In 2007, the Sixtieth World Health Assembly (WHA) passed a resolution entitled “Better medicines for children” and subsequently the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the inclusion of child-appropriate dosage formulations in the essential medicines lists of member countries. However, child-appropriate dosage formulations are not highlighted in the Essential Medicines and Health Supplies List of Uganda (EMHSLU) 2012 and they are still limited in availability in public health facilities. Several stakeholders influenced the status of child-appropriate dosage formulations in the EMHSLU 2012.
To explore stakeholders’ views about the relevance of the globally recommended child-appropriate dosage formulations in the context of Uganda.
The findings derive from thirty three in-depth interviews with stakeholder representatives and the results of a follow up validation meeting where preliminary findings were shared with stakeholders. Policy analysis and policy transfer theories were used to guide a deductive analysis for manifest and latent content.
According to stakeholders, the transition to the globally recommended child-appropriate dosage formulations has been slow in Uganda due to a number of factors. These factors include resource constraints at the global and national levels, lack of Ministry of Health (MOH) formal commitment to the adoption of the child-appropriate dosage formulations policy and a lack of consensus between those who advocated for the availability of liquid oral dosage formulations for easy administration and effectiveness and those who were more convinced by economic arguments and preferred the procurement of solid oral dosage formulations intended for adults.
The global policy for child-appropriate dosage formulations still remains to be implemented in Uganda and other low income countries. This has been due to lack of resources that hindered formal transfer of the policy from the global to the local level. To achieve this transfer there is a need for resource mobilisation at both the international and local levels, together with the revitalisation of UMTAC to enable it to take on a leadership role of the coalitions supporting child-appropriate dosage formulations.
Children; Child-appropriate dosage formulations; Stakeholders; Policy transfer; Child size medicines and Uganda
To explore the availability and utilization of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended priority life-saving medicines for children under five in public health facilities in Uganda.
We conducted a cross sectional survey in 32 lower level public facilities in Jinja district of Uganda. A proportionate number of facilities were randomly selected in each stratum following a hierarchy of Health Centers (HC) defined according to the level of care they provide: 17 HC IIs, 10 HC IIIs and 5 HC IVs. In the facilities, we verified the availability of the WHO recommended priority medicines for diarrhea, sepsis, pneumonia and malaria. 81 health workers from the facilities reported what they prescribed for children with the above diseases.
Oral rehydration salt (ORS) and zinc sulphate dispersible tablets for diarrhea were available in all HC IIs and IIIs and in only 60% of HC IVs. Procaine benzyl penicillin injection powder for treatment of sepsis was available in the majority of all HCs with: 100% of HC of IVs, 83% of HC IIIs and 82% of HC IIs. Medicines for pneumonia were limited across all the HCs with: Amoxicillin dispersible tablets in only 30% of the HC IIs and 40% of the HC IVs. The most uncommon were child-friendly priority medicines for malaria with: Artesunate injection in only 6% of HC IIs, 14% of HC IIIs and 20% of HC IVs; Artemether lumefantrine dispersible tablets and rectal artesunate were missing in all the 32 HCs. Less than a third of the health workers reported prescribing zinc sulphate and ORS for diarrhea, 86% reported procaine benzyl penicillin injection powder for sepsis, and 57% reported amoxicillin dispersible tablets for pneumonia. None reported prescribing Artemether lumefantrine dispersible tablets and rectal artesunate for malaria.
There is low availability and utilization of life-saving priority medicines for pneumonia and malaria in public health facilities in Uganda. However, the priority medicines for diarrhea and sepsis are available and highly prescribed by the health workers.
Lifesaving priority medicines; Children under five; Public health facilities; Uganda
In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the ‘make medicines child size’ (MMCS) campaign by urging countries to prioritize procurement of medicines with appropriate strengths for children’s age and weight and, in child-friendly formulations of rectal and flexible oral solid formulations. This study examined policy provisions for MMCS recommendations in Uganda.
This was an in-depth case study of the Ugandan health policy documents to assess provisions for MMCS recommendations in respect to oral and rectal medicine formulations for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, the major causes of morbidity and mortality among children in Uganda- diseases that were also emphasized in the MMCS campaign. Asthma and epilepsy were included as conditions that require long term care. Schistomiasis was included as a neglected tropical disease. Content analysis was used to assess evidence of policy provisions for the MMCS recommendations.
For most medicines for the selected diseases, appropriate strength for children’s age and weight was addressed especially in the EMHSLU 2012. However, policy documents neither referred to ‘child size medicines’ concept nor provided for flexible oral solid dosage formulations like dispersible tablets, pellets and granules- indicating limited adherence to MMCS recommendations. Some of the medicines recommended in the clinical guidelines as first line treatment for malaria and pneumonia among children were not evidence-based.
The Ugandan health policy documents reflected limited adherence to the MMCS recommendations. This and failure to use evidence based medicines may result into treatment failure and or death. A revision of the current policies and guidelines to better reflect ‘child size’, child appropriate and evidence based medicines for children is recommended.
Essential medicines; ‘Child size medicines’; Guidelines; Policy; Uganda
Several countries in Sub Saharan Africa have abolished user fees for health care but the extent to which such a policy decision is guided by evidence needs further exploration. We explored the barriers and facilitating factors to uptake of evidence in the process of user fee abolition in Uganda and how the context and stakeholders involved shaped the uptake of evidence. This study builds on previous work in Uganda that led to the development of a middle range theory (MRT) outlining the main facilitating factors for knowledge translation (KT). Application of the MRT to the case of abolition of user fees contributes to its refining.
Employing a theory-driven inquiry and case study approach given the need for in-depth investigation, we reviewed documents and conducted interviews with 32 purposefully selected key informants. We assessed whether evidence was available, had or had not been considered in policy development and the reasons why and; assessed how the actors and the context shaped the uptake of evidence.
Symbolic, conceptual and instrumental uses of evidence were manifest. Different actors were influenced by different types of evidence. While technocrats in the ministry of health (MoH) relied on formal research, politicians relied on community complaints. The capacity of the MoH to lead the KT process was weak and the partnerships for KT were informal. The political window and alignment of the evidence with overall government discourse enhanced uptake of evidence. Stakeholders were divided, seemed to be polarized for various reasons and had varying levels of support and influence impacting the uptake of evidence.
Evidence will be taken up in policy development in instances where the MoH leads the KT process, there are partnerships for KT in place, and the overall government policy and the political situation can be expected to play a role. Different actors will be influenced by different types of evidence and their level of support and influence will impact the uptake of evidence. In addition, the extent to which a policy issue is contested and, whether stakeholders share similar opinions and preferences will impact the uptake of evidence.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-014-0639-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
User fees; Health care; Public facilities; Policy development; Knowledge translation; Uganda
Uganda changed its malaria treatment policy in response to evidence of resistance to commonly used antimalarials. The use of evidence in policy development—also referred to as knowledge translation (KT)—is crucial, especially in resource-limited settings. However, KT processes occur amidst a complex web of stakeholder interactions. Stakeholder involvement in evidence generation and in KT activities is essential. In the present study, we explored how stakeholders impacted the uptake of evidence in the malaria treatment policy change in Uganda.
We employed a qualitative case study methodology involving interviews with key informants and review of documents. A timeline of events was developed, which guided the purposive sampling of respondents and identification of relevant documents. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis techniques.
Stakeholders played multiple roles in evidence uptake in the malaria treatment policy change. Donors, the Ministry of Health (MoH), service providers, and researchers engaged in the role of evidence generation. The MoH, parliamentarians, and opinion leaders at the national and local levels engaged in dissemination of evidence. The donors, MoH, researchers, and service providers engaged in the uptake of evidence in policy development and implementation. Stakeholders exerted varying levels of support and influence for different reasons. It is noteworthy that all of the influential stakeholders were divided regarding the best antimalarial alternative to adopt.
Our results showed a diverse group of stakeholders who played multiple roles, with varying levels of support and influence on the uptake of evidence in the malaria treatment policy change. For a given KT processes, mapping the relevant stakeholders and devising mechanism for their engagement and for how to resolve conflicts of interest and disagreements a priori will enhance uptake of evidence in policy development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0150-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Knowledge translation; Stakeholders; Malaria; Treatment policy change
Although increasing attention is being paid to knowledge translation (KT), research findings are not being utilized to the desired extent. The present study explores the role of evidence, barriers, and factors facilitating the uptake of evidence in the change in malaria treatment policy in Uganda, building on previous work in Uganda that led to the development of a middle range theory (MRT) outlining the main facilitatory factors for KT. Application of the MRT to a health policy case will contribute to refining it.
Using a case study approach and mixed methods, perceptions of respondents on whether evidence was available, had been considered and barriers and facilitatory factors to the uptake of evidence were explored. In addition, the respondents’ rating of the degree of consistency between the policy decision and available evidence was assessed. Data collection methods included key informant interviews and document review. Qualitative data were analysed using content thematic analysis, whereas quantitative data were analysed using Excel spreadsheets. The two data sets were eventually triangulated.
Evidence was used to change the malaria treatment policy, though the consistency between evidence and policy decisions varied along the policy development cycle. The availability of high-quality and contextualized evidence, including effective dissemination, Ministry of Health institutional capacity to lead the KT process, intervention of the WHO and a regional professional network, the existence of partnerships for KT with mutual trust and availability of funding, tools, and inputs to implement evidence, were the most important facilitatory factors that enhanced the uptake of evidence. Among the barriers that had to be overcome were resistance from implementers, the health system capacity to implement evidence, and financial sustainability.
The results agree with facilitatory factors identified in the earlier developed MRT, though additional factors emerged. These results refine the earlier MRT stating that high-quality and contextualized evidence will be taken up in policies, leading to evidence-informed policies when the MoH leads the KT process, partnerships are in place for KT, the WHO and regional professional bodies play a role, and funding, tools, and required inputs for implementing evidence are available.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-345) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Malaria treatment policy change; Evidence; Knowledge translation
Many full-time Ugandan government health providers take on additional jobs – a phenomenon called dual practice. We describe the complex patterns that characterize the evolution of dual practice in Uganda, and the local management practices that emerged in response, in five government facilities. An in-depth understanding of dual practice can contribute to policy discussions on improving public sector performance.
A multiple case study design with embedded units of analysis was supplemented by interviews with policy stakeholders and a review of historical and policy documents. Five facility case studies captured the perspective of doctors, nurses, and health managers through semi-structured in-depth interviews. A causal loop diagram illustrated interactions and feedback between old and new actors, as well as emerging roles and relationships.
The causal loop diagram illustrated how feedback related to dual practice policy developed in Uganda. As opportunities for dual practice grew and the public health system declined over time, government providers increasingly coped through dual practice. Over time, government restrictions to dual practice triggered policy resistance and protest from government providers. Resulting feedback contributed to compromising the supply of government providers and, potentially, of service delivery outcomes. Informal government policies and restrictions replaced the formal restrictions identified in the early phases. In some instances, government health managers, particularly those in hospitals, developed their own practices to cope with dual practice and to maintain public sector performance. Management practices varied according to the health manager’s attitude towards dual practice and personal experience with dual practice. These practices were distinct in hospitals. Hospitals faced challenges managing internal dual practice opportunities, such as those created by externally-funded research projects based within the hospital. Private wings’ inefficiencies and strict fee schedule made them undesirable work locations for providers.
Dual practice prevails because public and private sector incentives, non-financial and financial, are complementary. Local management practices for dual practice have not been previously documented and provide learning opportunities to inform policy discussions. Understanding how dual practice evolves and how it is managed locally is essential for health workforce policy, planning, and performance discussions in Uganda and similar settings.
The study aimed at developing a set of attributes for a ‘good’ health system performance assessment (HSPA) framework from literature and experiences in different contexts and using the attributes for a structured approach to lesson learning for low-income countries (LICs).
Literature review to identify relevant attributes for a HSPA framework; attribute validation for LICs in general, and for Uganda in particular, via a high-level Ugandan expert group; and, finally, review of a selection of existing HSPA frameworks using these attributes.
Literature review yielded six key attributes for a HSPA framework: an inclusive development process; its embedding in the health system’s conceptual model; its relation to the prevailing policy and organizational set-up and societal context; the presence of a concrete purpose, constitutive dimensions and indicators; an adequate institutional set-up; and, its capacity to provide mechanisms for eliciting change in the health system. The expert group contextualized these attributes and added one on the adaptability of the framework.
Lessons learnt from the review of a selection of HSPA frameworks using the attributes include: it is possible and beneficial to involve a range of stakeholders during the process of development of a framework; it is important to make HSPA frameworks explicit; policy context can be effectively reflected in the framework; there are marked differences between the structure and content of frameworks in high-income countries, and low- and middle-income countries; champions can contribute to put HSPA high on the agenda; and mechanisms for eliciting change in the health system should be developed alongside the framework.
It is possible for LICs to learn from literature and the experience of HSPA in other contexts, including HICs. In this study a structured approach to lesson learning included the development of a list of attributes for a ‘good’ HSPA framework. The attributes thus derived can be utilized by LICs like Uganda seeking to develop/adjust their HSPA frameworks as guidelines or a check list, while taking due consideration of the specific context. The review of frameworks from varied contexts, highlighted varied experiences which provide lessons for LICs.
Health systems; Performance assessment framework; Low-income countries; Uganda
The Fogarty International Center (FIC) has supported research capacity development for over twenty years. While the mission of FIC is supporting and facilitating global health research conducted by U.S. and international investigators, building partnerships between health research institutions in the U.S. and abroad, and training the next generation of scientists to address global health needs, research capacity may impact health policies and programs and therefore have positive impacts on public health. We conducted an exploratory analysis of how FIC research training investments affected public health policy and program development in Kenya and Uganda.
We explored the long term impacts of all FIC supported research training programs using case studies, in Kenya and Uganda. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 53 respondents and 29 focus group discussion participants across the two countries. Qualitative methods were supplemented by structured surveys of trainees and document review, including a review of evidence cited in policy documents.
In the primary focal areas of FIC grants, notably HIV/AIDS, there were numerous examples of work conducted by former FIC trainees that influenced national and global policies. Facilitators for this influence included the strong technical skills and scientific reputations of the trainees, and professional networks spanning research and policy communities. Barriers included the fact that trainees typically had not received training in research communication, relatively few policy makers had received scientific training, and institutional constraints that undermined alignment of research with policy needs.
While FIC has not focused its programs on the goal of policy and program influence, its investments have affected global and national public health policies and practice. These influences have occurred primarily through strengthening research skills of scientists and developing strong in-country networks. Further success of FIC and similar initiatives could be stimulated by investing more in the training of policy-makers, seeking to better align research with policy needs through more grants that are awarded directly to developing country institutions, and grants that better incorporate policy maker perspectives in their design and governance. Addressing structural constraints, for example supporting the development of national research agendas that inform university research, would further support such efforts.
Research capacity; Policy influence; HIV/AIDS
Stakeholder roles in the application of evidence are influenced by context, the nature of the evidence, the policy development process, and stakeholder interactions. Past research has highlighted the role of stakeholders in knowledge translation (KT) without paying adequate attention to the peculiarities of low-income countries. Here we identify the roles, relations, and interactions among the key stakeholders involved in KT in Uganda and the challenges that they face.
This study employed qualitative approaches to examine the roles of and links among various stakeholders in KT. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 key informants and focused on the key actors in KT, their perceived roles, and challenges.
Major stakeholders included civil society organizations with perceived roles of advocacy, community mobilization, and implementation. These stakeholders may ignore unconvincing evidence. The community’s role was perceived as advocacy and participation in setting research priorities. The key role of the media was perceived as knowledge dissemination, but respondents noted that the media may misrepresent evidence if it is received in a poorly packaged form. The perceived roles of policy makers were evidence uptake, establishing platforms for KT and stewardship; negative roles included ignoring or even misrepresenting evidence that is not in their favor. The roles of parliamentarians were perceived as advocacy and community mobilization, but they were noted to pursue objectives that may not be supported by the evidence. The researchers’ main role was defined as evidence generation, but focusing disproportionately on academic interests was cited as a concern. The donors’ main role was defined as funding research and KT, but respondents were concerned about the local relevance of donor-supported research. Respondents reported that links among stakeholders were weak due to the absence of institutionalized, inclusive platforms. Challenges facing the stakeholders in the process of KT were identified.
Our investigation revealed the need to consider the roles that various stakeholders are best placed to play. Links and necessary platforms must be put in place to achieve synergy in KT. Relevant capacities need to be built to overcome the challenges faced by the various stakeholders.
Research; Uptake; Policy; Practice; Roles; Stakeholders; Uganda; Low-income countries
Whether and how research training programs contribute to research network development is underexplored. The Fogarty International Center (FIC) has supported overseas research training programs for over two decades. FIC programs could provide an entry point in the development of research networks and collaborations. We examine whether FIC’s investment in research training contributed to the development of networks and collaborations in two countries with longstanding FIC investments – Uganda and Kenya – and the factors which facilitated this process.
As part of two case studies at Uganda’s Makerere University and Kenya’s University of Nairobi, we conducted 53 semi-structured in-depth interviews and nine focus group discussions. To expand on our case study findings, we conducted a focused bibliometric analysis on two purposively selected topic areas to examine scientific productivity and used online network illustration tools to examine the resulting network structures.
FIC support made important contributions to network development. Respondents from both Uganda and Kenya confirmed that FIC programs consistently provided trainees with networking skills and exposure to research collaborations, primarily within the institutions implementing FIC programs. In both countries, networks struggled with inclusiveness, particularly in HIV/AIDS research. Ugandan respondents perceived their networks to be more cohesive than Kenyan respondents did. Network cohesiveness was positively correlated with the magnitude and longevity of FIC’s programs. Support from FIC grants to local and regional research network development and networking opportunities, such as conferences, was rare. Synergies between FIC programs and research grants helped to solidify and maintain research collaborations.
Networks developed where FIC’s programs focused on a particular institution, there was a critical mass of trainees with similar interests, and investments for network development were available from early implementation. Networks were less likely to emerge where FIC efforts were thinly scattered across multiple institutions. The availability of complementary research grants created opportunities for researchers to collaborate in grant writing, research implementation, and publications. FIC experiences in Uganda and Kenya showcase the important role of research training programs in creating and sustaining research networks. FIC programs should consider including support to research networks more systematically in their capacity development agenda.
Bibliometrics; Case study research; Collaborations; Global health; Kenya; Networks; Research capacity development; Research training; Uganda
Over the past decade, development assistance for health (DAH) in Uganda has increased dramatically, surpassing the government’s own expenditures on health. Yet primary health care and other priorities identified in Uganda’s health sector strategic plan remain underfunded.
Using data available from the Creditor Reporting System (CRS), National Health Accounts (NHA), and government financial reports, we examined trends in how donors channel DAH and the extent to which DAH is aligned with sector priorities. The study follows the flow of DAH from the donor to the implementing organization, specifying the modality used for disbursing funds and categorizing funds based on program area or support function.
Despite efforts to improve alignment through the formation of a sector-wide approach (SWAp) for health in 1999 and the creation of a fund to pool resources for identified priorities, increasingly DAH is provided as short-term, project-based support for disease-specific initiatives, in particular HIV/AIDS.
These findings highlight the need to better align external resources with country priorities and refocus attention on longer-term sector-wide objectives.
Foreign aid; International cooperation; Health policy; Health financing; Sector-wide approach; Paris declaration
Use of evidence in health policymaking plays an important role, especially in resource-constrained settings where informed decisions on resource allocation are paramount. Several knowledge translation (KT) models have been developed, but few have been applied to health policymaking in low income countries. If KT models are expected to explain evidence uptake and implementation, or lack of it, they must be contextualized and take into account the specificity of low income countries for example, the strong influence of donors. The main objective of this research is to elaborate a Middle Range Theory (MRT) of KT in Uganda that can also serve as a reference for other low- and middle income countries.
This two-step study employed qualitative approaches to examine the principal barriers and facilitating factors to KT. Step 1 involved a literature review and identification of common themes. The results informed the development of the initial MRT, which details the facilitating factors and barriers to KT at the different stages of research and policy development. In Step 2, these were further refined through key informant interviews with policymakers and researchers in Uganda. Deductive content and thematic analysis was carried out to assess the degree of convergence with the elements of the initial MRT and to identify other emerging issues.
Review of the literature revealed that the most common emerging facilitating factors could be grouped under institutional strengthening for KT, research characteristics, dissemination, partnerships and political context. The analysis of interviews, however, showed that policymakers and researchers ranked institutional strengthening for KT, research characteristics and partnerships as the most important. New factors emphasized by respondents were the use of mainstreamed structures within MoH to coordinate and disseminate research, the separation of roles between researchers and policymakers, and the role of the community and civil society in KT.
This study refined an initial MRT on KT in policymaking in the health sector in Uganda that was based on a literature review. It provides a framework that can be used in empirical research of the process of KT on specific policy issues.
Research; Policy; Practice; Implementation gap; Uganda; Low income countries
In the final article in a series addressing the current challenges and opportunities for the development of Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR), Sara Bennett and colleagues lay out an agenda for action moving forward.
In the second in a series of articles addressing the current challenges and opportunities for the development of Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR), Lucy Gilson and colleagues argue the importance of insights from the social sciences.
In the first of a series of articles addressing the current challenges and opportunities for the development of Health Policy & Systems Research (HPSR), Kabir Sheikh and colleagues lay out the main questions vexing the field.
Although a number of intermediate transport initiatives have been used in some developing countries, available evidence reveals a dearth of local knowledge on the effect of these rural informal transport mechanisms on access to maternal health care services, the cost of implementing such schemes and their scalability. This paper, attempts to provide insights into the functioning of the informal transport markets in facilitating access to maternal health care. It also demonstrates the role that higher institutions of learning can play in designing projects that can increase the utilization of maternal health services.
To explore the use of intermediate transport mechanisms to improve access to maternal health services, with emphasis on the benefits and unintended consequences of the transport scheme, as well as challenges in the implementation of the scheme.
This paper is based on the pilot phase to inform a quasi experimental study aimed at increasing access to maternal health services using demand and supply side incentives. The data collection for this paper included qualitative and quantitative methods that included focus group interviews, review of project documents and facility level data.
There was a marked increase in attendance of antenatal, and delivery care services, with the contracted transporters playing a leading role in mobilizing mothers to attend services. The project also had economic spill-over effects to the transport providers, their families and community generally. However, some challenges were faced including difficulty in setting prices for paying transporters, and poor enforcement of existing traffic regulations.
Conclusions and implications
The findings indicate that locally existing resources such as motorcycle riders, also known as “boda boda” can be used innovatively to reduce challenges caused by geographical inaccessibility and a poor transport network with resultant increases in the utilization of maternal health services. However, care must be taken to mobilize the resources needed and to ensure that there is enforcement of laws that will ensure the safety of clients and the transport providers themselves.
Research and evidence can have an impact on policy and practice, resulting in positive outcomes. However, research translation is a complex, dynamic and non-linear process. Although universities in Africa play a major role in generating research evidence, their strategic approaches to influence health policies and decision making are weak. This study was conducted with the aim of understanding the process of translating research into policy in order to guide the strategic direction of Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) and similar institutions in their quest to influence health outcomes nationally and globally.
A case study approach using 30 in-depth interviews with stakeholders involved in two HIV prevention research project was purposively selected. The study sought to analyze the research-to-policy discourses for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and safe male circumcision (SMC). The analysis sought to identify entry points, strengths and challenges for research-to-policy processes by interviewing three major groups of stakeholders in Uganda – researchers (8), policy makers (12) and media practitioners (12).
Among the factors that facilitated PMTCT policy uptake and continued implementation were: shared platforms for learning and decision making among stakeholders, implementation pilots to assess feasibility of intervention, the emerging of agencies to undertake operations research and the high visibility of policy benefits to child survival. In contrast, SMC policy processes were stalled for over two years after the findings of the Uganda study was made public. Among other factors, policy makers demanded additional research to assess implementation feasibility of SMC within ordinary health system context. High level leaders also publicly contested the SMC evidence and the underlying values and messages – a situation that reduced the coalition of policy champions.
This study shows that effective translation of PMTCT and SMC research results demanded a “360 degree” approach to assembling additional evidence to inform the implementation feasibility for these two HIV prevention interventions. MakCHS and similar institutions should prioritize implementation research to guide the policy processes about the feasibility of implementing new and effective innovations (e.g. PMTCT or SMC) at a large scale in contexts that may be different from the research environments.
As part of a series on maternal, neonatal, and child health in sub-Saharan Africa, Sara Bennett and Freddie Ssengooba discuss the challenges of getting science into policy in Africa.
Despite the expanding literature on how reforms may affect health workers and which reactions they may provoke, little research has been conducted on the mechanisms of effect through which health sector reforms either promote or discourage health worker performance. This paper seeks to trace these mechanisms and examines the contextual framework of reform objectives in Uganda and Bangladesh, and health workers' responses to the changes in their working environments by taking a 'realistic evaluation' approach.
The study findings were generated by triangulating both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis among policy technocrats, health managers and groups of health providers. Quantitative surveys were conducted with over 700 individual health workers in both Bangladesh and Uganda and supplemented with qualitative data obtained from focus group discussions and key interviews with professional cadres, health managers and key institutions involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the reforms of interest.
The reforms in both countries affected the workforce through various mechanisms. In Bangladesh, the effects of the unification efforts resulted in a power struggle and general mistrust between the two former workforce tracts, family planning and health. However positive effects of the reforms were felt regarding the changes in payment schemes. Ugandan findings show how the workforce responded to a strong and rapidly implemented system of decentralisation where the power of new local authorities was influenced by resource constraints and nepotism in recruitment. On the other hand, closer ties to local authorities provided the opportunity to gain insight into the operational constraints originating from higher levels that health staff were dealing with.
Findings from the study suggest that a) reform planners should use the proposed dynamic responses model to help design reform objectives that encourage positive responses among health workers b) the role of context has been underestimated and it is necessary to address broader systemic problems before initiating reform processes, c) reform programs need to incorporate active implementation research systems to learn the contextual dynamics and responses as well as have inbuilt program capacity for corrective measures d) health workers are key stakeholders in any reform process and should participate at all stages and e) some effects of reforms on the health workforce operate indirectly through levels of satisfaction voiced by communities utilising the services.
Women in both Bangladesh and Uganda face a number of barriers to delivery in professional health facilities, including costs, transportation problems, and sociocultural norms to deliver at home. Some women in both the countries manage to overcome these barriers. This paper reports on a comparative qualitative study investigating how some women and their families were able to use professional delivery services. The study provides insights into the decision-making processes and overcoming access barriers. Husbands were found to be particularly important in Uganda, while, in Bangladesh, a number of individuals could influence care-seeking, including unqualified local healers or traditional birth attendants. In both the settings, cost and transport barriers were often overcome through social networks. Social prohibitions on birth in the health facility did not feature strongly in women's accounts, with several Ugandan women explaining that friends or peers also used facilities, while, in Bangladesh, perceived complications apparently justified the use of professional medical care. Investigating the ways in which some women can overcome common barriers can help inform policy and planning to increase the use of health facilities for child delivery.
Maternal health; Delivery; Health services; Healthcare; Health facilities; Comparative studies; Uganda; Bangladesh