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1.  It could be viral but you don’t know, you have not diagnosed it: health worker challenges in managing non-malaria paediatric fevers in the low transmission area of Mbarara District, Uganda 
Malaria Journal  2016;15:197.
In 2012, Uganda initiated nationwide deployment of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) as recommended by national guidelines. Yet growing concerns about RDT non-compliance in various settings have spurred calls to deploy RDT as part of enhanced support packages. An understanding of how health workers currently manage non-malaria fevers, particularly for children, and challenges faced in this work should also inform efforts.
A qualitative study was conducted in the low transmission area of Mbarara District (Uganda). In-depth interviews with 20 health workers at lower level clinics focused on RDT perceptions, strategies to differentiate non-malaria paediatric fevers, influences on clinical decisions, desires for additional diagnostics, and any challenges in this work. Seven focus group discussions were conducted with caregivers of children under 5 years of age in facility catchment areas to elucidate their RDT perceptions, understandings of non-malaria paediatric fevers and treatment preferences. Data were extracted into meaning units to inform codes and themes in order to describe response patterns using a latent content analysis approach.
Differential diagnosis strategies included studying fever patterns, taking histories, assessing symptoms, and analysing other factors such as a child’s age or home environment. If no alternative cause was found, malaria treatment was reportedly often prescribed despite a negative result. Other reasons for malaria over-treatment stemmed from RDT perceptions, system constraints and provider-client interactions. RDT perceptions included mistrust driven largely by expectations of false negative results due to low parasite/antigen loads, previous anti-malarial treatment or test detection of only one species. System constraints included poor referral systems, working alone without opportunity to confer on difficult cases, and lacking skills and/or tools for differential diagnosis. Provider-client interactions included reported caregiver RDT mistrust, demand for certain drugs and desire to know the ‘exact’ disease cause if not malaria. Many health workers expressed uncertainty about how to manage non-malaria paediatric fevers, feared doing wrong and patient death, worried caregivers would lose trust, or felt unsatisfied without a clear diagnosis.
Enhanced support is needed to improve RDT adoption at lower level clinics that focuses on empowering providers to successfully manage non-severe, non-malaria paediatric fevers without referral. This includes building trust in negative results, reinforcing integrated care initiatives (e.g., integrated management of childhood illness) and fostering communities of practice according to the diffusion of innovations theory.
PMCID: PMC4827217  PMID: 27066829
Uganda; Child health; Malaria; Fever; Diagnosis; Qualitative; Point-of-care diagnostics
2.  Community and District Empowerment for Scale-up (CODES): a complex district-level management intervention to improve child survival in Uganda: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2016;17:135.
Innovative and sustainable strategies to strengthen districts and other sub-national health systems and management are urgently required to reduce child mortality. Although highly effective evidence-based and affordable child survival interventions are well-known, at the district level, lack of data, motivation, analytic and planning capacity often impedes prioritization and management weaknesses impede implementation. The Community and District Empowerment for Scale-up (CODES) project is a complex management intervention designed to test whether districts when empowered with data and management tools can prioritize and implement evidence-based child survival interventions equitably.
The CODES strategy combines management, diagnostic, and evaluation tools to identify and analyze the causes of bottlenecks to implementation, build capacity of district management teams to implement context-specific solutions, and to foster community monitoring and social accountability to increase demand for services. CODES combines UNICEF tools designed to systematize priority setting, allocation of resources and problem solving with Community dialogues based on Citizen Report Cards and U-Reports used to engage and empower communities in monitoring health service provision and to demand for quality services. Implementation and all data collection will be by the districts teams or local Community-based Organizations who will be supported by two local implementing partners. The study will be evaluated as a cluster randomized trial with eight intervention and eight comparison districts over a period of 3 years. Evaluation will focus on differences in uptake of child survival interventions and will follow an intention-to-treat analysis. We will also document and analyze experiences in implementation including changes in management practices.
By increasing the District Health Management Teams’ capacity to prioritize and implement context-specific solutions, and empowering communities to become active partners in service delivery, coverage of child survival interventions will increase. Lessons learned on strengthening district-level managerial capacities and mechanisms for community monitoring may have implications, not only in Uganda but also in other similar settings, especially with regard to accelerating effective coverage of key child survival interventions using locally available resources.
Trial registration number
ISRCTN15705788, Date of registration; 24 July 2015.
PMCID: PMC4788939  PMID: 26968957
Child survival; Management tools; Bottleneck analysis; Evidence-based; District strengthening; Community monitoring; Health systems strengthening; LQAS; Uganda
3.  Early response to inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids as a predictor of 12-month treatment responder status and COPD exacerbations 
Early treatment response markers, for example, improvement in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) total score, may help clinicians to better manage patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We investigated the prevalence of clinically important improvements in FEV1 and SGRQ scores after 2-month budesonide/formoterol or formoterol treatment and whether such improvements predict subsequent improvements and exacerbation rates.
This post hoc analysis is based on data from three double-blind, randomized studies in patients with moderate-to-very-severe COPD receiving twice-daily budesonide/formoterol or formoterol alone for 6 or 12 months. Prebronchodilator FEV1 and SGRQ total score were measured before treatment and at 2 and 12 months; COPD exacerbation rates were measured during months 2–12. Responders were defined by ≥100 mL improvement in prebronchodilator FEV1 and ≥4-point decrease in SGRQ total score.
Overall, 2,331 and 1,799 patients were included in the 0–2- and 0–12-month responder analyses, respectively, and 2,360 patients in the 2–12-month exacerbation rate analysis. At 2 months, 35.1% of patients were FEV1 responders and 44.3% were SGRQ responders. The probability of response was significantly greater with budesonide/formoterol than with formoterol or placebo for both parameters. Two-month responders had a greater chance of 12-month response than 2-month nonresponders for both FEV1 (odds ratio, 5.57; 95% confidence interval, 4.14–7.50) and SGRQ (odds ratio, 3.87; 95% confidence interval, 2.83–5.31). Two-month response in FEV1 (P<0.001), but not SGRQ (P=0.11), was associated with greater reductions in exacerbation risk.
Early FEV1 and SGRQ treatment responses relate to their changes at 12 months. FEV1 response, but not SGRQ response, at 2 months predicts the risk of a future COPD exacerbation in some, but not all patients. This is potentially useful in clinical practice, although more sensitive and specific markers of favorable treatment response are required.
PMCID: PMC4772946  PMID: 26952309
anti-inflammatories; bronchodilator effect; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; predictors; risk assessment; risk factors
5.  A new approach to assess COPD by identifying lung function break-points 
COPD is a progressive disease, which can take different routes, leading to great heterogeneity. The aim of the post-hoc analysis reported here was to perform continuous analyses of advanced lung function measurements, using linear and nonlinear regressions.
Patients and methods
Fifty-one COPD patients with mild to very severe disease (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease [GOLD] Stages I–IV) and 41 healthy smokers were investigated post-bronchodilation by flow-volume spirometry, body plethysmography, diffusion capacity testing, and impulse oscillometry. The relationship between COPD severity, based on forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and different lung function parameters was analyzed by flexible nonparametric method, linear regression, and segmented linear regression with break-points.
Most lung function parameters were nonlinear in relation to spirometric severity. Parameters related to volume (residual volume, functional residual capacity, total lung capacity, diffusion capacity [diffusion capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide], diffusion capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide/alveolar volume) and reactance (reactance area and reactance at 5Hz) were segmented with break-points at 60%–70% of FEV1. FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) and resonance frequency had break-points around 80% of FEV1, while many resistance parameters had break-points below 40%. The slopes in percent predicted differed; resistance at 5 Hz minus resistance at 20 Hz had a linear slope change of −5.3 per unit FEV1, while residual volume had no slope change above and −3.3 change per unit FEV1 below its break-point of 61%.
Continuous analyses of different lung function parameters over the spirometric COPD severity range gave valuable information additional to categorical analyses. Parameters related to volume, diffusion capacity, and reactance showed break-points around 65% of FEV1, indicating that air trapping starts to dominate in moderate COPD (FEV1 =50%–80%). This may have an impact on the patient’s management plan and selection of patients and/or outcomes in clinical research.
PMCID: PMC4610777  PMID: 26508849
spirometry; severity; body plethysmography; single-breath carbon-monoxide diffusion test; impulse oscillometry; break-point
6.  A systematic review of community-to-facility neonatal referral completion rates in Africa and Asia 
BMC Public Health  2015;15:989.
An estimated 2.8 million neonatal deaths occur annually worldwide. The vulnerability of newborns makes the timeliness of seeking and receiving care critical for neonatal survival and prevention of long-term sequelae. To better understand the role active referrals by community health workers play in neonatal careseeking, we synthesize data on referral completion rates for neonates with danger signs predictive of mortality or major morbidity in low- and middle-income countries.
A systematic review was conducted in May 2014 of the following databases: Medline-PubMed, Embase, and WHO databases. We also searched grey literature. In addition, an investigator group was established to identify unpublished data on newborn referral and completion rates. Inquiries were made to the network of research groups supported by Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives project and other relevant research groups.
Three Sub-Saharan African and five South Asian studies reported data on community-to-facility referral completion rates. The studies varied on factors such as referral rates, the assessed danger signs, frequency of home visits in the neonatal period, and what was done to facilitate referrals. Neonatal referral completion rates ranged from 34 to 97 %, with the median rate of 74 %. Four studies reported data on the early neonatal period; early neonatal completion rates ranged from 46 to 97 %, with a median of 70 %. The definition of referral completion differed by studies, in aspects such as where the newborns were referred to and what was considered timely completion.
Existing literature reports a wide range of neonatal referral completion rates in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia following active illness surveillance. Interpreting these referral completion rates is challenging due to the great variation in study design and context. Often, what qualifies as referral and/or referral completion is poorly defined, which makes it difficult to aggregate existing data to draw appropriate conclusions that can inform programs. Further research is necessary to continue highlighting ways for programs, governments, and policymakers to best aid families in low-resource settings in protecting their newborns from major health consequences.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2330-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4589085  PMID: 26419934
Neonatal; Referral; Careseeking; Community health worker
7.  Reliever salbutamol use as a measure of exacerbation risk in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Debate exists regarding which endpoints most sensitively reflect day-to-day variation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms and are most useful in clinical practice to predict COPD exacerbations. We hypothesized that short-acting β2-agonist (SABA) reliever use would predict short- and long-term exacerbation risk in COPD patients.
We performed a retrospective analysis of data from a study ( registration: NCT00419744) comparing budesonide/formoterol 320/9 μg with formoterol 9 μg (both twice daily) in patients with moderate-to-very-severe COPD; reliever salbutamol 90 μg was provided. First occurrence of reliever use >4 (low), >10 (medium), and >20 (high) inhalations/day was assessed as a predictor of short-term (3-week) exacerbation risk. Mean daily reliever use in the week preceding the 2-month visit was investigated as a predictor of the long-term (10-month) exacerbation risk, using intervals of 2–5, 6–9, and ≥10 inhalations/day.
Overall, 810 patients were included (61 % male; mean age 63.2 years; post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 s 37.7 % of predicted). First occurrence of low, medium, or high reliever use was predictive of an exacerbation within the following 3 weeks; exacerbation risk increased significantly with increasing reliever use. Mean reliever use over 1 week was predictive of long-term exacerbation risk. Patients with mean use of 2–5, 6–9, and ≥10 inhalations/day exhibited 21 %, 67 %, and 135 % higher exacerbation rates, respectively, in the following 10 months, compared with <2 inhalations/day. Budesonide/formoterol was associated with lower short- and long-term exacerbation risk than formoterol in all reliever-use groups.
SABA reliever use is a predictor of short- and long-term exacerbation risk in moderate-to-very-severe COPD patients with a history of exacerbations receiving budesonide/formoterol or formoterol.
PMCID: PMC4546184  PMID: 26293575
COPD; Budesonide/formoterol; Exacerbation; Reliever medication; Predictor
8.  Improving child survival through a district management strengthening and community empowerment intervention: early implementation experiences from Uganda 
BMC Public Health  2015;15:797.
The Community and District Empowerment for Scale-up (CODES) project pioneered the implementation of a comprehensive district management and community empowerment intervention in five districts in Uganda. In order to improve effective coverage and quality of child survival interventions CODES combines UNICEF tools designed to systematize priority setting, allocation of resources and problem solving with Community dialogues based on Citizen Report Cards and U-Reports used to engage and empower communities in monitoring health service provision and to demand for quality services. This paper presents early implementation experiences in five pilot districts and lessons learnt during the first 2 years of implementation.
This qualitative study was comprised of 38 in-depth interviews with members of the District Health Teams (DHTs) and two implementing partners. These were supplemented by observations during implementation and documents review. Thematic analysis was used to distill early implementation experiences and lessons learnt from the process.
All five districts health teams with support from the implementing partners were able to adopt the UNICEF tools and to develop district health operational work plans that were evidence-based. Members of the DHTs described the approach introduced by the CODES project as a more systematic planning process and very much appreciated it. Districts were also able to implement some of the priority activities included in their work plans but limited financial resources and fiscal decision space constrained the implementation of some activities that were prioritized. Community dialogues based on Citizen Report Cards (CRC) increased community awareness of available health care services, their utilization and led to discussions on service delivery, barriers to service utilization and processes for improvement. Community dialogues were also instrumental in bringing together service users, providers and leaders to discuss problems and find solutions. The dialogues however are more likely to be sustainable if embedded in existing community structures and conducted by district based facilitators. U report as a community feedback mechanism registered a low response rate.
The UNICEF tools were adopted at district level and generally well perceived by the DHTs. The limited resources and fiscal decision space however can hinder implementation of prioritized activities. Community dialogues based on CRCs can bring service providers and the community together but need to be embedded in existing community structures for sustainability.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2129-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4545317  PMID: 26286146
9.  Drug seller adherence to clinical protocols with integrated management of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea at drug shops in Uganda 
Malaria Journal  2015;14:277.
Drug shops are usually the first source of care for febrile children in Uganda although the quality of care they provide is known to be poor. Within a larger quasi-experimental study introducing the WHO/UNICEF recommended integrated community case management (iCCM) of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea intervention for community health workers in registered drug shops, the level of adherence to clinical protocols by drug sellers was determined.
All drug shops (N = 44) in the intervention area were included and all child visits (N = 7,667) from October 2011–June 2012 to the participating drug shops were analysed. Drug shops maintained a standard iCCM register where they recorded the children seen, their symptoms, diagnostic test performed, treatments given and actions taken. The proportion of children correctly assessed and treated was determined from the registers.
Malaria management: 6,140 of 7,667 (80.1%) total visits to drug shops were of children with fever. 5986 (97.5%) children with fever received a malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and the RDT positivity rate was 78% (95% CI 77–79). 4,961/5,307 (93.4%) children with a positive RDT received artemisinin combination therapy. Pneumonia management: after respiratory rate assessment of children with cough and fast/difficult breathing, 3,437 (44.8%) were categorized as “pneumonia”, 3,126 (91.0%) of whom received the recommended drug—amoxicillin. Diarrhoea management: 2,335 (30.5%) child visits were for diarrhoea with 2,068 (88.6%) correctly treated with oral rehydration salts and zinc sulphate. Dual/Triple classification: 2,387 (31.1%) children had both malaria and pneumonia and 664 (8.7%) were classified as having three illnesses. Over 90% of the children with dual or triple classification were treated appropriately. Meanwhile, 381 children were categorized as severely sick (with a danger sign) with 309 (81.1%) of them referred for appropriate management.
With the introduction of the iCCM intervention at drug shops in Eastern Uganda, it was possible to achieve high adherence to the treatment protocols, which is likely compatible with increased quality of care.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12936-015-0798-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4502601  PMID: 26178532
10.  Identifying implementation bottlenecks for maternal and newborn health interventions in rural districts of the United Republic of Tanzania 
To estimate effective coverage of maternal and newborn health interventions and to identify bottlenecks in their implementation in rural districts of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Cross-sectional data from households and health facilities in Tandahimba and Newala districts were used in the analysis. We adapted Tanahashi’s model to estimate intervention coverage in conditional stages and to identify implementation bottlenecks in access, health facility readiness and clinical practice. The interventions studied were syphilis and pre-eclampsia screening, partograph use, active management of the third stage of labour and postpartum care.
Effective coverage was low in both districts, ranging from only 3% for postpartum care in Tandahimba to 49% for active management of the third stage of labour in Newala. In Tandahimba, health facility readiness was the largest bottleneck for most interventions, whereas in Newala, it was access. Clinical practice was another large bottleneck for syphilis screening in both districts.
The poor effective coverage of maternal and newborn health interventions in rural districts of the United Republic of Tanzania reinforces the need to prioritize health service quality. Access to high-quality local data by decision-makers would assist planning and prioritization. The approach of estimating effective coverage and identifying bottlenecks described here could facilitate progress towards universal health coverage for any area of care and in any context.
PMCID: PMC4450702  PMID: 26240459
11.  Effect of diagnostic testing on medicines used by febrile children less than five years in 12 malaria-endemic African countries: a mixed-methods study 
Malaria Journal  2015;14:194.
In 2010, WHO revised guidelines to recommend testing all suspected malaria cases prior to treatment. Yet, evidence to assess programmes is largely derived from limited facility settings in a limited number of countries. National surveys from 12 sub-Saharan African countries were used to examine the effect of diagnostic testing on medicines used by febrile children under five years at the population level, including stratification by malaria risk, transmission season, source of care, symptoms, and age.
Data were compiled from 12 Demographic and Health Surveys in 2010–2012 that reported fever prevalence, diagnostic test and medicine use, and socio-economic covariates (n = 16,323 febrile under-fives taken to care). Mixed-effects logistic regression models quantified the influence of diagnostic testing on three outcomes (artemisinin combination therapy (ACT), any anti-malarial or any antibiotic use) after adjusting for data clustering and confounding covariates. For each outcome, interactions between diagnostic testing and the following covariates were separately tested: malaria risk, season, source of care, symptoms, and age. A multiple case study design was used to understand varying results across selected countries and sub-national groups, which drew on programme documents, published research and expert consultations. A descriptive typology of plausible explanations for quantitative results was derived from a cross-case synthesis.
Significant variability was found in the effect of diagnostic testing on ACT use across countries (e.g., Uganda OR: 0.84, 95% CI: 0.66-1.06; Mozambique OR: 3.54, 95% CI: 2.33-5.39). Four main themes emerged to explain results: available diagnostics and medicines; quality of care; care-seeking behaviour; and, malaria epidemiology.
Significant country variation was found in the effect of diagnostic testing on paediatric fever treatment at the population level, and qualitative results suggest the impact of diagnostic scale-up on treatment practices may not be straightforward in routine conditions given contextual factors (e.g., access to care, treatment-seeking behaviour or supply stock-outs). Despite limitations, quantitative results could help identify countries (e.g., Mozambique) or issues (e.g., malaria risk) where facility-based research or programme attention may be warranted. The mixed-methods approach triangulates different evidence to potentially provide a standard framework to assess routine programmes across countries or over time to fill critical evidence gaps.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12936-015-0709-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4432948  PMID: 25957881
Malaria; Diagnosis; Child health; Fever case management; Population-based surveys; Case studies; Mixed-methods
12.  Differences in essential newborn care at birth between private and public health facilities in eastern Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24251.
In Uganda and elsewhere, the private sector provides an increasing and significant proportion of maternal and child health services. However, little is known whether private care results in better quality services and improved outcomes compared to the public sector, especially regarding care at the time of birth.
To describe the characteristics of care-seekers and assess newborn care practices and services received at public and private facilities in rural eastern Uganda.
Within a community-based maternal and newborn care intervention with health systems strengthening, we collected data from mothers with infants at baseline and endline using a structured questionnaire. Descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate data analysis comparing nine newborn care practices and three composite newborn care indicators among private and public health facilities was conducted.
The proportion of women giving birth at private facilities decreased from 25% at baseline to 17% at endline, whereas overall facility births increased. Private health facilities did not perform significantly better than public health facilities in terms of coverage of any essential newborn care interventions, and babies were more likely to receive thermal care practices in public facilities compared to private (68% compared to 60%, p=0.007). Babies born at public health facilities received an average of 7.0 essential newborn care interventions compared to 6.2 at private facilities (p<0.001). Women delivering in private facilities were more likely to have higher parity, lower socio-economic status, less education, to seek antenatal care later in pregnancy, and to have a normal delivery compared to women delivering in public facilities.
In this setting, private health facilities serve a vulnerable population and provide access to service for those who might not otherwise have it. However, provision of essential newborn care practices was slightly lower in private compared to public facilities, calling for quality improvement in both private and public sector facilities, and a greater emphasis on tracking access to and quality of care in private sector facilities.
PMCID: PMC4385204  PMID: 25843495
newborn health; private health care; public health care; essential newborn care; Uganda
13.  Strengthening health facilities for maternal and newborn care: experiences from rural eastern Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24271.
In Uganda maternal and neonatal mortality remains high due to a number of factors, including poor quality of care at health facilities.
This paper describes the experience of building capacity for maternal and newborn care at a district hospital and lower-level health facilities in eastern Uganda within the existing system parameters and a robust community outreach programme.
This health system strengthening study, part of the Uganda Newborn Study (UNEST), aimed to increase frontline health worker capacity through district-led training, support supervision, and mentoring at one district hospital and 19 lower-level facilities. A once-off supply of essential medicines and equipment was provided to address immediate critical gaps. Health workers were empowered to requisition subsequent supplies through use of district resources. Minimal infrastructure adjustments were provided. Quantitative data collection was done within routine process monitoring and qualitative data were collected during support supervision visits. We use the World Health Organization Health System Building Blocks to describe the process of district-led health facility strengthening.
Seventy two per cent of eligible health workers were trained. The mean post-training knowledge score was 68% compared to 32% in the pre-training test, and 80% 1 year later. Health worker skills and competencies in care of high-risk babies improved following support supervision and mentoring. Health facility deliveries increased from 3,151 to 4,115 (a 30% increase) in 2 years. Of 547 preterm babies admitted to the newly introduced kangaroo mother care (KMC) unit, 85% were discharged alive to continue KMC at home. There was a non-significant declining trend for in-hospital neonatal deaths across the 2-year study period. While equipment levels remained high after initial improvement efforts, maintaining supply of even the most basic medications was a challenge, with less than 40% of health facilities reporting no stock-outs.
Health system strengthening for care at birth and the newborn period is possible even in low-resource settings and can be associated with improved utilisation and outcomes. Through a participatory process with wide engagement, training, and improvements to support supervision and logistics, health workers were able to change behaviours and practices for maternal and newborn care. Local solutions are needed to ensure sustainability of medical commodities.
PMCID: PMC4385205  PMID: 25843496
health system strengthening; maternal care; newborn care; neonatal mortality; kangaroo mother care; Uganda
14.  ‘As soon as the umbilical cord gets off, the child ceases to be called a newborn’: sociocultural beliefs and newborn referral in rural Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24386.
The first week of life is the time of greatest risk of death and disability, and is also associated with many traditional beliefs and practices. Identifying sick newborns in the community and referring them to health facilities is a key strategy to reduce deaths. Although a growing area of interest, there remains a lack of data on the role of sociocultural norms and practices on newborn healthcare-seeking in sub-Saharan Africa and the extent to which these norms can be modified.
This study aimed to understand the community's perspective of potential sociocultural barriers and facilitators to compliance with newborn referral.
In this qualitative study, focus group discussions (n=12) were conducted with mothers and fathers of babies aged less than 3 months. In addition, in-depth interviews (n=11) were also held with traditional birth attendants and mothers who had been referred by community health workers to seek health-facility-based care. Participants were purposively selected from peri-urban and rural communities in two districts in eastern Uganda. Data were analysed using latent content analysis.
The community definition of a newborn varied, but this was most commonly defined by the period between birth and the umbilical cord stump falling off. During this period, newborns are perceived to be vulnerable to the environment and many mothers and their babies are kept in seclusion, although this practice may be changing. Sociocultural factors that influence compliance with newborn referrals to seek care emerged along three sub-themes: community understanding of the newborn period and cultural expectations; the role of community health actors; and caretaker knowledge, experience, and decision-making autonomy.
In this setting, there is discrepancy between biomedical and community definitions of the newborn period. There were a number of sociocultural factors that could potentially affect compliance to newborn referral. The widely practised cultural seclusion period, knowledge about newborn sickness, individual experiences in households, perceived health system gaps, and decision-making processes were facilitators of or barriers to compliance with newborn referral. Designers of newborn interventions need to address locally existing cultural beliefs at the same time as they strengthen facility care.
PMCID: PMC4385206  PMID: 25843497
care-seeking; newborn; neonatal; qualitative; referral; sociocultural influences; Uganda
15.  Weeping in silence: community experiences of stillbirths in rural eastern Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24011.
Stillbirths do not register amongst national or global public health priorities, despite large numbers and known solutions. Although not accounted in statistics – these deaths count for families. Part of this disconnect is that very little is known about the lived experiences and perceptions of those experiencing this neglected problem.
This study aimed to explore local definitions and perceived causes of stillbirths as well as coping mechanisms used by families affected by stillbirth in rural eastern Uganda.
A total of 29 in-depth interviews were conducted with women who had a stillbirth (14), men whose wives experienced a stillbirth (6), grandmothers (4), grandfathers (1), and traditional birth attendants (TBAs) (4). Participants were purposively recruited from the hospital maternity ward register, with additional recruitment done through community leaders and other participants. Data were analysed using content analysis.
Women and families affected by stillbirth report pregnancy loss as a common occurrence. Definitions and causes of stillbirth included the biomedical, societal, and spiritual. Disclosure of stillbirth varies with women who experience consecutive or multiple losses, subject to potential exclusion from the community and even the family. Methods for coping with stillbirth were varied and personal. Ritual burial practices were common, yet silent and mainly left to women, as opposed to public mourning for older children. There were no formal health system mechanisms to support or care for families affected by stillbirths.
In a setting with strong collective ties, stillbirths are a burden borne by the affected family, and often just by the mother, rather than the community as a whole. Strategies are needed to address preventable stillbirths as well as to follow up with supportive services for those affected.
PMCID: PMC4385210  PMID: 25843493
stillbirth; pregnancy loss; Uganda; maternal health; postpartum depression; traditional birth attendants
16.  Effect of the Uganda Newborn Study on care-seeking and care practices: a cluster-randomised controlled trial 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24584.
Care for women and babies before, during, and after the time of birth is a sensitive measure of the functionality of any health system. Engaging communities in preventing newborn deaths is a promising strategy to achieve further progress in child survival in sub-Saharan Africa.
To assess the effect of a home visit strategy combined with health facility strengthening on uptake of newborn care-seeking, practices and services, and to link the results to national policy and scale-up in Uganda.
The Uganda Newborn Study (UNEST) was a two-arm cluster-randomised controlled trial in rural eastern Uganda. In intervention villages volunteer community health workers (CHWs) were trained to identify pregnant women and make five home visits (two during pregnancy and three in the first week after birth) to offer preventive and promotive care and counselling, with extra visits for sick and small newborns to assess and refer. Health facility strengthening was done in all facilities to improve quality of care. Primary outcomes were coverage of key essential newborn care behaviours (breastfeeding, thermal care, and cord care). Analyses were by intention to treat. This study is registered as a clinical trial, number ISRCTN50321130.
The intervention significantly improved essential newborn care practices, although many interventions saw major increases in both arms over the study period. Immediate breastfeeding after birth and exclusive breastfeeding were significantly higher in the intervention arm compared to the control arm (72.6% vs. 66.0%; p=0.016 and 81.8% vs. 75.9%, p=0.042, respectively). Skin-to-skin care immediately after birth and cord cutting with a clean instrument were marginally higher in the intervention arm versus the control arm (80.7% vs. 72.2%; p=0.071 and 88.1% vs. 84.4%; p=0.023, respectively). Half (49.6%) of the mothers in the intervention arm waited more than 24 hours to bathe the baby, compared to 35.5% in the control arm (p<0.001). Dry umbilical cord care was also significantly higher in intervention areas (63.9% vs. 53.1%, p<0.001). There was no difference in care-seeking for newborn illness, which was high (around 95%) in both arms. Skilled attendance at delivery increased in both the intervention (by 21%) and control arms (by 19%) between baseline and endline, but there was no significant difference in coverage across arms at endline (79.6% vs. 78.9%; p=0.717). Home visits were pro-poor, with more women in the poorest quintile visited by a CHW compared to families in the least poor quintile, and more women who delivered at home visited by a CHW after birth (73.6%) compared to those who delivered in a hospital or health facility (59.7%) (p<0.001). CHWs visited 62.8% of women and newborns in the first week after birth, with 40.2% receiving a visit on the critical first day of life.
Consistent with results from other community newborn care studies, volunteer CHWs can be effective in changing long-standing practices around newborn care. The home visit strategy may provide greater benefit to poorer families. However, CHW strategies require strong linkages with and concurrent improvement of quality through health system strengthening, especially in settings with high and increasing demand for facility-based services.
PMCID: PMC4385212  PMID: 25843498
community health workers; health system strengthening; kangaroo mother care; maternal care; newborn care; neonatal mortality; randomised controlled trial; Uganda
17.  Designing for action: adapting and implementing a community-based newborn care package to affect national change in Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.24250.
There is a lack of literature on how to adapt new evidence-based interventions for maternal and newborn care into local health systems and policy for rapid scale-up, particularly for community-based interventions in low-income settings. The Uganda Newborn Study (UNEST) was a cluster randomised control trial to test a community-based care package which was rapidly taken up at national level. Understanding this process may help inform other studies looking to design and evaluate with scale-up in mind.
This study aimed to describe the process of using evidence to design a community-based maternal and newborn care package in rural eastern Uganda, and to determine the dissemination and advocacy approaches used to facilitate rapid policy change and national uptake.
We reviewed UNEST project literature including meeting reports and minutes, supervision reports, and annual and midterm reports. National stakeholders, project and district staff were interviewed regarding their role in the study and perceptions of what contributed to uptake of the package under evaluation. Data related to UNEST formative research, study design, implementation and policy influence were extracted and analysed.
An advisory committee of key players in development of maternal and newborn policies and programmes in Uganda was constituted from many agencies and disciplines. Baseline qualitative and quantitative data collection was done at district, community and facility level to examine applicability of aspects of a proposed newborn care package to the local setting. Data were summarised and presented to stakeholders to adapt the intervention that was ultimately tested. Quarterly monitoring of key activities and events around the interventions were used to further inform implementation. The UNEST training package, home visit schedule and behaviour change counselling materials were incorporated into the national Village Health Team and Integrated Community Case Management packages while the study was ongoing.
Designing interventions for national scale-up requires strategies and planning from the outset. Use of evidence alongside engagement of key stakeholders and targeted advocacy about the burden and potential solutions is important when adapting interventions to local health systems and communities. This approach has the potential to rapidly translate research into policy, but care must be taken not to exceed available evidence while seizing the policy opportunity.
PMCID: PMC4385213  PMID: 25843494
newborn health; maternal health; community health worker; pregnancy; postnatal care; Uganda; formative research; health policy
18.  Special Issue: Newborn Health in Uganda 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.27574.
PMCID: PMC4385224  PMID: 25843501
20.  A score to predict short-term risk of COPD exacerbations (SCOPEX) 
There is no clinically useful score to predict chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations. We aimed to derive this by analyzing data from three existing COPD clinical trials of budesonide/formoterol, formoterol, or placebo in patients with moderate-to-very-severe COPD and a history of exacerbations in the previous year.
Predictive variables were selected using Cox regression for time to first severe COPD exacerbation. We determined absolute risk estimates for an exacerbation by identifying variables in a binomial model, adjusting for observation time, study, and treatment. The model was further reduced to clinically useful variables and the final regression coefficients scaled to obtain risk scores of 0–100 to predict an exacerbation within 6 months. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and the corresponding C-index were used to investigate the discriminatory properties of predictive variables.
The best predictors of an exacerbation in the next 6 months were more COPD maintenance medications prior to the trial, higher mean daily reliever use, more exacerbations during the previous year, lower forced expiratory volume in 1 second/forced vital capacity ratio, and female sex. Using these risk variables, we developed a score to predict short-term (6-month) risk of COPD exacerbations (SCOPEX). Budesonide/formoterol reduced future exacerbation risk more than formoterol or as-needed short-acting β2-agonist (salbutamol).
SCOPEX incorporates easily identifiable patient characteristics and can be readily applied in clinical practice to target therapy to reduce COPD exacerbations in patients at the highest risk.
PMCID: PMC4315304  PMID: 25670896
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; exacerbation; model; predictor; inhaled corticosteroids; bronchodilators
21.  Increased Access to Care and Appropriateness of Treatment at Private Sector Drug Shops with Integrated Management of Malaria, Pneumonia and Diarrhoea: A Quasi-Experimental Study in Uganda 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115440.
Drug shops are a major source of care for children in low income countries but they provide sub-standard care. We assessed the feasibility and effect on quality of care of introducing diagnostics and pre-packaged paediatric-dosage drugs for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea at drug shops in Uganda.
We adopted and implemented the integrated community case management (iCCM) intervention within registered drug shops. Attendants were trained to perform malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) in each fever case and count respiratory rate in each case of cough with fast/difficult breathing, before dispensing recommended treatment. Using a quasi-experimental design in one intervention and one non-intervention district, we conducted before and after exit interviews for drug seller practices and household surveys for treatment-seeking practices in May–June 2011 and May–June 2012. Survey adjusted generalized linear models and difference-in-difference analysis was used.
3759 (1604 before/2155 after) household interviews and 943 (163 before/780 after) exit interviews were conducted with caretakers of children under-5. At baseline, no child at a drug shop received any diagnostic testing before treatment in both districts. After the intervention, while no child in the non-intervention district received a diagnostic test, 87.7% (95% CI 79.0–96.4) of children with fever at the intervention district drug shops had a parasitological diagnosis of malaria, prior to treatment. The prevalence ratios of the effect of the intervention on treatment of cough and fast breathing with amoxicillin and diarrhoea with ORS/zinc at the drug shop were 2.8 (2.0–3.9), and 12.8 (4.2–38.6) respectively. From the household survey, the prevalence ratio of the intervention effect on use of RDTs was 3.2 (1.9–5.4); Artemisinin Combination Therapy for malaria was 0.74 (0.65–0.84), and ORS/zinc for diarrhoea was 2.3 (1.2–4.7).
iCCM can be utilized to improve access and appropriateness of care for children at drug shops.
PMCID: PMC4277343  PMID: 25541703
22.  Systematic literature review of integrated community case management and the private sector in Africa: Relevant experiences and potential next steps 
Journal of Global Health  2014;4(2):020414.
Despite substantial investments made over the past 40 years in low income countries, governments cannot be viewed as the principal health care provider in many countries. Evidence on the role of the private sector in the delivery of health services is becoming increasingly available. In this study, we set out to determine the extent to which the private sector has been utilized in providing integrated care for sick children under 5 years of age with community–acquired malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea.
We reviewed the published literature for integrated community case management (iCCM) related experiences within both the public and private sector. We searched PubMed and Google/Google Scholar for all relevant literature until July 2014. The search terms used were “malaria”, “pneumonia”, “diarrhoea”, “private sector” and “community case management”.
A total of 383 articles referred to malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea in the private sector. The large majority of these studies (290) were only malaria related. Most of the iCCM–related studies evaluated introduction of only malaria drugs and/or diagnostics into the private sector. Only one study evaluated the introduction of drugs and diagnostics for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea in the private sector. In contrast, most iCCM–related studies in the public sector directly reported on community case management of 2 or more of the illnesses.
While the private sector is an important source of care for children in low income countries, little has been done to harness the potential of this sector in improving access to care for non–malaria–associated fever in children within the community. It would be logical for iCCM programs to expand their activities to include the private sector to achieve higher population coverage. An implementation research agenda for private sector integrated care of febrile childhood illness needs to be developed and implemented in conjunction with private sector intervention programs.
PMCID: PMC4267082  PMID: 25520804
23.  Setting global research priorities for integrated community case management (iCCM): Results from a CHNRI (Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative) exercise 
Journal of Global Health  2014;4(2):020413.
To systematically identify global research gaps and resource priorities for integrated community case management (iCCM).
An iCCM Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative (CHNRI) Advisory Group, in collaboration with the Community Case Management Operational Research Group (CCM ORG) identified experts to participate in a CHNRI research priority setting exercise. These experts generated and systematically ranked research questions for iCCM. Research questions were ranked using a “Research Priority Score” (RPS) and the “Average Expert Agreement” (AEA) was calculated for every question. Our groups of experts were comprised of both individuals working in Ministries of Health or Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in low– and middle–income countries (LMICs) and individuals working in high–income countries (HICs) in academia or NGO headquarters. A Spearman’s Rho was calculated to determine the correlation between the two groups’ research questions’ ranks.
The overall RPS ranged from 64.58 to 89.31, with a median score of 81.43. AEA scores ranged from 0.54 to 0.86. Research questions involving increasing the uptake of iCCM services, research questions concerning the motivation, retention, training and supervision of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and concerning adding additional responsibilities including counselling for infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) ranked highly. There was weak to moderate, statistically significant, correlation between scores by representatives of high–income countries and those working in–country or regionally (Spearman’s ρ = 0.35034, P < 0.01).
Operational research to determine optimal training, supervision and modes of motivation and retention for the CHW is vital for improving iCCM, globally, as is research to motivate caregivers to take advantage of iCCM services. Experts working in–country or regionally in LMICs prioritized different research questions than those working in organization headquarters in HICs. Further exploration is needed to determine the nature of this divergence.
PMCID: PMC4267102  PMID: 25520803
24.  The use of continuous surveys to generate and continuously report high quality timely maternal and newborn health data at the district level in Tanzania and Uganda 
The lack of high quality timely data for evidence-informed decision making at the district level presents a challenge to improving maternal and newborn survival in low income settings. To address this problem, the EQUIP project (Expanded Quality Management using Information Power) implemented a continuous household and health facility survey for continuous feedback of data in two districts each in Tanzania and Uganda as part of a quality improvement innovation for mothers and newborns.
Within EQUIP, continuous survey data were used for quality improvement (intervention districts) and for effect evaluation (intervention and comparison districts). Over 30 months of intervention (November 2011 to April 2014), EQUIP conducted continuous cross-sectional household and health facility surveys using 24 independent probability samples of household clusters to represent each district each month, and repeat censuses of all government health facilities. Using repeat samples in this way allowed data to be aggregated at six four-monthly intervals to track progress over time for evaluation, and for continuous feedback to quality improvement teams in intervention districts.
In both countries, one continuous survey team of eight people was employed to complete approximately 7,200 household and 200 facility interviews in year one. Data were collected using personal digital assistants. After every four months, routine tabulations of indicators were produced and synthesized to report cards for use by the quality improvement teams.
The first 12 months were implemented as planned. Completion of household interviews was 96% in Tanzania and 91% in Uganda. Indicators across the continuum of care were tabulated every four months, results discussed by quality improvement teams, and report cards generated to support their work.
The EQUIP continuous surveys were feasible to implement as a method to continuously generate and report on demand and supply side indicators for maternal and newborn health; they have potential to be expanded to include other health topics. Documenting the design and implementation of a continuous data collection and feedback mechanism for prospective description, quality improvement, and evaluation in a low-income setting potentially represents a new paradigm that places equal weight on data systems for course correction, as well as evaluation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0112-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4160540  PMID: 25149316
Continuous survey; Quality improvement; Maternal and newborn health; Tanzania; Uganda

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