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1.  Exploring the nature of governance at the level of implementation for health system strengthening: the DIALHS experience 
Health Policy and Planning  2014;29(Suppl 2):ii59-ii70.
Health system governance has been recognized as a critical element of the health system strengthening agenda. To date, health governance research often focuses at national or global levels, adopting a macro-perspective that deals with governance structures, forms and principles. Little attention has been given to a micro-perspective which recognizes the role of health system actors in governance, or to considering the operational level of the health system. This article presents a South African case study of an intervention to address conflict in roles and responsibilities between multiple actors supporting service delivery at the local level, and explores the broader insights this experience generates about the nature of local health system governance. In an embedded case study, action learning and reflection theory were used to design and implement the intervention. Data in this article were drawn from minutes, observations and recorded reflections of the meetings and workshops that comprised the intervention. A theoretical governance framework was used both to understand the context of the intervention and to analyse the dimensions of governance relevant in the experience. The study shows how, through action learning and reflection, local managers in two organizations came to understand how the higher level misalignment of organizational structures and processes imposed governance constraints on them, and to see the impact this had on their organizational relationships. By re-framing the conflict as organizational, they were then able to create opportunities for staff to understand their context and participate in negotiating principles for communication and collaborative work. The result reduced conflict between staff in the two organizations, leading to improved implementation of programme support. Strengthening relationships among those working at local level by building collaborative norms and values is an important part of local health system governance for improved service delivery by multiple actors.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czu073
PMCID: PMC4202916  PMID: 25274641
Action research; case study; governance; health system actors; health system strengthening; implementation; reflective learning; relationships; values and norms
2.  Is the Alma Ata vision of comprehensive primary health care viable? Findings from an international project 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24997.
Background
The 4-year (2007–2011) Revitalizing Health for All international research program (http://www.globalhealthequity.ca/projects/proj_revitalizing/index.shtml) supported 20 research teams located in 15 low- and middle-income countries to explore the strengths and weaknesses of comprehensive primary health care (CPHC) initiatives at their local or national levels. Teams were organized in a triad comprised of a senior researcher, a new researcher, and a ‘research user’ from government, health services, or other organizations with the authority or capacity to apply the research findings. Multiple regional and global team capacity-enhancement meetings were organized to refine methods and to discuss and assess cross-case findings.
Objective
Most research projects used mixed methods, incorporating analyses of qualitative data (interviews and focus groups), secondary data, and key policy and program documents. Some incorporated historical case study analyses, and a few undertook new surveys. The synthesis of findings in this report was derived through qualitative analysis of final project reports undertaken by three different reviewers.
Results
Evidence of comprehensiveness (defined in this research program as efforts to improve equity in access, community empowerment and participation, social and environmental health determinants, and intersectoral action) was found in many of the cases.
Conclusions
Despite the important contextual differences amongst the different country studies, the similarity of many of their findings, often generated using mixed methods, attests to certain transferable health systems characteristics to create and sustain CPHC practices. These include:  Well-trained and supported community health workers (CHWs) able to work effectively with marginalized communities Effective mechanisms for community participation, both informal (through participation in projects and programs, and meaningful consultation) and formal (though program management structures) Co-partnership models in program and policy development (in which financial and knowledge supports from governments or institutions are provided to communities, which retain decision-making powers in program design and implementation) Support for community advocacy and engagement in health and social systems decision making
These characteristics, in turn, require a political context that supports state responsibilities for redistributive health and social protection measures.
doi:10.3402/gha.v7.24997
PMCID: PMC4141965  PMID: 25150030
primary health care; health for all; community health workers
3.  The role of health extension workers in improving utilization of maternal health services in rural areas in Ethiopia: a cross sectional study 
Background
Community health workers are widely used to provide care for a broad range of health issues. Since 2003 the government of Ethiopia has been deploying specially trained new cadres of community based health workers named health extension workers (HEWs). This initiative has been called the health extension program. Very few studies have investigated the role of these community health workers in improving utilization of maternal health services.
Methods
A cross sectional survey of 725 randomly selected women with under-five children from three districts in Northern Ethiopia. We investigated women’s utilization of family planning, antenatal care, birth assistance, postnatal care, HIV testing and use of iodized salt and compared our results to findings of a previous national survey from 2005. In addition, we investigated the association between several variables and utilization of maternal health services using logistic regression analysis.
Results
HEWs have contributed substantially to the improvement in women’s utilization of family planning, antenatal care and HIV testing. However, their contribution to the improvement in health facility delivery, postnatal check up and use of iodized salt seems insignificant. Women who were literate (OR, 1.85), listened to the radio (OR, 1.45), had income generating activities (OR, 1.43) and had been working towards graduation or graduated as model family (OR, 2.13) were more likely to demonstrate good utilization of maternal health services. A model family is by definition a family which has fulfilled all the packages of the HEP.
Conclusions
The HEWs seem to have substantial contribution in several aspects of utilization of maternal health services but their insignificant contribution in improving health facility delivery and skilled birth attendance remains an important problem. More effort is needed to improve the effectiveness of HEWs in these regards. For example, strengthening HEWs’ support for pregnant women for birth planning and preparedness and referral from HEWs to midwives at health centers should be strengthened. In addition, women’s participation in income generating activities, access to radio and education could be targets for future interventions.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-352
PMCID: PMC3496586  PMID: 23043288
Health extension workers; Community health workers; Utilization; Maternal health services; Income generating activities
4.  Missed opportunities for participation in prevention of mother to child transmission programmes: Simplicity of nevirapine does not necessarily lead to optimal uptake, a qualitative study 
Background
The objective of this study was to examine missed opportunities for participation in a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme in three sites in South Africa. A rapid anthropological assessment was used to collect in-depth data from 58 HIV-positive women who were enrolled in a larger cohort study to assess mother-to-child HIV transmission. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the women in order to gain an understanding of their experiences of antenatal care and to identify missed opportunities for participation in PMTCT.
Results
15 women actually missed their nevirapine not because of stigma and ignorance but because of health systems failures. Six were not tested for HIV during antenatal care. Two were tested but did not receive their results. Seven were tested and received their results, but did not receive nevirapine. Health Systems failure for these programme leakages ranged from non-availability of counselors, supplies such as HIV test kits, consent forms, health staff giving the women incorrect instructions about when to take the tablet and health staff not supplying the women with the tablet to take.
Conclusion
HIV testing enables access to PMTCT interventions and should therefore be strengthened. The single dose nevirapine regimen is simple to implement but the all or nothing nature of the regimen may result in many missed opportunities. A short course dual or triple drug regimen could increase the effectiveness of PMTCT programmes.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-4-27
PMCID: PMC2211501  PMID: 18034877

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