4%) of 1196 isolates from new cases and 28 (4.8%) of 581 isolates from people undergoing retreatment. Of the 31 isolates from retreatment cases who had previously failed treatment, nine (29.0%) showed multidrug resistance. Although resistance to second-line drugs was found, no cases of extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis were detected. HIV testing of people from whom M. tuberculosis isolates were obtained showed that 577 (48.2%) of people newly diagnosed and 386 (66.4%) of people undergoing retreatment were positive.
The prevalence of multidrug resistance among people with smear-positive tuberculosis was low for sub-Saharan Africa – probably reflecting the strength of Malawi’s tuberculosis control programme. The relatively high prevalence of such resistance observed among those with previous treatment failure may highlight a need for a change in the national policy for retreating this subgroup of people with tuberculosis.
The government of Malawi is committed to the broad rollout of antiretroviral treatment in Malawi in the public health sector; however one of the primary challenges has been the shortage of trained health care workers. The Practical Approach to Lung Health Plus HIV/AIDS in Malawi (PALM PLUS) package is an innovative guideline and training intervention that supports primary care middle-cadre health care workers to provide front-line integrated primary care. The purpose of this paper is to describe the lessons learned in implementing the PALM PLUS package.
A clinical tool, based on algorithm- and symptom-based guidelines was adapted to the Malawian context. An accompanying training program based on educational outreach principles was developed and a cascade training approach was used for implementation of the PALM PLUS package in 30 health centres, targeting clinical officers, medical assistants, and nurses. Lessons learned were identified during program implementation through engagement with collaborating partners and program participants and review of program evaluation findings.
Key lessons learned for successful program implementation of the PALM PLUS package include the importance of building networks for peer-based support, ensuring adequate training capacity, making linkages with continuing professional development accreditation and providing modest in-service training budgets. The main limiting factors to implementation were turnover of staff and desire for financial training allowances.
The PALM PLUS approach is a potential model for supporting mid-level health care workers to provide front-line integrated primary care in low and middle income countries, and may be useful for future task-shifting initiatives.
training; educational outreach; task-shifting; continuing professional development; antiretroviral treatment; integrated primary care; nurses; clinical officers; medical assistants; health surveillance assistants; guideline; train-the-trainer; south-south collaboration; formation; sensibilisation; délégation de tâches; formation continue; soins primaires intégrés; personnel infirmier; personnel clinique; auxiliaires médicaux; adjoints à la surveillance sanitaire; lignes directrices; formation des formateurs; collaboration Sud-Sud
Primary Health Care (PHC) is a strategy endorsed for attaining equitable access to basic health care including treatment and prevention of endemic diseases. Thirty four years later, its implementation remains sub-optimal in most Sub-Saharan African countries that access to health interventions is still a major challenge for a large proportion of the rural population. Community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTi) and community-directed interventions (CDI) are participatory approaches to strengthen health care at community level. Both approaches are based on values and principles associated with PHC. The CDI approach has successfully been used to improve the delivery of interventions in areas that have previously used CDTi. However, little is known about the added value of community participation in areas without prior experience with CDTi. This study aimed at assessing PHC in two rural Malawian districts without CDTi experience with a view to explore the relevance of the CDI approach. We examined health service providers’ and beneficiaries’ perceptions on existing PHC practices, and their perspectives on official priorities and strategies to strengthen PHC.
We conducted 27 key informant interviews with health officials and partners at national, district and health centre levels; 32 focus group discussions with community members and in-depth interviews with 32 community members and 32 community leaders. Additionally, official PHC related documents were reviewed.
The findings show that there is a functional PHC system in place in the two study districts, though its implementation is faced with various challenges related to accessibility of services and shortage of resources. Health service providers and consumers shared perceptions on the importance of intensifying community participation to strengthen PHC, particularly within the areas of provision of insecticide treated bed nets, home case management for malaria, management of diarrhoeal diseases, treatment of schistosomiasis and provision of food supplements against malnutrition.
Our study indicates that intensified community participation based on the CDI approach can be considered as a realistic means to increase accessibility of certain vital interventions at community level.
Nearly 3 million people in resource-poor countries receive antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, yet millions more require treatment. Key barriers to treatment scale up are shortages of trained health care workers, and challenges integrating HIV/AIDS care with primary care.
PALM PLUS (Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV/AIDS in Malawi) is an intervention designed to simplify and integrate existing Malawian national guidelines into a single, simple, user-friendly guideline for mid-level health care workers. Training utilizes a peer-to-peer educational outreach approach. Research is being undertaken to evaluate this intervention to generate evidence that will guide future decision-making for consideration of roll out in Malawi. The research consists of a cluster randomized trial in 30 public health centres in Zomba District that measures the effect of the intervention on staff satisfaction and retention, quality of patient care, and costs through quantitative, qualitative and health economics methods.
Results and outcomes
In the first phase of qualitative inquiry respondents from intervention sites demonstrated in-depth knowledge of PALM PLUS compared to those from control sites. Participants in intervention sites felt that the PALM PLUS tool empowered them to provide better health services to patients. Interim staff retention data shows that there were, on average, 3 to 4 staff departing from the control and intervention sites per month. Additional qualitative, quantitative and economic analyses are planned.
Dignitas International and the Knowledge Translation Unit at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute have led the adaptation and development of the PALM PLUS intervention, using experience gained through the implementation of the South African precursor, PALSA PLUS. The Malawian partners, REACH Trust and the Research Unit at the Ministry of Health, have led the qualitative and economic evaluations. Dignitas and Ministry of Health have facilitated interaction with implementers and policy-makers.
Challenges and successes
This initiative is an example of South-South knowledge translation between South Africa and Malawi, mediated by a Canadian academic-NGO hybrid. Our success in developing and rolling out PALM PLUS in Malawi suggests that it is possible to adapt and implement this intervention for use in other resource-limited settings.
Only about one-third of eligible HIV/AIDS patients receive anti-retroviral treatment (ART). Decentralizing treatment is crucial to wider and more equitable access, but key obstacles are a shortage of trained healthcare workers (HCW) and challenges integrating HIV/AIDS care with other primary care. This report describes the development of a guideline and training program (PALM PLUS) designed to integrate HIV/AIDS care with other primary care in Malawi. PALM PLUS was adapted from PALSA PLUS, developed in South Africa, and targets middle-cadre HCWs (clinical officers, nurses, and medical assistants). We adapted it to align with Malawi's national treatment protocols, more varied healthcare workforce, and weaker health system infrastructure.
The international research team included the developers of the PALSA PLUS program, key Malawi-based team members and personnel from national and district level Ministry of Health (MoH), professional associations, and an international non-governmental organization. The PALSA PLUS guideline was extensively revised based on Malawi national disease-specific guidelines. Advice and input was sought from local clinical experts, including middle-cadre personnel, as well as Malawi MoH personnel and representatives of Malawian professional associations.
An integrated guideline adapted to Malawian protocols for adults with respiratory conditions, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other primary care conditions was developed. The training program was adapted to Malawi's health system and district-level supervision structure. PALM PLUS is currently being piloted in a cluster-randomized trial in health centers in Malawi (ISRCTN47805230).
The PALM PLUS guideline and training intervention targets primary care middle-cadre HCWs with the objective of improving HCW satisfaction and retention, and the quality of patient care. Successful adaptations are feasible, even across health systems as different as those of South Africa and Malawi.
In low-income countries, only about a third of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) patients eligible for anti-retroviral treatment currently receive it. Providing decentralized treatment close to where patients live is crucial to a faster scale up, however, a key obstacle is limited health system capacity due to a shortage of trained health-care workers and challenges of integrating HIV/AIDS care with other primary care services (e.g. tuberculosis, malaria, respiratory conditions). This study will test an adapted primary care health care worker training and guideline intervention, Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV/AIDS Malawi (PALM PLUS), on staff retention and satisfaction, and quality of patient care.
A cluster-randomized trial design is being used to compare usual care with a standardized clinical guideline and training intervention, PALM PLUS. The intervention targets middle-cadre health care workers (nurses, clinical officers, medical assistants) in 30 rural primary care health centres in a single district in Malawi. PALM PLUS is an integrated, symptom-based and user-friendly guideline consistent with Malawian national treatment protocols. Training is standardized and based on an educational outreach approach. Trainers will be front-line peer healthcare workers trained to provide outreach training and support to their fellow front-line healthcare workers during focused (1-2 hours), intermittent, interactive sessions on-site in health centers. Primary outcomes are health care worker retention and satisfaction. Secondary outcomes are clinical outcomes measured at the health centre level for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and other primary care conditions. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals for outcomes will be presented. Assessment of outcomes will occur at 1 year post- implementation.
The PALM PLUS trial aims to address a key problem: strengthening middle-cadre health care workers to support the broader scale up of HIV/AIDS services and their integration into primary care. The trial will test whether the PALM PLUS intervention improves staff satisfaction and retention, as well as the quality of patient care, when compared to usual practice.
Current controlled Trials: ISRCTN47805230
Until 2005, the Malawi National Tuberculosis Control Programme had been implemented as a vertical programme. Working within the Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) provides a new environment and new opportunities for monitoring the equity performance of the programme. This paper synthesizes what is known on equity and TB in Malawi and highlights areas for further action and advocacy.
A synthesis of a wide range of published and unpublished reports and studies using a variety of methodological approaches was undertaken and complemented by additional analysis of routine data on access to TB services. The analysis and recommendations were developed, through consultation with key stakeholders in Malawi and a review of the international literature.
The lack of a prevalence survey severely limits the epidemiological knowledge base on TB and vulnerability. TB cases have increased rapidly from 5,334 in 1985 to 28,000 in 2006. This increase has been attributed to HIV/AIDS; 77% of TB patients are HIV positive. The age/gender breakdown of TB notification cases mirrors the HIV epidemic with higher rates amongst younger women and older men. The WHO estimates that only 48% of TB cases are detected in Malawi. The complexity of TB diagnosis requires repeated visits, long queues, and delays in sending results. This reduces poor women and men's ability to access and adhere to services. The costs of seeking TB care are high for poor women and men – up to 240% of monthly income as compared to 126% of monthly income for the non-poor. The TB Control Programme has attempted to increase access to TB services for vulnerable groups through community outreach activities, decentralising DOT and linking with HIV services.
The Programme of Work which is being delivered through the SWAp is a good opportunity to enhance equity and pro-poor health services. The major challenge is to increase case detection, especially amongst the poor, where we assume most 'missing cases' are to be found. In addition, the Programme needs a prevalence survey which will enable thorough equity monitoring and the development of responsive interventions to promote service access amongst 'missing' women, men, boys and girls.
To report an in-depth analysis of policy change for integrated community case management of childhood illness (iCCM) in six sub-Saharan African countries. We analysed how iCCM policies developed and the barriers and facilitators to policy change.
Qualitative retrospective case studies drawing from document reviews, semi-structured interviews and in-country validation workshops were conducted in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Niger. These countries were selected to maximise variation in iCCM policy status, community health worker (CHW) models and different African regions.
Country iCCM policies evolved in an ad hoc fashion, but were substantially influenced by the history of primary health care and the nature of CHW programmes. Technical officers within Ministries of Health led iCCM policy change with support from international donors, but neither communities nor political leadership was mobilised. Concerns about achieving the Millennium Development Goals, together with recognition of the shortcomings of existing child health programmes, led to the adoption of iCCM policies. Availability of external financing played a critical role in facilitating policy change.
iCCM policy change has been promoted by international agencies, but national governments have struggled to align iCCM with country health systems. Greater investment is needed in tailoring global policy initiatives to match country needs. High-level, political ownership of iCCM policies could facilitate policy change, as could clearer strategies for ensuring the long-term sustainability of such policies.
child health services; community health services; health policy