Mutual health organizations (MHO) have been implemented across Africa to increase access to healthcare and improve financial protection. Despite efforts to develop MHOs, low levels of both initial enrolment and membership renewals continue to threaten their financial viability. The purpose of this study was to map initiatives implemented to increase the pool of MHO members in Benin.
A multiple case study was conducted to assess MHOs supported by five major promoters in Benin. Three months of fieldwork resulted in 23 semi-structured interviews and two focus groups with MHO promoters, technicians, elected members, and health professionals affiliated with the MHOs. Fifteen non-structured interviews provided additional information and a valuable source of triangulation.
MHOs have adopted a wide range of initiatives targeting different entry points and involving a variety of stakeholders. Initiatives have included new types of collective health insurance packages and efforts to raise awareness by going door-to-door and organizing health education workshops. Different types of partnerships have been established to strengthen relationships with healthcare professionals and political leaders. However, the selection and implementation of these initiatives have been limited by insufficient financial and human resources.
The study highlights the importance of prioritizing sustainable strategies to increase MHO membership. No single MHO initiative has been able to resolve the issue of low membership on its own. If combined, existing initiatives could provide a comprehensive and inclusive approach that would target all entry points and include key stakeholders such as household decision-makers, MHO elected members, healthcare professionals, community leaders, governmental authorities, medical advisors, and promoters. There is a need to evaluate empirically the implementation of these interventions. Mechanisms to promote dialogue between MHO stakeholders would be useful to devise innovative strategies, avoid repeating unsuccessful ones, and develop a coordinated plan to promote MHOs.
Mutual health organization; Membership; Enrolment; Health insurance; Benin
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.
Mutual health organizations (MHO) have been seen as a promising alternative to the fee-based funding model but scientific foundations to support their generalization are still limited. Very little is known about the extent of the impact of MHOs on health-seeking behaviours, quality and costs.
We present the results of an evaluation of the effects attributable to membership in an MHO in a rural region of Benin. Two prospective studies of users (parturients and hospitalized patients) were conducted on the territory of an inter-mutual consisting of 10 MHOs and as many healthcare centres (one, Ouessé, serving as a referral hospital) and one hospital (Papané). Members and non-members were matched (142 pairs of parturients and 109 triads of hospitalized patients) and multilevel multiple regression was used. Results show that member parturients went to healthcare centres sooner (p = 0.049) and were discharged more quickly after delivery (p = 0.001) than non-members. Length of stay in some cases was longer for hospitalized member parturients (+41%). Being a member did not shorten hospital stay, total length of episode of care, or time between appearance of symptoms and recourse to care. Regarding expenses, member parturients paid one-third less than non-members for a delivery. For hospitalized patients, the average savings for members was around $35 US. Total expenses incurred by patients hospitalized at Papané Hospital were higher than at Ouessé but the two hospitals’ relative advantages were comparable at −36% and −39%, respectively.
These results confirm mutual health organizations’ capacity to protect households financially, even if benefits for the poor have not been clearly determined. The search for scientific evidence should continue, to understand their impacts with regard to services obtained by their members.
Several studies have demonstrated that women have greater mobility disability than men. The goals of this research were: 1) to assess the gender gap in mobility difficulty in 70 countries; 2) to determine whether the gender gap is explained by sociodemographic and health factors; 3) to determine whether the gender gap differs across 6 regions of the world with different degrees of gender equality according to United Nations data.
Population-based data were used from the World Health Survey (WHS) conducted in 70 countries throughout the world. 276,647 adults aged 18 years and over were recruited from 6 world regions. Mobility was measured by asking the level of difficulty people had moving around in the last 30 days and then creating a dichotomous measure (no difficulty, difficulty). The human development index and the gender-related development index for each country were obtained from the United Nations Development Program website. Poisson regression with Taylor series linearized variance estimation was used.
Women were more likely than men to report mobility difficulty (38% versus 27%, P < 0.0001). The age-adjusted prevalence rate ratio for female gender was 1.35 (95% CI 1.31–1.38). The addition of education, marital status, and urban versus rural setting reduced the prevalence rate ratio to 1.30 (95% CI 1.26–1.33). The addition of the presence of back pain, arthritis, angina, depressive symptoms, and cognitive difficulties further reduced the prevalence rate ratio to 1.12 (95% CI 1.09–1.15). There was statistical interaction on the multiplicative scale between female gender and region (P < 0.01). The Eastern Mediterranean region, which had the greatest loss of human development due to gender inequality, showed the largest gender gap in mobility difficulty, while the Western Pacific region, with the smallest loss of human development due to gender inequality, had the smallest gender gap in mobility difficulty.
These are the first world-wide data to examine the gender gap in mobility. Differences in chronic diseases are the main reasons for this gender gap. The gender gap seems to be greater in regions with the largest loss of human development due to gender inequality.
Gender; Inequality; Mobility; Human development index; Gender-related development index
The objective of this study is to investigate the magnitude and nature of health inequalities between indigenous (Scheduled Tribes) and non-indigenous populations, as well as between different indigenous groups, in a rural district of Kerala State, India.
A health survey was carried out in a rural community (N = 1660 men and women, 18–96 years). Age- and sex-standardised prevalence of underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2), anaemia, goitre, suspected tuberculosis and hypertension was compared across forward castes, other backward classes and tribal populations. Multi-level weighted logistic regression models were used to estimate the predicted prevalence of morbidity for each age and social group. A Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition was used to further explore the health gap between tribes and non-tribes, and between subgroups of tribes.
Social stratification remains a strong determinant of health in the progressive social policy environment of Kerala. The tribal groups are bearing a higher burden of underweight (46.1 vs. 24.3%), anaemia (9.9 vs. 3.5%) and goitre (8.5 vs. 3.6%) compared to non-tribes, but have similar levels of tuberculosis (21.4 vs. 20.4%) and hypertension (23.5 vs. 20.1%). Significant health inequalities also exist within tribal populations; the Paniya have higher levels of underweight (54.8 vs. 40.7%) and anaemia (17.2 vs. 5.7%) than other Scheduled Tribes. The social gradient in health is evident in each age group, with the exception of hypertension. The predicted prevalence of underweight is 31 and 13 percentage points higher for Paniya and other Scheduled Tribe members, respectively, compared to Forward Caste members 18–30 y (27.1%). Higher hypertension is only evident among Paniya adults 18–30 y (10 percentage points higher than Forward Caste adults of the same age group (5.4%)). The decomposition analysis shows that poverty and other determinants of health only explain 51% and 42% of the health gap between tribes and non-tribes for underweight and goitre, respectively.
Policies and programmes designed to benefit the Scheduled Tribes need to promote their well-being in general but also target the specific needs of the most vulnerable indigenous groups. There is a need to enhance the capacity of the disadvantaged to equally take advantage of health opportunities.
The risk of visual impairment increases dramatically with age and therefore older adults should have their eyes examined at least every 1 to 2 years. Using a world-wide, population-based dataset, we sought to determine the frequency that older people had their eyes examined. We also examined factors associated with having a recent eye exam.
The World Health Surveys were conducted in 70 countries throughout the world in 2002-2003 using a random, multi-stage, stratified, cluster sampling design. Participants 60 years and older from 52 countries (n = 35,839) were asked "When was the last time you had your eyes examined by a medical professional?". The income status of countries was estimated using gross national income per capita data from 2003 from the World Bank website. Prevalence estimates were adjusted to account for the complex sample design.
Overall, only 18% (95% CI 17, 19) of older adults had an eye exam in the last year. The rate of an eye exam in the last year in low, lower middle, upper middle, and high income countries was 10%, 24%, 22%, and 37% respectively. Factors associated with having an eye exam in the last year included older age, female gender, more education, urban residence, greater wealth, worse self-reported health, having diabetes, and wearing glasses or contact lenses (p < 0.05).
Given that older adults often suffer from age-related but treatable conditions, they should be seen on a regular basis to prevent visual impairment and its disabling consequences.
Since 2007, Burkina Faso has subsidized 80% of the costs of child birth. Women are required to pay 20% (900 F CFA = 1.4 Euros), except for the indigent, who are supposed to be exempted. The objective of the policy is to increase service utilization and reduce costs for households. We analyze the efficacy of the policy and the distribution of its benefits.
The study was carried out in Ouargaye district. The analysis was based on two distinct cross-sectional household surveys, conducted before (2006; n = 1170) and after (2010; n = 905) the policy, of all women who had had a vaginal delivery in a public health centre.
Medical expenses for delivery decreased from a median of 4,060 F CFA in 2006 to 900 F CFA in 2010 (p<0.001). There was pronounced contraction in the distribution of expenses and a reduction in interquartile range. Total expenses for delivery went from a median of 7,366 F CFA in 2006 to 4,750 F CFA in 2010 (p = 0.001). There was no exacerbation of the initial inequalities of the share in consumption after the policy. The distribution of benefits for medical expenses showed a progressive evolution. The greatest reduction in risk of excessive expenses was seen in women in the bottom quintile living less than 5 km from the health centres. Only 10% of those in the poorest quintile were exempted. The subsidy policy was more effective in Burkina Faso than in other African countries. All categories of the population benefited from this policy, including the poorest. Yet despite the subsidy, women still carry a significant cost burden; half of them pay more than they should, and few indigents are fully exempted. Efforts must still be made to reach the indigent and to reduce geographic barriers for all women.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women must overcome numerous barriers when they need modern healthcare. Respect of gender norms within the household and the community may still influence women's ability to obtain care. A lack of gender-sensitive instruments for measuring women's ability to overcome barriers compromises attempts to adequately quantify the burden and risk of exclusion they face when seeking modern healthcare. The aim of this study was to create and validate a synthetic measure of women's access to healthcare from a publicly available and possibly internationally comparable population-based survey.
Seven questionnaire items from the Burkina Faso 2003 DHS were combined to create the index. Cronbach's alpha coefficient was used to test the reliability of the index. Exploratory factor analyses (EFA) and confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) were applied to evaluate the factorial structure and construct validity of the index while taking into account the hierarchical structure of the data.
The index has a Cronbach's alpha of 0.75, suggesting adequate reliability. In EFA, three correlated factors fitted the data best. In CFA, the construct of perceived ability to overcome barriers to healthcare seeking emerged as a second-order latent variable with three domains: socioeconomic barriers, geographical barriers and psychosocial barriers. Model fit indices support the index's global validity for women of reproductive age in Burkina Faso. Evidence for construct validity comes from the finding that women's index scores increase with household living standard.
The DHS items can be combined into a reliable and valid, gender-sensitive index quantifying reproductive-age women's perceived ability to overcome barriers to healthcare seeking in Burkina Faso. The index complies conceptually with the sector-cross-cutting capability approach and enables measuring directly the perceived access to healthcare. Therefore it can help to improve the design and evaluation of interventions that aim to facilitate healthcare seeking in this country. Further analyses may examine how far the index applies to similar contexts.
WHO estimates suggest that age-specific death rates from non-communicable diseases are higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in high-income countries. The objectives of this study were to examine, in Burkina Faso, the prevalence of non-communicable disease symptoms by age, gender, socioeconomic group and setting (rural/urban), and to assess gender and socioeconomic inequalities in the prevalence of these symptoms.
We obtained data from the Burkina Faso World Health Survey, which was conducted in an adult population (18 years and over) with a high response rate (4822/4880 selected individuals). The survey used a multi-stage stratified random cluster sampling strategy to identify participants. The survey collected information on socio-demographic and economic characteristics, as well as data on symptoms of a variety of health conditions. Our study focused on joint disease, back pain, angina pectoris, and asthma. We estimated prevalence correcting for the sampling design. We used multiple Poisson regression to estimate associations between non-communicable disease symptoms, gender, socioeconomic status and setting.
The overall crude prevalence and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were: 16.2% [13.5; 19.2] for joint disease, 24% [21.5; 26.6] for back pain, 17.9% [15.8; 20.2] for angina pectoris, and 11.6% [9.5; 14.2] for asthma. Consistent relationships between age and the prevalence of non-communicable disease symptoms were observed in both men and women from rural and urban settings. There was markedly high prevalence in all conditions studied, starting with young adults. Women presented higher prevalence rates of symptoms than men for all conditions: prevalence ratios and 95% CIs were 1.20 [1.01; 1.43] for joint disease, 1.42 [1.21; 1.66] for back pain, 1.68 [1.39; 2.04] for angina pectoris, and 1.28 [0.99; 1.65] for asthma. Housewives and unemployed women had the highest prevalence rates of non-communicable disease symptoms.
Our work suggests that social inequality extends into the distribution of non-communicable diseases among social groups and supports the thesis of a differential vulnerability in Burkinabè women. It raises the possibility of an abnormally high rate of premature morbidity that could manifest as a form of premature aging in the adult population. Increased prevention, screening and treatment are needed in Burkina Faso to address high prevalence and gender inequalities in non-communicable diseases.
Inadequate public action in vulnerable communities is a major constraint for the health of poor and marginalized groups in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The south Indian state of Kerala, known for relatively equitable provision of public resources, is no exception to the marginalization of vulnerable communities. In Kerala, women’s lives are constrained by gender-based inequalities and certain indigenous groups are marginalized such that their health and welfare lag behind other social groups.
The goal of this socially-engaged, action-research initiative was to reduce social inequalities in access to health care in a rural community. Specific objectives were: 1) design and implement a community-based health insurance scheme to reduce financial barriers to health care, 2) strengthen local governance in monitoring and evidence-based decision-making, and 3) develop an evidence base for appropriate health interventions.
Results and outcomes
Health and social inequities have been masked by Kerala’s overall progress. Key findings illustrated large inequalities between different social groups. Particularly disadvantaged are lower-caste women and Paniyas (a marginalized indigenous group), for whom inequalities exist across education, employment status, landholdings, and health. The most vulnerable populations are the least likely to receive state support, which has broader implications for the entire country. A community based health solidarity scheme (SNEHA), under the leadership of local women, was developed and implemented yielding some benefits to health equity in the community—although inclusion of the Paniyas has been a challenge.
The Canadian-Indian action research team has worked collaboratively for over a decade. An initial focus on surveys and data analysis has transformed into a focus on socially engaged, participatory action research.
Challenges and successes
Adapting to unanticipated external forces, maintaining a strong team in the rural village, retaining human resources capable of analyzing the data, and encouraging Paniya participation in the health insurance scheme were challenges. Successes were at least partially enabled by the length of the funding (this was a two-phase project over an eight year period).
Systems to exempt the indigent from user fees have been put in place to prevent the worst-off from being excluded from health care services for lack of funds. Yet the implementation of these mechanisms is as rare as the operational research on this topic. This article analyzes an action research project aimed at finding an appropriate solution to make health care accessible to the indigent in a rural district of Burkina Faso.
This action research project was initiated in 2007 to study the feasibility and effectiveness of a community-based, participative and financially sustainable process for exempting the indigent from user fees. A interdisciplinary team of researchers from Burkina Faso and Canada was mobilized to document this action research project.
Results and knowledge sharing
The action process was very well received. Indigent selection was effective and strengthened local solidarity, but coverage was reduced by the lack of local financial resources. Furthermore, the indigent have many other needs that cannot be addressed by exemption from user fees. Several knowledge transfer strategies were implemented to share research findings with residents and with local and national decision-makers.
Partnership achievements and difficulties
Using a mixed and interdisciplinary research approach was critical to grasping the complexity of this community-based process. The adoption of the process and the partnership with local decision-makers were very effective. Therefore, at the instigation of an NGO, four other districts in Burkina Faso and Niger reproduced this experiment. However, national decision-makers showed no interest in this action and still seem unconcerned about finding solutions that promote access to health care for the indigent.
The lessons learned with regard to knowledge transfer and partnerships between researchers and associated decision-makers are: i) involve potential users of the research results from the research planning stage; ii) establish an ongoing partnership between researchers and users; iii) ensure that users can participate in certain research activities; iv) use a variety of strategies to disseminate results; and v) involve users in dissemination activities.
In the Indian context, a household's caste characteristics are most relevant for identifying its poverty and vulnerability status. Inadequate provision of public health care, the near-absence of health insurance and increasing dependence on the private health sector have impoverished the poor and the marginalised, especially the scheduled tribe population. This study examines caste-based inequalities in households' out-of-pocket health expenditure in the south Indian state of Kerala and provides evidence on the consequent financial burden inflicted upon households in different caste groups.
Using data from a 2003-2004 panel survey in Kottathara Panchayat that collected detailed information on health care consumption from 543 households, we analysed inequality in per capita out-of-pocket health expenditure across castes by considering households' health care needs and types of care utilised. We used multivariate regression to measure the caste-based inequality in health expenditure. To assess health expenditure burden, we analysed households incurring high health expenses and their sources of finance for meeting health expenses.
The per capita health expenditures reported by four caste groups accord with their status in the caste hierarchy. This was confirmed by multivariate analysis after controlling for health care needs and influential confounders. Households with high health care needs are more disadvantaged in terms of spending on health care. Households with high health care needs are generally at higher risk of spending heavily on health care. Hospitalisation expenditure was found to have the most impoverishing impacts, especially on backward caste households.
Caste-based inequality in household health expenditure reflects unequal access to quality health care by different caste groups. Households with high health care needs and chronic health care needs are most affected by this inequality. Households in the most marginalised castes and with high health care need require protection against impoverishing health expenditures. Special emphasis must be given to funding hospitalisation, as this expenditure puts households most at risk in terms of mobilising monetary resources. However, designing protection instruments requires deeper understanding of how the uncovered financial burden of out-patient and hospitalisation expenditure creates negative consequences and of the relative magnitude of this burden on households.
User fees were generalized in Burkina Faso in the 1990 s. At the time of their implementation, it was envisioned that measures would be instituted to exempt the poor from paying these fees. However, in practice, the identification of indigents is ineffective, and so they do not have access to care. Thus, a community-based process for selecting indigents for user fees exemption was tested in a district. In each of the 124 villages in the catchment areas of ten health centres, village committees proposed lists of indigents that were then validated by the health centres' management committees. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of this community-based selection.
An indigent-selection process is judged effective if it minimizes inclusion biases and exclusion biases. The study compares the levels of poverty and of vulnerability of indigents selected by the management committees (n = 184) with: 1) indigents selected in the villages but not retained by these committees (n = 48); ii) indigents selected by the health centre nurses (n = 82); and iii) a sample of the rural population (n = 5,900).
The households in which the three groups of indigents lived appeared to be more vulnerable and poorer than the reference rural households. Indigents selected by the management committees and the nurses were very comparable in terms of levels of vulnerability, but the former were more vulnerable socially. The majority of indigents proposed by the village committees who lived in extremely poor households were retained by the management committees. Only 0.36% of the population living below the poverty threshold and less than 1% of the extremely poor population were selected.
The community-based process minimized inclusion biases, as the people selected were poorer and more vulnerable than the rest of the population. However, there were significant exclusion biases; the selection was very restrictive because the exemption had to be endogenously funded.
In India, indigenous populations, known as Adivasi or Scheduled Tribes (STs), are among the poorest and most marginalized groups. 'Deprived' ST groups tend to display high levels of resignation and to lack the capacity to aspire; consequently their health perceptions often do not adequately correspond to their real health needs. Moreover, similar to indigenous populations elsewhere, STs often have little opportunity to voice perspectives framed within their own cultural worldviews. We undertook a study to gather policy-relevant data on the views, experiences, and priorities of a marginalized and previously enslaved tribal group in South India, the Paniyas, who have little 'voice' or power over their own situation.
We implemented a Participatory Poverty and Health Assessment (PPHA). We adopted guiding principles and an ethical code that promote respect for Paniya culture and values. The PPHA, informed by a vulnerability framework, addressed five key themes (health and illness, well-being, institutions, education, gender) using participatory approaches and qualitative methods. We implemented the PPHA in five Paniya colonies (clusters of houses in a small geographical area) in a gram panchayat (lowest level decentralized territorial unit) to generate data that can be quickly disseminated to decision-makers through interactive workshops and public forums.
Findings indicated that the Paniyas are caught in multiple 'vulnerability traps', that is, they view their situation as vicious cycles from which it is difficult to break free.
The PPHA is a potentially useful approach for global health researchers working with marginalized communities to implement research initiatives that will address those communities' health needs in an ethical and culturally appropriate manner.
Background Data aggregation in national information systems begins at the district level. Decentralization has given districts a lead role in health planning and management, therefore validity of administrative-based estimates at that level is important to improve the performance of immunization information systems.
Objective To assess the validity of administrative-based immunization estimates and their usability for planning and monitoring activities at district level.
Methods DTP3 and measles coverage rates from administrative sources were compared with estimates from the EPI cluster survey (ECS) and Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) carried out in 2003 at national and regional levels. ECS estimates were compared with administrative rates across the 52 districts, which were classified into three groups: those where administrative rates were underestimating, overestimating or concordant with ECS estimates (differences within 95% CI of ECS rate).
Results National rates provided by administrative data and ECS are similar (74% and 71% for DTP3 and 68% and 66% for measles, respectively); DHS estimates are much lower. Regional administrative data show large discrepancies when compared against ECS and DHS data (differences sometimes reaching 30 percentage points). At district level, geographical area is correlated with over- or underestimation by administrative sources, which overestimate DTP3 and measles coverage in remote areas. Underestimation is observed in districts near urban and highly populated centres. Over- and underestimation are independent of the antigen under consideration.
Conclusions Variability in immunization coverage across districts highlights the limitations of using nationally aggregated indicators. If district data are to be used in monitoring and planning immunization programmes as intended by decentralization, heterogeneity in their validity must be reduced. The authors recommend: (1) strengthening administrative data systems; (2) implementing indicators that are insensitive to population mobility; (3) integrating surveys into monitoring processes at the subnational level; (4) actively promoting the use of coverage information by local personnel and district-level staff.
Immunization; coverage estimates; data quality; health districts; Burkina Faso
To examine the social patterning of women's self‐reported health status in India and the validity of the two hypotheses: (1) low caste and lower socioeconomic position is associated with worse reported health status, and (2) associations between socioeconomic position and reported health status vary across castes.
Cross‐sectional household survey, age‐adjusted percentages and odds ratios, and multilevel multinomial logistic regression models were used for analysis.
A panchayat (territorial decentralised unit) in Kerala, India, in 2003.
4196 non‐elderly women.
Self‐perceived health status and reported limitations in activities in daily living.
Women from lower castes (scheduled castes/scheduled tribes (SC/ST) and other backward castes (OBC) reported a higher prevalence of poor health than women from forward castes. Socioeconomic inequalities were observed in health regardless of the indicators, education, women's employment status or household landholdings. The multilevel multinomial models indicate that the associations between socioeconomic indicators and health vary across caste. Among SC/ST and OBC women, the influence of socioeconomic variables led to a “magnifying” effect, whereas among forward caste women, a “buffering” effect was found. Among lower caste women, the associations between socioeconomic factors and self‐assessed health are graded; the associations are strongest when comparing the lowest and highest ratings of health.
Even in a relatively egalitarian state in India, there are caste and socioeconomic inequalities in women's health. Implementing interventions that concomitantly deal with caste and socioeconomic disparities will likely produce more equitable results than targeting either type of inequality in isolation.
The greatest challenge facing expanded programs on immunization in general, and in Burkina Faso in particular, lies in their capacity to achieve and sustain levels of immunization coverage that will ensure effective protection of children. This article aims to demonstrate that full immunization coverage of children, which is the primary indicator for monitoring national immunization programs, is sufficient neither to evaluate their performance adequately, nor to help identify the broad strategies that must be implemented to improve their performance. Other dimensions of performance, notably adherence to the vaccination schedule and the efficacy of the approaches used to reach all the children (targeting) must also be considered.
The study was carried out using data from surveys carried out in Burkina Faso: the 1993, 1998 and 2003 Demographic and Health Surveys and the 2003 national Survey of Immunization Coverage. Essentially, we described levels of immunization coverage and their trends according to the indicators considered. Performance differences are illustrated by amplitudes and maximum/minimum ratios.
The health regions' performances vary according to whether they are evaluated on the basis of full immunization coverage or vaccination status of children who have not completed their vaccinations. The health regions encompass a variety of realities, and efforts of substantially different intensity would be required to reach all the target populations.
Decision-making can be improved by integrating a tripartite view of performance that includes full immunization coverage, adherence to the vaccination schedule (timely coverage), and the status of children who are not fully vaccinated. With such an approach, interventions can be better targeted. It provides information on the quality and timeliness of vaccination and identifies the efforts required to meet the objectives of full immunization coverage.
Abstract in French
See the full article online for a translation of this abstract in French.
Despite the efforts of health authorities, vaccination coverage of targeted child populations is still poor in many regions. Parents' reticence has been identified as one cause of this situation. However, there is little data to explain the phenomenon that could support decision-making.
The objective of the study was to uncover the determinants of this reticence toward vaccination among the religious population of the cities of Parakou and Cotonou in Benin.
This was an exploratory study using a qualitative survey of 12 pastors and 30 faithful from churches that are vaccination-reticent and a control group of the same number of faithful belonging to other churches, all Christian. Individual and group interviews were carried out in the local language using a pre-established and pre-tested guide. The data collected underwent discourse content analysis focused on specific themes.
Analysis of the data reveals an erroneous perception of child vaccination. Those who are reticent say vaccination goes against the will of God, that it is a poison from the "white witch doctor", and that those who vaccinate their children are committing a sin. Members of the control group argued against this, but without conviction. They adhere to the principle of obedience to authority, a biblical precept invoked when the vaccinators oblige them to vaccinate their children. Other factors were identified that could explain the reticence, such as the tactlessness of the vaccinators, parents' previous experiences and false rumours about vaccination.
The reasons for reticence are mainly related to parents' beliefs in religious principles that are sometimes poorly understood. To limit the spread of this phenomenon, more detailed information and negotiation between the health authorities and the pastors of these churches are essential.
Abstract in French
See the full article online for a translation of this abstract in French.
Despite rapid and tangible progress in vaccine coverage and in premature mortality rates registered in sub-Saharan Africa, inequities to access remain firmly entrenched, large pockets of low vaccination coverage persist, and coverage often varies considerably across regions, districts, and health facilities' areas of responsibility. This paper focuses on system-related factors that can explain disparities in immunization coverage among districts in Burkina Faso.
A multiple-case study was conducted of six districts representative of different immunization trends and overall performance. A participative process that involved local experts and key actors led to a focus on key factors that could possibly determine the efficiency and efficacy of district vaccination services: occurrence of disease outbreaks and immunization days, overall district management performance, resources available for vaccination services, and institutional elements. The methodology, geared toward reconstructing the evolution of vaccine services performance from 2000 to 2006, is based on data from documents and from individual and group interviews in each of the six health districts. The process of interpreting results brought together the field personnel and the research team.
The districts that perform best are those that assemble a set of favourable conditions. However, the leadership of the district medical officer (DMO) appears to be the main conduit and the rallying point for these conditions. Typically, strong leadership that is recognized by the field teams ensures smooth operation of the vaccination services, promotes the emergence of new initiatives and offers some protection against risks related to outbreaks of epidemics or supplementary activities that can hinder routine functioning. The same is true for the ability of nurse managers and their teams to cope with new situations (epidemics, shortages of certain stocks).
The discourse on factors that determine the performance or breakdown of local health care systems in lower and middle income countries remains largely concentrated on technocratic and financial considerations, targeting institutional reforms, availability of resources, or accessibility of health services. The leadership role of those responsible for the district, and more broadly, of those we label "the human factor", in the performance of local health care systems is mentioned only marginally. This study shows that strong and committed leadership promotes an effective mobilization of teams and creates the conditions for good performance in districts, even when they have only limited access to supports provided by external partners.
Abstract in French
See the full article online for a translation of this abstract in French.
Maternal and perinatal mortality are major problems for which progress in sub-Saharan Africa has been inadequate, even though childbirth services are available, even in the poorest countries. Reducing them is the aim of two of the main Millennium Development Goals. Many initiatives have been undertaken to remedy this situation, such as the Advances in Labour and Risk Management (ALARM) International Program, whose purpose is to improve the quality of obstetric services in low-income countries. However, few interventions have been evaluated, in this context, using rigorous methods for analyzing effectiveness in terms of health outcomes. The objective of this trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of the ALARM International Program (AIP) in reducing maternal mortality in referral hospitals in Senegal and Mali. Secondary goals include evaluation of the relationships between effectiveness and resource availability, service organization, medical practices, and satisfaction among health personnel.
This is an international, multi-centre, controlled cluster-randomized trial of a complex intervention. The intervention is based on the concept of evidence-based practice and on a combination of two approaches aimed at improving the performance of health personnel: 1) Educational outreach visits; and 2) the implementation of facility-based maternal death reviews.
The unit of intervention is the public health facility equipped with a functional operating room. On the basis of consent provided by hospital authorities, 46 centres out of 49 eligible were selected in Mali and Senegal. Using randomization stratified by country and by level of care, 23 centres will be allocated to the intervention group and 23 to the control group. The intervention will last two years. It will be preceded by a pre-intervention one-year period for baseline data collection. A continuous clinical data collection system has been set up in all participating centres. This, along with the inventory of resources and the satisfaction surveys administered to the health personnel, will allow us to measure results before, during, and after the intervention. The overall rate of maternal mortality measured in hospitals during the post-intervention period (Year 4) is the primary outcome. The evaluation will also include cost-effectiveness.
The QUARITE trial is registered on the Current Controlled Trials website under the number ISRCTN46950658 .
Valéry Ridde and Slim Haddad discuss a new trial in Ghana in which households were randomized into a pre-payment scheme allowing free primary care or to a control group who paid user fees for health care.
This study examines associations between female participation in a microcredit program in India, known as self help groups (SHGs), and women's health in the south Indian state of Kerala. Because SHGs do not have a formal health program, this provides a unique opportunity to assess whether SHG participation influences women's health via the social determinants of health.
This cross-sectional study used special survey data collected in 2003 from one Panchayat (territorial decentralized unit). Information was collected on women's characteristics, health determinants (exclusion to health care, exposure to health risks, decision-making agency), and health achievements (self assessed health, markers of mental health). The study sample included 928 non elderly poor women.
The primary finding is that compared to non-participants living in a household without a SHG member, the odds of facing exclusion is significantly lower among early joiners, women who were members for more than 2 years (OR = 0.58, CI = 0.41–0.80), late joiners, members for 2 years and less (OR = 0.60, CI = 0.39–0.94), and non-participants who live in a household with a SHG member (OR = 0.53, CI = 0.32–0.90). We also found that after controlling for key women's characteristics, early joiners of a SHG are less likely to report emotional stress and poor life satisfaction compared to non-members (OR = 0.52, CI = 0.30–0.93; OR = 0.32, CI = 0.14–0.71). No associations were found between SHG participation and self assessed health or exposure to health risks. The relationship between SHG participation and decision-making agency is unclear.
Microcredit is not a panacea, but could help to improve the health of poor women by addressing certain issues relevant to the context. In Kerala, SHG participation can help protect poor women against exclusion to health care and possibly aid in promoting their mental health.