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1.  Overuse of antibiotics for the common cold – attitudes and behaviors among doctors in rural areas of Shandong Province, China 
Irrational antibiotic use is common in rural areas of China, despite the growing recognition of the importance of appropriate prescribing to contain antibiotic resistance. The aim of this study was to analyze doctors’ attitudes and prescribing practices related to antibiotics in rural areas of Shandong province, focusing on patients with the common cold.
A survey was conducted with doctors working at thirty health facilities (village clinics, township health centers and county general hospitals) in three counties within Shandong province. Questions were included on knowledge and attitudes towards antibiotic prescribing. Separately, a random selection of prescriptions for patients with the common cold was collected from the healthcare institutions at which the doctors worked, to investigate actual prescribing behaviors.
A total of 188 doctors completed the survey. Most doctors (83%, 149/180) had attended training on antibiotic use since the beginning of their medical practice as a doctor, irrespective of the academic level of their undergraduate training. Of those that had training, most had attended it within the past three years (97%, 112/116). Very few doctors (2%, 3/187) said they would give antibiotics to a patient with symptoms of a common cold, and the majority (87%, 156/179) would refuse to prescribe an antibiotic even if patients were insistent on getting them. Doctors who had attended training were less likely to give antibiotics in this circumstance (29% vs. 14%, p < 0.001).
A diagnosis of common cold was the only diagnosis reported on 1590 out of 8400 prescriptions. Over half (55%, 869/1590) of them included an antibiotic. Prescriptions from village clinics were more likely to contain an antibiotic than those from other healthcare institutions (71% vs. 44% [township] vs. 47% [county], p < 0.001).
Most doctors have recently attended training on antibiotic use and report they would not prescribe antibiotics for patients with a common cold, even when placed under pressure by patients. However, more than half of the prescriptions from these healthcare institutions for patients with the common cold included an antibiotic. Exploring and addressing gaps between knowledge and practice is critical to improving antibiotic use in rural China.
PMCID: PMC4389968  PMID: 25884702
Antibiotics; Attitudes and behavior; Prescription; Rural area; China
2.  Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in rural Uganda: Modelling effectiveness and impact of scaling-up PMTCT services 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.26308.
The reported coverage of any antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) has increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, but was still only 60% in 2010. However, the coverage estimate is subject to overestimations since it only considers enrolment and not completion of the PMTCT programme. The PMTCT programme is complex as it builds on a cascade of sequential interventions that should take place to reduce mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV: starting with antenatal care (ANC), HIV testing, and ARVs for the woman and the baby.
The objective was to estimate the number of children infected with HIV in a district population, using empirical data on uptake of PMTCT components combined with data on MTCT rates.
This study is based on a population-based cohort of pregnant women recruited in the Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site in rural Uganda 2008–2010. We later modelled different scenarios assuming increased uptake of specific PMTCT components to estimate the impact on MTCT for each scenario.
In this setting, HIV infections in children could be reduced by 28% by increasing HIV testing capacity at health facilities to ensure 100% testing among women seeking ANC. Providing ART to all women who received ARV prophylaxis would give an 18% MTCT reduction.
Our results highlight the urgency in scaling-up universal access to HIV testing at all ANC facilities, and the potential gains of early enrolment of all pregnant women on antiretroviral treatment for PMTCT. Further, to determine the effectiveness of PMTCT programmes in different settings, it is crucial to analyse at what stages of the PMTCT cascade that dropouts occur to target interventions accordingly.
PMCID: PMC4345173  PMID: 25726836
HIV; effectiveness; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; population-based; cohort
6.  Varying High Levels of Faecal Carriage of Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamase Producing Enterobacteriaceae in Rural Villages in Shandong, China: Implications for Global Health 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113121.
Antibiotic resistance is considered a major threat to global health and is affected by many factors, of which antibiotic use is probably one of the more important. Other factors include hygiene, crowding and travel. The rapid resistance spread in Gram-negative bacteria, in particular extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL-E), is a global challenge, leading to increased mortality, morbidity and health systems costs worldwide. Knowledge about resistance in commensal flora is limited, including in China. Our aim was to establish the faecal carriage rates of ESBL-E and find its association with known and suspected risk factors in rural residents of all ages in three socio-economically different counties in the Shandong Province, China. Faecal samples and risk-factor information (questionnaire) were collected in 2012. ESBL-E carriage was screened using ChromID ESBL agar. Risk factors were analysed using standard statistical methods. Data from 1000 individuals from three counties and in total 18 villages showed a high and varying level of ESBL-E carriage. Overall, 42% were ESBL-E carriers. At county level the carriage rates were 49%, 45% and 31%, respectively, and when comparing individual villages (n = 18) the rate varied from 22% to 64%. The high level of ESBL-E carriage among rural residents in China is an indication of an exploding global challenge in the years to come as resistance spreads among bacteria and travels around the world with the movement of people and freight. A high carriage rate of ESBL-E increases the risk of infection with multi-resistant bacteria, and thus the need for usage of last resort antibiotics, such as carbapenems and colistin, in the treatment of common infections.
PMCID: PMC4236142  PMID: 25405340
7.  Nesting doctoral students in collaborative North–South partnerships for health systems research 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24070.
The European Union (EU) supports North–South Partnerships and collaborative research projects through its Framework Programmes and Horizon 2020. There is limited research on how such projects can be harnessed to provide a structured platform for doctoral level studies as a way of strengthening health system research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
The aim of this study was to explore the challenges of, and facilitating factors for, ‘nesting’ doctoral students in North–South collaborative research projects. The term nesting refers to the embedding of the processes of recruiting, supervising, and coordinating doctoral students in the overall research plan and processes.
This cross-sectional qualitative study was undertaken by the EU-funded QUALMAT Project. A questionnaire was implemented with doctoral students, supervisors, and country principal investigators (PIs), and content analysis was undertaken.
Completed questionnaires were received from nine doctoral students, six supervisors, and three country PIs (86% responses rate). The doctoral students from SSA described high expectations about the input they would receive (administrative support, equipment, training, supervision). This contrasted with the expectations of the supervisors for proactivity and self-management on the part of the students. The rationale for candidate selection, and understandings of the purpose of the doctoral students in the project were areas of considerable divergence. There were some challenges associated with the use of the country PIs as co-supervisors. Doctoral student progress was at times impeded by delays in the release of funding instalments from the EU. The paper provides a checklist of essential requirements and a set of recommendations for effective nesting of doctoral students in joint North–South projects.
There are considerable challenges to the effective nesting of doctoral students within major collaborative research projects. However, ways can be found to overcome them. The nesting process ultimately helped the institutions involved in this example to take better advantage of the opportunities that collaborative projects offer to foster North–South partnerships as a contribution to the strengthening of local research capacity.
PMCID: PMC4101456  PMID: 25030216
collaborative project; doctoral students; health systems research capacity; North–South Partnership
8.  Improving adherence to antiretroviral treatment in Uganda with a low-resource facility-based intervention 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24198.
To assess the effects of facility-based interventions using existing resources to improve overall patient attendance and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) at ART-providing facilities in Uganda.
This was an interventional study which tracked attendance and treatment adherence of two distinct cohorts: experienced patients who had been on treatment for at least 12 months prior to the intervention and patients newly initiated on ART before or during the intervention. The interventions included instituting appointment system, fast-tracking, and giving longer prescriptions to experienced stable patients. Mixed-effects models were used to examine intervention effects on the experienced patients, while Cox proportional hazards models were used to determine the intervention effects on time until newly treated patients experienced gaps in medication availability.
In all, 1481 patients’ files were selected for follow-up from six facilities – 720 into the experienced cohort, and 761 into the newly treated cohort. Among patients in the experienced cohort, the interventions were associated with a significant reduction from 24.4 to 20.3% of missed appointments (adjusted odds ratio (AOR): 0.67; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.59–0.77); a significant decrease from 20.2 to 18.4% in the medication gaps of three or more days (AOR: 0.69; 95% CI: 0.60–0.79); and a significant increase from 4.3 to 9.3% in the proportion of patients receiving more than 30 days of dispensed medication (AOR: 2.35; 95% CI: 1.91–2.89). Among newly treated patients, the interventions were associated with significant reductions of 44% (adjusted hazard rate (AHR): 0.56, 95% CI: 0.42–0.74) and 38% (AHR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.45–0.85) in the hazards of experiencing a medication gap of 7 and 14 days or more, respectively.
Patients’ adherence was improved with low-cost and easily implemented interventions using existing health facilities’ resources. We recommend that such interventions be considered for scale-up at national levels as measures to improve clinic attendance and ART adherence among patients in Uganda and other low-resource settings in sub-Saharan Africa.
PMCID: PMC4049133  PMID: 24909408
antiretroviral therapy; adherence; management; staff motivation; intervention; Uganda
9.  The need to look at antibiotic resistance from a health systems perspective 
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences  2014;119(2):117-124.
Current use, misuse, and overuse of antibiotics raise dangers and ethical dilemmas that cannot be solved in isolation, exclusively within a health system building block or even within the health sector only. There is a need to tackle antibiotic resistance emergence and containment on levels ranging from individuals, households, and the communities, to health care facilities, the entire health sector, and finally to national and global levels. We analyse emergence of antibiotic resistance based on interdependencies between health systems resources. We further go beyond the health system building blocks, to look at determinants of antibiotic resistance referring to wider global dynamics. Multi-level governance is the key for successful action in containment strategies. This will involve, in a comprehensive way, patients, health facilities where they receive care, health systems to which these facilities pertain, and the wider national context as well as the global community that influences the functioning of these health systems. In order to be effective and sustainable in both high and low-resource settings, implementation of containment interventions at all these levels needs to be managed based on existing theories and models of change. Although ministries of health and the global community must provide vision and support, it is important to keep in mind that containment interventions for antibiotic resistance will target individuals, consumers as well as providers.
PMCID: PMC4034548  PMID: 24673267
Antibiotics; antibiotics resistance; health systems; systems thinking
10.  Health policy evolution in Lao People’s Democratic Republic: context, processes and agency 
Health Policy and Planning  2014;30(4):518-527.
During the last 20 years Lao People’s Democratic Republic has successfully developed and adopted some 30 health policies, strategies, decrees and laws in the field of health. Still, the implementation process remains arduous. This article aims at discussing challenges of health policy development and effective implementation by contextualizing the policy evolution over time and by focusing particularly on the National Drug Policy and the Health Care Law. Special attention is given to the role of research in policymaking. The analysis was guided by the conceptual framework of policy context, process, content and actors, combined with an institutional perspective, and showed that effective implementation of a health policy is highly dependent on both structures and agency of those involved in the policy process. The National Drug Policy was formulated and adopted in a short period of time in a resource-scarce setting, but with dedicated policy entrepreneurs and support of concerned international collaborators. Timely introduction of operational health systems research played a crucial role to support the implementation, as well as the subsequent revision of the policy. The development of the Health Care Law took several years and once adopted, the implementation was delayed by institutional legacies and issues concerning the choice of institutional design and financing, despite strong support of the law among the policymakers. Among many factors, timing of the implementation appeared to be of crucial importance, in combination with strong leadership. These two examples show that more research, that problematizes the complex policy environment in combination with improved communication between researchers and policymakers, is necessary to inform about measures for effective implementation. A way forward can be to strengthen the domestic research capacity and the international research collaboration regionally as well as globally.
PMCID: PMC4385816  PMID: 24740710
Policy process; policy implementation; research to policy; National Drug Policy; Health Care Law
11.  Expanded Quality Management Using Information Power (EQUIP): protocol for a quasi-experimental study to improve maternal and newborn health in Tanzania and Uganda 
Maternal and newborn mortality remain unacceptably high in sub-Saharan Africa. Tanzania and Uganda are committed to reduce maternal and newborn mortality, but progress has been limited and many essential interventions are unavailable in primary and referral facilities. Quality management has the potential to overcome low implementation levels by assisting teams of health workers and others finding local solutions to problems in delivering quality care and the underutilization of health services by the community. Existing evidence of the effect of quality management on health worker performance in these contexts has important limitations, and the feasibility of expanding quality management to the community level is unknown. We aim to assess quality management at the district, facility, and community levels, supported by information from high-quality, continuous surveys, and report effects of the quality management intervention on the utilization and quality of services in Tanzania and Uganda.
In Uganda and Tanzania, the Expanded Quality Management Using Information Power (EQUIP) intervention is implemented in one intervention district and evaluated using a plausibility design with one non-randomly selected comparison district. The quality management approach is based on the collaborative model for improvement, in which groups of quality improvement teams test new implementation strategies (change ideas) and periodically meet to share results and identify the best strategies. The teams use locally-generated community and health facility data to monitor improvements. In addition, data from continuous health facility and household surveys are used to guide prioritization and decision making by quality improvement teams as well as for evaluation of the intervention. These data include input, process, output, coverage, implementation practice, and client satisfaction indicators in both intervention and comparison districts. Thus, intervention districts receive quality management and continuous surveys, and comparison districts-only continuous surveys.
EQUIP is a district-scale, proof-of-concept study that evaluates a quality management approach for maternal and newborn health including communities, health facilities, and district health managers, supported by high-quality data from independent continuous household and health facility surveys. The study will generate robust evidence about the effectiveness of quality management and will inform future nationwide implementation approaches for health system strengthening in low-resource settings.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC4230245  PMID: 24690284
Quality management; Quality improvement; Maternal and child health; Health system strengthening; Community empowerment; Tanzania; Uganda
12.  Early Hospital Mortality among Adult Trauma Patients Significantly Declined between 1998-2011: Three Single-Centre Cohorts from Mumbai, India 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90064.
Traumatic injury causes more than five million deaths each year of which about 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Hospital trauma mortality has been significantly reduced in high-income countries, but to what extent similar results have been achieved in LMIC has not been studied in detail. Here, we assessed if early hospital mortality in patients with trauma has changed over time in an urban lower middle-income setting.
We conducted a retrospective study of patients admitted due to trauma in 1998, 2002, and 2011 to a large public hospital in Mumbai, India. Our outcome measure was early hospital mortality, defined as death between admission and 24-hours. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess the association between time and early hospital mortality, adjusting for patient case-mix. Injury severity was quantified using International Classification of Diseases-derived Injury Severity Score (ICISS). Major trauma was defined as ICISS<0.90.
We analysed data on 4189 patients out of which 86.5% were males. A majority of patients were between 15 and 55 years old and 36.5% had major trauma. Overall early hospital mortality was 8.9% in 1998, 6.0% in 2002, and 8.1% in 2011. Among major trauma patients, early hospital mortality was 13.4%, in 1998, 11.3% in 2002, and 10.9% in 2011. Compared to trauma patients admitted in 1998, those admitted in 2011 had lower odds for early hospital mortality (OR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.41–0.76) including those with major trauma (OR = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.41–0.78).
We observed a significant reduction in early hospital mortality among patients with major trauma between 1998 and 2011. Improved survival was evident only after we adjusted for patient case-mix. This finding highlights the importance of risk-adjustment when studying longitudinal mortality trends.
PMCID: PMC3940776  PMID: 24594775
13.  High Compliance with Newborn Community-to-Facility Referral in Eastern Uganda:.An Opportunity to Improve Newborn Survival 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81610.
Seventy-five percent of newborn deaths happen in the first-week of life, with the highest risk of death in the first 24-hours after birth.WHO and UNICEF recommend home-visits for babies in the first-week of life to assess for danger-signs and counsel caretakers for immediate referral of sick newborns. We assessed timely compliance with newborn referrals made by community-health workers (CHWs), and its determinants in Iganga and Mayuge Districts in rural eastern Uganda.
A historical cohort study design was used to retrospectively follow up newborns referred to health facilities between September 2009 and August 2011. Timely compliance was defined as caretakers of newborns complying with CHWs’ referral advice within 24-hours.
A total of 724 newborns were referred by CHWs of whom 700 were successfully traced. Of the 700 newborns, 373 (53%) were referred for immunization and postnatal-care, and 327 (47%) because of a danger-sign. Overall, 439 (63%) complied, and of the 327 sick newborns, 243 (74%) caretakers complied with the referrals. Predictors of referral compliance were; the newborn being sick at the time of referral- Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 2.3, and 95% Confidence-Interval (CI) of [1.6 - 3.5]), the CHW making a reminder visit to the referred newborn shortly after referral (AOR =1.7; 95% CI: [1.2 -2.7]); and age of mother (25-29) and (30-34) years, (AOR =0.4; 95% CI: [0.2 - 0.8]) and (AOR = 0.4; 95% CI: [0.2 - 0.8]) respectively.
Caretakers’ newborn referral compliance was high in this setting. The newborn being sick, being born to a younger mother and a reminder visit by the CHW to a referred newborn were predictors of newborn referral compliance. Integration of CHWs into maternal and newborn care programs has the potential to increase care seeking for newborns, which may contribute to reduction of newborn mortality.
PMCID: PMC3843697  PMID: 24312326
14.  Perceived Quality of Care for Common Childhood Illnesses: Facility versus Community Based Providers in Uganda 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79943.
To compare caretakers’ perceived quality of care (PQC) for under-fives treated for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea by community health workers (CHWs) and primary health facility workers (PHFWs).
Caretaker rated PQC for children aged (2-59) months treated by either CHWs or PHFWs for a bought of malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea was cross-sectionally compared in quality domains of accessibility, continuity, comprehensiveness, integration, clinical interaction, interpersonal treatment and trust. Child samples were randomly drawn from CHW (419) and clinic (399) records from eight Midwestern Uganda districts. An overall PQC score was predicted through factor analysis. PQC scores were compared for CHWs and PHFWs using Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to specify the association between categorized PQC and service providers for each quality domain. Finally, overall PQC was dichotomized into “high” and “low” based on median score and relative risks (RR) for PQC-service provider association were modeled in a “modified” Poisson regression model.
Mean (SD) overall PQC was significantly higher for CHWs 0.58 (0 .66) compared to PHFWs -0.58 (0.94), p<0.0001. In “modified” Poisson regression, the proportion of caretakers reporting high PQC was higher for CHWS compared to PHFWs, RR=3.1, 95%CI(2.5-3.8). In multinomial models PQC was significantly higher for CHWs compared to PHFWs in all domains except for continuity.
PQC was significantly higher for CHWs compared to PHFWs in this resource constrained setting. CHWs should be tapped human resources for universal health coverage while scaling up basic child intervention as PQC might improve intervention utilization.
PMCID: PMC3820538  PMID: 24244581
15.  Facility-level intervention to improve attendance and adherence among patients on anti-retroviral treatment in Kenya—a quasi-experimental study using time series analysis 
Achieving high rates of adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-poor settings comprises serious, but different, challenges in both the first months of treatment and during the life-long maintenance phase. We measured the impact of a health system-oriented, facility-based intervention to improve clinic attendance and patient adherence.
This was a quasi-experimental, longitudinal, controlled intervention study using interrupted time series analysis. The intervention consisted of (1) using a clinic appointment diary to track patient attendance and monitor monthly performance; (2) changing the mode of asking for self-reported adherence; (3) training staff on adherence concepts, intervention methods, and use of monitoring data; (4) conducting visits to support facility teams with the implementation.
We conducted the study in 12 rural district hospitals (6 intervention, 6 control) in Kenya and randomly selected 1894 adult patients over 18 years of age in two cohorts: experienced patients on treatment for at least one year, and newly treated patients initiating ART during the study. Outcome measures were: attending the clinic on or before the date of a scheduled appointment, attending within 3 days of a scheduled appointment, reporting perfect adherence, and experiencing a gap in medication supply of more than 14 days.
Among experienced patients, the percentage attending the clinic on or before a scheduled appointment increased in both level (average total increase immediately after intervention) (+5.7%; 95% CI = 2.1, 9.3) and trend (increase per month) (+1.0% per month; 95% CI = 0.6, 1.5) following the intervention, as did the level and trend of those keeping appointments within three days (+4.2%; 95% CI = 1.6, 6.7; and +0.8% per month; 95% CI = 0.6, 1.1, respectively). The relative difference between the intervention and control groups based on the monthly difference in visit rates increased significantly in both level (+6.5; 95% CI = 1.4, 11.6) and trend (1.0% per month; 95% CI = 0.2, 1.8) following the intervention for experienced patients attending the clinic within 3 days of their scheduled appointments.
The decrease in the percentage of experienced patients with a medication gap greater than 14 days approached statistical significance (-11.3%; 95% CI = -22.7, 0.1), and the change seemed to persist over 11 months after the intervention. All facility staff used appointment-keeping data to calculate adherence and discussed outcomes regularly.
The appointment-tracking system and monthly performance monitoring was strengthened, and patient attendance was improved. Scale-up to national level may be considered.
PMCID: PMC3704969  PMID: 23816278
Appointment-keeping; Medication gaps; Self-reported adherence; Indicators; Monitoring performance
16.  Community Acceptability and Adoption of Integrated Community Case Management in Uganda 
Integrated community case management (iCCM) is a recommended strategy to curb child mortality. Drawing on diffusion of innovations (DOIs), the acceptability and adoption of iCCM were qualitatively explored. Data from focus group discussions and interviews with community members, community health workers (CHWs), and supervisors conducted in seven communities were analyzed using content analysis. Perceived relative advantage and compatibility of the program with sociocultural beliefs and healthcare expectations of the communities positively affected acceptability and adoption of iCCM. The degree of stringency, quality, and cost of access to healthcare were crucial to adoption. Failure of the health system to secure regular drug supplies, monetary support, and safe referrals globally hindered adoption. Individual CHW characteristics like undesired behavior, demotivation, and lack of reciprocated trust deterred adoption in some areas. Optimal functioning of iCCM programs will require community sensitization and targeted health systems strengthening to enhance observable program benefits like reduced child mortality.
PMCID: PMC3748529  PMID: 23136284
17.  Modifiable Socio-Behavioural Factors Associated with Overweight and Hypertension among Persons Aged 35 to 60 Years in Eastern Uganda 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47632.
Few studies have examined the behavioural correlates of non-communicable, chronic disease risk in low-income countries. The objective of this study was to identify socio-behavioural characteristics associated with being overweight or being hypertensive in a low-income setting, so as to highlight possible interventions and target groups.
A population based survey was conducted in a Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (HDSS) in eastern Uganda. 1656 individuals aged 35 to 60 years had their Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure (BP) assessed. Seven lifestyle factors were also assessed, using a validated questionnaire. Logistic regression was used to identify socio-behavioural factors associated with being overweight or being hypertensive.
Prevalence of overweight was found to be 18% (25.2% of women; 9.7% of men; p<0.001) while prevalence of obesity was 5.3% (8.3% of women; 2.2% of men). The prevalence of hypertension was 20.5%. Factors associated with being overweight included being female (OR 3.7; 95% CI 2.69–5.08), peri-urban residence (OR 2.5; 95% CI 1.46–3.01), higher socio-economic status (OR 4.1; 95% CI 2.40–6.98), and increasing age (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.12–2.79). Those who met the recommended minimum physical activity level, and those with moderate dietary diversity were less likely to be overweight (OR 0.5; 95% CI 0.35–0.65 and OR 0.7; 95% CI 0.49–3.01). Factors associated with being hypertensive included peri-urban residence (OR 2.4; 95%CI 1.60–3.66), increasing age (OR 4.5; 95% CI 2.94–6.96) and being over-weight (OR 2.8; 95% CI 1.98–3.98). Overweight persons in rural areas were significantly more likely to be hypertensive than those in peri-urban areas (p = 0.013).
Being overweight in low-income settings is associated with sex, physical activity and dietary diversity and being hypertensive is associated with being overweight; these factors are modifiable. There is need for context-specific health education addressing disparities in lifestyles at community levels in rural Africa.
PMCID: PMC3471867  PMID: 23077653
18.  'How to know what you need to do': a cross-country comparison of maternal health guidelines in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Tanzania 
Initiatives to raise the quality of care provided to mothers need to be given priority in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). The promotion of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) is a common strategy, but their implementation is often challenging, limiting their potential impact. Through a cross-country perspective, this study explored CPGs for maternal health in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Tanzania. The objectives were to compare factors related to CPG use including their content compared with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, their format, and their development processes. Perceptions of their availability and use in practice were also explored. The overall purpose was to further the understanding of how to increase CPGs' potential to improve quality of care for mothers in SSA.
The study was a multiple case study design consisting of cross-country comparisons using document review and key informant interviews. A conceptual framework to aid analysis and discussion of results was developed, including selected domains related to guidelines' implementability and use by health workers in practice in terms of usability, applicability, and adaptability.
The study revealed few significant differences in content between the national guidelines for maternal health and WHO recommendations. There were, however, marked variations in the format of CPGs between the three countries. Apart from the Ghanaian and one of the Tanzanian CPGs, the levels of both usability and applicability were assessed as low or medium. In all three countries, the use of CPGs by health workers in practice was perceived to be limited.
Our cross-country study suggests that it is not poor quality of content or lack of evidence base that constitute the major barrier for CPGs to positively impact on quality improvement in maternal care in SSA. It rather emphasises the need to prioritise the format of guidelines to increase their usability and applicability and to consider these attributes together with implementation strategies as integral to their development processes.
PMCID: PMC3372446  PMID: 22500744
CPGs; Health service delivery; Implementation; Information and communication technology (ICT); Maternal health; Quality improvement; Sub Saharan Africa; WHO
19.  The Primacy of Public Health Considerations in Defining Poor Quality Medicines 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(12):e1001139.
Paul Newton and colleagues argue that public health, and not intellectual property or trade issues, should be the prime consideration in defining and combating counterfeit medicines, and that the World Health Organization (WHO) should take a more prominent role.
PMCID: PMC3232210  PMID: 22162953
20.  Malaria Rapid Testing by Community Health Workers Is Effective and Safe for Targeting Malaria Treatment: Randomised Cross-Over Trial in Tanzania 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e19753.
Early diagnosis and prompt, effective treatment of uncomplicated malaria is critical to prevent severe disease, death and malaria transmission. We assessed the impact of rapid malaria diagnostic tests (RDTs) by community health workers (CHWs) on provision of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and health outcome in fever patients.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Twenty-two CHWs from five villages in Kibaha District, a high-malaria transmission area in Coast Region, Tanzania, were trained to manage uncomplicated malaria using RDT aided diagnosis or clinical diagnosis (CD) only. Each CHW was randomly assigned to use either RDT or CD the first week and thereafter alternating weekly. Primary outcome was provision of ACT and main secondary outcomes were referral rates and health status by days 3 and 7. The CHWs enrolled 2930 fever patients during five months of whom 1988 (67.8%) presented within 24 hours of fever onset. ACT was provided to 775 of 1457 (53.2%) patients during RDT weeks and to 1422 of 1473 (96.5%) patients during CD weeks (Odds Ratio (OR) 0.039, 95% CI 0.029–0.053). The CHWs adhered to the RDT results in 1411 of 1457 (96.8%, 95% CI 95.8–97.6) patients. More patients were referred on inclusion day during RDT weeks (10.0%) compared to CD weeks (1.6%). Referral during days 1–7 and perceived non-recovery on days 3 and 7 were also more common after RDT aided diagnosis. However, no fatal or severe malaria occurred among 682 patients in the RDT group who were not treated with ACT, supporting the safety of withholding ACT to RDT negative patients.
RDTs in the hands of CHWs may safely improve early and well-targeted ACT treatment in malaria patients at community level in Africa.
Trial registration NCT00301015
PMCID: PMC3130036  PMID: 21750697
21.  Provider performance in treating poor patients - factors influencing prescribing practices in lao PDR: a cross-sectional study 
Out-of-pocket payments make up about 80% of medical care spending at hospitals in Laos, thereby putting poor households at risk of catastrophic health expenditure. Social security schemes in the form of community-based health insurance and health equity funds have been introduced in some parts of the country. Drug and Therapeutics Committees (DTCs) have been established to ensure rational use of drugs and improve quality of care. The objective was to assess the appropriateness and expenditure for treatment for poor patients by health care providers at hospitals in three selected provinces of Laos and to explore associated factors.
Cross-sectional study using four tracer conditions. Structured interviews with 828 in-patients at twelve provincial and district hospitals on the subject of insurance protection, income and expenditures for treatment, including informal payment. Evaluation of each patient's medical record for appropriateness of drug use using a checklist of treatment guidelines (maximum score = 10).
No significant difference in appropriateness of care for patients at different income levels, but higher expenditures for patients with the highest income level. The score for appropriate drug use in insured patients was significantly higher than uninsured patients (5.9 vs. 4.9), and the length of stay in days significantly shorter (2.7 vs. 3.7). Insured patients paid significantly less than uninsured patients, both for medicines (USD 14.8 vs. 43.9) and diagnostic tests (USD 5.9 vs. 9.2). On the contrary the score for appropriateness of drug use in patients making informal payments was significantly lower than patients not making informal payments (3.5 vs. 5.1), and the length of stay significantly longer (6.8 vs. 3.2), while expenditures were significantly higher both for medicines (USD 124.5 vs. 28.8) and diagnostic tests (USD 14.1 vs. 7.7).
The lower expenditure for insured patients can help reduce the number of households experiencing catastrophic health expenditure. The positive effects of insurance schemes on expenditure and appropriate use of medicines may be associated with the long-term effects of promoting rational use of drugs, including support to active DTC work.
PMCID: PMC3022646  PMID: 21210989
22.  "Practical knowledge" and perceptions of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance among drugsellers in Tanzanian private drugstores 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:270.
Studies indicate that antibiotics are sold against regulation and without prescription in private drugstores in rural Tanzania. The objective of the study was to explore and describe antibiotics sale and dispensing practices and link it to drugseller knowledge and perceptions of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.
Exit customers of private drugstores in eight districts were interviewed about the drugstore encounter and drugs bought. Drugsellers filled in a questionnaire with closed- and open-ended questions about antibiotics and resistance. Data were analyzed using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods.
Of 350 interviewed exit customers, 24% had bought antibiotics. Thirty percent had seen a health worker before coming and almost all of these had a prescription. Antibiotics were dispensed mainly for cough, stomachache, genital complaints and diarrhea but not for malaria or headache. Dispensed drugs were assessed as relevant for the symptoms or disease presented in 83% of all cases and 51% for antibiotics specifically. Non-prescribed drugs were assessed as more relevant than the prescribed. The knowledge level of the drugseller was ranked as high or very high by 75% of the respondents. Seventy-five drugsellers from three districts participated. Seventy-nine percent stated that diseases caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics but 24% of these also said that antibiotics can be used for treating viral disease. Most (85%) said that STI can be treated with antibiotics while 1% said the same about headache, 4% general weakness and 3% 'all diseases'. Seventy-two percent had heard of antibiotic resistance. When describing what an antibiotic is, the respondents used six different kinds of keywords. Descriptions of what antibiotic resistance is and how it occurs were quite rational from a biomedical point of view with some exceptions. They gave rise to five categories and one theme: Perceiving antibiotic resistance based on practical experience.
The drugsellers have considerable "practical knowledge" of antibiotics and a perception of antibiotic resistance based on practical experience. In the process of upgrading private drugstores and formalizing the sale of antibiotics from these outlets in resource-constrained settings, their "practical knowledge" as well as their perceptions must be taken into account in order to attain rational dispensing practices.
PMCID: PMC2949758  PMID: 20846407
23.  "We noticed that suddenly the country has become full of MRI". Policy makers' views on diffusion and use of health technologies in Iran 
Uncontrolled proliferation of health technologies (HT) is one contributor to the increasing pressure on health systems to adopt new technologies. With limited resources, policy-makers encounter difficulties in fulfilling their responsibility to meet the healthcare needs of the population. The aim of this study is to explore how policy-makers' reason about the diffusion and utilization of health technologies in Iran using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and interferon beta as tracers.
This qualitative exploration complements quantitative data generated in a research project investigating the diffusion and utilization of MRI and interferon beta in Iran. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 informants in different positions and levels of authority in the Ministry of Health (MOH), University of Medical Sciences, Health Insurance Organizations, and Parliament. The data was analysed using the framework approach.
Although policy-makers appeared to be positive to health technology assessment (HTA), the processes of policy-making described by the interviewees did not seem to be based on a full understanding of this (discipline). Several obstacles to applying knowledge about HT and HTA were described. The current official plan for MRI adoption and diffusion in the country was said not to be followed, and no such plan was described for interferon beta. Instead, market forces such as advertising, and physician and consumer demand, appear to have strong influence on HT diffusion and use. Dual practice may have increased the induced demand and also reduced the supervision of the private sector by the MOH.
Management instability and lack of coordination in the MOH were found to be important obstacles to accumulation of knowledge and experience which, in turn, could have led to suboptimal managerial and policy-making processes. Furthermore marketing should be controlled in order to avoid creating unnecessary patient demands and negative influences on physicians' behavior.
PMCID: PMC2907640  PMID: 20370906
24.  The Paris Declaration in practice: challenges of health sector aid coordination at the district level in Zambia 
The increasing resources available for and number of partners providing health sector aid have stimulated innovations, notably, the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which aim to improve aid coordination. In this, one of the first studies to analyse implementation of aid coordination below national level, the aim was to investigate the effect of the Paris Declaration on coordination of health sector aid at the district level in Zambia.
The study was carried out in three districts of Zambia. Data were collected via interviews with health centre staff, district managers and officials from the Ministry of Health, and from district action plans, financial reports and accounts, and health centre ledger cards. Four indicators of coordination related to external-partner activity, common arrangements used by external partners and predictability of funding were analysed and assessed in relation to the 2010 targets set by the Paris Declaration.
While the activity of external partners at the district level has increased, funding and activities provided by these partners are often not included in local plans. HIV/AIDS support show better integration in planning and implementation at the district level than other support. Regarding common arrangements used for fund disbursement, the share of resources provided as programme-based support is not increasing. The predictability of funds coming from outside the government financing mechanism is low.
Greater efforts to integrate partners in district level planning and implementation are needed. External partners must improve the predictability of their support and be more proactive in informing the districts about their intended contributions. With the deadline for achieving the targets set by the Paris Declaration fast approaching, it is time for the signatories to accelerate its implementation.
PMCID: PMC2701416  PMID: 19505300
25.  Access to health care in relation to socioeconomic status in the Amazonian area of Peru 
Access to affordable health care is limited in many low and middle income countries and health systems are often inequitable, providing less health services to the poor who need it most. The aim of this study was to investigate health seeking behavior and utilization of drugs in relation to household socioeconomic status for children in two small Amazonian urban communities of Peru; Yurimaguas, Department of Loreto and Moyobamba, Department of San Martin, Peru.
Cross-sectional study design included household interviews. Caregivers of 780 children aged 6–72 months in Yurimaguas and 793 children of the same age in Moyobamba were included in the study. Caregivers were interviewed on health care seeking strategies (public/private sectors; formal/informal providers), and medication for their children in relation to reported symptoms and socio-economic status. Self-reported symptoms were classified into illnesses based on the IMCI algorithm (Integrated Management of Childhood Ilness). Wealth was used as a proxy indicator for the economic status. Wealth values were generated by Principal Component Analysis using household assets and characteristics.
Significantly more caregivers from the least poor stratum consulted health professionals for cough/cold (p < 0.05: OR = 4.30) than the poorest stratum. The poorest stratum used fewer antibiotics for cough/cold and for cough/cold + diarrhoea (16%, 38%, respectively) than the least poor stratum (31%, 52%, respectively). For pneumonia and/or dysentery, the poorest used significantly fewer antibiotics (16%) than the least poor (80%).
The poorest seek less care from health professionals for non-severe illnesses as well as for severe illnesses; and treatment with antibiotics is lacking for illnesses where it would be indicated. Caregivers frequently paid for health services as well as antibiotics, even though all children in the study qualified for free health care and medicines. The implementation of the Seguro Integral de Salud health insurance must be improved.
PMCID: PMC2680861  PMID: 19368731

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