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1.  Women’s views and experiences of antenatal care in Iraq: a Q methodology study 
Background
Understanding women’s experiences and perspectives of antenatal care services is particularly critical for enhancing effectiveness of services delivery and addressing women’s needs and expectations. As part of a comprehensive assessment of the maternity care services in Iraq, this study aimed to explore the views and experiences of antenatal care in a sample of women.
Methods
This explorative study was conducted in Erbil governorate, Iraq. Data were collected using Q methodology, a technique for eliciting subjective views and identifying shared patterns among individuals. A sample of 38 women of different educational and socioeconomic statuses were invited to sort a set of 39 statements reflecting different aspects of the available antenatal care services and issues related to their last pregnancies into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was used to derive latent views through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors.
Results
Analysis of the participants’ Q sorts resulted in identifying four distinct views and experiences of pregnancy and antenatal care services: (i) public maternity services second best: preference for, and ability to afford, private care, (ii) dissatisfaction with public maternity services: poor information sharing and lack of health promotion, (iii) satisfaction with public maternity service but information gaps perceived and (iv) public maternity services second best: preference for private care but unaffordable. The typical characterizations that were associated with each view were highlighted.
Conclusions
This study revealed different patterns of views and experiences of women of pregnancy and antenatal care services and recognized the particular issues related to each pattern. Different patterns and types of problems and concerns related mainly to inadequate provision of information and poor interpersonal communication, poor utilization of public services and a general preference to use private services were identified in the different groups of women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-43
PMCID: PMC3902000  PMID: 24450437
2.  Women’s perspectives of female genital cutting: Q-methodology 
BMC Women's Health  2014;14:11.
Background
Understanding women’s perspectives of female genital cutting is particularly critical for understanding the roots of the problem and enhancing effectiveness of any prevention program. Very limited research has examined how people in Iraqi Kurdistan Region think about this practice. This study aimed to explore the perspectives of women of female genital cutting with the aim of uncovering discrepancies and commonalities between women of different socio-educational groups.
Methods
An explorative study using Q-methodology was conducted with 29 women from different educational and socio-economic statuses in Erbil, the main city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Participants were asked to rank-order a set of 39 statements about different aspects of female genital cutting into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was performed with factors or latent viewpoints extracted through centroid method and varimax rotation.
Results
A four-factor solution and one consensus perspective provided the best conceptual fit for the women’s perspectives about female genital cutting. Factor 1, entitled “positive cultural tradition”, centers on recognizing female genital cutting as a positive cultural aspect and an essential part of the Kurdish culture. Factor 2, “active opponents”, positions around actively opposing the practice of female genital cutting and considering the practice a violation of human rights. Factor 3, “role of law”, stresses the importance of developing and enforcing law for combating female genital cutting. Factor 4, “health concerns and passive opposition”, represents the perspectives of recognizing the importance of health concerns resulting from female genital cutting and opposition of the practice but not in an active manner. A consensus perspective, “marital role”, centers primarily on lack of effect of female genital cutting on women’s marital role.
Conclusions
Female genital cutting is still a contentious issue among women in Iraqi Kurdistan Region. By identifying disagreement and consensus among women, four different perspectives on female genital cutting were uncovered with having perspectives at both extremes of accepting the practice and actively opposing it. The study highlighted the typical characterizations that are associated with each perspective.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-11
PMCID: PMC3898223  PMID: 24433509
3.  Using Q-methodology to explore people’s health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:2.
Background
Information on health seeking behavior and beneficiaries’ perception of the quality of primary care can help policy makers to set strategies to improve health system. With scarcity of research on this particular field in Iraqi Kurdistan region, we sought to explore the patterns of health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services of a sample of population.
Methods
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq. Data were collected using the novel approach of Q-methodology for eliciting subjective viewpoints and identifying shared patterns among individuals. Forty persons representing different demographic and socioeconomic groups and living in different areas of Erbil governorate sorted 50 statements reflecting different aspects of health-seeking behavior and primary care services into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors were used to derive latent viewpoints.
Results
Four distinct patterns of health seeking behavior and viewpoints toward the primary care services were identified. People in factor 1 are extremely critical of the services at primary health care centers and are regular users of the private health sector. People in factor 2 positively recognize the services at primary health care centers but mainly turn to inappropriate health seeking behavior. People in factor 3 have satisfaction with the services at primary health care centers with minimal use of these services, but mainly turn to the private sector. People in factor 4 are slightly satisfied with the services at primary health care centers but mainly rely on these services.
Conclusions
This study highlighted the typical characterizations that were associated with each uncovered factor. Informing on the beneficiaries’ concerns about the primary care services can help to improve the system through further exploring the issues raised by the respondents and directing particular action on these issues. The characterizing and distinguishing statements can be used as a set of questions to conduct community-based survey on this important aspect of health services.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-2
PMCID: PMC3882479  PMID: 24387106
Primary care; Health seeking; Perception; Factors
4.  Intimate partner violence against women in the Erbil city of the Kurdistan region, Iraq 
BMC Women's Health  2013;13:37.
Background
Violence against women is a worldwide problem and serious human rights abuse that occurs among all social, cultural, economic and religious groups. There is a paucity of research on intimate partner violence against women in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan region. This study assessed the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual intimate partner violence against women and the impact of physical violence in Erbil, the main city of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was carried out on a convenience sample of 800 Kurdish ever married women. Women (aged 16 to 65 years) attending two public hospitals in Erbil city for reproductive health problems were included in the study. The study was conducted between 1st of October 2009 and 30th of March 2011. Each woman was seen only once. Intimate partner violence was assessed by administering a modified version of the World Health Organization’s domestic violence questionnaire through direct interview by a female doctor. Prevalence of intimate partner violence was assessed by timing (lifetime or past year), frequency (once, 2–5 times, > 5 times), and type (emotional, physical, and sexual violence). Descriptive statistical analysis was conducted with calculation of frequencies and percentages of women who reported different types, severities and impact of intimate partner violence.
Results
The prevalence of the overall lifetime and the overall past year intimate partner violence against women was 58.6% and 45.3%, respectively. The proportions of women experienced at least one form of lifetime intimate partner violence were: 52.6% for emotional abuse; 38.9% for physical violence; and 21.1% for sexual violence, while 43.3%, 15.1%, and 12.1% of women experienced at least one form of past year emotional, physical and sexual violence, respectively. Among those with lifetime physical violence, 11.6% were subjected to more serious injuries like stab wound, broken teeth or broken bones.
Conclusions
There is a high prevalence of intimate partner violence, in particular emotional abuse behavior, against the women attending hospitals in Erbil. Physical violence is also a significant problem particularly in terms of its consequences.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-37
PMCID: PMC3852841  PMID: 24106885
5.  Female genital mutilation among Iraqi Kurdish women: a cross-sectional study from Erbil city 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:809.
Background
Iraqi Kurdistan region is one of the areas where female genital mutilation is reportedly widely practiced but inadequately studied. The aim of this study was to determine (i) the prevalence of female genital mutilation among Muslim Kurdish women in Erbil city, (ii) the patterns and types of female genital mutilation, (iii) the factors associated with this practice and (iv) women’s knowledge and attitudes towards this practice.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted in the primary health care centers and the Maternity Teaching Hospital in Erbil city, involving 1987 women aged 15–49 years. Data were obtained about female genital mutilation status and knowledge and perception towards this practice. The participants were clinically examined to verify the self-reported female genital mutilation status.
Results
The self-reported prevalence of female genital mutilation was 70.3%, while it was 58.6% according to clinical examination of the women’s genitalia. The most common type of female genital mutilation was type I (99.6%) and the most common age at which mutilation was performed was 4–7 years (60.2%). This practice was mostly performed by traditional birth attendants (72.5%). Only 6.4% of mutilated women reported having complications after mutilation, most commonly bleeding (3.6%). The practice was more reported among housewives (OR = 3.3), those women whose mothers were mutilated (OR = 15.1) or with unknown mutilation status (OR = 7.3) and those women whose fathers were illiterate (OR = 1.4) or could only read and write (OR = 1.6). The common reasons for practicing female genital mutilation were cultural tradition (46.7%) and dictate of religion (38.9%). Only 30% of the participants were aware about the health consequences of female genital mutilation. More than one third (36.6%) of the women support the practice and 34.5% have intention to mutilate their daughters.
Conclusions
Prevalence of female genital mutilation among Muslim Kurdish women in Erbil city is very high; although, most cases are of type I. There is clear lack of knowledge about the health consequences of female genital mutilation and a relatively important segment of women support this practice. Custom or tradition and dictate of religion are the main reasons for this practice that need further in-depth exploration.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-809
PMCID: PMC3844478  PMID: 24010850
6.  A Qualitative Assessment of The Small Group Teaching at Hawler College of Medicine 
Context: Although the medical schools in Iraq recently started to increasingly use the small group teaching approach, only little is known about the students’ perceptions toward this approach. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess small group teaching as a method of teaching at Hawler College of Medicine, from the students’ perspectives.
Setting: This study was a qualitative study which was based on six focus group discussions which involved a sample of students from the three last years at the Hawler College of Medicine. A topic guide was used to lead the discussions and it covered questions on the positive aspects and the problems of small group teaching in the college, in addition to recommendations for its improvement. The qualitative data analysis involved a content analysis, followed by a thematic analysis.
Results: The participants were generally happy with the application of the small group teaching approach and they recognized many positive aspects which were related to this experience, which included, increasing the focus on the study subjects, enhancing the student-teacher interaction, building a better student-teacher relationship, encouraging the students’ attendance, providing a better opportunity to apply a student-centered learning, enhancing a more efficient use of time and assisting in a better understanding of the subjects. The main problems which were faced, included a poor infrastructure and teaching facilities, problems which were related to examinations and the mark distribution, an improper syllabus preparation and problems which were related to the teachers’ commitments and performances. The main suggestions which were put forth to improve this system, included, changing the assessment system with the focus more on the end of the course assessment, the students’ involvement in the curriculum design, improving the infrastructure and teaching facilities and a better organization and management of the system.
Conclusions: The concept of the small group teaching approach was well received by the students and many positive aspects of this approach have been highlighted. However, this experience witnessed many problems and faced different challenges that need better preparation, organization of the resources and the orientation of students and teachers, for insuring its success.
doi:10.7860/JCDR/2013/5455.2966
PMCID: PMC3681061  PMID: 23814734
Medical education; Small group teaching
7.  The range and diversity of providers’ viewpoints towards the Iraqi primary health care system: an exploration using Q-methodology 
Background
The increasingly recognized need for reorganizing the primary health care services in Iraq calls for a comprehensive assessment of the system to better understand its problems and needs for development. As part of such comprehensive assessment and due to the important role of primary health care providers in adopting any change, we ought to explore the range and diversity of viewpoints of primary health care providers towards the Iraqi primary health care system.
Methods
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq from May to July 2011. Data were collected from primary health care providers using Q-methodology to elicit subjective viewpoints and identify shared patterns among individuals. Forty primary health care providers representing eight primary health care centers sorted 41 statements reflecting different aspects of the Iraqi primary health care system into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was used to derive latent viewpoints through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors.
Results
Analysis of the participants’ Q-sorts resulted in four distinct viewpoints among primary health care providers toward the current primary health care system. One factor emphasized positive aspects of the current primary health care system that is content with the current primary health care system. The other three factors highlighted the negative aspects and they included (i) professionally-centered viewpoint, (ii) comprehensive perception and problem-based solutions and (iii) critical to leadership/governance aspects of the system.
Conclusions
This study revealed diverse viewpoints of primary health care providers toward the current Iraqi primary health care system and recognized the particular issues related to each viewpoint. The findings can contribute to a better understanding of health policy makers and primary health care managers concerning the problems facing the primary health care system that might contribute to change in the management of this system.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-18
PMCID: PMC3606603  PMID: 23514334
Primary health care; Q-methodology; Providers; Assessment
8.  Iraqi primary care system in Kurdistan region: providers’ perspectives on problems and opportunities for improvement 
Background
As part of a comprehensive study on the primary health care system in Iraq, we sought to explore primary care providers’ perspectives about the main problems influencing the provision of primary care services and opportunities to improve the system.
Methods
A qualitative study based on four focus groups involving 40 primary care providers from 12 primary health care centres was conducted in Erbil governorate in the Iraqi Kurdistan region between July and October 2010. A topic guide was used to lead discussions and covered questions on positive aspects of and current problems with the primary care system in addition to the priority needs for its improvement. The discussions were fully transcribed and the qualitative data was analyzed by content analysis, followed by a thematic analysis.
Results
Problems facing the primary care system included inappropriate health service delivery (irrational use of health services, irrational treatment, poor referral system, poor infrastructure and poor hygiene), health workforce challenges (high number of specialists, uneven distribution of the health workforce, rapid turnover, lack of training and educational opportunities and discrepancies in the salary system), shortage in resources (shortage and low quality of medical supplies and shortage in financing), poor information technology and poor leadership/governance. The greatest emphasis was placed on poor organization of health services delivery, particularly the irrational use of health services and the related overcrowding and overload on primary care providers and health facilities. Suggestions for improving the system included application of a family medicine approach and ensuring effective planning and monitoring.
Conclusions
This study has provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors that negatively affect the primary care system in Iraq’s Kurdistan region from the perspective of primary care providers. From their experience, primary care providers have a role in informing the community and policy makers about the main problems affecting this system, though improvements to the health care system must be taken up at the national level and involve other key stakeholders.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-12-21
PMCID: PMC3492068  PMID: 23016849
Primary care; Care providers; Focus group; Service delivery; Kurdistan region
9.  Birth defects in Iraq and the plausibility of environmental exposure: A review 
An increased prevalence of birth defects was allegedly reported in Iraq in the post 1991 Gulf War period, which was largely attributed to exposure to depleted uranium used in the war. This has encouraged further research on this particular topic. This paper reviews the published literature and provided evidence concerning birth defects in Iraq to elucidate possible environmental exposure. In addition to published research, this review used some direct observation of birth defects data from Al-Ramadi Maternity and Paediatric Hospital in Al-Anbar Governorate in Iraq from1st July 2000 through 30th June 2002. In addition to depleted uranium other war-related environmental factors have been studied and linked directly or indirectly with the increasing prevalence of birth defects. However, the reviewed studies and the available research evidence do not provide a clear increase in birth defects and a clear indication of a possible environmental exposure including depleted uranium although the country has been facing several environmental challenges since 1980.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-6-3
PMCID: PMC3492088  PMID: 22839108
10.  Iraqi health system in kurdistan region: medical professionals' perspectives on challenges and priorities for improvement 
Conflict and Health  2010;4:19.
Background
The views of medical professionals on efficiency of health system and needs for any changes are very critical and constitute a cornerstone for any health system improvement. This is particularly relevant to Iraqi Kurdistan case as the events of the last few decades have significantly devastated the national Iraqi health system while the necessity for adopting a new health care system is increasingly recognized since 2004. This study aims to examine the regional health system in Iraqi Kurdistan from medical professionals' perspectives and try to define its problems and priorities for improvement.
Methods
A survey questionnaire was developed and administered to a convenience sample of 250 medical professionals in Erbil governorate. The questionnaire included four items; rating of the quality of services and availability of resources in the health institutions, view on different aspects of the health system, the perceived priority needs for health system improvement and gender and professional characteristics of the respondents.
Results
The response rate to the survey was 83.6%. A high proportion of respondents rated the different aspects of services and resources in the health institutions as weak or very weak including the availability of the required quantity and quality of medicines (68.7%), the availability of sufficient medical equipment and investigation tools (68.7%), and the quality of offered services (65.3%). Around 72% of respondents had a rather negative view on the overall health system. The weak role of medical research, the weak role of professional associations in controlling the system and the inefficient health education were identified as important problems in the current health system (87.9%, 87.1% and 84.9%, respectively). The priority needs of health system improvement included adoption of social insurance for medical care of the poor (82%), enhancing the role of family medicine (77.2%), adopting health insurance system (76.1%) and periodic scientific evaluation of physicians and other health staff (69.8%).
Conclusion
Medical professionals were generally unsatisfied with the different aspects of the health system in Iraqi Kurdistan region. A number of problems and different priority needs for health system improvement have been recognized that require to be studied in more details.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-4-19
PMCID: PMC3003630  PMID: 21118537
11.  Landmine injuries at the Emergency Management Center in Erbil, Iraq 
Conflict and Health  2010;4:15.
Background
Landmines can cause death, injury and disability in addition to many indirect public health consequences. This study aimed at understanding the trends, demography and other epidemiological characteristics of hospitalized landmine injured patients in Erbil governorate.
Methods
The case records of landmine injured patients who had been admitted to the Emergency Management Centre in Erbil city from July 1998 to July 2007 were reviewed and descriptively analyzed.
Results
Two hundred eighty five landmine injured patients were admitted to the center, their mean ± SD age was 26.5 ± 13.2 years (range 6-71 years), 95.1% were males, nearly 50% were between 19 to 35 years of age and 96.8% were civilians. Around 72% of victims sustained limb amputations; 58.6% lower limb and 13.3% upper limb out of the total. The hospital mortality rate was 2.1%. The number of admissions for landmine injury was steadily decreasing between July 1998 and July 2001, followed by prominent increase between July 2002 and July 2003. The highest proportion of admissions occurred in summer (35.4%) and majority of incidents occurred along the borders with Iran and Turkey (61.8%).
Conclusion
Civilian male adolescents and young adults constituted the majority of hospitalized landmine victims in Erbil governorate. While a high proportion of victims sustained lower limb amputations, upper limb amputations particularly among children and injury to head and face were relatively common which might be attributed to handling explosives. This emphasizes the need to examine the reasons behind handling explosives.
doi:10.1186/1752-1505-4-15
PMCID: PMC2931461  PMID: 20718975

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