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author:("galway, Sarah")
1.  A quantitative exploration of the sociocultural context of teenage pregnancy in Sri Lanka 
In common with other countries, teenage pregnancy is attracting policy attention in Sri Lanka because of the risks it poses to maternal and infant health and social and economic well-being. This study aimed to increase understanding of the context of teenage pregnancy, by (1) describing the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of pregnant teenagers and their partners; (2) exploring whether teenage pregnancies are planned and how they are received; and (3) exploring factors associated with unplanned teenage pregnancy.
A population health-register based sample survey was conducted in Badulla District, Sri Lanka. Interviewer-administered questionnaires were administered to two samples: 450 pregnant women aged less than 20 years; and 150 male partners of pregnant women aged less than 20 years. Bivariate statistics described the characteristics and context of teenage pregnancy. Multivariate logistic regression explored correlates of unplanned pregnancy.
Over 60% of pregnant teenagers and male partners indicated that the current pregnancy was planned; while 79% of pregnant teenagers and 85% of male partners welcomed the pregnancy. Most pregnant teenagers were living within stable and supportive family environments, with 94% reporting that they felt ‘very well supported’. Nevertheless, a sub-group of pregnant teenagers appeared to be vulnerable, reporting unplanned and unhappy pregnancy; factors that were also associated with first intercourse being reported as not wanted. Levels of reproductive and contraceptive knowledge were poor among both pregnant teenagers and male partners. Just 46% of teenagers and 64% of male partners knew that pregnancy was possible at first intercourse. Mothers appear to be an important source of information and support for young women, with peers being reported far less often.
Intervention to reduce teenage pregnancy must recognise the normative nature of early childbearing for the majority of girls who currently conceive and their families. Avoiding such pregnancies will require a fundamental shift in life chances such that delaying pregnancy offers significant socioeconomic advantages. Meanwhile, improved provision of contraceptive information and services is needed to support the delay of second pregnancies for young mothers. In addition, strategies to identify and protect those girls who are vulnerable to unwanted sexual activity are needed.
PMCID: PMC4266962  PMID: 25475411
2.  Prospects for progress on health inequalities in England in the post-primary care trust era: professional views on challenges, risks and opportunities 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:274.
Addressing health inequalities remains a prominent policy objective of the current UK government, but current NHS reforms involve a significant shift in roles and responsibilities. Clinicians are now placed at the heart of healthcare commissioning through which significant inequalities in access, uptake and impact of healthcare services must be addressed. Questions arise as to whether these new arrangements will help or hinder progress on health inequalities. This paper explores the perspectives of experienced healthcare professionals working within the commissioning arena; many of whom are likely to remain key actors in this unfolding scenario.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 professionals involved with health and social care commissioning at national and local levels. These included representatives from the Department of Health, Primary Care Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities, Local Authorities, and third sector organisations.
In general, respondents lamented the lack of progress on health inequalities during the PCT commissioning era, where strong policy had not resulted in measurable improvements. However, there was concern that GP-led commissioning will fare little better, particularly in a time of reduced spending. Specific concerns centred on: reduced commitment to a health inequalities agenda; inadequate skills and loss of expertise; and weakened partnership working and engagement. There were more mixed opinions as to whether GP commissioners would be better able than their predecessors to challenge large provider trusts and shift spend towards prevention and early intervention, and whether GPs’ clinical experience would support commissioning action on inequalities. Though largely pessimistic, respondents highlighted some opportunities, including the potential for greater accountability of healthcare commissioners to the public and more influential needs assessments via emergent Health & Wellbeing Boards.
There is doubt about the ability of GP commissioners to take clearer action on health inequalities than PCTs have historically achieved. Key actors expect the contribution from commissioning to address health inequalities to become even more piecemeal in the new arrangements, as it will be dependent upon the interest and agency of particular individuals within the new commissioning groups to engage and influence a wider range of stakeholders.
PMCID: PMC3621701  PMID: 23530661
Commissioning; Health inequalities; NHS; General practitioners; CCG; Restructuring
3.  Addressing disparities in maternal health care in Pakistan: gender, class and exclusion 
After more than two decades of the Safe Motherhood Initiative and Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing maternal mortality, women continue to die in childbirth at unacceptably high rates in Pakistan. While an extensive literature describes various programmatic strategies, it neglects the rigorous analysis of the reasons these strategies have been unsuccessful, especially for women living at the economic and social margins of society. A critical gap in current knowledge is a detailed understanding of the root causes of disparities in maternal health care, and in particular, how gender and class influence policy formulation and the design and delivery of maternal health care services. Taking Pakistan as a case study, this research builds upon two distinct yet interlinked conceptual approaches to understanding the phenomenon of inequity in access to maternal health care: social exclusion and health systems as social institutions.
This four year project consists of two interrelated modules that focus on two distinct groups of participants: (1) poor, disadvantaged women and men and (2) policy makers, program managers and health service providers. Module one will employ critical ethnography to understand the key axes of social exclusion as related to gender, class and zaat and how they affect women’s experiences of using maternal health care. Through health care setting observations, interviews and document review, Module two will assess policy design and delivery of maternal health services.
This research will provide theoretical advances to enhance understanding of the power dynamics of gender and class that may underlie poor women’s marginalization from health care systems in Pakistan. It will also provide empirical evidence to support formulation of maternal health care policies and health care system practices aimed at reducing disparities in maternal health care in Pakistan. Lastly, it will enhance inter-disciplinary research capacity in the emerging field of social exclusion and maternal health and help reduce social inequities and achieve the Millennium Development Goal No. 5.
PMCID: PMC3490894  PMID: 22871056
Social exclusion; Maternal health; Gender; Caste system; Pakistan; Health care system; Class; Health policy; Pregnancy and childbirth; Antenatal care
4.  Principles for research on ethnicity and health: the Leeds Consensus Statement 
Background: There is substantial evidence that health and health-care experiences vary along ethnic lines and the need to understand and tackle ethnic health inequalities has repeatedly been highlighted. Research into ethnicity and health raises ethical, theoretical and methodological issues and, as the volume of research in this area grows, so too do concerns regarding its scientific rigour and reporting, and its contribution to reducing inequalities. Guidance may be helpful in encouraging researchers to adopt standard practices in the design, conduct and reporting of research. However, past efforts at introducing such guidance have had limited impact on research practice, and the diversity of disciplinary perspectives on the key challenges and solutions may undermine attempts to derive and promote guiding principles. Methods: A consensus building Delphi exercise—the first of its kind in this area of research practice—was undertaken with leading academics, practitioners and policymakers from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds to assess whether consensus on key principles could be achieved. Results: Ten key principles for conducting research on ethnicity and health emerged, covering: the aims of research in this field; how such research should be framed and focused; key design-related considerations; and the direction of future research. Despite some areas of dispute, participants were united by a common concern that the generation and application of research evidence should contribute to better health-care experiences and health outcomes for minority ethnic people. Conclusion: The principles provide a strong foundation to guide future ethnicity-related research and build a broader international consensus.
PMCID: PMC3662014  PMID: 22552261
5.  Maternal deaths in Pakistan: intersection of gender, caste, and social exclusion 
A key aim of countries with high maternal mortality rates is to increase availability of competent maternal health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet, despite significant investment, countries with the highest burdens have not reduced their rates to the expected levels. We argue, taking Pakistan as a case study, that improving physical availability of services is necessary but not sufficient for reducing maternal mortality because gender inequities interact with caste and poverty to socially exclude certain groups of women from health services that are otherwise physically available.
Using a critical ethnographic approach, two case studies of women who died during childbirth were pieced together from information gathered during the first six months of fieldwork in a village in Northern Punjab, Pakistan.
Shida did not receive the necessary medical care because her heavily indebted family could not afford it. Zainab, a victim of domestic violence, did not receive any medical care because her martial family could not afford it, nor did they think she deserved it. Both women belonged to lower caste households, which are materially poor households and socially constructed as inferior.
The stories of Shida and Zainab illustrate how a rigidly structured caste hierarchy, the gendered devaluing of females, and the reinforced lack of control that many impoverished women experience conspire to keep women from lifesaving health services that are physically available and should be at their disposal.
PMCID: PMC3247835  PMID: 22165862
6.  Contributions and challenges of cross-national comparative research in migration, ethnicity and health: insights from a preliminary study of maternal health in Germany, Canada and the UK 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:514.
Public health researchers are increasingly encouraged to establish international collaborations and to undertake cross-national comparative studies. To-date relatively few such studies have addressed migration, ethnicity and health, but their number is growing. While it is clear that divergent approaches to such comparative research are emerging, public health researchers have not so far given considered attention to the opportunities and challenges presented by such work. This paper contributes to this debate by drawing on the experience of a recent study focused on maternal health in Canada, Germany and the UK.
The paper highlights various ways in which cross-national comparative research can potentially enhance the rigour and utility of research into migration, ethnicity and health, including by: forcing researchers to engage in both ideological and methodological critical reflexivity; raising awareness of the socially and historically embedded nature of concepts, methods and generated 'knowledge'; increasing appreciation of the need to situate analyses of health within the wider socio-political setting; helping researchers (and research users) to see familiar issues from new perspectives and find innovative solutions; encouraging researchers to move beyond fixed 'groups' and 'categories' to look at processes of identification, inclusion and exclusion; promoting a multi-level analysis of local, national and global influences on migrant/minority health; and enabling conceptual and methodological development through the exchange of ideas and experience between diverse research teams. At the same time, the paper alerts researchers to potential downsides, including: significant challenges to developing conceptual frameworks that are meaningful across contexts; a tendency to reify concepts and essentialise migrant/minority 'groups' in an effort to harmonize across countries; a danger that analyses are superficial, being restricted to independent country descriptions rather than generating integrated insights; difficulties of balancing the need for meaningful findings at country level and more holistic products; and increased logistical complexity and costs.
In view of these pros and cons, the paper encourages researchers to reflect more on the rationale for, feasibility and likely contribution of proposed cross-national comparative research that engages with migration, ethnicity and health and suggests some principles that could support such reflection.
PMCID: PMC3146864  PMID: 21714893
7.  Improving capacity in ethnicity and health research: report of a tailored programme for NHS Public Health practitioners 
To determine whether an intervention designed to enhance research capacity among commissioners in the area of ethnicity and health was feasible and impactful, and to identify programme elements that might usefully be replicated elsewhere.
How healthcare commissioners should be equipped to understand and address multiethnic needs has received little attention to-date. Being able to mobilise and apply evidence is a central element of the commissioning process that requires development. Researching ethnicity and health is widely recognised as challenging and several prior interventions have aimed to enhance competence in this area. These have, however, predominantly taken place in North America and have not been evaluated in detail.
An innovative research capacity development programme was delivered to public health staff within a large healthcare commissioning organisation in England. Evaluation methodology drew on ‘pluralistic’ evaluation principles and included formative and summative elements. Participant evaluation forms gave immediate feedback during the programme. Participants also provided feedback at two weeks and 12 months after the programme ended. In addition, one participant and one facilitator provided reflective accounts of the programme's strengths and weaknesses, and programme impact was traced through ongoing partnership work.
The programme was well received and had a tangible impact on knowledge, confidence and practice for most participants. Factors important to success included: embedding learning within the participants’ work context; ensuring a balance between theory and practical tips to enhance confidence; and having sustained interaction between trainers and participants. Despite positive signs, the challenging nature of the topic was highlighted, as were wider structural and cultural factors that impede progress in this area. Although it is unrealistic to expect such programmes to have a major impact on commissioning practices, they may well make an important contribution to raising the confidence and competence of staff to undertake work in this area.
PMCID: PMC3757367  PMID: 22883709
ethnicity; evidence mobilisation; health inequalities; public health practitioners; research capacity development

Results 1-7 (7)