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1.  Data verification at health centers and district health offices in Xiengkhouang and Houaphanh Provinces, Lao PDR 
Background
Routine health information is an essential health system building block. In low and low-middle income countries however, concerns about the quality of routine administrative data have often undermined their use. The purpose of the present study was to verify the data availability, and consistency of six key maternal and child health indicators (first antenatal care, fourth antenatal care, skilled birth attendants, postnatal care, ‘Bacillus Calmette Guerin and diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus third dose).
Methods
The study collected data for the identified indicators in 2011 from Xiengkhouang and Houaphanh provinces in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). The data came from health centres (N = 109), sub-districts (N = 26) and district health offices (N = 16). Core indicators were calculated using numerators and denominators from the different data sources at the district and health centre level and standardized statistical tests performed.
Results
The study revealed that data for the six indicators were either not available or not complete in the service logbooks or registers in most of the health centres. Furthermore, few health centres kept the data for up to five years, often destroying it once the report had been sent to the district health office. In addition, there was limited numerator consistency between the different data sources.
Conclusion
Data on the six indicators collected and reported in the public health system across the two provinces lacked completeness, accuracy and consistency. To improve the quality of data, there is a need to train health centre staff in data collection and recording as well as ensuring there is adequate monitoring and supervision. A uniform national standardized form is also necessary with findings shared with district health offices and centres. Additionally, staff should be encouraged to own and value local data.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-255
PMCID: PMC4118319  PMID: 24929940
Data verification; Indicators; Health information system; Lao PDR
2.  Awareness and attitudes towards emergency contraceptive pills among young people in the entertainment places, Vientiane City, Lao PDR 
BMC Women's Health  2013;13:14.
Background
Emergency Contraception is not officially available to the public sector in Laos. The potential of emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies is well documented in developed countries, but in Laos no studies of ECPs exist. This study aimed to assess knowledge of and attitudes towards emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) in Vientiane, the capital city of the Lao PDR.
Methods
A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 500 young adults in entertainment venues by using the convenience sampling between May to July, 2007. Data were obtained through face-to-face interview. Participants were asked about socio- demographic characteristics, knowledge, attitudes related to ECPs, and source of information about ECPs. Data analysis was performed with chi-square test and logistic regression (p < .05).
Results
Only 22.4 percent of respondents had heard of ECPs and of these only 17.9 percent knew the correct time-frame for effective use. Most of the respondents (85%) agreed on the need for ECPs to be available in Laos and 66.8 percent stated that they would use them should the need arise, if they were available. Among those who said they would not use ECPs, 63.8 percent were concerned about possible health effects, or other side effects. Awareness of ECPs was associated with increasing age (OR = 2.78, p = .025) and male sex (OR = 2.91, p = .010).
Conclusions
There is needed to provide effective health education about the method, timing of use, and how to obtain ECPs through both informal, peer channels, and also through formal channels such as health care providers.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-14
PMCID: PMC3606843  PMID: 23514104
3.  Health policymakers’ knowledge and opinions of physicians smoking and tobacco policy control in Lao PDR 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:816.
Background
In 2007, a regulation on smoke-free health facilities and institutions was adopted by the Lao government. Little is known about health policymakers’ knowledge and opinions regarding tobacco policy control, including physicians’ behaviour. This paper aims to describe the knowledge of Lao health policymakers and their opinions regarding physicians tobacco use and national smoking policy control.
Methods
In 2007, we made a qualitative explorative study with data from a purposive sample of 18 key informants through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. The key informants, who were heads of departments, directors of hospitals and directors of centres, mainly worked at the national level, and some provincial levels. Content analysis was used.
Results
Policymakers perceived the inadequate implementation of a smoke-free regulation and policy as being a barrier and that the general public may not accept physicians smoking, since they are regarded as role models. Most of the respondents mentioned that regulations or laws related to control of smoking in health institutions are available in Laos, but they lacked detailed knowledge of them probably because regulations as well as the smoke-free policy documents were not widely disseminated. The respondents agreed that anti-smoking education should be integrated in the training curricula, especially in the medical schools, and that the provision of counselling on health consequences from smoking and methods of smoking cessation was important.
Conclusion
This study contributes to tobacco policy evidence and to knowledge regarding factors related to the uptake of evidence into policymaking. Dissemination and implementation of a tobacco control policy nationally, and integration of tobacco cessation training programs in the curricula were found to be productive approaches for improvement.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-816
PMCID: PMC3503788  PMID: 22998748
Health policymaker; Opinion; Smoking; Medical doctor; Low-income country
4.  Reasons rural Laotians choose home deliveries over delivery at health facilities: a qualitative study 
Background
Maternal mortality among poor rural women in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is among the highest in Southeast Asia, in part because only 15% give birth at health facilities. This study explored why women and their families prefer home deliveries to deliveries at health facilities.
Methods
A qualitative study was conducted from December 2008 to February 2009 in two provinces of Lao PDR. Data was collected through eight focus group discussions (FGD) as well as through in-depth interviews with 12 mothers who delivered at home during the last year, eight husbands and eight grandmothers, involving a total of 71 respondents. Content analysis was used to analyze the FGD and interview transcripts.
Results
Obstacles to giving birth at health facilities included: (1) Distance to the health facilities and difficulties and costs of getting there; (2) Attitudes, quality of care, and care practices at the health facilities, including a horizontal birth position, episiotomies, lack of privacy, and the presence of male staff; (3) The wish to have family members nearby and the need for women to be close to their other children and the housework; and (4) The wish to follow traditional birth practices such as giving birth in a squatting position and lying on a “hot bed” after delivery. The decision about where to give birth was commonly made by the woman’s husband, mother, mother-in-law or other relatives in consultation with the woman herself.
Conclusion
This study suggests that the preference in rural Laos for giving birth at home is due to convenience, cost, comfort and tradition. In order to assure safer births and reduce rural Lao PDR’s high maternal mortality rate, health centers could consider accommodating the wishes and traditional practices of many rural Laotians: allowing family in the birthing rooms; allowing traditional practices; and improving attitudes among staff. Traditional birth attendants, women, and their families could be taught and encouraged to recognize the signs of at-risk pregnancies so as to be able to reach health facilities on time.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-86
PMCID: PMC3449206  PMID: 22925107
5.  Smoking among Lao medical doctors: challenges and opportunities for tobacco control 
Tobacco Control  2010;20(2):144-150.
Background
Smoking is an increasing threat to health in low-income and middle-income countries and doctors are recognised as important role models in anti-smoking campaigns.
Objectives
The study aimed to identify the smoking prevalence of medical doctors in Laos, their tobacco-related knowledge and attitudes, and their involvement in and capacity for tobacco prevention and control efforts.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional national survey by a researcher-administered, face-to-face questionnaire implemented at provincial health facilities throughout the central (including national capital), northern and southern regions of Laos in 2007. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used.
Results
Of the 855 participants surveyed, 9.2% were current smokers and 18.4% were ex-smokers; smoking was least common in the central region (p<0.05) and far more prevalent in males (17.3% vs 0.4%; p<0.001). Smoking was concentrated among older doctors (p <0.001). Over 84% of current smokers wanted to quit, and 74.7% had made a recent serious attempt to do so. Doctors had excellent knowledge and positive attitudes to tobacco control, although smokers were relatively less knowledgeable and positive on some items. While 78% of doctors were engaged in cessation support, just 24% had been trained to do so, and a mere 8.8% considered themselves ‘well prepared’.
Conclusion
The willingness of doctors to take up their tobacco control role and the lower smoking rates among younger respondents offers an important window of opportunity to consolidate their knowledge, attitudes, skills and enthusiasm as cessation advocates and supports.
doi:10.1136/tc.2009.035196
PMCID: PMC3045523  PMID: 21106548
Medical doctors; smoking; Lao PDR; tobacco control; prevalence; knowledge; determinants; advocacy; cessation; prevalence
6.  Policy maker and provider knowledge and attitudes regarding the provision of emergency contraceptive pills within Lao PDR 
Background
The Ministry of Health (MOH) launched the National Reproductive Health Policy in 2005, which included recommendations regarding the use of emergency contraceptive pills (ECP). However, ECP have not yet been introduced officially in the public sector of the Lao PDR. Thus, their availability is limited. Understanding the knowledge of ECP and attitudes about their provision, barriers to use, and availability among health providers and policy makers is essential to successfully incorporate ECP into reproductive health services.
Methods
Qualitative research methods using in-depth interviews were employed to collect data from policy makers and health providers (auxiliary medical staff, nurses, and medical doctors). Altogether, 10 policy makers, 22 public providers, and 10 providers at private clinics were interviewed. Content analysis was applied to analyze the transcribed data.
Results
The majority of policy makers and health care providers had heard about ECP and supported their introduction in the public sector. However, their knowledge was poor, many expressed inconsistent attitudes, and their ability to meet the demand of potential users is limited.
Conclusions
There is a need to train health providers and policy makers on emergency contraception and improve their knowledge about ECP, especially regarding the correct timing of use and the availability of methods. In addition, the general public must be informed of the attributes, side effects, and availability of ECP, and policy makers must facilitate the approval of ECP by the Lao Food and Drug Administration. These interventions could lead to increased access to and demand for ECP.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-212
PMCID: PMC2914037  PMID: 20642863

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