The Government of Tajikistan is reforming its health system to make access more equitable. Nonetheless, out-of-pocket expenditures (OPE) remain a key modality for purchasing health care. Drugs remain a major driver of household expenditures for health. We conducted a household survey to investigate drug prescribing patterns at primary health care (PHC) level as well as the related OPE.
Adult patients in eight districts who had visited a PHC facility in the period March to May 2014 were interviewed at home, using a structured questionnaire. A descriptive analysis was conducted and regression models were constructed to identify factors influencing the number of drugs provided and the types of drugs prescribed.
There were 1281 (80.1 %) patients who received a drug prescription after visiting a doctor at PHC level. 16.2 % of them had five or more drugs prescribed concomitantly. The number of drugs prescribed to patients ranged from 0 to 8 and was statistically different across regions (RRS region =3.3; Khatlon region = 3.1; p = 0.05), after adjusting for age and sex. In 31.1 % of cases, prescriptions included an intra-venous (IV) injection; in 45.6 % of cases, a non-IV injection; in 52.9 % of cases, an antibiotic; and in 61.0 % of cases, vitamins. Patients suffering from a respiratory disease had higher odds of being prescribed an IV injection and antibiotics. Vitamins were widely prescribed across all diseases. In 94.5 % of cases, the patients interviewed procured at least one of the prescribed drugs. Among those who received a prescription, 2.0 % were not able to procure at least one drug due to a lack of money. In 94.9 % of cases, respondents reported purchasing drugs in private pharmacies. Median expenditures for drugs procured following consultation were 45 TS (US$ 6.9) corresponding to 77.6 % of total expenditures related to the visit (58 TS, US$ 8.8).
In a context where OPE are important, drugs represent an important income source for health service providers. Such a situation does not favour rational prescribing nor efficient service delivery, and is potentially harmful for patients. In particular, the economic ramifications cause high levels of expenditure for patients and households with detrimental, knock-on effects in the more vulnerable segments of the population.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1799-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Tajikistan; Drug prescribing patterns; Out-of-pocket expenditure; Primary health care; Health financing
We know little about how procurement of a high-risk medical device (HRMD) affects clinical practice and outcomes. In health systems in high-income countries, and specifically those that maintain a national arthroplasty registry, procurement decisions are frequently guided by long-term clinical results, with the goal of ensuring at least standard quality of HRMDs. But in countries like Mexico, decision-making is often dominated by lowest acquisition price. We set out to study the impact of procurement for orthopaedic HRMDs on clinical procedures and outcomes.
We based our qualitative study on 59 in-depth interviews with stakeholders from Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, and UK: orthopaedic specialists, government officials, other experts, and social security system managers or administrators. We took a healthcare delivery approach to capturing and comparing factors that affected the regulations of HRMDs and procurement processes, and to understanding connections between procurement and clinical practice.
Our findings demonstrate for procurement processes that the three European countries compared to Mexico don’t have similar concerns with regards to their procurement processes. Deficiencies of procurement regulations and practices identified from representatives in Mexico were almost absent in European countries. We identified three areas of deficiency: 1) HRMD regulations based on insufficiently robust clinical evidence (mainly noted by European countries); 2) Follow-up on Health Technology Assessments is inadequate (noted by Mexico) and methodology not always good enough (noted by European countries); and, 3) Lowest-acquisition price often guides procurement decisions and thus may not align with needs of clinical procedures (noted by Mexico and some European countries).
Procurement processes for orthopaedic HRMDs may have an impact on clinical procedures and outcomes. A favourable approach is one where orthopaedic specialists are parties to the procurement process, and post-market surveillance data informs decision-making. Actors in the procurement process can improve their impact on clinical procedures and outcomes by developing specific strategies that better align the needs of both, procurement and clinical procedures.
Medical devices; Procurement; Purchasing; Health systems; Medical technology; Orthopaedic
In organisational theory there is an assumption that knowledge is used effectively in healthcare systems that perform well. Actors in healthcare systems focus on managing knowledge of clinical processes like, for example, clinical decision-making to improve patient care. We know little about connecting that knowledge to administrative processes like high-risk medical device procurement. We analysed knowledge-related factors that influence procurement and clinical procedures for orthopaedic medical devices in Mexico.
We based our qualitative study on 48 semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders in Mexico: orthopaedic specialists, government officials, and social security system managers or administrators. We took a knowledge-management related perspective (i) to analyse factors of managing knowledge of clinical procedures, (ii) to assess the role of this knowledge and in relation to procurement of orthopaedic medical devices, and (iii) to determine how to improve the situation.
The results of this study are primarily relevant for Mexico but may also give impulsion to other health systems with highly standardized procurement practices. We found that knowledge of clinical procedures in orthopaedics is generated inconsistently and not always efficiently managed. Its support for procuring orthopaedic medical devices is insufficient. Identified deficiencies: leaders who lack guidance and direction and thus use knowledge poorly; failure to share knowledge; insufficiently defined formal structures and processes for collecting information and making it available to actors of health system; lack of strategies to benefit from synergies created by information and knowledge exchange. Many factors are related directly or indirectly to technological aspects, which are insufficiently developed.
The content of this manuscript is novel as it analyses knowledge-related factors that influence procurement of orthopaedic medical devices in Mexico. Based on our results we recommend that the procurement mechanism should integrate knowledge from clinical procedures adequately in their decision-making. Without strong guidance, organisational changes, and support by technological solutions to improve the generation and management of knowledge, procurement processes for orthopaedic high-risk medical devices will remain sub-optimal.
Medical devices; Procurement; Healthcare systems; Orthopaedic; Knowledge management
There is increasing evidence that good district management practices can improve health system performance and conversely, that poor and inefficient management practices have detrimental effects. The aim of the present study was to identify factors contributing to inefficient management practices of district health managers and ways to improve their overall efficiency.
Nineteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with district health managers in three districts of the Eastern Region in Ghana. The 19 interviews conducted comprised 90 % of the managerial workforce in these districts in 2013. A thematic analysis was carried out using the WHO’s leadership and management strengthening framework to structure the results.
Key factors for inefficient district health management practices were identified to be: human resource shortages, inadequate planning and communication skills, financial constraints, and a narrow decision space that constrains the authority of district health managers and their ability to influence decision-making. Strategies that may improve managerial efficiency at both an individual and organizational level included improvements to planning, communication, and time management skills, and ensuring the timely release of district funds.
Filling District Health Management Team vacancies, developing leadership and management skills of district health managers, ensuring a better flow of district funds, and delegating more authority to the districts seems to be a promising intervention package, which may result in better and more efficient management practices and stronger health system performance.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1271-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
District health managers; Management; Efficiency; Health system; Decentralisation; Decision space; Ghana; Sub-Saharan Africa
Ineffective district health management potentially impacts on health system performance and service delivery. However, little is known about district health managing practices and time allocation in resource-constrained health systems. Therefore, a time use study was conducted in order to understand current time use practices of district health managers in Ghana.
All 21 district health managers working in three districts of the Eastern Region were included in the study and followed for a period of three months. Daily retrospective interviews about their time use were conducted, covering 1182 person-days of observation. Total time use of the sample population was assessed as well as time use stratified by managerial position. Differences of time use over time were also evaluated.
District health managers used most of their working time for data management (16.6%), attending workshops (12.3%), financial management (8.7%), training of staff (7.1%), drug and supply management (5.0%), and travelling (9.6%). The study found significant variations of time use across the managerial cadres as well as high weekly variations of time use impulsed mainly by a national vertical program.
District health managers in Ghana use substantial amounts of their working time in only few activities and vertical programs greatly influence their time use. Our findings suggest that efficiency gains are possible for district health managers. However, these are unlikely to be achieved without improvements within the general health system, as inefficiencies seem to be largely caused by external factors.
Motivation and job satisfaction have been identified as key factors for health worker retention and turnover in low- and middle-income countries. District health managers in decentralized health systems usually have a broadened ‘decision space’ that enables them to positively influence health worker motivation and job satisfaction, which in turn impacts on retention and performance at district-level. The study explored the effects of motivation and job satisfaction on turnover intention and how motivation and satisfaction can be improved by district health managers in order to increase retention of health workers.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey in three districts of the Eastern Region in Ghana and interviewed 256 health workers from several staff categories (doctors, nursing professionals, allied health workers and pharmacists) on their intentions to leave their current health facilities as well as their perceptions on various aspects of motivation and job satisfaction. The effects of motivation and job satisfaction on turnover intention were explored through logistic regression analysis.
Overall, 69% of the respondents reported to have turnover intentions. Motivation (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.92) and job satisfaction (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.57 to 0.96) were significantly associated with turnover intention and higher levels of both reduced the risk of health workers having this intention. The dimensions of motivation and job satisfaction significantly associated with turnover intention included career development (OR = 0.56, 95% CI: 0.36 to 0.86), workload (OR = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.34 to 0.99), management (OR = 0.51. 95% CI: 0.30 to 0.84), organizational commitment (OR = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.19 to 0.66), and burnout (OR = 0.59, 95% CI: 0.39 to 0.91).
Our findings indicate that effective human resource management practices at district level influence health worker motivation and job satisfaction, thereby reducing the likelihood for turnover. Therefore, it is worth strengthening human resource management skills at district level and supporting district health managers to implement retention strategies.
Motivation; Job satisfaction; Turnover intention; Retention; Health worker; Human resource management; Rural and remote areas; Ghana
Iodine deficiency affects nearly 1.9 billion people worldwide, but it can be prevented by salt iodization. This cross-sectional survey assessed current iodine status, iodized salt coverage and risk factors for goitre among schoolchildren in South Tajikistan.
Ten primary schools in four districts in South Tajikistan were randomly selected. In schoolchildren aged 7 to 11 years, a spot urine sample was collected for measurement of urinary iodine, dried blood spots were collected for measurement of thyroglobulin, and goitre was assessed by palpation. Iodine content of salt samples and local selling points was determined by coloration using rapid test kits and titration method.
Of 623 schoolchildren enrolled, complete data was obtained from 589. The overall median urinary iodine concentration (UIC) was 51.2 μg/L indicating mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency. Among all children, 46.6% (95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 42.4%-50.6%) of children were found to be goitrous (grade 1 goitre: 30.6%, 95% CI = 26.9%-34.5%; grade 2 goitre: 16.0%, 95% CI = 13.1%-19.2%). The risk factor for goitre remaining significant in the multivariable logistic regression model was 'buying salt once a month’ (OR = 2.89, 95% CI = 1.01-8.22) and 'buying salt once every six months’ (OR = 2.26, 95% CI = 1.01-5.04) compared to 'buying salt every one or two weeks’. The overall median thyroglobulin concentration was elevated at 13.9 μg/L. Of the salt samples from households and selling points, one third were adequately iodised, one third insufficiently and one third were not iodised.
Iodine deficiency remains a serious health issue among children in southern Tajikistan. There is a persisting high prevalence of goitre, elevated thyroglobulin and low UIC despite interventions implemented by Tajikistan and international partners. Quality control of salt iodine content needs to be improved. Continued efforts to raise awareness of the health effects of iodine deficiency are needed to increase consumer demand for iodised salt.
Iodine status; Goitre; Risk factors for goitre; Urinary iodine concentration; Thyroglobulin concentration; Salt iodization; Schoolchildren; Tajikistan
Millions of dollars are invested annually under the umbrella of national health systems strengthening. Global health initiatives provide funding for low- and middle-income countries through disease-oriented programmes while maintaining that the interventions simultaneously strengthen systems. However, it is as yet unclear which, and to what extent, system-level interventions are being funded by these initiatives, nor is it clear how much funding they allocate to disease-specific activities – through conventional ‘vertical-programming’ approach. Such funding can be channelled to one or more of the health system building blocks while targeting disease(s) or explicitly to system-wide activities.
We operationalized the World Health Organization health system framework of the six building blocks to conduct a detailed assessment of Global Fund health system investments. Our application of this framework framework provides a comprehensive quantification of system-level interventions. We applied this systematically to a random subset of 52 of the 139 grants funded in Round 8 of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (totalling approximately US$1 billion).
According to the analysis, 37% (US$ 362 million) of the Global Fund Round 8 funding was allocated to health systems strengthening. Of that, 38% (US$ 139 million) was for generic system-level interventions, rather than disease-specific system support. Around 82% of health systems strengthening funding (US$ 296 million) was allocated to service delivery, human resources, and medicines & technology, and within each of these to two to three interventions. Governance, financing, and information building blocks received relatively low funding.
This study shows that a substantial portion of Global Fund’s Round 8 funds was devoted to health systems strengthening. Dramatic skewing among the health system building blocks suggests opportunities for more balanced investments with regard to governance, financing, and information system related interventions. There is also a need for agreement, by researchers, recipients, and donors, on keystone interventions that have the greatest system-level impacts for the cost-effective use of funds. Effective health system strengthening depends on inter-agency collaboration and country commitment along with concerted partnership among all the stakeholders working in the health system.
Aligned with the international call for universal coverage of affordable and quality health care, the government of Tajikistan is undertaking reforms of its health system aiming amongst others at reducing the out-of-pocket expenditures (OPE) of patients seeking care. Household surveys were conducted in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011 to explore the scale and determinants of OPE of users in four district of Tajikistan, where health care is legally free of charge at the primary level.
Using the data from four cross-sectional household surveys conducted between 2005 and 2011, time trends in OPE for consultation fees, drugs and transport costs of adult users of family medicine services were analysed. To investigate differences along the economic status, an asset index was constructed using principal component analysis.
Adjusted for inflation, OPE for primary care have substantially increased in the period 2005 to 2011. While the proportion of patients reporting the payment of informal consultation fees to providers and their amount were constant over time, the proportion of patients reporting expenditures for drugs has increased, and the median amounts have doubled from 5.3 US$ to 10.7 US$. Thus, the expenditures on medicine represent the biggest financial burden for patients accessing a primary care facility. Regression models showed that in 2011 patients from the most remote district with spread-out villages reported significant higher expenditures on medicine. Besides the steady increase in the median amount for OPE, the proportion of patients reporting making an informal payment to their care provider showed great variations across district of residence (between 20% and 73%) and economic status (between 33% among the ‘worst-off’ group and 68% among the ‘better-off’ group).
In a context of limited governmental funds allocated to health and financing reforms aiming to improve financial access to primary care, the present paper indicates that in Tajikistan OPE – especially in relation to expenditures for drugs – have increased over time, and vary substantially across geographical areas and economic status. The fact that better-off households report disbursing more and in higher proportions hints towards a discrimination along the capacity to pay from providers. Increased public investments in the health sector, incentives for family doctors to provide PHC services free of charge and a strengthened drug control and supply system are necessary strategies to improve access of patients to services.
Tajikistan; Informal payments; Out-of-pocket expenditure; Family medicine; Health reforms
In the first paper in a three-part series on health systems guidance, Xavier Bosch-Capblanch and colleagues examine how guidance is currently formulated in low- and middle-income countries, and the challenges to developing such guidance.
Recent years have seen an unprecedented increase in funds for procurement of health commodities in developing countries. A major challenge now is the efficient delivery of commodities and services to improve population health. With this in mind, we documented staffing levels and productivity in peripheral health facilities in southern Tanzania.
A health facility survey was conducted to collect data on staff employed, their main tasks, availability on the day of the survey, reasons for absenteeism, and experience of supervisory visits from District Health Teams. In-depth interview with health workers was done to explore their perception of work load. A time and motion study of nurses in the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) clinics documented their time use by task.
We found that only 14% (122/854) of the recommended number of nurses and 20% (90/441) of the clinical staff had been employed at the facilities. Furthermore, 44% of clinical staff was not available on the day of the survey. Various reasons were given for this. Amongst the clinical staff, 38% were absent because of attendance to seminar sessions, 8% because of long-training, 25% were on official travel and 20% were on leave. RCH clinic nurses were present for 7 hours a day, but only worked productively for 57% of time present at facility. Almost two-third of facilities had received less than 3 visits from district health teams during the 6 months preceding the survey.
This study documented inadequate staffing of health facilities, a high degree of absenteeism, low productivity of the staff who were present and inadequate supervision in peripheral Tanzanian health facilities. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of decentralized health care in Tanzania.
As countries strive to strengthen their health systems in resource constrained contexts, policy makers need to know how best to improve the performance of their health systems. To aid these decisions, health system stewards should have a good understanding of how health systems operate in order to govern them appropriately. While a number of frameworks for assessing governance in the health sector have been proposed, their application is often hindered by unrealistic indicators or they are overly complex resulting in limited empirical work on governance in health systems. This paper reviews contemporary health sector frameworks which have focused on defining and developing indicators to assess governance in the health sector. Based on these, we propose a simplified approach to look at governance within a common health system framework which encourages stewards to take a systematic perspective when assessing governance. Although systems thinking is not unique to health, examples of its application within health systems has been limited. We also provide an example of how this approach could be applied to illuminate areas of governance weaknesses which are potentially addressable by targeted interventions and policies. This approach is built largely on prior literature, but is original in that it is problem-driven and promotes an outward application taking into consideration the major health system building blocks at various levels in order to ensure a more complete assessment of a governance issue rather than a simple input-output approach. Based on an assessment of contemporary literature we propose a practical approach which we believe will facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of governance in health systems leading to the development of governance interventions to strengthen system performance and improve health as a basic human right.
Intestinal parasitic infections represent a public health problem in Tajikistan, but epidemiological evidence is scarce. The present study aimed at assessing the extent of helminths and intestinal protozoa infections among children of 10 schools in four districts of Tajikistan, and to make recommendations for control.
A cross-sectional survey was carried out in early 2009. All children attending grades 2 and 3 (age: 7-11 years) from 10 randomly selected schools were invited to provide a stool sample and interviewed about sanitary situation and hygiene behaviour. A questionnaire pertaining to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics was addressed to the heads of households. On the spot, stool samples were subjected to duplicate Kato-Katz thick smear examination for helminth diagnosis. Additionally, 1-2 g of stool was fixed in sodium acetate-acetic acid-formalin, transferred to a specialised laboratory in Europe and examined for helminths and intestinal protozoa. The composite results from both methods served as diagnostic 'gold' standard.
Out of 623 registered children, 602 participated in our survey. The overall prevalence of infection with helminths and pathogenic intestinal protozoa was 32.0% and 47.1%, respectively. There was pronounced spatial heterogeneity. The most common helminth species was Hymenolepis nana (25.8%), whereas the prevalences of Ascaris lumbricoides, hookworm and Enterobius vermicularis were below 5%. The prevalence of pathogenic intestinal protozoa, namely Giardia intestinalis and Entamoeba histolytica/E. dispar was 26.4% and 25.9%, respectively. Almost half of the households draw drinking water from unimproved sources, such as irrigation canals, rivers and unprotected wells. Sanitary facilities were pit latrines, mostly private, and a few shared with neighbours. The use of public tap/standpipe as a source of drinking water emerged as a protective factor for G. intestinalis infection. Protected spring water reduced the risk of infection with E. histolytica/E. dispar and H. nana.
Our data obtained from the ecological 'lowland' areas in Tajikistan call for school-based deworming (recommended drugs: albendazole and metronidazole), combined with hygiene promotion and improved sanitation. Further investigations are needed to determine whether H. nana represents a public health problem.
Tuberculosis (TB) control is based on early detection and complete treatment of infectious cases. Consequently, it is important that TB suspects and patients can readily access medical care. This qualitative study investigated determinants of access to DOTS services as identified by patients, health providers and community members in four districts in Tajikistan.
Focus group discussions were conducted in order to investigate access to TB services. A conceptual framework for access to care guided the analysis. Thirteen focus group discussions involving a total of 97 informants were conducted. Content analysis of discussions and a rating to quantify the relative importance of discussed factors were carried out. The conceptual framework identifies five main components of access to which factors can be assigned: availability, adequacy, acceptability, accessibility and affordability.
Financial factors were considered the most important determinants of access to diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. Expenditure for drugs and consultations, for transport, and for special foods as well as lost income were identified as major barriers to treatment. Stigma, doubts about curability and low perceived quality of care were not seen to be significant determinants of access to care for tuberculosis. Community members were well aware of symptoms of tuberculosis and of medical services. These findings were consistent between different respondent groups (community members, patients and providers). They were also highly consistent between the open discussion and the confidential rating.
Illness-costs to households were identified as the main barrier to tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment. To improve access and ultimately adherence to tuberculosis treatment, effective mitigation strategies, e.g. changes in case management, food contributions or financial stimuli, need to be explored and implemented.
Illness-related costs incurred by patients constitute a severe economic burden for households especially in low-income countries. High household costs of illness lead to impoverishment; they impair affordability and equitable access to health care and consequently hamper tuberculosis (TB) control. So far, no study has investigated patient costs of TB in the former Soviet Union.
All adult new pulmonary TB cases enrolled into the DOTS program in 12 study districts during the study period were enrolled. Medical and non-medical expenditure as well as loss of income were quantified in two interviews covering separate time periods. Costs of different items were summed up to calculate total costs. For missing values, multiple imputation was applied.
A cohort of 204 patients under DOTS, 114 men and 90 women, participated in the questionnaire survey. Total illness costs of a TB episode averaged $1053 (c. $4900 purchasing power parity, PPP), of which $292, $338 and $422 were encountered before the start of treatment, during intensive phase and in continuation phase, respectively. Costs per month were highest before the start of treatment ($145) and during intensive phase ($153) and lower during continuation phase ($95). These differences were highly significant (paired t-test, p < 0.0005 for both comparisons).
The illness-related costs of an episode of TB exceed the per capita GDP of $1600 PPP about two-and-a-half times. Hence, these costs are catastrophic for concerned households and suggest a high risk for impoverishment. Costs are not equally spread over time, but peak in early stages of treatment, exacerbating the problem of affordability. Mitigation strategies are needed in order to control TB in Tajikistan and may include social support to the patients as well as changes in the management of TB cases. These mitigation strategies should be timed early in treatment when the cost burden is highest.
Tajikistan has the highest incidence rate of tuberculosis (TB) in Central Asia. Its health system still bears many features from Soviet times and is under-funded. Affordability is a major barrier to health care. Little is known about health care seeking of TB patients in post-Soviet countries and their delay until the start of TB therapy. The low estimated case detection rate in Tajikistan suggests major problems with access to care and consequently long delays are likely.
The study investigated extent and determinants of patient and health system delays for TB. A questionnaire was administered to a cohort of TB patients in twelve study districts representing a wide range of conditions found in Tajikistan. Common patterns of health care seeking were analysed. Cox proportional hazards models using eight predictor variables, including characteristics of health services delivery, were built to identify determinants of patient and health system delays.
Two-hundred-and-four TB patients were interviewed. A common pattern in treatment-seeking was visiting a specialised TB facility at some stage. Typical delays until start of TB therapy were moderate and did not confirm the expectation of long delays. Median patient, health system and total delays to TB treatment were 21.5, 16 and 52 days, respectively. None of the investigated predictors was significantly associated with patient delay. The type of facility, where patients made their first contact with the health system, was the main determinant of health system delay (p < 0.00005). We show for the first time that patients who had fallen ill and first presented to health care in Russia had the longest delays. Those who first presented to peripheral primary care facilities also had relatively long delays.
While overall delays were moderate, further improvement is needed for different subgroups. An international referral system between Russia and Tajikistan to reduce delays of Tajik migrants who develop active TB in Russia is urgently needed and would benefit both countries. Within Tajikistan, diagnostic pathways for patients in the periphery should be shortened. To achieve this, strengthening of sputum smear examination possibly including collection of sputa at peripheral primary care facilities may be needed.
Recent years have seen growing awareness of the importance of human resources for health in health systems and with it an intensifying of the international and national policies in place to steer a response. This paper looks at how governments and donors in five countries – Cameroon, Indonesia, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania – have translated such policies into action. More detailed information with regard to initiatives of German development cooperation brings additional depth to the range and entry doors of human resources for health initiatives from the perspective of donor cooperation.
This qualitative study systematically presents different approaches and stages to human resources for health development in a cross-country comparison. An important reference to capture implementation at country level was grey literature such as policy documents and programme reports. In-depth interviews along a predefined grid with national and international stakeholders in the five countries provided information on issues related to human resources for health policy processes and implementation.
All five countries have institutional entities in place and have drawn up national policies to address human resources for health. Only some of the countries have translated policies into strategies with defined targets and national programmes with budgets and operational plans. Traditional approaches of supporting training for individual health professionals continue to dominate. In some cases partners have played an advocacy and technical role to promote human resources for health development at the highest political levels, but usually they still focus on the provision of ad hoc training within their programmes, which may not be in line with national human resources for health development efforts or may even be counterproductive to them. Countries that face an emergency, such as Malawi, have intensified their efforts within a relatively short time and by using donor funding support also through new initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The country case studies illustrate the range of initiatives that have surged in recent years and some main trends in terms of donor initiatives. Though attention and priority attributed to human resources for health is increasing, there is still a focus on single initiatives and programmes. This can be explained in part by the complexity of the issue, and in part by its need to be addressed through a long-term approach including public sector and salary reforms that go beyond the health sector.
Bioterrorism and preparedness; disease outbreaks; communicable disease control; quarantine; patient isolation; information dissemination; travel; transportation; public health practice; letter
Reported malaria cases in rice growing areas in western Tajikistan were at the root of a rapid appraisal of the local malaria situation in a selected agro-ecological setting where only scarce information was available. The rapid appraisal was complemented by a review of the epidemiology and control of malaria in Tajikistan and Central Asia from 1920 until today. Following a resurgence in the 1990s, malaria transmission has been reduced considerably in Tajikistan as a result of concerted efforts by the government and international agencies. The goal for 2015 is transmission interruption, with control interventions and surveillance currently concentrated in the South, where foci of Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum persist.
The rapid malaria appraisal was carried out in six communities of irrigated rice cultivation during the peak of malaria transmission (August/September 2007) in western Tajikistan. In a cross-sectional survey, blood samples were taken from 363 schoolchildren and examined for Plasmodium under a light microscope. A total of 56 farmers were interviewed about agricultural activities and malaria. Potential Anopheles breeding sites were characterized using standardized procedures. A literature review on the epidemiology and control of malaria in Tajikistan was conducted.
One case of P. vivax was detected among the 363 schoolchildren examined (0.28%). The interviewees reported to protect themselves against mosquito bites and used their own concepts on fever conditions, which do not distinguish between malaria and other diseases. Three potential malaria vectors were identified, i.e. Anopheles superpictus, Anopheles pulcherrimus and Anopheles hyrcanus in 58 of the 73 breeding sites examined (79.5%). Rice paddies, natural creeks and man-made ponds were the most important Anopheles habitats.
The presence of malaria vectors and parasite reservoirs, low awareness of, and protection against malaria in the face of population movements and inadequate surveillance may render local communities vulnerable to potential epidemics. To attain malaria transmission interruption in Tajikistan by 2015, there is a need for rigorous surveillance along with strengthening of primary health care facilities for effective case management, and possibly a more differentiated vector control strategy based on additional local evidence.
In Tajikistan it is estimated that out of pocket payments constitute two-thirds of all health spending with high proportions of these contributions through informal payments. As a consequence, access to basic care is a major concern particularly among the most needy and vulnerable groups.
This article evaluates accessibility of prescription medicines and patient expenditures for primary care services in two rural districts of Tajikistan.
901 patients aged 18 years or above who had accessed primary care facilities were interviewed, using a questionnaire based on questions regarding patient's experience of visiting the health facility. To group respondents by socio-economic status, an asset index was created using principal component analysis of the information included in the questionnaires.
76.7% of patients were prescribed a medicine during the visits and more than 83% of them managed to obtain it. Patients spent on average US$ 9.3 on medicines, with wide variation among socio-economic groups. Around 45% of patients paid the Family Doctor. Additionally, over 41% of patients in the highest socioeconomic quintile were referred to a specialist, while only 29% of the poorest 40%.
This survey showed that there are financial barriers potentially inactivating utilization of basic services. These barriers can only be reduced by mobilizing more public resources to fund the health sector, providing incentives for family doctors to stop requiring payments from patients, and increasing the availability of prescription drugs in PHC facilities.
Vaccinating nomadic pastoralists and their livestock at the same time reduces delivery costs.
Vaccination services for people and livestock often fail to achieve sufficient coverages in Africa’s remote rural settings because of financial, logistic, and service delivery constraints. In Chad from 2000 through 2005, we demonstrated the feasibility of combining vaccination programs for nomadic pastoralists and their livestock. Sharing of transport logistics and equipment between physicians and veterinarians reduced total costs. Joint delivery of human and animal health services is adapted to and highly valued by hard-to-reach pastoralists. In intervention zones, for the first time ≈10% of nomadic children (>1–11 months of age) were fully immunized annually and more children and women were vaccinated per day during joint vaccination rounds than during vaccination of persons only and not their livestock (130 vs. 100, p<0.001). By optimizing use of limited logistical and human resources, public health and veterinary services both become more effective, especially at the district level.
Vaccination delivery; children; women; livestock; remote rural zones; measles; polio; anthrax; synopsis
During the Soviet era, malaria was close to eradication in Tajikistan. Since the early 1990s, the disease has been on the rise and has become endemic in large areas of southern and western Tajikistan. The standard national treatment for Plasmodium vivax is based on primaquine. This entails the risk of severe haemolysis for patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Seasonal and geographical distribution patterns as well as G6PD deficiency frequency were analysed with a view to improve understanding of the current malaria situation in Tajikistan.
Spatial and seasonal distribution was analysed, applying a risk model that included key environmental factors such as temperature and the availability of mosquito breeding sites. The frequency of G6PD deficiency was studied at the health service level, including a cross-sectional sample of 382 adult men.
Analysis revealed high rates of malaria transmission in most districts of the southern province of Khatlon, as well as in some zones in the northern province of Sughd. Three categories of risk areas were identified: (i) zones at relatively high malaria risk with high current incidence rates, where malaria control and prevention measures should be taken at all stages of the transmission cycle; (ii) zones at relatively high malaria risk with low current incidence rates, where malaria prevention measures are recommended; and (iii) zones at intermediate or low malaria risk with low current incidence rates where no particular measures appear necessary. The average prevalence of G6PD deficiency was 2.1% with apparent differences between ethnic groups and geographical regions.
The study clearly indicates that malaria is a serious health issue in specific regions of Tajikistan. Transmission is mainly determined by temperature. Consequently, locations at lower altitude are more malaria-prone. G6PD deficiency frequency is too moderate to require fundamental changes in standard national treatment of cases of P. vivax.
Rural African communities, especially those that are nomadic, often have poor access to health care. Collaboration with other services could help improve coverage
For any wide-ranging effort to scale up health-related priority interventions, human resources for health (HRH) are likely to be a key to success. This study explores constraints related to human resources in the health sector for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in low-income countries.
Methods and framework
The analysis drew on information from a variety of publicly-available sources and principally on data presented in published papers in peer-reviewed journals. For classifying HRH constraints an analytical framework was used that considers constraints at five levels: individual characteristics, the health service delivery level, the health sector level, training capacities and the sociopolitical and economic context of a country.
Results and discussion
At individual level, the decision to enter, remain and serve in the health sector workforce is influenced by a series of social, economic, cultural and gender-related determinants. For example, to cover the health needs of the poorest it is necessary to employ personnel with specific social, ethnic and cultural characteristics. At health-service level, the commitment of health staff is determined by a number of organizational and management factors. The workplace environment has a great impact not only on health worker performance, but also on the comprehensiveness and efficiency of health service delivery. At health-sector level, the use of monetary and nonmonetary incentives is of crucial importance for having the accurate skill mix at the appropriate place. Scaling up of priority interventions is likely to require significant investments in initial and continuous training. Given the lead time required to produce new health workers, such investments must occur in the early phases of scaling up. At the same time coherent national HRH policies are required for giving direction on HRH development and linking HRH into health-sector reform issues, the scaling-up of priority interventions, poverty reduction strategies, and training approaches. Multisectoral collaboration and the sociopolitical and economic context of a country determine health sector workforce development and potential emigration.
Key determinants of success for achieving international development goals are closely related to human-resource development.