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1.  Costs of Promoting Exclusive Breastfeeding at Community Level in Three Sites in South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e79784.
Community-based peer support has been shown to be effective in improving exclusive breastfeeding rates in a variety of settings.
We conducted a cost analysis of a community cluster randomised-controlled trial (Promise-EBF), aimed at promoting exclusive infant feeding in three sites in South Africa. The costs were considered from the perspective of health service providers. Peer supporters in this trial visited women to support exclusive infant feeding, once antenatally and four times postpartum.
The total economic cost of the Promise-EBF intervention was US$393 656, with average costs per woman and per visit of US$228 and US$52, respectively. The average costs per woman and visit in an operational ‘non research’ scenario were US$137 and US$32 per woman and visit, respectively. Investing in the promotion of exclusive infant feeding requires substantial financial commitment from policy makers. Extending the tasks of multi-skilled community health workers (CHWs) to include promoting exclusive infant feeding is a potential option for reducing these costs. In order to avoid efficiency losses, we recommend that the time requirements for delivering the promotion of exclusive infant feeding are considered when integrating it within the existing activities of CHWs.
This paper focuses on interventions for exclusive infant feeding, but its findings more generally illustrate the importance of documenting and quantifying factors that affect the feasibility and sustainability of community-based interventions, which are receiving increased focus in low income settings.
PMCID: PMC3888383  PMID: 24427264
2.  Child survival: a message of hope but a call for renewed commitment in UNICEF report 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:64.
A recent UNICEF report Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed Progress Report 2013 presents a comprehensive analysis of levels and trends in child mortality and progress towards MDG 4. The global under-five mortality rate has been cut nearly in half (47%) since 1990. However, during this same period, 216 million children are estimated to have died before their fifth birthday. Most of these deaths were from leading infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea or malaria, or were caused by preventable neonatal causes such as those related to intra-partum complications. The highest mortality rates in the world are observed in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa faces a particular challenge in that it not only has the highest under-five mortality in the world but it also has the fastest population growth. Progress is possible, however, and sharp reductions in child mortality have been observed at all levels of national income and in all regions. Some of the world’s poorest countries in terms of national income have made the strongest gains in child survival. Within countries, new analysis suggests that disparities in under-five mortality between the richest and the poorest households have declined in most regions of the world, with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, under-five mortality rates have fallen even among the poorest households in all regions. The report highlights the growing importance of neonatal deaths; roughly 44% of global under-five deaths — now 2.9 million a year — occur during the neonatal period, with up to 50% dying during their first day of life and yet over two-thirds of these deaths are preventable without intensive care. The report stresses how a continuum of care approach across the whole life cycle is the most powerful way of understanding and accelerating further progress.
PMCID: PMC3866945  PMID: 24325885
Child mortality; Under-five mortality; Neonatal mortality; A Promise Renewed
3.  Addressing health systems strengthening through an health equity lens 
BMC Health Services Research  2013;13(Suppl 2):S13.
PMCID: PMC3668237  PMID: 23819874
4.  Pathways of care-seeking during fatal infant illnesses in under-resourced South African settings 
The purpose of this study was to examine care-seeking during fatal infant illnesses in under-resourced South African settings to inform potential strategies for reducing infant mortality. We interviewed 22 caregivers of deceased infants in a rural community and 28 in an urban township. We also interviewed seven local leaders and 12 health providers to ascertain opinions about factors contributing to infant death.
Despite the availability of free public health services in these settings, many caregivers utilised multiple sources of care including allopathic, indigenous and home treatments. Urban caregivers reported up to eight points of care while rural caregivers reported up to four points of care. The specific pathways taken and combinations of care varied, but many caregivers used other types of care shortly after presenting at public services, indicating dissatisfaction with the care they received. Many infants died despite caregivers’ considerable efforts, pointing to critical deficiencies in the system of care serving these families. Initiatives that aim to improve assessment, management and referral practices by both allopathic and traditional providers (for example, through training and improved collaboration), and caregiver recognition of infant danger signs may reduce the high rate of infant death in these settings.
PMCID: PMC3254810  PMID: 22136954
Infant mortality; Health care seeking behaviour; South Africa; Qualitative research
5.  Optimizing community case management strategies to achieve equitable reduction of childhood pneumonia mortality: An application of Equitable Impact Sensitive Tool (EQUIST) in five low– and middle–income countries 
Journal of Global Health  2012;2(2):020402.
The aim of this study was to populate the Equitable Impact Sensitive Tool (EQUIST) framework with all necessary data and conduct the first implementation of EQUIST in studying cost–effectiveness of community case management of childhood pneumonia in 5 low– and middle–income countries with relation to equity impact.
Wealth quintile–specific data were gathered or modelled for all contributory determinants of the EQUIST framework, namely: under–five mortality rate, cost of intervention, intervention effectiveness, current coverage of intervention and relative disease distribution. These were then combined statistically to calculate the final outcome of the EQUIST model for community case management of childhood pneumonia: US$ per life saved, in several different approaches to scaling–up.
The current ‘mainstream’ approach to scaling–up of interventions is never the most cost–effective. Community–case management appears to strongly support an ‘equity–promoting’ approach to scaling–up, displaying the highest levels of cost–effectiveness in interventions targeted at the poorest quintile of each study country, although absolute cost differences vary by context.
The relationship between cost–effectiveness and equity impact is complex, with many determinants to consider. One important way to increase intervention cost–effectiveness in poorer quintiles is to improve the efficiency and quality of delivery. More data are needed in all areas to increase the accuracy of EQUIST–based estimates.
PMCID: PMC3529311  PMID: 23289077
6.  Why do families still not receive the child support grant in South Africa? A longitudinal analysis of a cohort of families across South Africa 
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 ( 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.
PMCID: PMC3534520  PMID: 23088827
7.  Early cessation of breastfeeding amongst women in South Africa: an area needing urgent attention to improve child health 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:105.
Breastfeeding is a critical component of interventions to reduce child mortality. Exclusive breastfeeding practice is extremely low in South Africa and there has been no improvement in this over the past ten years largely due to fears of HIV transmission. Early cessation of breastfeeding has been found to have negative effects on child morbidity and survival in several studies in Africa. This paper reports on determinants of early breastfeeding cessation among women in South Africa.
This is a sub group analysis of a community-based cluster-randomized trial (PROMISE EBF) promoting exclusive breastfeeding in three South African sites (Paarl in the Western Cape Province, and Umlazi and Rietvlei in KwaZulu-Natal) between 2006 and 2008 ( no: NCT00397150). Infant feeding recall of 22 food and fluid items was collected at 3, 6, 12 and 24 weeks postpartum. Women’s experiences of breast health problems were also collected at the same time points. 999 women who ever breastfed were included in the analysis. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusting for site, arm and cluster, was performed to determine predictors of stopping breastfeeding by 12 weeks postpartum.
By 12 weeks postpartum, 20% of HIV-negative women and 40% of HIV-positive women had stopped all breastfeeding. About a third of women introduced other fluids, most commonly formula milk, within the first 3 days after birth. Antenatal intention not to breastfeed and being undecided about how to feed were most strongly associated with stopping breastfeeding by 12 weeks (Adjusted odds ratio, AOR 5.6, 95% CI 3.4 – 9.5 and AOR 4.1, 95% CI 1.6 – 10.8, respectively). Also important was self-reported breast health problems associated with a 3-fold risk of stopping breastfeeding (AOR 3.1, 95%CI 1.7 – 5.7) and the mother having her own income doubled the risk of stopping breastfeeding (AOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.3 – 2.8).
Early cessation of breastfeeding is common amongst both HIV-negative and positive women in South Africa. There is an urgent need to improve antenatal breastfeeding counselling taking into account the challenges faced by working women as well as early postnatal lactation support to prevent breast health problems.
PMCID: PMC3441849  PMID: 22827969
8.  Social, economic, political and health system and program determinants of child mortality reduction in China between 1990 and 2006: A systematic analysis 
Journal of Global Health  2012;2(1):010405.
Between 1990 and 2006, China reduced its under-five mortality rate (U5MR) from 64.6 to 20.6 per 1000 live births and achieved the fourth United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal nine years ahead of target. This study explores the contribution of social, economic and political determinants, health system and policy determinants, and health programmes and interventions to this success.
For each of the years between 1990 and 2006, we obtained an estimate of U5MR for 30 Chinese provinces from the annual China Health Statistics Yearbook. For each year, we also obtained data describing the status of 8 social, 10 economic, 2 political, 9 health system and policy, and six health programmes and intervention indicators for each province. These government data are not of the same quality as some other health information sources in modern China, such as articles with primary research data available in Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and Wan Fang databases, or Chinese Maternal and Child Mortality Surveillance system. Still, the comparison of relative changes in underlying indicators with the undisputed strong general trend of childhood mortality reduction over 17 years should still capture the main effects at the macro-level. We used multivariate random effect regression models to determine the effect of 35 indicators individually and 5 constructs defined by factor analysis (reflecting effects of social, economic, political, health systems and policy, and health programmes) on the reduction of U5MR in China.
In the univariate regression applied with a one-year time lag, social determinants of health construct showed the strongest crude association with U5MR reduction (R2 = 0.74), followed by the constructs for health programmes and interventions (R2 = 0.65), economic (R2 = 0.47), political (R2 = 0.28) and health system and policy determinants (R2 = 0.26), respectively. Similarly, when multivariate regression was applied with a one-year time lag, the social determinants construct showed the strongest effect (beta = 11.79, P < 0.0001), followed by the construct for political factors (beta = 4.24, P < 0.0001) and health programmes and interventions (beta = −3.45, P < 0.0001). The 5 studied constructs accounted for about 80% of variability in U5MR reduction across provinces over the 17-year period.
Vertical intervention programs, health systems strengthening or economic growth alone may all fail to achieve the desired reduction in child mortality when improvement of the key social determinants of health is lagging behind. To accelerate progress toward MDG4, low- and middle-income countries should undertake appropriate efforts to promote maternal education, reduce fertility rates, integrate minority populations and improve access to clean water and safe sanitation. A cross-sectoral approach seems most likely to have the greatest impact on U5MR.
PMCID: PMC3484751  PMID: 23198134
9.  Understanding the determinants of the complex interplay between cost-effectiveness and equitable impact in maternal and child mortality reduction 
Journal of Global Health  2012;2(1):010406.
One of the most unexpected outcomes arising from the efforts towards maternal and child mortality reduction is that all too often the objective success has been coupled with increased inequity in the population. The aim of this study is to analyze the determinants of the complex interplay between cost-effectiveness and equity and suggest strategies that will promote an impact on mortality that reduce population child health inequities.
We developed a conceptual framework that exposes the nature of the links between the five key determinants that need to be taken into account when planning equitable impact. These determinants are: (i) efficiency of intervention scale-up (requires knowledge of differential increase in cost of intervention scale-up by equity strata in the population); (ii) effectiveness of intervention (requires understanding of differential effectiveness of interventions by equity strata in the population); (iii) the impact on mortality (requires knowledge of differential mortality levels by equity strata, and understanding the differences in cause composition of overall mortality in different equity strata); (iv) cost-effectiveness (compares the initial cost and the resulting impact on mortality); (v) equity structure of the population. The framework is presented visually as a four-quadrant graph.
We use the proposed framework to demonstrate why the relationship between cost-effectiveness and equitable impact of an intervention cannot be intuitively predicted or easily planned. The relationships between the five determinants are complex, often nonlinear, context-specific and intervention-specific. We demonstrate that there will be instances when an equity-promoting approach, ie, trying to reach for the poorest and excluded in the population with health interventions, will also be the most cost-effective approach. However, there will be cases in which this will be entirely unfeasible, and where equity-neutral or even inequity-promoting approaches may be substantially more cost-effective. In those cases, investments into health system development among the poorest that would increase the quality and reduce the cost of intervention delivery would be required before intervention scale-up is planned.
The relationships between the most important determinants of cost-effectiveness and equitable impact of health interventions used to reduce maternal and child mortality are highly complex, and the effect on equity cannot be predicted intuitively, or by using simple linear models.
PMCID: PMC3484756  PMID: 23198135
11.  Infant feeding practices at routine PMTCT sites, South Africa: results of a prospective observational study amongst HIV exposed and unexposed infants - birth to 9 months 
We sought to investigate infant feeding practices amongst HIV-positive and -negative mothers (0-9 months postpartum) and describe the association between infant feeding practices and HIV-free survival.
Infant feeding data from a prospective observational cohort study conducted at three (of 18) purposively-selected routine South African PMTCT sites, 2002-2003, were analysed. Infant feeding data (previous 4 days) were gathered during home visits at 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks postpartum. Four feeding groups were of interest, namely exclusive breastfeeding, mixed breastfeeding, exclusive formula feeding and mixed formula feeding. Cox proportional hazards models were fitted to investigate associations between feeding practices (0-12 weeks) and infant HIV-free survival.
Six hundred and sixty five HIV-positive and 218 HIV-negative women were recruited antenatally and followed-up until 36 weeks postpartum. Amongst mothers who breastfed between 3 weeks and 6 months postpartum, significantly more HIV-positive mothers practiced exclusive breastfeeding compared with HIV-negative: at 3 weeks 130 (42%) versus 33 (17%) (p < 0.01); this dropped to 17 (11%) versus 1 (0.7%) by four months postpartum. Amongst mothers practicing mixed breastfeeding between 3 weeks and 6 months postpartum, significantly more HIV-negative mothers used commercially available breast milk substitutes (p < 0.02) and use of these peaked between 9 and 12 weeks. The probability of postnatal HIV or death was lowest amongst infants living in the best resourced site who avoided breastfeeding, and highest amongst infants living in the rural site who stopped breastfeeding early (mean and standard deviations: 10.7% ± 3% versus 46% ± 11%).
Although feeding practices were poor amongst HIV-positive and -negative mothers, HIV-positive mothers undertake safer infant feeding practices, possibly due to counseling provided through the routine PMTCT programme. The data on differences in infant outcome by feeding practice and site validate the WHO 2009 recommendations that site differences should guide feeding practices amongst HIV-positive mothers. Strong interventions are needed to promote exclusive breastfeeding (to 6 months) with continued breastfeeding thereafter amongst HIV-negative motherswho are still the majority of mothers even in high HIV prevalence setting like South Africa.
PMCID: PMC3348038  PMID: 22472507
PMTCT; HIV and Infant Feeding; Breastfeeding; HIV-free survival; Formula Feeding
12.  An effectiveness study of an integrated, community-based package for maternal, newborn, child and HIV care in South Africa: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:236.
Progress towards MDG4 in South Africa will depend largely on scaling up effective prevention against mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and also addressing neonatal mortality. This imperative drives increasing focus on the neonatal period and particularly on the development and testing of appropriate models of sustainable, community-based care in South Africa in order to reach the poor. A number of key implementation gaps affecting progress have been identified. Implementation gaps for HIV prevention in neonates; implementation gaps for neonatal care especially home postnatal care; and implementation gaps for maternal mental health support. We have developed and are evaluating and costing an integrated and scaleable home visit package delivered by community health workers targeting pregnant and postnatal women and their newborns to provide essential maternal/newborn care as well as interventions for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.
The trial is a cluster randomized controlled trial that is being implemented in Umlazi which is a peri-urban settlement with a total population of 1 million close to Durban in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The trial consists of 30 randomized clusters (15 in each arm). A baseline survey established the homogeneity of clusters and neither stratification nor matching was performed. Sample size was based on increasing HIV-free survival from 74% to 84%, and calculated to be 120 pregnant women per cluster. Primary outcomes are higher levels of HIV free survival and levels of exclusive and appropriate infant feeding at 12 weeks postnatally. The intervention is home based with community health workers delivering two antenatal visits, a postnatal visit within 48 hours of birth, and a further four visits during the first two months of the infants life. We are undertaking programmatic and cost effectiveness analysis to cost the intervention.
The question is not merely to develop an efficacious package but also to identify and test delivery strategies that enable scaling up, which requires effectiveness studies in a health systems context, adapting and testing Asian community-based studies in various African contexts.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3248873  PMID: 22044553
13.  Setting Research Priorities to Reduce Global Mortality from Childhood Pneumonia by 2015 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001099.
Igor Rudan and colleagues report the results of their consensus building exercise that identified health research priorities to help reduce child mortality from pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3181228  PMID: 21980266
14.  Influences on Healthcare-seeking during Final Illnesses of Infants in Under-resourced South African Settings 
To examine how health caregivers in under-resourced South African settings select from among the healthcare alternatives available to them during the final illness of their infants, qualitative interviews were conducted with 39 caregivers of deceased infants in a rural community and an urban township. Nineteen local health providers and community leaders were also interviewed to ascertain opinions about local healthcare and other factors impacting healthcare-seeking choices. The framework analysis method guided qualitative analysis of data. Limited autonomy of caregivers in decision-making, lack of awareness of infant danger-signs, and identification of an externalizing cause of illness were important influences on healthcare-seeking during illnesses of infants in these settings. Health system factors relating to the performance of health workers and the accessibility and availability of services also influenced healthcare-seeking decisions. Although South African public-health services are free, the findings showed that poor families faced other financial constraints that impacted their access to healthcare. Often there was not one factor but a combination of factors occurring either concurrently or sequentially that determined whether, when, and from where outside healthcare was sought during final illnesses of infants. In addition to reducing health system barriers to healthcare, initiatives to improve timely and appropriate healthcare-seeking for sick infants must take into consideration ways to mitigate contextual problems, such as limited autonomy of caregivers in decision-making, and reconcile local explanatory models of childhood illnesses that may not encourage healthcare-seeking at allopathic services.
PMCID: PMC3190369  PMID: 21957677
Healthcare; Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Infant mortality; Medicine, Traditional; Qualitative research; South Africa
15.  Do improvements in outreach, clinical, and family and community-based services predict improvements in child survival? An analysis of serial cross-sectional national surveys 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:456.
There are three main service delivery channels: clinical services, outreach, and family and community. To determine which delivery channels are associated with the greatest reductions in under-5 mortality rates (U5MR), we used data from sequential population-based surveys to examine the correlation between changes in coverage of clinical, outreach, and family and community services and in U5MR for 27 high-burden countries.
Household survey data were abstracted from serial surveys in 27 countries. Average annual changes (AAC) between the most recent and penultimate survey were calculated for under-five mortality rates and for 22 variables in the domains of clinical, outreach, and family- and community-based services. For all 27 countries and a subset of 19 African countries, we conducted principal component analysis to reduce the variables into a few components in each domain and applied linear regression to assess the correlation between changes in the principal components and changes in under-five mortality rates after controlling for multiple potential confounding factors.
AAC in under 5-mortality varied from 6.6% in Nepal to -0.9% in Kenya, with six of the 19 African countries all experiencing less than a 1% decline in mortality. The strongest correlation with reductions in U5MR was observed for access to clinical services (all countries: p = 0.02, r2 = 0.58; 19 African countries p < 0.001, r2 = 0.67). For outreach activities, AAC U5MR was significantly correlated with antenatal care and family planning services, while AAC in immunization services showed no association. In the family- and community services domain, improvements in breastfeeding were associated with significant changes in mortality in the 30 countries but not in the African subset; while in the African countries, nutritional status improvements were associated with a significant decline in mortality.
Our findings support the importance of increasing access to clinical services, certain outreach services and breastfeeding and, in Africa, of improving nutritional status. Integrated programs that emphasize these services may lead to substantial mortality declines.
PMCID: PMC3141447  PMID: 21658267
16.  The case for launch of an international DNA-based birth cohort study 
Journal of Global Health  2011;1(1):39-45.
The global health agenda beyond 2015 will inevitably need to broaden its focus from mortality reduction to the social determinants of deaths, growing inequities among children and mothers, and ensuring the sustainability of the progress made against the infectious diseases. New research tools, including technologies that enable high-throughput genetic and ‘-omics’ research, could be deployed for better understanding of the aetiology of maternal and child health problems. The research needed to address those challenges will require conceptually different studies than those used in the past. It should be guided by stringent ethical frameworks related to the emerging collections of biological specimens and other health related information. We will aim to establish an international birth cohort which should assist low- and middle-income countries to use emerging genomic research technologies to address the main problems in maternal and child health, which are still major contributors to the burden of disease globally.
PMCID: PMC3484746  PMID: 23198101
17.  Explaining household socio-economic related child health inequalities using multiple methods in three diverse settings in South Africa 
Despite free healthcare to pregnant women and children under the age of six, access to healthcare has failed to secure better child health outcomes amongst all children of the country. There is growing evidence of socioeconomic gradient on child health outcomes
The objectives of this study were to measure inequalities in child mortality, HIV transmission and vaccination coverage within a cohort of infants in South Africa. We also used the decomposition technique to identify the factors that contribute to the inequalities in these three child health outcomes. We used data from a prospective cohort study of mother-child pairs in three sites in South African. A relative index of household socio-economic status was developed using principal component analysis. This paper uses the concentration index to summarise inequalities in child mortality, HIV transmission and vaccination coverage.
We observed disparities in the availability of infrastructure between least poor and most poor families, and inequalities in all measured child health outcomes. Overall, 75 (8.5%) infants died between birth and 36 weeks. Infant mortality and HIV transmission was higher among the poorest families within the sample. Immunisation coverage was higher among the least poor. The inequalities were mainly due to the area of residence and socio-economic position.
This study provides evidence that socio-economic inequalities are highly prevalent within the relatively poor black population. Poor socio-economic position exposes infants to ill health. In addition, the use of immunisation services was lower in the poor households. These inequalities need to be explicitly addressed in future programme planning to improve child health for all South Africans.
PMCID: PMC3086829  PMID: 21463530
18.  Setting Implementation Research Priorities to Reduce Preterm Births and Stillbirths at the Community Level 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000380.
Asha George and colleagues from the GAPPS group report the implementation research priorities to address prematurity and stillbirths at the community level that resulted from their recent expert consensus exercise.
PMCID: PMC3014929  PMID: 21245907
19.  Unequal weight: equity oriented policy responses to the global obesity epidemic 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;335(7632):1241-1243.
The health professions need to spearhead a concerted intersectoral response to obesity, say Sharon Friel, Mickey Chopra, and David Satcher
PMCID: PMC2137064  PMID: 18079548
20.  The construction of an idealised urban masculinity among men with concurrent sexual partners in a South African township 
Global Health Action  2010;3:10.3402/gha.v3i0.5092.
The perspectives of heterosexual males who have large sexual networks comprising concurrent sexual partners and who engage in high-risk sexual behaviours are scarcely documented. Yet these perspectives are crucial to understanding the high HIV prevalence in South Africa where domestic violence, sexual assault and rape are alarmingly high, suggesting problematic gender dynamics.
To explore the construction of masculinities and men's perceptions of women and their sexual relationships, among men with large sexual networks and concurrent partners.
This qualitative study was conducted in conjunction with a larger quantitative survey among men at high risk of HIV, using respondent-driven sampling to recruit participants, where long referral chains allowed us to reach far into social networks. Twenty in-depth, open-ended interviews with South African men who had multiple and concurrent sexual partners were conducted. A latent content analysis was used to explore the characteristics and dynamics of social and sexual relationships.
We found dominant masculine ideals characterised by overt economic power and multiple sexual partners. Reasons for large concurrent sexual networks were the perception that women were too empowered, could not be trusted, and lack of control over women. Existing masculine norms encourage concurrent sexual networks, ignoring the high risk of HIV transmission. Biological explanations and determinism further reinforced strong and negative perceptions of women and female sexuality, which helped polarise men's interpretation of gender constructions.
Our results highlight the need to address sexuality and gender dynamics among men in growing, informal urban areas where HIV prevalence is strikingly high. Traditional structures that could work as focal entry points should be explored for effective HIV prevention aimed at normative change among hard-to-reach men in high-risk urban and largely informal contexts.
PMCID: PMC2905206  PMID: 20644656
HIV; gender; masculinity; structural interventions; concurrency; urban townships; South Africa
21.  Evidence-Based Priority Setting for Health Care and Research: Tools to Support Policy in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health in Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000308.
As part of a series on maternal, neonatal, and child health in sub-Saharan Africa, Igor Rudan and colleagues discuss various priority-setting tools for health care and research that can help develop evidence-based policy.
PMCID: PMC2903581  PMID: 20644640
22.  Scaling up integration: development and results of a participatory assessment of HIV/TB services, South Africa 
In South Africa the need to integrate HIV, TB and STI programmes has been recognised at a policy and organisation level; the challenge is now one of translating policies into relevant actions and monitoring implementation to ensure that the anticipated benefits of integration are achieved. In this research, set in public primary care services in Cape Town, South Africa, we set out to determine how middle level managers could be empowered to monitor the implementation of an effective, integrated HIV/TB/STI service.
A team of managers and researchers designed an evaluation tool to measure implementation of key components of an integrated HIV/TB/STI package with a focus on integration. They used a comprehensive health systems framework based on conditions for programme effectiveness and then identified and collected tracer indicators. The tool was extensively piloted in two rounds involving 49 clinics in 2003 and 2004 to identify data necessary for effective facility-level management. A subsequent evaluation of 16 clinics (2 per health sub district, 12% of all public primary care facilities) was done in February 2006.
16 clinics were reviewed and 635 records sampled. Client access to HIV/TB/STI programmes was limited in that 50% of facilities routinely deferred clients. Whilst the physical infrastructure and staff were available, there was problem with capacity in that there was insufficient staff training (for example, only 40% of clinical staff trained in HIV care). Weaknesses were identified in quality of care (for example, only 57% of HIV clients were staged in accordance with protocols) and continuity of care (for example, only 24% of VCT clients diagnosed with HIV were followed up for medical assessment). Facility and programme managers felt that the evaluation tool generated information that was useful to manage the programmes at facility and district level. On the basis of the results facility managers drew up action plans to address three areas of weakness within their own facility.
This use of the tool which is designed to empower programme and facility managers demonstrates how engaging middle managers is crucial in translating policies into relevant actions.
PMCID: PMC2913937  PMID: 20626884
23.  Sub-Saharan Africa's Mothers, Newborns, and Children: How Many Lives Could Be Saved with Targeted Health Interventions? 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000295.
As part of the series on maternal, neonatal, and child health in sub-Saharan Africa, Robert Black and colleagues estimated mortality reduction for 42 countries and conclude that the use of local data is needed to prioritize the most effective mix of interventions.
PMCID: PMC2888572  PMID: 20574515
24.  The failure of routine rapid HIV testing: a case study of improving low sensitivity in the field 
The rapid HIV antibody test is the diagnostic tool of choice in low and middle-income countries. Previous evidence suggests that rapid HIV diagnostic tests may underperform in the field, failing to detect a substantial number of infections. A research study inadvertently discovered that a clinic rapid HIV testing process was failing to detect cases of established (high antibody titer) infection, exhibiting an estimated 68.7% sensitivity (95% CI [41.3%-89.0%]) over the course of the first three weeks of observation. The setting is a public service clinic that provides STI diagnosis and treatment in an impoverished, peri-urban community outside of Cape Town, South Africa.
The researchers and local health administrators collaborated to investigate the cause of the poor test performance and make necessary corrections. The clinic changed the brand of rapid test being used and later introduced quality improvement measures. Observations were made of the clinic staff as they administered rapid HIV tests to real patients. Estimated testing sensitivity was calculated as the number of rapid HIV test positive individuals detected by the clinic divided by this number plus the number of PCR positive, highly reactive 3rd generation ELISA patients identified among those who were rapid test negative at the clinic.
In the period of five months after the clinic made the switch of rapid HIV tests, estimated sensitivity improved to 93.5% (95% CI [86.5%-97.6%]), during which time observations of counselors administering tests at the clinic found poor adherence to the recommended testing protocol. Quality improvement measures were implemented and estimated sensitivity rose to 95.1% (95% CI [83.5%-99.4%]) during the final two months of full observation.
Poor testing procedure in the field can lead to exceedingly low levels of rapid HIV test sensitivity, making it imperative that stringent quality control measures are implemented where they do not already exist. Certain brands of rapid-testing kits may perform better than others when faced with sub-optimal use.
PMCID: PMC2851712  PMID: 20307310
25.  WHO guidelines for severe malnutrition: are they feasible in rural African hospitals? 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2007;92(3):198-204.
To assess the feasibility of implementing and sustaining the WHO guidelines for inpatient management of severe malnutrition in under‐resourced rural South African hospitals, and to identify any constraints.
Three 2‐day training workshops were held in 1998, followed by monthly 1‐day visits for 5 months, ending in March 1999, in two rural district hospitals with limited resources in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
A 12‐month observational study was conducted from April 2000 to April 2001 in Mary Theresa and Sipetu hospitals (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa), including 1011 child‐hours of observation on the wards, medical record reviews, interviews with carers and staff, and inventories of essential supplies. All admissions (n = 193) for severe malnutrition to the two hospitals were studied. The main outcomes were the extent to which the 10 steps for routine care of severely malnourished children were implemented, proficiency of performance and constraining factors.
The hospitals made the changes required in clinical and dietary management, but the tasks were not always performed fully or with sufficient care. Play and stimulation and an effective system of follow‐up were not implemented. Doctors' poor knowledge, nurses' inattentiveness and insufficient interaction with carers were constraints to optimal management. The underlying factors were inadequate undergraduate training, understaffing, high doctor turnover and low morale.
Guidelines for severe malnutrition are largely feasible but training workshops are insufficient to achieve optimal management as staff turnover and an unsupportive health system erode the gains made and doctors treat cases without having being trained. Medical and nursing curricula in Africa must include treatment of severe malnutrition.
PMCID: PMC2083437  PMID: 16670119

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