The ethical discourse about HIV testing has undergone a profound transformation in recent years. The greater availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has led to a global scaling up of HIV testing and counseling as a gateway to prevention, treatment and care. In response, critics raised important ethical questions, including: How do different testing policies and practices undermine or strengthen informed consent and medical confidentiality? How well do different modalities of testing provide benefits that outweigh risks of harm? To what degree do current testing policies and programs provide equitable access to HIV services? And finally, what lessons have been learned from the field about how to improve the delivery of HIV services to achieve public health objectives and protections for human rights? This article reviews the empirical evidence that has emerged to answer these questions, from four sub-Saharan African countries, namely: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda.
Expanding access to treatment and prevention in these four countries has made the biomedical benefits of HIV testing increasingly clear. But serious challenges remain with regard to protecting human rights, informed consent and ensuring linkages to care. Policy makers and practitioners are grappling with difficult ethical issues, including how to protect confidentiality, how to strengthen linkages to care, and how to provide equitable access to services, especially for most at risk populations, including men who have sex with men.
The most salient policy questions about HIV testing in these countries no longer address whether to scale up routine PITC (and other strategies), but how. Instead, individuals, health care providers and policy makers are struggling with a host of difficult ethical questions about how to protect rights, maximize benefits, and mitigate risks in the face of resource scarcity.
Ethics; Medical; HIV Infections/diagnosis/drug therapy/prevention & control/transmission; Informed consent; Confidentiality; Counseling; HIV Seropositivity/diagnosis/transmission; Health Services Accessibility; Adult; Health policy; Mass screening
Understanding the extent that different modern contraceptives are acceptable to different populations groups and where they get the commodities from will help in developing specific interventions that will help to scale-up the availability of the contraceptives.
The study took place in urban and rural sites in six states across Nigeria. Data on acceptability and sources of the contraceptives was collected from at least 770 randomly selected mostly female householders from each state respectively using a questionnaire. Acceptability of the different contraceptives was scored by the respondents on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). The relationships between acceptability and sources of the contraceptives with socio-economic status and geographic location of the respondents were examined.
The use of modern contraceptives in general was acceptable to 87% of the respondents. Male condom was the most acceptable means of contraceptive with an average score of 5.0. It was followed by implants with and oral contraceptive pill with average scores of 4.0, whilst IUD was the least acceptable with an average score of 2.9. The private sector was the major source of contraceptives to different population groups. Both male and female condoms were mostly procured from patent medicine dealers (PMD) and pharmacy shops. Intra Uterine Devices (IUDs) and implants were mostly sourced from public and private hospitals in the urban areas, whilst injectibles were mostly sourced from private hospitals. Oral contraceptives were mostly sourced from pharmacy shops and patent medicine dealers. There were SES and geographic differences for both acceptability and sources of the contraceptives. Also, the sources of different contraceptives depended on the type of the contraceptive.
The different contraceptives were acceptable to the respondents and the major source of the contraceptives was the private sector. Hence, public-private partnership arrangements should be explored so that universal coverage with contraceptives could be easily achieved. Interventions should be developed to eliminate the inequities in both acceptability and sources of different contraceptives. The acceptability of all the contraceptives should be enhanced with relevant behaviour change communication interventions especially in areas with the lowest levels of acceptability.
Modern contraceptives; Acceptability; Sources; Inequity; Nigeria
Many studies have indicated that most immigrant women come from underdeveloped countries, and this can have negative effects on their lives, children’s adaptation to school, and medical care utilization. However, there is insufficient literature about differences in infant caretaking, pre-postpartum health care, and health outcome between immigrant and native Taiwanese populations. The aim of this study was to investigate the differences between Southern Asia immigrants and Taiwanese women in their access to medical care, postnatal growth, and infant care throughout the first six months postpartum.
Comparative and descriptive designs were applied. Immigrant women were eligible if they visited three suburban settings of the Outpatient Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Outpatient Department of Pediatrics in Northern Taiwan during the period up to six months postpartum.
Immigrant women appeared to have a lower frequency of antenatal examinations and obtained less health information from health care providers. However, they did not differ significantly from native Taiwanese women in maternal body size, postnatal growth curves, exclusive breastfeeding rates or vaccination awareness at the 6th month postpartum.
Learning strengths from cultural differences between immigrant and native women and closing the gaps in health inequality are important issues. Despite the limitation of small sample size, the present findings can be used as references to help health care providers to develop further health policies in Taiwan.
Immigrant; Infant health; Women's health; Lactation; Maternal-child health
Prolonged sexual abstinence after childbirth is a socio-cultural practice with health implications, and is described in several African countries, including Tanzania. This study explored discourses on prolonged postpartum sexual abstinence in relation to family health after childbirth in low-income suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Data for the discourse analysis were collected through focus group discussions with first-time mothers and fathers and their support people in Ilala, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
In this setting, prolonged sexual abstinence intended at promoting child health was the dominant discourse in the period after childbirth. Sexual relations after childbirth involved the control of sexuality for ensuring family health and avoiding the social implications of non-adherence to sexual abstinence norms. Both abstinence and control were emphasised more with regard to women than to men. Although the traditional discourse on prolonged sexual abstinence for protecting child health was reproduced in Ilala, some modern aspects such as the use of condoms and other contraceptives prevailed in the discussion.
Discourses on sexuality after childbirth are instrumental in reproducing gender-power inequalities, with women being subjected to more restrictions and control than men are. Thus, interventions that create openness in discussing sexual relations and health-related matters after childbirth and mitigate gendered norms suppressing women and perpetuating harmful behaviours are needed. The involvement of males in the interventions would benefit men, women, and children through improving the gender relations that promote family health.
Prolonged sexual abstinence; After childbirth; First-time parents; Gender relations; FGD; Tanzania
Unsafe injection practices and injection overuse are widespread in developing countries harming the patient and inviting risks to the health care workers. In Nepal, there is a dearth of documented information about injection practices so the present study was carried out: a) to determine whether the selected government health facilities satisfy the conditions for safe injections in terms of staff training, availability of sterile injectable equipment and their proper disposal after use and b) to assess knowledge and attitudes of healthcare workers in these health care facilities with regard to injection safety.
A descriptive cross-sectional mixed type (qualitative and quantitative) survey was carried out from 18th May to 16th June 2012. In-depth interviews with the in-charges were conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire. Observation of the health facilities using a structured observation tool was done. The data were analysed manually by summarizing, tabulating and presenting in various formats.
The in-charges (eight males, two females) who participated in the study ranged in age from 30 to 50 years with a mean age of 37.8 years. Severe infection followed by pain was the most important cause for injection use with injection Gentamicin being most commonly prescribed. New single use (disposable) injections and auto-disable syringes were used to inject curative drugs and vaccines respectively. Sufficient safety boxes were also supplied to dispose the used syringe. All health care workers had received full course of Hepatitis B vaccine and were knowledgeable about at least one pathogen transmitted through unsafe injection practices. Injection safety management policy and waste disposal guideline was not available for viewing in any of the facilities. The office staff who disposed the bio-medical wastes did so without taking any safety measures. Moreover, none of these staff had received any formal training in waste management.
Certain safe injection practices were noticed in the studied health care facilities but there remain a number of grey areas where unsafe practices still persists placing patient and health workers at risk of associated hazards. Training concentrating on injection safety, guidelines to dispose biomedical waste and monitoring of the activity is needed.
Baglung; Health care workers; Needle stick injury; Nepal; Safety; Safe injection practice; Sharp waste
While there are biomedical drugs for managing diabetes mellitus, some patients with diabetes use traditional medicine. The aim of the study was to explore why patients with diabetes use traditional medicine for the treatment of diabetes.
The study was conducted in Iganga and Bugiri districts in Eastern Uganda using four focus group discussions (FGDs) with patients with diabetes; two with female patients and two with male patients, thirteen key informant interviews (KIIs); nine with health workers working with patients with diabetes and four with herbalists. FGDs and KIIs focused on what respondents perceived as reasons for patients with diabetes taking traditional medicine. Analysis was done using content analysis.
Reasons for taking traditional medicine included finding difficulties accessing hospitals, diabetic drugs being out of stock, traditional medicine being acceptable and available within community, as well as being supplied in big quantities. Others were traditional medicine being cheaper than biomedical treatment and payment for it being done in installments. Traditional medicine was also more convenient to take and was marketed aggressively by the herbalists. Influence of family and friends as well as traditional healers contributed to use of traditional medicine.
Possibilities of putting diabetic drugs at facilities closer to patients need to be considered and health facilities should have a constant supply of diabetic drugs. Community members need to be sensitized on the proper treatment for diabetes mellitus and on the dangers of taking traditional medicine.
Poor quality housing is an infringement on the rights of all humans to a standard of living adequate for health. Among the many vulnerabilities of those without adequate shelter is the risk of disease spread by rodents and other pests. One such disease is Lassa fever, an acute and sometimes severe viral hemorrhagic illness endemic in West Africa. Lassa virus is maintained in the rodent Mastomys natalensis, commonly known as the “multimammate rat,” which frequently invades the domestic environment, putting humans at risk of Lassa fever. The highest reported incidence of Lassa fever in the world is consistently in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone, a region that was at the center of Sierra Leone’s civil war in which tens of thousands of lives were lost and hundreds of thousands of dwellings destroyed. Despite the end of the war in 2002, most of Kenema’s population still lives in inadequate housing that puts them at risk of rodent invasion and Lassa fever. Furthermore, despite years of health education and village hygiene campaigns, the incidence of Lassa fever in Kenema District appears to be increasing. We focus on Lassa fever as a matter of human rights, proposing a strategy to improve housing quality, and discuss how housing equity has the potential to improve health equity and ultimately economic productivity in Sierra Leone. The manuscript is designed to spur discussion and action towards provision of housing and prevention of disease in one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Lassa fever; Arenavirus; Mastomys natalensis; Housing equity; Health equity; Public health; Global health
With quantitative sensory testing (QST) we recently found no differences in sensory function of the foot soles between groups of torture victims with or without exposure to falanga (beatings under the feet). Compared to matched controls the torture victims had hyperalgesia to deep mechano-nociceptive stimuli and hypoesthesia to non-noxious cutaneous stimuli. The purpose of the present paper was to extend the group analysis into individual sensory profiles of victims’ feet to explore possible relations between external violence (torture), reported pain, sensory symptoms and QST data to help clarify the underlying mechanisms.
We employed interviews and assessments of the pain and sensory symptoms and QST by investigators blinded to whether the patients, 32 male torture victims from the Middle East, had (n=15), or had not (n=17) been exposed to falanga. Pain intensity, area and stimulus dependence were used to characterize the pain. QST included thresholds for touch, cold, warmth, cold-pain, heat-pain, deep pressure pain and wind-up to cutaneous noxious stimuli. An ethnically matched control group was available.The normality criterion, from our control group data, was set as the mean +/− 1.28SD, thus including 80% of all values.QST data were transformed into three categories in relation to our normality range; hypoesthesia, normoesthesia or hyperesthesia/hyperalgesia.
Most patients, irrespective of having been exposed to falanga or not, reported severe pain when walking. This was often associated with hyperalgesia to deep mechanical pressure. Hypoesthesia to mechanical stimuli co-occurred with numbness, burning and with deep mechanical hyperalgesia more often than not, but otherwise, a hypoesthesia to cutaneous sensory modalities did not co-occur systematically to falanga, pain or sensory symptoms.
In torture victims, there seem to be overriding mechanisms, manifested by hyperalgesia to pressure pain, which is usually considered a sign of centralization. In addition there was cutaneous hypoesthesia, but since there was no obvious correlation to the localization of trauma, these findings may indicate centrally evoked disturbances in sensory transmission, that is, central inhibition. We interpret these findings as a sign of changes in central sensory processing as the unifying pathological mechanism of chronic pain in these persons.
Chronic pain; Falanga; Nerve injury; Sensitization; Torture
Falanga torture (beatings on the foot soles) produces local chronic pain and severe walking difficulties. We have previously reported signs of neuropathic pain in the feet of falanga victims. The objective here was to clarify underlying pain mechanisms by quantifying sensory impairments in the feet of torture victims who had experienced both generalized torture and those who had been exposed to falanga in addition. An ethnically matched control group was available.
We employed quantitative sensory testing (QST) by investigators blinded to whether the patients, 32 male torture victims from the Middle East, had (n=15), or had not (n=17) been exposed to falanga. Pain intensity, area and stimulus dependence were used to characterize the pain as were interview data on sensory symptoms. QST included thresholds for touch, cold, warmth, cold-pain, heat-pain, deep pressure pain and wind-up to cutaneous noxious stimuli in the foot soles. Clinical data on anxiety and depression were retrieved.
Almost all falanga victims had moderate or strong pain in their feet and in twice as large an area of their foot soles as other torture victims. One-third of the latter had no pain in their feet and many reported slight pain; in spite of this, there were no differences in foot sole QST data between the tortured groups. A comparison with normal data indicated that both tortured groups had hypoesthesia for all cutaneous sensory fibre groups except those transmitting cold and heat pain, in addition to deep mechano-nociceptive hyperalgesia.
A comparison of the QST data between victims having been exposed to generalized torture and victims who in addition had been exposed to falanga, showed no differences on the group level. The sensory disturbances in relation to our control group are compatible with central sensitization and de-sensitization, pointing to a core role of central mechanisms. A further analysis to create individual sensory profiles from our measurements is in progress.
Chronic pain; Central inhibition; Falanga; Nerve injury; Sensitization; Torture
Adolescent girls are an overlooked group within conflict-affected populations and their sexual health needs are often neglected. Girls are disproportionately at risk of HIV and other STIs in times of conflict, however the lack of recognition of their unique sexual health needs has resulted in a dearth of distinctive HIV protection and prevention responses. Departing from the recognition of a paucity of literature on the distinct vulnerabilities of girls in time of conflict, this study sought to deepen the knowledge base on this issue by qualitatively exploring the sexual vulnerabilities of adolescent girls surviving abduction and displacement in Northern Uganda.
Over a ten-month period between 2004–2005, at the height of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in Northern Uganda, 116 in-depth interviews and 16 focus group discussions were held with adolescent girls and adult women living in three displacement camps in Gulu district, Northern Uganda. The data was transcribed and key themes and common issues were identified. Once all data was coded the ethnographic software programme ATLAS was used to compare and contrast themes and categories generated in the in-depth interviews and focus group discussions.
Our results demonstrated the erosion of traditional Acholi mentoring and belief systems that had previously served to protect adolescent girls’ sexuality. This disintegration combined with: the collapse of livelihoods; being left in camps unsupervised and idle during the day; commuting within camp perimeters at night away from the family hut to sleep in more central locations due to privacy and insecurity issues, and; inadequate access to appropriate sexual health information and services, all contribute to adolescent girls’ heightened sexual vulnerability and subsequent enhanced risk for HIV/AIDS in times of conflict.
Conflict prevention planners, resettlement programme developers, and policy-makers need to recognize adolescent girls affected by armed conflict as having distinctive needs, which require distinctive responses. More adaptive and sustainable gender-sensitive reproductive health strategies and HIV prevention initiatives for displaced adolescent girls in conflict settings must be developed.
Adolescent girls; Conflict; Sexual vulnerability; Displacement camps; Northern Uganda; Acholi; Qualitative; HIV/AIDS
Taiwan has been dispatching an increasing number of short-term medical missions (STMMs) to its allied nations to provide humanitarian health care; however, overall evaluations to help policy makers strengthen the impact of such missions are lacking. Our primary objective is to identify useful strategies by comparing STMMs to the South Pacific and Central America.
The data for the evaluation come from two main sources: the official reports of 46 missions to 11 countries in Central America and 25 missions to 8 countries in the South Pacific, and questionnaires completed by health professionals who had participated in the above missions. In Central America, STMMs were staffed by volunteer health professionals from multiple institutions. In the South Pacific, STMMs were staffed by volunteer health professionals from single institutions.
In comparison to STMMs to Central America, STMMs to the South Pacific accomplished more educational training for local health providers, including providing heath-care knowledge and skills (p<0.05), and training in equipment administration (p<0.001) and drug administration (p<0.005). In addition, language constraints were more common among missions to Central America (p<0.001). There was no significant difference in the performance of clinical service between the two regions.
Health-care services provided by personnel from multiple institutions are as efficient as those from single institutions. Proficiency in the native language and provision of education for local health-care workers are essential for conducting a successful STMM. Our data provide implications for integrating evidence into the deployment of STMMs.
Medical missions; Health professional; Language; Education; Efficiency
In Uganda, despite a significant public health burden of tuberculosis (TB) in the context of high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence, little is known about community knowledge of TB. The purpose of this study was to assess and compare knowledge about TB and HIV in the general population of western Uganda and to examine common knowledge gaps and misconceptions.
We implemented a multi-stage survey design to randomly survey 360 participants from one district in western Uganda. Weighted summary knowledge scores for TB and HIV were calculated and multiple linear regression (with knowledge score as the dependant variable) was used to determine significant predictors. Six focus group discussions were conducted to supplement survey findings.
Mean (SD) HIV knowledge score was 58 (12) and TB knowledge score was 33 (15), both scores out of 100. The TB knowledge score was statistically significantly (p < 0.001) lower. Multivariate regression models included age, sex, marital status, education, residence, and having a friend with HIV/TB as independent variables. TB knowledge was predicted by rural residence (coefficient = −6.27, 95% CI: -11.7 to −0.8), and age ≥45 years (coefficient = 7.45, 95% CI: 0.3-14.6). HIV knowledge was only predicted by higher education (coefficient = 0.94, 95%CI: 0.3-1.6). Focus group participants mentioned various beliefs in the aetiology of TB including sharing cups, alcohol consumption, smoking, air pollution, and HIV. Some respondents believed that TB was not curable.
TB knowledge is low and many misconceptions about TB exist: these should be targeted through health education programs. Both TB and HIV-infection knowledge gaps could be better addressed through an integrated health education program on both infections, whereby TB program managers include HIV information and vice versa.
Tuberculosis; Human immunodeficiency virus; Community knowledge; Uganda
There is limited research about IPV against women and associated factors in Sub-Saharan Africa, not least Mozambique. The objective of this study was to examine the occurrence, severity, chronicity and “predictors” of IPV against women in Maputo City (Mozambique).
Data were collected during a 12 month-period (consecutive cases, with each woman seen only once) from 1,442 women aged 15–49 years old seeking help for abuse by an intimate partner at the Forensic Services at the Maputo Central Hospital, Maputo City, Mozambique. Interviews were conducted by trained female interviewers, and data collected included demographics and lifestyle variables, violence (using the previously validated Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2), and control (using the Controlling Behaviour Scale Revised (CBS-R). The data were analysed using bivariate and multivariate methods.
The overall experienced IPV during the past 12 months across severity (one or more types, minor and severe) was 70.2% (chronicity, 85.8 ± 120.9).a Severe IPV varied between 26.3-45.9% and chronicity between 3.1 ± 9.1-12.8 ± 26.9, depending on IPV type. Severity and chronicity figures were higher in psychological aggression than in the other IPV types. Further, 26.8% (chronicity, 55.3 ± 117.6) of women experienced all IPV types across severity. The experience of other composite IPV types across severity (4 combinations of 3 types of IPV) varied between 27.1-42.6% and chronicity between 35.7 ± 80.3-64.9 ± 110.9, depending on the type of combination. The combination psychological aggression, physical assault and sexual coercion had the highest figures compared with the other combinations. The multiple regressions showed that controlling behaviours, own perpetration and co-occurring victimization were more important in “explaining” the experience of IPV than other variables (e.g. abuse as a child).
In our study, controlling behaviours over/by partner, own perpetration, co-occurring victimization and childhood abuse were more important factors in “explaining” sustained IPV. More investigation into women’s IPV exposure and its “predictors” is warranted in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Mozambique.
Intimate partner violence; Victims; Controlling behaviours; Perpetration; Abuse as a child
This research assesses informal markets that dominate pharmaceutical systems in severely disrupted countries and identifies areas for further investigation. Findings are based on recent academic papers, policy and grey literature, and field studies in Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. The public sector in the studied countries is characterized in part by weak Ministries of Health and low donor coordination. Informal markets, where medicines are regularly sold in market stalls and unregulated pharmacies, often accompanied by unqualified medical advice, have proliferated. Counterfeit and sub-standard medicines trade networks have also developed. To help increase medicine availability for citizens, informal markets should be integrated into existing access to medicines initiatives.
Maternal mortality and morbidity remains high in many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) represents an underestimated and unrecognised impediment to optimal maternal health in LMIC; left untreated – it also has severe consequences for the offspring. A better understanding of the barriers hindering detection and treatment of GDM is needed. Based on experiences from World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) supported GDM projects this paper seeks to investigate societal and health system barriers to such efforts.
Questionnaires were filled out by 10 WDF supported GDM project partners implementing projects in eight different LMIC. In addition, interviews were conducted with the project partners. The interviews were analysed using content analysis.
Barriers to improving maternal health related to GDM nominated by project implementers included lack of trained health care providers - especially female doctors; high staff turnover; lack of standard protocols, consumables and equipment; financing of health services and treatment; lack of or poor referral systems, feedback mechanisms and follow-up systems; distance to health facility; perceptions of female body size and weight gain/loss in relation to pregnancy; practices related to pregnant women’s diet; societal negligence of women’s health; lack of decision-making power among women regarding their own health; stigmatisation; role of women in society and expectations that the pregnant woman move to her maternal home for delivery.
A number of barriers within the health system and society exist. Programmes need to consider and address these barriers in order to improve GDM care and thereby maternal health in LMIC.
Gestational diabetes mellitus; Health system; Society; Barriers; Low- and middle-income countries
The Hijra is a distinct type of gender role in South Asia where men act like women. This group of people is socially excluded by the general community, in terms of attainment of an opportunity for a socially productive life. Often this sort of deprivation forces these individuals towards professions like sex trade, in pursuit of sustenance, which as a consequence places them as a key block in the puzzle of an impending generalized HIV epidemic in Pakistan.
This study is a qualitative study, which involved 8 in-depth interviews and four focus group discussions, conducted in Rawalpindi and Islamabad (Pakistan) from February to April 2012. The data was audio taped and transcribed. Key themes were identified and built upon. The respondents were contacted through a gate keeper Hijra who was a member of the hijra community. Multiple interview sessions were conducted with each respondent.
Two key categories of the Hijras were identified as Khusrapan and Zananapan, during the in-depth interview sessions. This initial information paved way for the four focus group discussions. The data was presented using key themes which were identified. The study participants explained their life histories to us which made it obvious that they had been socially excluded at many stages of their lives from performing normal social functions. This lack of occupational and educational opportunities pushed them towards entering the risky business of selling sex.
The transgender community is socially excluded by the Pakistani society which is leading them to indulge in commercial sex and putting their lives at risk. Prudent measures are needed to form community based organizations managed and led by hijra community and addressing their social exclusion and risky behaviors.
Hijras; Commercial sex work; Social exclusion; HIV and Pakistan
Given that many low income countries are heavily reliant on external assistance to fund their health sectors the acceptance of obligations of international assistance and cooperation with regard to the right to health (global health obligations) is insufficiently understood and studied by international health and human rights scholars. Over the past decade Global Health Initiatives, like the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) have adopted novel approaches to engaging with stakeholders in high and low income countries. This article explores how this experience impacted on acceptance of the international obligation to (help) fulfil the right to health beyond borders.
The authors conducted an extensive review of international human rights law literature, transnational legal process literature, global public health literature and grey literature pertaining to Global Health Initiatives. To complement this desk work and deepen their understanding of how and why different legal norms evolve the authors conducted 19 in-depth key informant interviews with actors engaged with three stakeholders; the European Union, the United States and Belgium. The authors then analysed the interviews through a transnational legal process lens.
Through according value to the process of examining how and why different legal norms evolve transnational legal process offers us a tool for engaging with the dynamism of developments in global health suggesting that operationalising global health obligations could advance the right to health for all.
In many low-income countries the health sector is heavily dependent on external assistance to fulfil the right to health of people thus it is vital that policies and tools for delivering reliable, long-term assistance are developed so that the right to health for all becomes more than a dream. Our research suggests that the Global Fund experience offers lessons to build on.
Global health initiatives; Human rights; The Global Fund to fight AIDS; Tuberculosis and Malaria; HIV; Right to health; Transnational legal process; Extraterritorial legal obligations
Accelerating progress towards universal coverage in African countries calls for concrete actions that reinforce social health protection through establishment of sustainable health financing mechanisms. In order to explore possible pathways for moving past the existing obstacles, panel discussions were organized on health financing bringing together Ministers of health and Ministers of finance with the objective of creating a discussion space where the different perspectives on key issues and needed actions could meet. This article presents a synthesis of panel discussions focusing on the identified challenges and the possible solutions. The overview of this paper is based on the objectives and proceedings of the panel discussions and relies on the observation and study of the interaction between the panelists and on the discourse used.
The discussion highlighted that a large proportion of the African population has no access to needed health services with significant reliance on direct out of pocket payments. There are multiple obstacles in making prepayment and pooling mechanisms operational. The relatively strong political commitment to health has not always translated into more public spending for health. Donor investment in health in low income countries still falls below commitments. There is need to explore innovative domestic revenue collection mechanisms. Although inadequate funding for health is a fundamental problem, inefficient use of resources is of great concern. There is need to generate robust evidence focusing on issues of importance to ministry of finance. The current unsatisfactory state of health financing was mainly attributed to lack of clear vision; evidence based plans and costed strategies.
Based on the analysis of discussion made, there are points of convergence and divergence in the discourse and positions of the two ministries. The current blockage points holding back budget allocations for health can be solved with a more evidence based approach and dialogue based on a clear vision and costed strategic plan articulated by the ministry of health. Improving health in Africa is a driver for long-term economic growth and development and this is the reason why the ministries of health and finance will need to find common ground on how to create policy coherence and how to articulate their respective objectives.
Health financing; Ministry of health; Ministry of finance; Africa; Panel discussion
This study investigates factors determining the timing of antenatal care (ANC) visit and the type of delivery assistant present during delivery among a national representative sample of Ghanaian women.
Data for the study was drawn from the women questionnaire (N=4,916) of the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey among 15–49-years-old women. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to explore factors determining the type of delivery assistance and timing of ANC visit for live births within five years prior to the survey.
Majority of Ghanaian women attended ANC visit (96.5%) but many (42.7%) did so late (after the first trimester), while 36.5% had delivery without the assistance of a trained personnel (30.6%) or anyone (5.9%). Age (OR=1.5, CI=1.1-1.9, OR for 25-34-year-olds compared to 15-24-year-olds), religion (OR=1.8, CI=1.2-2.8, OR for Christians versus Traditional believers) wealth index (OR=2.6, CI=1.7-3.8, OR for the richest compared to the poorest) were independently associated with early ANC visit. Likewise, age, place of residence, education and partner’s education were associated with having a delivery assisted by a trained assistant. Also, Christians (OR=1.8, CI=1.1-3.0) and Moslems (OR=1.9, CI=1.1-3.3) were more likely to have trained delivery assistants compared to their counterparts who practised traditional belief. Furthermore, the richer a woman the more likely that she would have delivery assisted by a trained personnel (OR=8.2, CI= 4.2-16.0, OR for the richest in comparison to the poorest).
Despite the relatively high antenatal care utilisation among Ghanaian women, significant variations exist across the socio-demographic spectrum. Furthermore, a large number of women failed to meet the WHO recommendation to attend antenatal care within the first trimester of pregnancy. These findings have important implications for reducing maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters by the year 2015.
Antenatal care; Maternal health; Timing of antenatal care visit; Type of delivery assistance
The health and well-being of widows in India is an important but neglected issue of public health and women’s rights. We investigate the lives of Indian women as they become widows, focussing on the causes of their husband’s mortality and the ensuing consequences of these causes on their own lives and identify the opportunities and challenges that widows face in living healthy and fulfilling lives.
Data were collected in a Gram Panchayat (lowest level territorial decentralised unit) in the south Indian state of Kerala. Interviews were undertaken with key informants in order to gain an understanding of local constructions of ‘widowhood’ and the welfare and social opportunities for widows. Then we conducted semi-structured interviews with widows in the community on issues related to health and vulnerability, enabling us to hear perspectives from widows. Data were analysed for thematic content and emerging patterns. We synthesized our findings with theoretical understandings of vulnerability and Amartya Sen’s entitlements theory to develop a conceptual framework.
Two salient findings of the study are: first, becoming a widow can be viewed as a type of ‘shock’ that operates similarly to other ‘economic shocks’ or ‘health shocks’ in poor countries except that the burden falls disproportionately on women. Second, widowhood is not a static phenomenon, but rather can be viewed as a multi-phased process with different public health implications at each stage.
More research on widows in India and other countries will help to both elucidate the challenges faced by widows and encourage potential solutions. The framework developed in this paper could be used to guide future research on widows.
Tanzania is experiencing acute shortages of Health Workers (HWs), a situation which has forced health managers, especially in the underserved districts, to hastily cope with health workers’ shortages by adopting task shifting. This has however been due to limited options for dealing with the crisis of health personnel. There are on-going discussions in the country on whether to scale up task shifting as one of the strategies for addressing health personnel crisis. However, these discussions are not backed up by rigorous scientific evidence. The aim of this paper is two-fold. Firstly, to describe the current situation of implementing task shifting in the context of acute shortages of health workers and, secondly, to provide a descriptive account of the potential opportunities or benefits and the likely challenges which might ensue as a result of implementing task shifting.
We employed in-depth interviews with informants at the district level and supplemented the information with additional interviews with informants at the national level. Interviews focussed on the informants’ practical experiences of implementing task shifting in their respective health facilities (district level) and their opinions regarding opportunities and challenges which might be associated with implementation of task shifting practices. At the national level, the main focus was on policy issues related to management of health personnel in the context of implementation of task shifting, in addition to seeking their opinions and perceptions regarding opportunities and challenges of implementing task shifting if formally adopted.
Task shifting has been in practice for many years in Tanzania and has been perceived as an inevitable coping mechanism due to limited options for addressing health personnel shortages in the country. Majority of informants had the concern that quality of services is likely to be affected if appropriate policy infrastructures are not in place before formalising tasks shifting. There was also a perception that implementation of task shifting has ensured access to services especially in underserved remote areas. Professional discontent and challenges related to the management of health personnel policies were also perceived as important issues to consider when implementing task shifting practices. Additional resources for additional training and supervisory tasks were also considered important in the implementation of task shifting in order to make it deliver much the same way as it is for conventional modalities of delivering care.
Task shifting implementation occurs as an ad hoc coping mechanism to the existing shortages of health workers in many undeserved areas of the country, not just in the study site whose findings are reported in this paper. It is recommended that the most important thing to do now is not to determine whether task shifting is possible or effective but to define the limits of task shifting so as to reach a consensus on where it can have the strongest and most sustainable impact in the delivery of quality health services. Any action towards this end needs to be evidence-based.
It was long speculated that there could be under-immunized pockets in the war affected Northern part of Sri Lanka relative to other areas. With the cessation of hostilities following the military suppression of the rebellion, opportunities have arisen to appraise the immunization status of children in areas of re-settlement in former war ravaged districts.
We conducted a cross-sectional study to describe the coverage and age appropriateness of infant vaccinations in a former conflict district during the phase of re-settlement. The target population comprised all children of re-settled families in the age group of 12 – 23 months in the district. We selected a study sample of 300 children from among the target population using the WHO’s 30 cluster EPI survey method. Trained surveyors collected data using a structured checklist. The infant vaccination status was ascertained by reviewing vaccination records in the Child Health Development Record or any other alternative documentary evidence.
The survey revealed that the proportion of fully vaccinated children in the district was 91%. For individual vaccines, it ranged from 92% (measles) to 100% (BCG, DPT/OPV1). However, the age appropriateness of vaccination was less than 50% for all antigens except for BCG (94%). The maximum number of days of delay of vaccinations ranged from 21 days for BCG to 253 days for measles. Age appropriate vaccination rates significantly differed for DPT/OPV1-3 and measles during the conflict and post-conflict stages while it did not for the BCG. Age appropriate vaccination rates were significantly higher for DPT/OPV1-3 during the conflict while for the measles it was higher in the post conflict stage.
Though the vaccination coverage for infant vaccines in the war affected Kilinochchi district was similar to other districts in the country, it masked a disparity in terms of low age-appropriateness of infant immunizations given in field settings. This finding underscores the need for investigation of underlying reasons and introduction of remedial measures in the stage of restoring Primary Health Care services in the ex-conflict zone.
Conflict; Vaccination; Coverage; Age-appropriate; Sri- Lanka
Globally, extending financial protection and equitable access to health services to those outside the formal sector employment is a major challenge for achieving universal coverage. While some favour contributory schemes, others have embraced tax-funded health service cover for those outside the formal sector. This paper critically examines the issue of how to cover those outside the formal sector through the lens of stakeholder views on the proposed one-time premium payment (OTPP) policy in Ghana.
Ghana in 2004 implemented a National Health Insurance Scheme, based on a contributory model where service benefits are restricted to those who contribute (with some groups exempted from contributing), as the policy direction for moving towards universal coverage. In 2008, the OTPP system was proposed as an alternative way of ensuring coverage for those outside formal sector employment. There are divergent stakeholder views with regard to the meaning of the one-time premium and how it will be financed and sustained. Our stakeholder interviews indicate that the underlying issue being debated is whether the current contributory NHIS model for those outside the formal employment sector should be maintained or whether services for this group should be tax funded. However, the advantages and disadvantages of these alternatives are not being explored in an explicit or systematic way and are obscured by the considerable confusion about the likely design of the OTPP policy. We attempt to contribute to the broader debate about how best to fund coverage for those outside the formal sector by unpacking some of these issues and pointing to the empirical evidence needed to shed even further light on appropriate funding mechanisms for universal health systems.
The Ghanaian debate on OTPP is related to one of the most important challenges facing low- and middle-income countries seeking to achieve a universal health care system. It is critical that there is more extensive debate on the advantages and disadvantages of alternative funding mechanisms, supported by a solid evidence base, and with the policy objective of universal coverage providing the guiding light.
Universal health care coverage; National health insurance; Policy objective; Policy options; Those outside formal sector employment; Tax funding; One-time premium payment; Ghana
Corruption is a serious threat to global health outcomes, leading to financial waste and adverse health consequences. Yet, forms of corruption impacting global health are endemic worldwide in public and private sectors, and in developed and resource-poor settings alike. Allegations of misuse of funds and fraud in global health initiatives also threaten future investment. Current domestic and sectorial-level responses are fragmented and have been criticized as ineffective. In order to address this issue, we propose a global health governance framework calling for international recognition of “global health corruption” and development of a treaty protocol to combat this crucial issue.
Global health; Global health governance; Corruption; Informal economy; International law; Health policy; Health system strengthening
Child cash transfers are increasingly recognised for their potential to reduce poverty and improve health outcomes. South Africa‘s child support grant (CSG) constitutes the largest cash transfer in the continent. No studies have been conducted to look at factors associated with successful receipt of the CSG. This paper reports findings on factors associated with CSG receipt in three settings in South Africa (Paarl in the Western Cape Province, and Umlazi and Rietvlei in KwaZulu-Natal).
This study used longitudinal data from a community-based cluster-randomized trial (PROMISE EBF) promoting exclusive breastfeeding by peer-counsellors in South Africa (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00397150). 1148 mother-infant pairs were enrolled in the study and data on the CSG were collected at infant age 6, 12, 24 weeks and 18–24 months. A stratified cox proportional hazards regression model was fitted to the data to investigate factors associated with CSG receipt.
Uptake of the CSG amongst eligible children at a median age of 22 months was 62% in Paarl, 64% in Rietvlei and 60% in Umlazi. Possessing a birth certificate was found to be the strongest predictor of CSG receipt (HR 3.1, 95% CI: 2.4 -4.1). Other factors also found to be independently associated with CSG receipt were an HIV-positive mother (HR 1.2, 95% CI: 1.0-1.4) and a household income below R1100 (HR1.7, 95% CI: 1.1 -2.6).
Receipt of the CSG was sub optimal amongst eligible children showing administrative requirements such as possessing a birth certificate to be a serious barrier to access. In the spirit of promoting and protecting children’s rights, more efforts are needed to improve and ease access to this cash transfer program.