The health care system in Papua New Guinea is fragile, and surveillance systems infrequently meet international standards. To strengthen outbreak identification, health authorities piloted a mobile phone–based syndromic surveillance system and used established frameworks to evaluate whether the system was meeting objectives. Stakeholder experience was investigated by using standardized questionnaires and focus groups. Nine sites reported data that included 7 outbreaks and 92 cases of acute watery diarrhea. The new system was more timely (2.4 vs. 84 days), complete (70% vs. 40%), and sensitive (95% vs. 26%) than existing systems. The system was simple, stable, useful, and acceptable; however, feedback and subnational involvement were weak. A simple syndromic surveillance system implemented in a fragile state enabled more timely, complete, and sensitive data reporting for disease risk assessment. Feedback and provincial involvement require improvement. Use of mobile phone technology might improve the timeliness and efficiency of public health surveillance.
syndromic surveillance; mobile phone; m-health; information and communication technology; ICT; early warning; fragile state; evaluation; Papua New Guinea
In October 2004, Manam Island volcano in Papua New Guinea erupted, causing over 10 000 villagers to flee to internally displaced person (IDP) camps, including 550 from Dugulaba village. Following violence over land access in March 2010, the IDPs fled the camps, and four months later concurrent outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea and unusual neurological complaints were reported in this population.
Materials and Methods
A retrospective case-control study was conducted to identify the risk factors for peripheral neuropathy. Rectal swabs were collected from cases of acute watery diarrhea. Hair and serum metals and metalloids were analyzed by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS).
There were 17 deaths among the 550 village inhabitants during the outbreak period at a crude mortality rate 21-fold that of a humanitarian crisis. Vibrio cholerae O1 El Tor Ogawa was confirmed among the population. Access to community-level rehydration was crucial to mortality. Peripheral neuropathy was diagnosed among cases with neurological symptoms. A balanced diet was significantly protective against neuropathy. A dose-response relationship was seen between peripheral neuropathy and a decreasing number of micronutrient- rich foods in the diet. Deficiencies in copper, iron, selenium and zinc were identified among the cases of peripheral neuropathy.
Cholera likely caused the mostly preventable excess mortality. Peripheral neuropathy was not caused by cholera, but cholera may worsen existing nutritional deficiencies. The peripheral neuropathy was likely caused by complex micronutrient deficiencies linked to non-diversified diets that potentially increased the vulnerability of this population, however a new zinc-associated neuropathy could not be ruled out. Reoccurrence can be prevented by addressing the root cause of displacement and ensuring access to arable land and timely resettlement.
Women in conflict-affected countries are at risk of mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. No studies have investigated the association between experiences of abuse and injustice and explosive anger amongst women in these settings, and the impact of anger on women's health, family relationships and ability to participate in development.
A mixed methods study including an epidemiological survey (n = 1513, 92.6% response) and qualitative interviews (n = 77) was conducted in Timor-Leste. The indices measured included Intermittent Explosive Disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder; severe distress; days out of role (the number of days that the person was unable to undertake normal activities); gender-specific trauma; conflict/violence; poverty; and preoccupations with injustice.
Women with Intermittent Explosive Disorder (n = 184, 12.2%) were more disabled than those without the disorder (for >5 days out of role, 40.8% versus 31.5%, X2(2) = 12.93 p = 0.0016). Multivariable associations with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, controlling for the presence of PTSD, psychological distress and other predictors in the model, included the sense of being sick (OR 1.73; 95% CI 1.08–2.77); victimization as a result of helping the resistance movement (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.48–3.68); war-related trauma specific to being a woman (OR 1.95, 95%, CI 1.09–3.50); ongoing family violence and community conflict (OR 1.88, 95% CI 1.27–2.77); extreme poverty (OR 1.23, 95%, CI 1.08–1.39); and distressing preoccupations with injustice (relating to 2/3 historical periods, OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.35–3.28). In the qualitative study, women elaborated on the determinants of anger and its impact on their health, family and community functioning, child-rearing, and capacity to engage in development. Women reflected on the strategies that might help them overcome their anger.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder is prevalent and disabling amongst women in conflict-affected Timor-Leste, impacting on their health, child-rearing and ability to participate fully in socio-economic development.
Papua New Guinea is striving to achieve the minimum core requirements under the International Health Regulations in surveillance and outbreak response, and has experienced challenges in the availability and distribution of health professionals.
Since mid-2009, a large cholera outbreak spread across lowland regions of the country and has been associated with more than 15 500 notifications at a case fatality ratio of 3.2%. The outbreak placed significant pressure on clinical and public health services.
We describe some of the challenges to cholera preparedness and response in this human resource-limited setting, the strategies used to ensure effective cholera management and lessons learnt.
Cholera task forces were useful to establish a clear system of leadership and accountability for cholera outbreak response and ensure efficiencies in each technical area. Cholera outbreak preparedness and response was strongest when human resource and health systems functioned well before the outbreak. Communication relied on coordination of existing networks and methods for empowering local leaders and villagers to modify behaviours of the population.
In line with the national health emergencies plan, the successes of human resource strategies during the cholera outbreak should be built upon through emergency exercises, especially in non-affected provinces. Population needs for all public health professionals involved in health emergency preparedness and response should be mapped, and planning should be implemented to increase the numbers in relevant areas. Human resource planning should be integrated with health emergency planning. It is essential to maintain and strengthen the human resource capacities and experiences gained during the cholera outbreak to ensure a more effective response to the next health emergency.
Sexual violence is highly prevalent in armed conflict and other humanitarian crises and attracting increasing policy and practice attention. This systematic review aimed to canvas the extent and impact of initiatives to reduce incidence, risk and harm from sexual violence in conflict, post-conflict and other humanitarian crises, in low and middle income countries. Twenty three bibliographic databases and 26 websites were searched, covering publications from 1990 to September 2011 using database-specific keywords for sexual violence and conflict or humanitarian crisis. The 40 included studies reported on seven strategy types: i) survivor care; ii) livelihood initiatives; iii) community mobilisation; iv) personnel initiatives; v) systems and security responses; vi) legal interventions and vii) multiple component interventions. Conducted in 26 countries, the majority of interventions were offered in African countries. Despite the extensive literature on sexual violence by combatants, most interventions addressed opportunistic forms of sexual violence committed in post-conflict settings. Only one study specifically addressed the disaster setting. Actual implementation of initiatives appeared to be limited as was the quality of outcome studies. No studies prospectively measured incidence of sexual violence, although three studies provided some evidence of reductions in association with firewood distribution to reduce women's exposure, as did one program to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping forces. Apparent increases to risk resulted from lack of protection, stigma and retaliation associated with interventions. Multiple-component interventions and sensitive community engagement appeared to contribute to positive outcomes. Significant obstacles prevent women seeking help following sexual violence, pointing to the need to protect anonymity and preventive strategies. This review contributes a conceptual framework for understanding the forms, settings, and interventions for conflict and crisis-related sexual violence. It points to the need for thorough implementation of initiatives that build on local capacity, while avoiding increased risk and re-traumatisation to survivors of sexual violence.
In 2007 Timor-Leste, a malaria endemic country, changed its Malaria Treatment Protocol for uncomplicated falciparum malaria from sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine to artemether-lumefantrine. The change in treatment policy was based on the rise in morbidity due to malaria and perception of increasing drug resistance. Despite a lack of nationally available evidence on drug resistance, the Ministry of Health decided to change the protocol. The policy process leading to this change was examined through a qualitative study on how the country developed its revised treatment protocol for malaria. This process involved many actors and was led by the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health and the WHO country office. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities identified during this period of treatment protocol change.
Evidence; Malaria treatment; Policy formulation; Policy process; Timor-Leste; Treatment protocol
To identify factors that have contributed to the systematic development of the Cambodian human resources for health (HRH) system with a focus on midwifery services in response to high maternal mortality in fragile resource-constrained countries.
Qualitative case study. Review of the published and grey literature and in-depth interviews with key informants and stakeholders using an HRH system conceptual framework developed by the authors (‘House Model’; Fujita et al, 2011). Interviews focused on the perceptions of respondents regarding their contributions to strengthening midwifery services and the other external influences which may have influenced the HRH system and reduction in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR).
Three rounds of interviews were conducted with senior and mid-level managers of the Ministries of Health (MoH) and Education, educational institutes and development partners.
A total of 49 interviewees, who were identified through a snowball sampling technique.
Main outcome measures
Scaling up the availability of 24 h maternal health services at all health centres contributing to MMR reduction.
The incremental development of the Cambodian HRH system since 2005 focused on the production, deployment and retention of midwives in rural areas as part of a systematic strategy to reduce maternal mortality. The improved availability and access to midwifery services contributed to significant MMR reduction. Other contributing factors included improved mechanisms for decision-making and implementation; political commitment backed up with necessary resources; leadership from the top along with a growing capacity of mid-level managers; increased MoH capacity to plan and coordinate; and supportive development partners in the context of a conducive external environment.
Lessons from this case study point to the importance of a systemic and comprehensive approach to health and HRH system strengthening and of ongoing capacity enhancement and leadership development to ensure effective planning, implementation and monitoring of HRH policies and strategies.
Cholera is newly emergent in Papua New Guinea but may soon become endemic. Identifying the risk factors for cholera provides evidence for targeted prevention and control measures.
We conducted a hospital-based case–control study to identify cholera risk factors. Using stool culture as the standard, we evaluated a cholera point of care test in the field.
176 participants were recruited: 54 cases and 122 controls. Independent risk factors for cholera were: being over 20 years of age (aOR 2.5; 95%CI 1.1, 5.4), defecating in the open air (or river) (aOR 4.5; 95% CI 1.4, 14.4) and knowing someone who travelled to a cholera affected area (aOR 4.1; 95%CI 1.6, 10.7); while the availability of soap for handwashing at home was protective (aOR 0.41; 95%CI 0.19, 0.87). Those reporting access to a piped water distribution system in the home were twice as likely to report the availability of soap for handwashing. The sensitivity and specificity of the rapid test were 72% (95% CI 47–90) and 71% (95%CI 44–90%).
Improving population access to the piped water distribution system and sanitation will likely reduce transmission by enabling enhanced hygiene and limiting the contamination of water sources. The One step V. cholerae O1/O139 Antigen Test is of limited utility for clinical decision making in a hospital setting with access to traditional laboratory methods. Settlement dwellers and mobile populations of all age groups should be targeted for interventions in Papua New Guinea.
Cholera; Risk factor; Sensitivity and specificity; Diagnostic accuracy; Rapid diagnostic test; Papua New Guinea
There has been increasing focus on the role of health systems in low and middle-income countries. Despite this, very little evidence exists on how best to build health systems program and research capacity in educational programs. The current experiences in building capacity in health systems in five of the most prominent global health programs at Australian universities are outlined. The strengths and weaknesses of various approaches and techniques are provided along with examples of global practice in order to provide a foundation for future discussion and thus improvements in global health systems education.
In 2003, Timor-Leste successfully obtained its first Global Fund grant for a three-year programme for malaria control. The grant aimed to reduce malaria-related morbidity and mortality by 30 % by the end of the implementation.
A mixed-methods approach was used to assess the impact of the grant implementation. Fifty-eight in-depth interviews, eight group interviews, 16 focus group discussions, and on-site observations were used. Morbidity data reported to the Ministry of Health were also examined to assess trends.
The National Malaria Programme with funding support from the Global Fund grant and other development partners contributed considerably to strengthening malaria control and the general health system. It also brought direct and indirect benefits to pregnant women and to the community at large. However, it failed to achieve the stated objective of reducing malaria morbidity and mortality by 30 %. The implementation was hampered by inadequate human resources, the rigidity of Global Fund rules, weak project management and coordination, and inadequate support from external stakeholders.
Despite limitations, the grant was implemented until the agreed closing date. Considerable contributions to malaria control, health system, and the community have been made and the malaria programme was sustained.
Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS; Tuberculosis and malaria; Malaria control; Capacity building; Health system; Additionality; Timor-Leste
Healthcare professionals’ participation in short-term medical missions to low and middle income countries (LMIC) to provide healthcare has become common over the past 50 years yet little is known about the quantity and quality of these missions. The aim of this study was to review medical mission publications over 25 years to better understand missions and their potential impact on health systems in LMICs.
A literature review was conducted by searching Medline for articles published from 1985–2009 about medical missions to LMICs, revealing 2512 publications. Exclusion criteria such as receiving country and mission length were applied, leaving 230 relevant articles. A data extraction sheet was used to collect information, including sending/receiving countries and funding source.
The majority of articles were descriptive and lacked contextual or theoretical analysis. Most missions were short-term (1 day – 1 month). The most common sending countries were the U.S. and Canada. The top destination country was Honduras, while regionally Africa received the highest number of missions. Health care professionals typically responded to presenting health needs, ranging from primary care to surgical relief. Cleft lip/palate surgeries were the next most common type of care provided.
Based on the articles reviewed, there is significant scope for improvement in mission planning, monitoring and evaluation as well as global and/or national policies regarding foreign medical missions. To promote optimum performance by mission staff, training in such areas as cross-cultural communication and contextual realities of mission sites should be provided. With the large number of missions conducted worldwide, efforts to ensure efficacy, harmonisation with existing government programming and transparency are needed.
medical missions; low- and middle-income countries; volunteer; human resources
Cuba has extended its medical cooperation to Pacific Island Countries (PICs) by supplying doctors to boost service delivery and offering scholarships for Pacific Islanders to study medicine in Cuba. Given the small populations of PICs, the Cuban engagement could prove particularly significant for health systems development in the region. This paper reviews the magnitude and form of Cuban medical cooperation in the Pacific and analyses its implications for health policy, human resource capacity and overall development assistance for health in the region.
We reviewed both published and grey literature on health workforce in the Pacific including health workforce plans and human resource policy documents. Further information was gathered through discussions with key stakeholders involved in health workforce development in the region.
Cuba formalised its relationship with PICs in September 2008 following the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting. Some 33 Cuban health personnel work in Pacific Island Countries and 177 Pacific island students are studying medicine in Cuba in 2010 with the most extensive engagement in Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The cost of the Cuban medical cooperation to PICs comes in the form of countries providing benefits and paying allowances to in-country Cuban health workers and return airfares for their students in Cuba. This has been seen by some PICs as a cheaper alternative to training doctors in other countries.
The Cuban engagement with PICs, while smaller than engagement with other countries, presents several opportunities and challenges for health system strengthening in the region. In particular, it allows PICs to increase their health workforce numbers at relatively low cost and extends delivery of health services to remote areas. A key challenge is that with the potential increase in the number of medical doctors, once the local students return from Cuba, some PICs may face substantial rises in salary expenditure which could significantly strain already stretched government budgets. Finally, the Cuban engagement in the Pacific has implications for the wider geo-political and health sector support environment as the relatively few major bilateral donors, notably Australia (through AusAID) and New Zealand (through NZAID), and multilaterals such as the World Bank will need to accommodate an additional player with whom existing links are limited.
Background Timor-Leste changed its malaria treatment protocol in 2007, replacing the first-line for falciparum malaria from sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine to artemether-lumefantrine. This study explored the factors affecting the implementation of the revised treatment protocol, with an emphasis on identifying key constraints.
Methods A mixed method approach drew on both qualitative and quantitative data. The study included data from District Health Services in seven districts, community health centres in 14 sub-districts, four hospitals, five private clinics, one private pharmacy and the country's autonomous medical store. In-depth interviews with 36 key informants, five group interviews and 15 focus group discussions were conducted. A survey was also undertaken at community health centres and hospitals to assess the availability of a physical copy of the Malaria Treatment Protocol, as well as the availability and utilization of artemether-lumefantrine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine.
Results Many factors impeded the implementation of the new malaria protocol. These included: inadequate introduction and training around the revised treatment protocol; unclear phasing out of sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine and phasing in of the revised treatment, artemether-lumefantrine, and the rapid diagnostic test (RDT); lack of supervision; lack of adherence to the revised guidelines by foreign health workers; lack of access to the new drug by the private sector; obstacles in the procurement process; and the use of trade names rather than generic drug description. Insufficient understanding of the rapid diagnostic test and the untimely supply of drugs further hampered implementation.
Conclusion To effectively implement a revised malaria treatment protocol, barriers should be identified during the policy formulation process and those emerging during implementation should be recognized promptly and addressed.
Malaria; treatment protocol; malaria treatment; plasmodium falciparum; sulphadoxine-pyremethamine (SP); artemether-lumefantrine (AL); policy implementation; implementation science; Timor-Leste
Noriko Fujita and colleagues offer a comprehensive framework for human resource system development, based upon experiences in three fragile and post-conflict health systems: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cambodia.
In the fourth article in a six-part PLoS Medicine series on Migration & Health, Zachary Steel and colleagues discuss the interception phase of migration and the specific health risks and policy needs associated with this phase.
Influenza; Shigella; shigellosis; viruses; bacteria; outbreak; Papua New Guinea; letter
cholera; emergence; outbreak; bacteria; Vibrio cholerae O1; New Guinea; letter
Antimicrobial drug resistance; Shigella; resistance; surveillance; bacteria; letter
To explore the relationship between child injury morbidity and socioeconomic status.
A cross‐sectional analysis of routinely collected hospital separation data for unintentional injury for the period 1999/2000–2004/2005.
All statistical local areas of New South Wales (NSW), Australia
110 549 unintentional injury‐related hospital separations for NSW children aged 0–14 years.
Main outcome measure
Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRs) for hospital separations for unintentional injury (for all injury and by individual injury mechanisms) by quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage for children aged 0–14 years.
There was no clear relationship between socioeconomic status and injury when all injury mechanisms were combined. However, children in the more disadvantaged quintiles were more likely to be hospitalized than children in the least disadvantaged quintile for the following injury mechanisms: motor cycle (point estimates for IRRs across the socioeconomic status quintiles ranged from 2.95 to 4.02 relative to the least disadvantaged quintile), motor‐vehicle occupant (IRR range 1.33–2.27), pedestrian (IRR range 1.43–2.54 for ages 0–4 years), pedal cyclist (IRR range 1.30–1.50), fire and burns (IRR range 1.37–2.00), and poisoning (IRR range 1.32–1.91). Similarly, hospital separation rates for foreign body, other transport, and pedestrian (aged 5–9 years) injuries were also greater, but the differences were not statistically significant across all quintiles. These injury mechanisms accounted for about 25% of the hospital separations.
The relationship between relative socioeconomic disadvantage and injury risk in NSW children is strongest for transport‐related injuries, fires and burns, and poisoning. Interventions that address these specific injury mechanisms may help to reduce the disparity between high and lower socioeconomic groups.
social class; socioeconomic factors; wounds and injuries; child; morbidity
Violence continues to grow as a priority for public health practitioners, particularly as its causes and consequences become better understood and the potential roles for public health are better articulated. This article provides the context to “Violence: a glossary (part 1)” published in the last issue of this journal, and updates some of the data, concepts and population approaches presented in the 2002 World report on violence and health. The paper addresses the following questions: What is the magnitude and global burden of injury from violence? What causes violence? Is resilience important? What is the role for public health? What are the key challenges and opportunities? We aim to engage the general reader and to increase understanding of violence as a potentially preventable issue.
violence; public health; prevention and control; intentional injury
Violence has been explicitly identified as a significant public health problem. This glossary clarifies widely used definitions and concepts of violence within the public health field, building on those promoted through the 2002 World Report on Violence and Health. We provide definitions and concepts that can be usefully applied to identify points for public health intervention to prevent the social and health impacts of violence.
violence; public health; prevention and control; intentional injury
Malaria is a major global health problem, often exacerbated by political instability, conflict, and forced migration.
To examine the impact of political upheaval and population displacement in Timor-Leste (2006) on malaria in the country.
Case study approach drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods including document reviews, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, site visits and analysis of routinely collected data.
The conflict had its most profound impact on Dili, the capital city, in which tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. The conflict interrupted routine malaria service programs and training, but did not lead to an increase in malaria incidence. Interventions covering treatment, insecticide treated nets (ITN) distribution, vector control, surveillance and health promotion were promptly organized for internally displaced people (IDPs) and routine health services were maintained. Vector control interventions were focused on IDP camps in the city rather than on the whole community. The crisis contributed to policy change with the introduction of Rapid Diagnostic Tests and artemether-lumefantrine for treatment.
Although the political crisis affected malaria programs there were no outbreaks of malaria. Emergency responses were quickly organized and beneficial long term changes in treatment and diagnosis were facilitated.
Better communication is often suggested as fundamental to increasing the use of research evidence in policy, but little is known about how researchers and policy makers work together or about barriers to exchange. This study explored the views and practice of policy makers and researchers regarding the use of evidence in policy, including: (i) current use of research to inform policy; (ii) dissemination of and access to research findings for policy; (iii) communication and exchange between researchers and policy makers; and (iv) incentives for increasing the use of research in policy.
Separate but similar interview schedules were developed for policy makers and researchers. Senior policy makers from NSW Health and senior researchers from public health and health service research groups in NSW were invited to participate. Consenting participants were interviewed by an independent research company.
Thirty eight policy makers (79% response rate) and 41 researchers (82% response rate) completed interviews. Policy makers reported rarely using research to inform policy agendas or to evaluate the impact of policy; research was used more commonly to inform policy content. Most researchers reported that their research had informed local policy, mainly by increasing awareness of an issue. Policy makers reported difficulty in accessing useful research syntheses, and only a third of researchers reported developing targeted strategies to inform policy makers of their findings. Both policy makers and researchers wanted more exchange and saw this as important for increasing the use of research evidence in policy; however, both groups reported a high level of involvement by policy makers in research.
Policy makers and researchers recognise the potential of research to contribute to policy and are making significant attempts to integrate research into the policy process. These findings suggest four strategies to assist in increasing the use of research in policy: making research findings more accessible to policy makers; increasing opportunities for interaction between policy makers and researchers; addressing structural barriers such as research receptivity in policy agencies and a lack of incentives for academics to link with policy; and increasing the relevance of research to policy.
Psychosocial and mental health needs in the aftermath of conflict and disaster have attracted substantial attention. In the Solomon Islands, the conceptualisation of mental health, for several decades regarded by policy makers as primarily a health issue, has broadened and been incorporated into the national development and social policy agendas, reflecting recognition of the impact of conflict and rapid social change on the psychosocial wellbeing of the community as a whole. We sought to understand how mental health and psychosocial wellbeing were seen at the community level, the extent to which these issues were identified as being associated with periods of 'tension', violence and instability, and the availability of traditional approaches and Ministry of Health services to address these problems.
This article reports the findings of qualitative research conducted in a rural district on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Key informant interviews were conducted with community leaders, and focus groups were held with women, men and young people. Wellbeing was defined broadly.
Problems of common concern included excessive alcohol and marijuana use, interpersonal violence and abuse, teenage pregnancy, and lack of respect and cooperation. Troubled individuals and their families sought help for mental problems from various sources including chiefs, church leaders and traditional healers and, less often, trauma support workers, health clinic staff and police. Substance-related problems presented special challenges, as there were no traditional solutions at the individual or community level. Severe mental illness was also a challenge, with few aware that a community mental health service existed. Contrary to our expectations, conflict-related trauma was not identified as a major problem by the community who were more concerned about the economic and social sequelae of the conflict.
Communities identify and are responding to a wide range of mental health challenges; the health system generally can do more to learn about how this is being done, and build more comprehensive services and policy on this foundation. The findings underscore the need to promote awareness of those services which are available, to extend mental health care beyond urban centres to rural villages where the majority of the population live, and to promote community input to policy so as to ensure that it 'fits' the context.