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1.  Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003–2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001533.
Based on a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, Amy Hagopian and colleagues estimate that close to half a million excess deaths are attributable to the recent Iraq war and occupation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Previous estimates of mortality in Iraq attributable to the 2003 invasion have been heterogeneous and controversial, and none were produced after 2006. The purpose of this research was to estimate direct and indirect deaths attributable to the war in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, using a two-stage cluster sampling method to ensure the sample of households was nationally representative. We asked every household head about births and deaths since 2001, and all household adults about mortality among their siblings. We used secondary data sources to correct for out-migration. From March 1, 2003, to June 30, 2011, the crude death rate in Iraq was 4.55 per 1,000 person-years (95% uncertainty interval 3.74–5.27), more than 0.5 times higher than the death rate during the 26-mo period preceding the war, resulting in approximately 405,000 (95% uncertainty interval 48,000–751,000) excess deaths attributable to the conflict. Among adults, the risk of death rose 0.7 times higher for women and 2.9 times higher for men between the pre-war period (January 1, 2001, to February 28, 2003) and the peak of the war (2005–2006). We estimate that more than 60% of excess deaths were directly attributable to violence, with the rest associated with the collapse of infrastructure and other indirect, but war-related, causes. We used secondary sources to estimate rates of death among emigrants. Those estimates suggest we missed at least 55,000 deaths that would have been reported by households had the households remained behind in Iraq, but which instead had migrated away. Only 24 households refused to participate in the study. An additional five households were not interviewed because of hostile or threatening behavior, for a 98.55% response rate. The reliance on outdated census data and the long recall period required of participants are limitations of our study.
Conclusions
Beyond expected rates, most mortality increases in Iraq can be attributed to direct violence, but about a third are attributable to indirect causes (such as from failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication, and other systems). Approximately a half million deaths in Iraq could be attributable to the war.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
War is a major public health problem. Its health effects include violent deaths among soldiers and civilians as well as indirect increases in mortality and morbidity caused by conflict. Unlike those of other causes of death and disability, however, the consequences of war on population health are rarely studied scientifically. In conflict situations, deaths and diseases are not reliably measured and recorded, and estimating the proportion caused, directly or indirectly, by a war or conflict is challenging. Population-based mortality survey methods—asking representative survivors about deaths they know about—were developed by public health researchers to estimate death rates. By comparing death rate estimates for periods before and during a conflict, researchers can derive the number of excess deaths that are attributable to the conflict.
Why Was This Study Done?
A number of earlier studies have estimated the death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. The previous studies covered different periods from 2003 to 2006 and derived different rates of overall deaths and excess deaths attributable to the war and conflict. All of them have been controversial, and their methodologies have been criticized. For this study, based on a population-based mortality survey, the researchers modified and improved their methodology in response to critiques of earlier surveys. The study covers the period from the beginning of the war in March 2003 until June 2011, including a period of high violence from 2006 to 2008. It provides population-based estimates for excess deaths in the years after 2006 and covers most of the period of the war and subsequent occupation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Interviewers trained by the researchers conducted the survey between May 2011 and July 2011 and collected data from 2,000 randomly selected households in 100 geographical clusters, distributed across Iraq's 18 governorates. The interviewers asked the head of each household about deaths among household members from 2001 to the time of the interview, including a pre-war period from January 2001 to March 2003 and the period of the war and occupation. They also asked all adults in the household about deaths among their siblings during the same period. From the first set of data, the researchers calculated the crude death rates (i.e., the number of deaths during a year per 1,000 individuals) before and during the war. They found the wartime crude death rate in Iraq to be 4.55 per 1,000, more than 50% higher than the death rate of 2.89 during the two-year period preceding the war. By multiplying those rates by the annual Iraq population, the authors estimate the total excess Iraqi deaths attributable to the war through mid-2011 to be about 405,000. The researchers also estimated that an additional 56,000 deaths were not counted due to migration. Including this number, their final estimate is that approximately half a million people died in Iraq as a result of the war and subsequent occupation from March 2003 to June 2011.
The risk of death at the peak of the conflict in 2006 almost tripled for men and rose by 70% for women. Respondents attributed 20% of household deaths to war-related violence. Violent deaths were attributed primarily to coalition forces (35%) and militia (32%). The majority (63%) of violent deaths were from gunshots. Twelve percent were attributed to car bombs. Based on the responses from adults in the surveyed households who reported on the alive-or-dead status of their siblings, the researchers estimated the total number of deaths among adults aged 15–60 years, from March 2003 to June 2011, to be approximately 376,000; 184,000 of these deaths were attributed to the conflict, and of those, the authors estimate that 132,000 were caused directly by war-related violence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the most up-to-date estimates of the death toll of the Iraq war and subsequent conflict. However, given the difficult circumstances, the estimates are associated with substantial uncertainties. The researchers extrapolated from a small representative sample of households to estimate Iraq's national death toll. In addition, respondents were asked to recall events that occurred up to ten years prior, which can lead to inaccuracies. The researchers also had to rely on outdated census data (the last complete population census in Iraq dates back to 1987) for their overall population figures. Thus, to accompany their estimate of 460,000 excess deaths from March 2003 to mid-2011, the authors used statistical methods to determine the likely range of the true estimate. Based on the statistical methods, the researchers are 95% confident that the true number of excess deaths lies between 48,000 and 751,000—a large range. More than two years past the end of the period covered in this study, the conflict in Iraq is far from over and continues to cost lives at alarming rates. As discussed in an accompanying Perspective by Salman Rawaf, violence and lawlessness continue to the present day. In addition, post-war Iraq has limited capacity to re-establish and maintain its battered public health and safety infrastructure.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Salman Rawaf.
The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development website provides information on the global burden of armed violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and international humanitarian law (in several languages).
Medact, a global health charity, has information on health and conflict.
Columbia University has a program on forced migration and health.
Johns Hopkins University runs the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response.
University of Washington's Health Alliance International website also has information about war and conflict.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533
PMCID: PMC3797136  PMID: 24143140
2.  A two-stage cluster sampling method using gridded population data, a GIS, and Google EarthTM imagery in a population-based mortality survey in Iraq 
Background
Mortality estimates can measure and monitor the impacts of conflict on a population, guide humanitarian efforts, and help to better understand the public health impacts of conflict. Vital statistics registration and surveillance systems are rarely functional in conflict settings, posing a challenge of estimating mortality using retrospective population-based surveys.
Results
We present a two-stage cluster sampling method for application in population-based mortality surveys. The sampling method utilizes gridded population data and a geographic information system (GIS) to select clusters in the first sampling stage and Google Earth TM imagery and sampling grids to select households in the second sampling stage. The sampling method is implemented in a household mortality study in Iraq in 2011. Factors affecting feasibility and methodological quality are described.
Conclusion
Sampling is a challenge in retrospective population-based mortality studies and alternatives that improve on the conventional approaches are needed. The sampling strategy presented here was designed to generate a representative sample of the Iraqi population while reducing the potential for bias and considering the context specific challenges of the study setting. This sampling strategy, or variations on it, are adaptable and should be considered and tested in other conflict settings.
doi:10.1186/1476-072X-11-12
PMCID: PMC3490933  PMID: 22540266
Cluster sampling; Population-based survey; Mortality; Conflict; Iraq war; Geographic information system (GIS); Google EarthTM
3.  Quality of outpatient hospital care for children under 5 years in Afghanistan 
Objective
To determine the quality of outpatient hospital care for children under 5 years in Afghanistan.
Design
Case management observations were conducted on 10–12 children under five selected by systematic random sampling in 31 outpatient hospital clinics across the country, followed by interviews with caretakers and providers.
Main Outcome Measures
Quality of care defined as adherence to the clinical standards described in the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness.
Results
Overall quality of outpatient care for children was suboptimal based on patient examination and caretaker counseling (median score: 27.5 on a 100 point scale). Children receiving care from female providers had better care than those seen by male providers (OR: 6.6, 95% CI: 2.0–21.9, P = 0.002), and doctors provided better quality of care than other providers (OR: 2.7, 95% CI: 1.1–6.4, P = 0.02). The poor were more likely to receive better care in hospitals managed by non-governmental organizations than those managed by other mechanisms (OR: 15.2, 95% CI: 1.2–200.1, P = 0.04).
Conclusions
Efforts to strengthen optimal care provision at peripheral health clinics must be complemented with investments at the referral and tertiary care facilities to ensure care continuity. The findings of improved care by female providers, doctors and NGO's for poor patients, warrant further empirical evidence on care determinants. Optimizing care quality at referral hospitals is one of the prerequisites to ensure service utilization and outcomes for the achievement of the Child health Millennium Development Goals for Afghanistan.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzq081
PMCID: PMC3115619  PMID: 21242157
quality of care; hospitals; child health; IMCI; Afghanistan
4.  Perceptions and utilization of primary health care services in Iraq: findings from a national household survey 
Background
After many years of sanctions and conflict, Iraq is rebuilding its health system, with a strong emphasis on the traditional hospital-based services. A network exists of public sector hospitals and clinics, as well as private clinics and a few private hospitals. Little data are available about the approximately 1400 Primary Health Care clinics (PHCCs) staffed with doctors. How do Iraqis utilize primary health care services? What are their preferences and perceptions of public primary health care clinics and private primary care services in general? How does household wealth affect choice of services?
Methods
A 1256 household national survey was conducted in the catchment areas of randomly selected PHCCs in Iraq. A cluster of 10 households, beginning with a randomly selected start household, were interviewed in the service areas of seven public sector PHCC facilities in each of 17 of Iraq's 18 governorates. A questionnaire was developed using key informants. Teams of interviewers, including both males and females, were recruited and provided a week of training which included field practice. Teams then gathered data from households in the service areas of randomly selected clinics.
Results
Iraqi participants are generally satisfied with the quality of primary care services available both in the public and private sector. Private clinics are generally the most popular source of primary care, however the PHCCs are utilized more by poorer households. In spite of free services available at PHCCs many households expressed difficulty in affording health care, especially in the purchase of medications. There is no evidence of informal payments to secure health services in the public sector.
Conclusions
There is widespread satisfaction reported with primary health care services, and levels did not differ appreciably between public and private sectors. The public sector PHCCs are preferentially used by poorer populations where they are important providers. PHCC services are indeed free, with little evidence of informal payments to providers.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-15
PMCID: PMC3266634  PMID: 22176866
5.  Configuring Balanced Scorecards for Measuring Health System Performance: Evidence from 5 Years' Evaluation in Afghanistan 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001066.
Anbrasi Edward and colleagues report the results of a balanced scorecard performance system used to examine 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period in Afghanistan, between 2004 and 2008.
Background
In 2004, Afghanistan pioneered a balanced scorecard (BSC) performance system to manage the delivery of primary health care services. This study examines the trends of 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period between 2004 and 2008.
Methods and Findings
Independent evaluations of performance in six domains were conducted annually through 5,500 patient observations and exit interviews and 1,500 provider interviews in >600 facilities selected by stratified random sampling in each province. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were used to assess trends in BSC parameters. There was a progressive improvement in the national median scores scaled from 0–100 between 2004 and 2008 in all six domains: patient and community satisfaction of services (65.3–84.5, p<0.0001); provider satisfaction (65.4–79.2, p<0.01); capacity for service provision (47.4–76.4, p<0.0001); quality of services (40.5–67.4, p<0.0001); and overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services (52.0–52.6). The financial domain also showed improvement until 2007 (84.4–95.7, p<0.01), after which user fees were eliminated. By 2008, all provinces achieved the upper benchmark of national median set in 2004.
Conclusions
The BSC has been successfully employed to assess and improve health service capacity and service delivery using performance benchmarking during the 5-year period. However, scorecard reconfigurations are needed to integrate effectiveness and efficiency measures and accommodate changes in health systems policy and strategy architecture to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness as a comprehensive health system performance measure. The process of BSC design and implementation can serve as a valuable prototype for health policy planners managing performance in similar health care contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Traditionally, the performance of a health system (the complete network of health care agencies, facilities, and providers in a defined geographical region) has been measured in terms of health outcomes: how many people have been treated, how many got better, and how many died. But, nowadays, with increased demand for improved governance and accountability, policy makers are seeking comprehensive performance measures that show in detail how innovations designed to strengthen health systems are affecting service delivery and health outcomes. One such performance measure is the “balanced scorecard,” an integrated management and measurement tool that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. The balanced scorecard—essentially a list of key performance indicators and performance benchmarks in several domains—was originally developed for industry but is now becoming a popular strategic management tool in the health sector. For example, balanced scorecards have been successfully integrated into the Dutch and Italian public health care systems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Little is known about the use of balanced scorecards in the national public health care systems of developing countries but the introduction of performance management into health system reform in fragile states in particular (developing countries where the state fails to perform the fundamental functions necessary to meet its citizens' basic needs and expectations) could help to promote governance and leadership, and facilitate essential policy changes. One fragile state that has introduced the balanced scorecard system for public health care management is Afghanistan, which emerged from decades of conflict in 2002 with some of the world's worst health indicators. To deal with an extremely high burden of disease, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) designed a Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), which is delivered by nongovernmental organizations and MOPH agencies. In 2004, the MOPH introduced the National Health Service Performance Assessment (NHSPA), an annual country-wide assessment of service provision and patient satisfaction and pioneered a balanced scorecard, which uses data collected in the NHSPA, to manage the delivery of primary health care services. In this study, the researchers examine the trends between 2004 and 2008 of the 29 key performance indicators in six domains included in this balanced scorecard, and consider the potential and limitations of the scorecard as a management tool to measure and improve health service delivery in Afghanistan and other similar countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each year of the study, a random sample of 25 facilities (district hospitals and comprehensive and basic health centers) in 28 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces was chosen (one province did not have functional facilities in 2004 and the other five missing provinces were inaccessible because of ongoing conflicts). NHSPA surveyors collected approximately 5,000 patient observations, 5,000 exit interviews with patients or their caregivers, and 1,500 health provider interviews by observing consultations involving five children under 5 years old and five patients over 5 years old in each facility. The researchers then used this information to evaluate the key performance indicators in the balanced scorecard and a statistical method called generalized estimating equation modeling to assess trends in these indicators. They report that there was a progressive improvement in national average scores in all six domains (patients and community satisfaction with services, provider satisfaction, capacity for service provision, quality of services, overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services, and financial systems) between 2004 and 2008.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the balanced scorecard was successfully used to improve health system capacity and service delivery through performance benchmarking over the 5-year study period. Importantly, the use of the balanced scorecard helped to show the effects of investments, facilitate policy change, and create a more evidence-based decision-making culture in Afghanistan's primary health care system. However, the researchers warn that the continuing success of the balanced scorecard in Afghanistan will depend on its ability to accommodate changes in health systems policy. Furthermore, reconfigurations of the scorecard are needed to include measures of the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the health system such as mortality rates. More generally, the researchers conclude that the balanced scorecard offers a promising measure of health system performance that could be used to examine the effectiveness of health care strategies and innovations in other fragile and developing countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066.
A 2010 article entitled An Afghan Success Story: The Balanced Scorecard and Improved Health Services in The Globe, a newsletter produced by the Department of International Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provides a detailed description of the balanced scorecard used in this study
Wikipedia has a page on health systems and on balanced scorecards (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization country profile of Afghanistan provides information on the country's health system and burden of disease (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066
PMCID: PMC3144209  PMID: 21814499
6.  The organization and implementation of community-based education programs for health worker training institutions in Uganda 
Background
Community-based education (CBE) is part of the training curriculum for most health workers in Uganda. Most programs have a stated purpose of strengthening clinical skills, medical knowledge, communication skills, community orientation of graduates, and encouragement of graduates to work in rural areas. This study was undertaken to assess the scope and nature of community-based education for various health worker cadres in Uganda.
Methods
Curricula and other materials on CBE programs in Uganda were reviewed to assess nature, purpose, intended outcomes and evaluation methods used by CBE programs. In-depth and key informant interviews were conducted with people involved in managing CBE in twenty-two selected training institutions, as well as stakeholders from the community, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, civil society organizations and local government. Visits were made to selected sites where CBE training was conducted to assess infrastructure and learning resources being provided.
Results
The CBE curriculum is implemented in the majority of health training institutions in Uganda. CBE is a core course in most health disciplines at various levels – certificate, diploma and degree and for a range of health professionals. The CBE curriculum is systematically planned and implemented with major similarities among institutions. Organization, delivery, managerial strategies, and evaluation methods are also largely similar. Strengths recognized included providing hands-on experience, knowledge and skills generation and the linking learners to the communities. Almost all CBE implementing institutions cited human resource, financial, and material constraints.
Conclusions
The CBE curriculum is a widely used instructional model in Uganda for providing trainee health workers with the knowledge and skills relevant to meet community needs. Strategies to improve curricula and implementation concerns need further development. It is still uncertain whether this approach is increasing the number graduates seeking careers in rural health service, one of the stated program goals, an outcome which requires further study.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3059476  PMID: 21411004
7.  Perception and valuations of community-based education and service by alumni at Makerere University College of Health Sciences 
Background
Training of health professionals can be deliberately structured to enhance rural recruitment by exposing the trainees to the realities of rural life and practice through Community-Based Education and Service (COBE) programs. Few studies have surveyed the alumni of these programs to establish their post-university views and whether the positive impact of COBE programs endures into the post-university life. This study surveyed the alumni of COBE at Makerere to obtain their perceptions of the management and administration of COBE and whether COBE had helped develop their confidence as health workers, competence in primary health care and willingness and ability to work in rural communities.
Objectives
• To assess the efficiency of the management and administration of COBES.
• To obtain the views of the impact of COBES on its alumni.
Methods
A mixed qualitative and quantitative study was conducted using focus group discussions (FGD) and a telephone administered questionnaire. From a total of 300 COBES alumni 150 were contacted. Twenty four Alumni (13 females and 11 males) were purposefully selected by discipline, gender and place of work, and invited for the focus group discussion. The discussions were transcribed and analyzed using a manifest content analysis table. The thematic issues from the FGDs were used to develop a structured questionnaire which was administered by telephone by the authors. The data were entered into Microsoft excel template and exported to Stata for analysis. The findings of the telephone survey were used to cross-match the views expressed during the focus group discussions.
Results
The alumni almost unanimously agree that the initial three years of COBES were very successful in terms of administration and coordination. COBES was credited for contributing to development of confidence as health workers, team work, communication skills, competence in primary health care and willingness to work in rural areas. The COBES alumni also identified various challenges associated with administration and coordination of COBES at Makerere.
Conclusions
This study has established that the positive impact of COBES endures with the alumni of the program. Health planners should take advantage of the impact of COBES and provide it with more support.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC3059477  PMID: 21411005
8.  Assessing community perspectives of the community based education and service model at Makerere University, Uganda: a qualitative evaluation 
Background
Community partnerships are defined as groups working together with shared goals, responsibilities, and power to improve the community. There is growing evidence that these partnerships contribute to the success and sustainability of community-based education and service programs (COBES), facilitating change in community actions and attitudes. Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) is forging itself as a transformational institution in Uganda and the region. The College is motivated to improve the health of Ugandans through innovative responsive teaching, provision of service, and community partnerships. Evaluating the COBES program from the community perspective can assist the College in refining an innovative and useful model that has potential to improve the health of Ugandans.
Methods
A stratified random sample of 11 COBES sites was selected to examine the community’s perception of the program. Key Informant Interviews of 11 site tutors and 33 community members were completed. The data was manually analyzed and themes developed.
Results
Communities stated the students consistently engaged with them with culturally appropriate behaviour. They rated the student’s communication as very good even though translators were frequently needed. Half the community stated they received some feedback from the students, but some communities interpreted any contact after the initial visit as feedback. Communities confirmed and appreciated that the students provided a number of interventions and saw positive changes in health and health seeking behaviours. The community reflected that some programs were more sustainable than others; the projects that needed money to implement were least sustainable. The major challenges from the community included community fatigue, and poor motivation of community leaders to continue to take students without compensation.
Conclusions
Communities hosting Makerere students valued the students’ interventions and the COBES model. They reported witnessing health benefits of fewer cases of disease, increased health seeking behavior and sustainable healthcare programs. The evidence suggests that efforts to standardize objectives, implement structural adjustments, and invest in development of the program would yield even more productive community interactions and a healthcare workforce with public health skills needed to work in rural communities.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S6
PMCID: PMC3059478  PMID: 21411006
9.  Lessons learnt from comprehensive evaluation of community-based education in Uganda: a proposal for an ideal model community-based education for health professional training institutions 
Background
Community-based education (CBE) can provide contextual learning that addresses manpower scarcity by enabling trainees acquire requisite experiences, competence, confidence and values. In Uganda, many health professional training institutions conduct some form of community-based education (CBE). However, there is scanty information on the nature of the training: whether a curriculum exists (objectives, intended outcomes, content, implementation strategy), administration and constraints faced. The objective was to make a comprehensive assessment of CBE as implemented by Ugandan health professional training institutions to document the nature of CBE conducted and propose an ideal model with minimum requirements for health professional training institutions in Uganda.
Methods
We employed several methods: documentary review of curricula of 22 institutions, so as to assess the nature, purpose, outcomes, and methods of instruction and assessment; site visits to these institutions and their CBE sites, to assess the learning environment (infrastructure and resources); in-depth interviews with key people involved in running CBE at the institutions and community, to evaluate CBE implementation, challenges experienced and perceived solutions.
Results
CBE was perceived differently ranging from a subject, a course, a program or a project. Despite having similar curricula, institutions differ in the administration, implementation and assessment of CBE. Objectives of CBE, the curricula content and implementation strategies differ in similar institutions. On collaborative and social learning, most trainees do not reside in the community, though they work on group projects and write group reports. Lectures and skills demonstrations were the main instruction methods. Assessment involved mainly continuous assessment, oral or written reports and summative examination.
Conclusion
This assessment identified deficiencies in the design and implementation of CBE at several health professional training institutions, with major flaws identified in curriculum content, supervision of trainees, inappropriate assessment, trainee welfare, and underutilization of opportunities for contextual and collaborative learning. Since CBE showed potential to benefit the trainees, community and institutions, we propose a model that delivers a minimum package of CBE and overcomes the wide variation in the concept, conduct and implementation of CBE.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-7
PMCID: PMC3056836  PMID: 21362181
10.  Contracting for health and curative care use in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2005 
Health Policy and Planning  2009;25(2):135-144.
Afghanistan has used several approaches to contracting as part of its national strategy to increase access to basic health services. This study compares changes in the utilization of outpatient curative services from 2004 to 2005 between the different approaches for contracting-out services to non-governmental service providers, contracting-in technical assistance at public sector facilities, and public sector facilities that did not use contracting.
We find that both contracting-in and contracting-out approaches are associated with substantial double difference increases in service use from 2004 to 2005 compared with non-contracted facilities. The double difference increase in contracting-out facilities for outpatient visits is 29% (P < 0.01), while outpatient visits from female patients increased 41% (P < 0.01), use by the poorest quintile increased 68% (P < 0.01) and use by children aged under 5 years increased 27% (P < 0.05). Comparing the individual contracting-out approaches, we find similar increases in outpatient visits when contracts are managed directly by the Ministry of Public Health compared with when contracts are managed by an experienced international non-profit organization. Finally, contracting-in facilities show even larger increases in all the measures of utilization other than visits from children under 5.
Although there are minor differences in the results between contracting-out approaches, these differences cannot be attributed to a specific contracting-out approach because of factors limiting the comparability of the groups. It is nonetheless clear that the government was able to manage contracts effectively despite early concerns about their lack of experience, and that contracting has helped to improve utilization of basic health services.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czp045
PMCID: PMC3119387  PMID: 19850664
Contracting; health services; health systems; Afghanistan; performance-based payment
11.  Evaluating the Experience of GAPS—A Methodology for Improving Quality of Mass Immunization Campaigns in Developing Countries 
The existence of pockets of under-vaccinated persons has allowed outbreaks of disease in countries that have achieved high levels of vaccination coverage. A field-based methodology—GAPS (Geographic Assessment of Planning and Services)—was developed to predict, in advance of an immunization campaign, the sites of which are most likely to have a pocket of unvaccinated persons and then use this information to improve planning, supervision, and evaluation of the campaign. At this time, there have been two applications of GAPS (Nepal and Ethiopia). The purpose of this paper was to evaluate these two applications of GAPS and make recommendations regarding its future use. Structured, expert interviews were conducted with at least three campaign organizers to evaluate each application of GAPS using purposive sampling. An evaluation of an individual campaign was considered positive when at least two of the three campaign organizers considered GAPS to be useful and worthwhile. The three campaign organizers interviewed following the GAPS application in Ethiopia responded that GAPS was useful and worth the effort. In Nepal, all four campaign organizers responded that GAPS was useful and worth the effort. Some suggestions for improvement were also identified. Although this evaluation was limited in the number of applications evaluated, GAPS appears to have promise as a practical method to help improve the quality of mass immunization campaigns. And even if no pockets of unvaccinated persons are found, the method may serve as a rapid quality-check of administrative estimates of coverage. Further applications in different settings are needed to confirm these findings or under what circumstances GAPS might best be used. GAPS may also be considered for improving other types of health campaigns, such as distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, vitamin A capsules, and deworming medications.
PMCID: PMC2928087  PMID: 19902805
Child health; Evaluation studies; GAPS; Immunization; Polio; Developing countries
12.  Factors Associated with Missed Vaccination during Mass Immunization Campaigns 
Achieving a high percentage of vaccination coverage with polio vaccine, while necessary, is not sufficient to eliminate or eradicate polio. The existence of pockets of under-vaccinated children has allowed outbreaks of polio in countries that have achieved high levels of vaccination coverage and in countries with no cases for many years. In a literature review, 35 articles were identified that described factors associated with missed vaccination in mass immunization campaigns. An annotated bibliography was developed for each article; these were then coded using the AnSWR program, and codes were organized into three larger thematic categories. These thematic areas were: (a) organization and implementation of mass campaigns; (b) population characteristics; and (c) knowledge and practices of caretakers. If these factors were geographically clustered, it was suspected that these clusters might have higher likelihood of becoming pockets of unvaccinated children. Immunization programme managers can target resources to identify if such clusters exist. If so, they can then ensure supervision of vaccination efforts in those sites and take further action, if indicated, to prevent or mitigate pockets of unvaccinated children.
PMCID: PMC2761796  PMID: 19507751
Child health; Evaluation studies; Immunization; Polio; Polio vaccine; Review literature; Vaccine

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