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1.  Promoting universal financial protection: health insurance for the poor in Georgia – a case study 
The present study focuses on the program “Medical Insurance for the Poor (MIP)” in Georgia. Under this program, the government purchased coverage from private insurance companies for vulnerable households identified through a means testing system, targeting up to 23% of the total population. The benefit package included outpatient and inpatient services with no co-payments, but had only limited outpatient drug benefits. This paper presents the results of the study on the impact of MIP on access to health services and financial protection of the MIP-targeted and general population.
With a holistic case study design, the study employed a range of quantitative and qualitative methods. The methods included document review and secondary analysis of the data obtained through the nationwide household health expenditure and utilisation surveys 2007–2010 using the difference-in-differences method.
The study findings showed that MIP had a positive impact in terms of reduced expenditure for inpatient services and total household health care costs, and there was a higher probability of receiving free outpatient benefits among the MIP-insured. However, MIP insurance had almost no effect on health services utilisation and the households’ expenditure on outpatient drugs, including for those with MIP insurance, due to limited drug benefits in the package and a low claims ratio. In summary, the extended MIP coverage and increased financial access provided by the program, most likely due to the exclusion of outpatient drug coverage from the benefit package and possibly due to improper utilisation management by private insurance companies, were not able to reverse adverse effects of economic slow-down and escalating health expenditure. MIP has only cushioned the negative impact for the poorest by decreasing the poor/rich gradient in the rates of catastrophic health expenditure.
The recent governmental decision on major expansion of MIP coverage and inclusion of additional drug benefit will most likely significantly enhance the overall MIP impact and its potential as a viable policy instrument for achieving universal coverage. The Georgian experience presented in this paper may be useful for other low- and middle-income countries that are contemplating ways to ensure universal coverage for their populations.
PMCID: PMC3827822  PMID: 24228796
Catastrophic expenditure; Financial protection; Health insurance for the poor; Service utilisation; Targeting the poor; Universal coverage
2.  Unsafe Injection and Sexual Risk Behavior among Injecting Drug Users in Georgia 
Injection drug users (IDUs) are at risk for acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through parenteral and sexual transmission. In this paper, we describe the prevalence and correlates of unsafe drug injecting and sexual behaviors among IDUs recruited across five cities in Georgia in 2009. IDUs were administered a questionnaire collecting information on demographics, drug use, sexual behaviors, and HIV testing behaviors. Correlates of risky injecting and sexual behaviors were determined using logistic regression. Of 1,127 IDUs, the majority (98.7%) were men, and the median duration of injecting drugs was 7 years. Unsafe injecting behavior at last injection was reported by 51.9% of IDUs, while 16.8% reported both unsafe injecting behavior and not using condoms with last occasional and/or commercial partner. In the multivariate analysis, independent correlates of unsafe injecting behavior at last injection were types of drugs injected [p = 0.0096; (for ephedrine, adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 7.38; 95% CI, 1.50–36.26)] and not using condoms at last commercial sex (aOR = 2.29, 1.22–4.32). The following variables were significantly associated with unsafe injecting behavior at last injection and not using condoms at last sex with commercial and/or occasional partners in the multivariate analysis: marital status [p = 0.0002; (for divorced, widowed, and separated aOR = 2.62, 1.62–4.25; for single aOR = 1.61, 1.08–2.39)], being a member of a regular injecting group (aOR = 0.62, 0.44–0.88), types of drugs injected in the past month [p = 0.0024; (for buprenorphine aOR = 0.34, 0.18–0.63)], city of residence (p = 0.0083), and not receiving information on HIV (aOR = 1.82, 1.07–3.09). Though only ephedrine was injected by a smaller number of IDUs (9.1%), the vast majority of these (81.4%) reported unsafe injecting practices at last injection. High prevalence of unsafe injecting behaviors and diverse and at-risk sexual partnerships highlight the need to implement complex and targeted HIV interventions among IDUs in Georgia.
PMCID: PMC3157497  PMID: 21717253
Injecting drug users; HIV; Sexual behavior; Georgia
3.  Prevalence of HIV among injection drug users in Georgia 
Injection drug use remains a major risk factor for HIV transmission in Georgia. The study aims to characterize the prevalence of HIV among injection drug users in Georgia.
A cross-sectional, anonymous bio-behavioural survey to assess knowledge and behaviour in injection drug users in combination with laboratory testing on HIV status was conducted in five Georgian cities (Tbilisi, Gori, Telavi, Zugdidi and Batumi) in 2009. A snowball sample of 1127 eligible injection drug user participants was investigated.
Odds of HIV exposure were increased for injection drug users of greater age, with greater duration of drug use and with a history of imprisonment or detainment (p < 0.05).
More research is required to analyze the determinants of HIV risk in Georgian injection drug users. The imprisoned population and young injection drug users may be appropriate target groups for programmes aimed at preventing HIV transmission.
PMCID: PMC3050784  PMID: 21324140
4.  Reforming sanitary-epidemiological service in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union: an exploratory study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:440.
Public health services in the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe were delivered through centrally planned and managed networks of sanitary-epidemiological (san-epid) facilities. Many countries sought to reform this service following the political transition in the 1990s. In this paper we describe the major themes within these reforms.
A review of literature was conducted. A conceptual framework was developed to guide the review, which focused on the two traditional core public health functions of the san-epid system: communicable disease surveillance, prevention and control and environmental health. The review included twenty-two former communist countries in the former Soviet Union (fSU) and in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
The countries studied fall into two broad groups. Reforms were more extensive in the CEE countries than in the fSU. The CEE countries have moved away from the former centrally managed san-epid system, adopting a variety of models of decentralization. The reformed systems remain mainly funded centrally level, but in some countries there are contributions by local government. In almost all countries, epidemiological surveillance and environmental monitoring remained together under a single organizational umbrella but in a few responsibilities for environmental health have been divided among different ministries.
Progress in reform of public health services has varied considerably. There is considerable scope to learn from the differing experiences but also a need for rigorous evaluation of how public health functions are provided.
PMCID: PMC2919478  PMID: 20663198
5.  The role of supportive supervision on immunization program outcome - a randomized field trial from Georgia 
One of the most common barriers to improving immunization coverage rates is human resources and its management. In the Republic of Georgia, a country where widespread health care reforms have taken place over the last decade, an intervention was recently implemented to strengthen performance of immunization programs. A range of measures were taken to ensure that immunization managers carry out their activities effectively through direct, personal contact on a regular basis to guide, support and assist designated health care facility staff to become more competent in their immunization work. The aim of this study was to document the effects of "supportive" supervision on the performance of the immunization program at the district(s) level in Georgia.
A pre-post experimental research design is used for the quantitative evaluation. Data come from baseline and follow-up surveys of health care providers and immunization managers in 15 intervention and 15 control districts. These data were supplemented by focus group discussions amongst Centre of Public Health and health facility staff.
The results of the study suggest that the intervention package resulted in a number of expected improvements. Among immunization managers, the intervention independently contributed to improved knowledge of supportive supervision, and helped remove self-perceived barriers to supportive supervision such as availability of resources to supervisors, lack of a clear format for providing supportive supervision, and lack of recognition among providers of the importance of supportive supervision. The intervention independently contributed to relative improvements in district-level service delivery outcomes such as vaccine wastage factors and the DPT-3 immunization coverage rate. The clear positive improvement in all service delivery outcomes across both the intervention and control districts can be attributed to an overall improvement in the Georgian population's access to health care.
Provider-based interventions such as supportive supervision can have independent positive effects on immunization program indicators. Thus, it is recommended to implement supportive supervision within the framework of national immunization programs in Georgia and other countries in transition with similar institutional arrangements for health services organization.
Abstract in Russian
See the full article online for a translation of this abstract in Russian.
PMCID: PMC3226230  PMID: 19828055
6.  Household catastrophic health expenditure: evidence from Georgia and its policy implications 
To quantify extent of catastrophic household health expenditures, determine factors influencing it and estimate Fairness in Financial Contribution (FFC) index in Georgia to establish the baseline for expected reforms and contribute to the design and fine-tuning of the major reforms in health care financing initiated by the government mid-2007.
The research is based on the nationally representative Health Care Utilization and Expenditure survey conducted during May-June 2007, prior to preparing for new phase of implementation for the health care financing reforms. Households' catastrophic health expenditures were estimated according to the methodology proposed by WHO – Ke Xu [1]. A logistic regression (logit) model was used to predict probability of catastrophic health expenditure occurrence.
In Georgia between 2000 and 2007 access to care for poor has improved slightly and the share of households facing catastrophic health expenditures have seemingly increased from 2.8% in 1999 to 11.7% in 2007. However, this variance may be associated with the methodological differences of the respective surveys from which the analysis were derived. The high level of the catastrophic health expenditure may be associated with the low share of prepayment in national health expenditure, adequate availability of services and a high level of poverty in the country. Major factors determining the financial catastrophe related to ill health were hospitalization, household members with chronic illness and poverty status of the household. The FFC for Georgia appears to have improved since 2004.
Reducing the prevalence of catastrophic health expenditure is a policy objective of the government, which can be achieved by focusing on increased financial protection offered to poor and expanding government financed benefits for poor and chronically ill by including and expanding inpatient coverage and adding drug benefits. This policy recommendation may also be relevant for other Low and Middle Income countries with similar levels of out of pocket payments and catastrophic health expenditures.
PMCID: PMC2695816  PMID: 19400939
7.  Human resources for health challenges of public health system reform in Georgia 
Human resources (HR) are one of the most important components determining performance of public health system. The aim of this study was to assess adequacy of HR of local public health agencies to meet the needs emerging from health care reforms in Georgia.
We used the Human Resources for Health Action Framework, which includes six components: HR management, policy, finance, education, partnerships and leadership. The study employed: (a) quantitative methods: from September to November 2004, 30 randomly selected district Centers of Public Health (CPH) were surveyed through face-to-face interviews with the CPH director and one public health worker randomly selected from all professional staff; and (b) qualitative methods: in November 2004, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were held among 3 groups: a) 12 district public health professionals, b) 11 directors of district public health centers, and c) 10 policy makers at central level.
There was an unequal distribution of public health workers across selected institutions, with lack of professionals in remote rural district centers and overstaffing in urban centers. Survey respondents disagreed or were uncertain that public health workers possess adequate skills and knowledge necessary for delivery of public health programs. FGDs shed additional light on the survey findings that there is no clear vision and plans on HR development. Limited budget, poor planning, and ignorance from the local government were mentioned as main reasons for inadequate staffing. FGD participants were concerned with lack of good training institutions and training programs, lack of adequate legislation for HR issues, and lack of necessary resources for HR development from the government.
After ten years of public health system reforms in Georgia, the public health workforce still has major problems such as irrational distribution and inadequate knowledge and skills. There is an urgent need for re-training and training programs and development of conducive policy environment with sufficient resources to address these problems and assure adequate functionality of public health programs.
PMCID: PMC2429907  PMID: 18505585
8.  Influence of household demographic and socio-economic factors on household expenditure on tobacco in six New Independent States 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:222.
To identify demographic and socio-economic factors that are associated with household expenditure on tobacco in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, and Tajikistan.
Secondary analysis of the data available through the World Bank Living Standards Monitoring Survey conducted in aforementioned countries in 1995–2000. The role of different variables (e.g. mean age of household members, household area of residence, household size, share of adult males, share of members with high education) in determining household expenditure on tobacco (defined as tobacco expenditure share out of total monthly HH consumption) was assessed by using multiple regression analysis.
Significant differences were found between mean expenditure on tobacco between rich and poor – in absolute terms the rich spend significantly more compared with the poor. Poor households devote significantly higher shares of their monthly HH consumption for tobacco products. Shares of adult males were significantly associated with the share of household consumption devoted for tobacco. There was a significant negative association between shares of persons with tertiary education within the HH and shares of monthly household consumption devoted for tobacco products. The correlation between household expenditures on tobacco and alcohol was found to be positive, rather weak, but statistically significant.
Given the high levels of poverty and high rates of smoking in the New Independent States, these findings have important policy implications. They indicate that the impact and opportunity costs of smoking on household finances are more significant for the poor than for the rich. Any reductions in smoking prevalence within poor households could have a positive economic impact.
PMCID: PMC2031901  PMID: 17760965

Results 1-8 (8)