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1.  Provider perspectives on constraints in providing maternal, neonatal and child health services in the Lao People’s democratic republic: a qualitative study 
Background
To reduce its high maternal and neonatal mortality rate and meet Millennium Development Goals four and five, Lao PDR has adopted a national ‘Strategy and Planning Framework of Implementation of Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services’. This paper reports on implementation constraints identified in three demonstration sites.
Methods
The objectives of this paper are to analyse health worker perceptions of the implementation of the strategy and constraints faced during implementation. A qualitative design was used with interviews conducted at health facilities in three demonstration provinces. Data were collected through key interviews with provincial/district hospital providers (n = 27), health centre staff (n = 8) and village health volunteers (n = 10). Data was analysed informed by Hanson et al’s health system constraint framework.
Results
In each of the demonstration sites, the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health program was generally well-understood and the different activities were being implemented. Perceived implementation constraints related mainly to a mix of supply and demand factors. Supply-side constraints related to inadequate human resources, poor remuneration, weak technical guidance, minimal supervision and limited equipment. Demand-side constraints related mainly to cost, limited access to transport, cultural practices and language. Other constraints related to broader strategic management and cross-sectoral contextual constraints. Contextual constraints included low levels of limited education, women’s position in society and poor transport and communications networks. These factors influenced the implementation process and if not addressed, may reduce the effectiveness of the policy and scale-up.
Conclusion
The Lao PDR has a well-defined Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health program. Analysis of the constraints experienced by service providers in implementing the program however, is essential for scaling-up the initiative. To achieve effective implementation and scale-up a number of concurrent interventions are needed to address identified constraints. More research is needed to identify the optimal combination of interventions to improve these constraints. The broader contextual characteristics require longer-term, cross-sectoral action.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-243
PMCID: PMC3879427  PMID: 24373604
2.  Risk perceptions of STIs/HIV and sexual risk behaviours among sexually experienced adolescents in the Northern part of Lao PDR 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1126.
Background
Young people in Laos are more vulnerable to STIs/HIV due to their sexual risk behaviours, low perceptions of risk and their socio-cultural environments. Perceived risk of contracting STIs/HIV is crucial for the assessment of their risk regarding their actual sexual risk behaviors. Thus, the objective of this paper is to explore perceptions of risk related to STIs/HIV and identify factors associated with this perceived risk among adolescents.
Methods
This was a cross sectional study of sexually experienced adolescents aged 14 to 19 years old in the Luangnamtha province. The multistage sampling techniques were used for selecting 1008 adolescents aged 14-19 years old. Of these, 483 respondents reported having had sexual experience was selected for analysis. Univariate and Logistic regression were performed.
Result
Six per cent of respondents reported ever having had anal sex. Slightly less than two thirds initiated their first sexual intercourse before age 15. Two thirds of the sexually experienced males reported two or more sexual partners during their lifetime with the mean 3.1 + 3.65 while only twelve per cent of girls reported this cumulative number of partners. Slightly more than half (57.6%) regarded themselves to have no risk at all with 17.2 per cent considered themselves to have low risk. Respondents had poor knowledge on STIs/HIV. Factors associated with risk perception of getting STIs were: being male, high level of knowledge about STIs and having had symptoms of STIs in last six months. Perceived risk of getting HIV was significantly associated with being male, having more knowledge about STIs and HIV.
Conclusion
Adolescents in this study engaged in sexual risk behaviours, but they have low perception of risk getting STI/HIV. Socio-demographic factors, knowledge of STIs/HIV, and the level of exposure to STIs were the main determinants of the risk perception of STIs/HIV. Our finding supports the need to target adolescents in Luangnamtha province for HIV prevention intervention by addressing inaccurate perception of risk and increasing their knowledge on STIs/HIV.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1126
PMCID: PMC3890592  PMID: 24304698
Risk perceptions; Sexual risk behaviors; Luangnamtha province; Lao PDR
3.  Cross-sectional survey: smoking among medical, pharmacy, dental and nursing students, University of Health Sciences, Lao PDR 
BMJ Open  2013;3(8):e003042.
Objectives
To investigate the prevalence of and attitudes to smoking among third year medical, pharmacy, dentistry and nursing students in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).
Design
A cross-sectional survey conducted among third year university level, health professional students. The survey used a self-administered questionnaire which was originally developed by WHO, and modified to suit the setting.
Setting
The setting was the University of Health Sciences in Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR. Participants were recruited from the Faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing. At the time of the survey, 521 third year students were enrolled.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
The primary outcome measure was prevalence of current cigarette smoking and other tobacco use. Smoking status was categorised as: current smoker, ex-smoker and non-smoker with current smokers defined as those who had smoked cigarettes or used other tobacco on one or more days during the previous 30 days.
Results
In total, 506 respondents completed the questionnaire, giving a response rate of 97.1% to 98.5% across the different faculties. Overall smoking prevalence was 5.07% (95% CI 3.2% to 7.1%), which is lower than previously reported national prevalence rates. Women reported smoking less than men did (OR=0.56, 95% CI=0.013 to 0.242; p=0.003). The majority of students supported tobacco control measures. The number of people who reported receiving formal training in tobacco cessation counselling ranged from 10.9% (95% CI 5.3% to 19.1%) among nursing students to 51.1% (95% CI 40.4% to 61.7%) among medical students.
Conclusions
Smoking prevalence among this cohort was relatively low. Students were supportive of tobacco control policies. Further research is needed to understand what is working in this context, in order to apply lessons learnt in similar settings. In the meantime, health professional students should be provided health education to discourage tobacco use. Information on tobacco control policies needs to be more widely disseminated.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003042
PMCID: PMC3758981  PMID: 23996817
EPIDEMIOLOGY; PUBLIC HEALTH; SOCIAL MEDICINE
4.  Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) among People Living With HIV (PLHIV): a cross-sectional survey to measure in Lao PDR 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:617.
Rationale
Since 2001, antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV (PLHIV) has been available in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). A key factor in the effectiveness of ART is good adherence to the prescribed regimen for both individual well-being and public health. Poor adherence can contribute to the emergence of drug resistant strains of the virus and transmission during risky behaviors. Increased access to ART in low-income country settings has contributed to an interest in treatment adherence in resource–poor contexts. This study aims to investigate the proportion of adherence to ART and identify possible factors related to non-adherence to ART among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Lao PDR.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted with adults living with HIV receiving free ART at Setthathirath hospital in the capital Vientiane and Savannakhet provincial hospitals from June to November 2011. Three hundred and forty six PLHIV were interviewed using an anonymous questionnaire. The estimation of the adherence rate was based on the information provided by the PLHIV about the intake of medicine during the previous three days. The statistical software Epidata 3.1 and Stata 10.1 were used for data analysis. Frequencies and distribution of each variable were calculated by conventional statistical methods. The chi square test, Mann–Whitney test and logistic regression were used for bivariate analyses. Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine the predictors of non-adherence to ART. A p-value < 0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance.
Results
Of a total of 346 patients, 60% reported more than 95% adherence to ART. Reasons for not taking medicine as required were being busy (97.0%), and being forgetful (62.2%). In the multivariate analysis, educational level at secondary school (OR=3.7, 95% CI:1.3-10.1, p=0.012); illicit drug use (OR=16.1, 95% CI:1.9-128.3, p=0.011); dislike exercise (OR=0.6, 95% CI:0.4-0.9, p=0.028), and forgetting to take ARV medicine during the last month (OR=2.3, 95% CI:1.4-3.7, p=0.001) were independently associated with non-adherence.
Conclusions
Non-adherence to ART was associated with individual factors and exposure to ART. Priority measures to increase adherence to ART should aim to intensify counseling and comprehensive interventions, such as guidance for PLHIV on medication self-management skills, tailoring the regimen to the PLHIV life style, and improving adherence monitoring and health care services.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-617
PMCID: PMC3707741  PMID: 23809431
Antiretroviral therapy; Adherence; PLWHIV; Self-report; Lao PDR
5.  Respiratory illness healthcare-seeking behavior assessment in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:444.
Background
Respiratory illness (RI) remains a public health problem in Laos, but little is known about the overall burden and people’s healthcare-seeking behavior for RI. Understanding the burden of RI and community patterns of healthcare-seeking behavior would provide better guidance for Lao public health program and policy planners to improve RI public health practice, surveillance systems, and prevention strategies.
Methods
A quantitative and qualitative survey was conducted in 14 randomly selected villages of two purposively selected peri-urban and two rural provinces in Laos. A pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaire was used to collect information on RI in household members (defined as new fever with cough and/or sore-throat in the absence of other diagnoses during the preceding 30 days) from all heads of household in each village. Sixteen focus group discussions were conducted to obtain more information to support the quantitative survey.
Results
Among 1,751 households (9,114 people) studied, 3.5% (317/9,114) had experienced RI (fever, cough, and/or sore-throat) in the 30 days before the survey [6.2% in rural and 2.4% in peri-urban areas (p<0.001)]. The percentage of RI among persons aged ≥15 years was 2.7%, 3.7% for those aged 5 – 14 years, and 8.2% for children < 5 years (p<0.001). Of all sick persons, 71% sought treatment [94% in peri-urban and 48% in rural areas (p<0.001)] and 31.5% of them self-medicated [55.5% in peri-urban and 29% in rural areas (p<0.001)]. Sick people in peri-urban areas preferred to chose private clinics and pharmacies as their first treatment option while in rural areas they frequently consulted with village health volunteers and visited health centres as their first choice. The qualitative study suggests that distance, costs of care, and service availability are the most important determinants of seeking healthcare.
Conclusions
The RI burden and healthcare-seeking behavior are different between rural and peri-urban areas of Laos and this is probably due to the differences in environmental and hygienic conditions, health service availability and socio-economic status between the two areas. Therefore strategies for healthcare service improvement may also need to differ between the two areas.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-444
PMCID: PMC3689642  PMID: 23642240
Respiratory illness; Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Laos
6.  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
7.  ‘Health is wealth and wealth is health’ – perceptions of health and ill-health among female sex workers in Savannakhet, Laos 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19080.
Background
Female sex workers (FSWs) are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other types of health problems and they also encounter socio-economic difficulties. Efforts to develop effective health intervention programs for FSWs have been hampered by a lack of information on why FSWs do not seek or delay seeking treatment for STIs. To further understand their reasons, our study applied a qualitative approach to explore perceptions of health and ill-health among FSWs in Savannakhet province in Laos.
Methods
Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted with FSWs in Savannakhet province. Latent content analysis was used for analysis.
Results
Sex workers’ definitions of health and wealth are intertwined. Thus, good health was described as strongly related to wealth, and wealth was needed in order to be healthy. This is explained in two sub-themes: health is necessary for work and income and ill-health creates social and economic vulnerability.
Conclusions
Female sex workers’ beliefs and perceptions about health and ill-health were dominated by their economic need, which in turn was influenced by expectations and demands from their families.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19080
PMCID: PMC3536938  PMID: 23336614
perception; health; ill-health; female sex worker; Laos
8.  Risks, benefits and survival strategies-views from female sex workers in Savannakhet, Laos 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1004.
Background
Female sex workers (FSWs) are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and encounter socio-economic and health problems, including STIs/HIV, unintended pregnancy and complications from unsafe abortion, stigma, violence, and drug addiction. Reducing risks associated with sex work requires an understanding of the social and cultural context in which sex workers live and work. This study aimed to explore the working environment and perceived risks among FSWs in Savannakhet province in Laos.
Methods
Five focus group discussions (FGDs) and seven interviews were conducted with FSWs in Kaysone Phomvihan district in Laos. Latent content analysis was used to analyze the transcribed text.
Results
The results revealed that the FSWs were aware of risks but they also talked about benefits related to their work. The risks were grouped into six categories: STIs/HIV, unintended pregnancy, stigma, violence, being cheated, and social and economic insecurity. The reported benefits were financial security, fulfilling social obligations, and sexual pleasure. The FSWs reported using a number of strategies to reduce risks and increase benefits.
Conclusions
The desire to be self-sufficient and earn as much money as possible put the FSWs in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. Fear of financial insecurity, obligations to support one’s family and the need to secure the future influenced FSWs’ decisions to have safe or unsafe sex. The FSWs were, however, not only victims. They also had some control over their lives and working environment, with most viewing their work as an easy and good way of earning money.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1004
PMCID: PMC3507866  PMID: 23164407
Risk; Benefit; Female sex worker; Savannakhet; Laos
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Defining and redefining harm reduction in the Lao context 
The response to drug use in Laos has focused on reducing opium supply (supply reduction) and rates of drug use (demand reduction). However, recently there is increased interest among government counterparts to discuss and develop broader responses to injecting drug use (IDU) including the introduction of harm reduction programs. The concept of harm reduction has just been introduced to Lao PDR and as yet there is no agreement on a definition of the concept. We highlight here a range of issues that remain controversial in Lao PDR in the HIV, drug use and harm reduction discourse, the definition of 'harm reduction' and related terms; and the scope of harm reduction.
This was a qualitative study, consisting of in-depth interviews with 27 law enforcement and 8 health officers who work in the fields of HIV and/or drug control about their understanding of HIV related to drug use, and concepts of harm reduction. Content analysis was performed to identify the coding, categories and themes.
We found that law enforcement officers in particular had limited understanding about harm reduction and the feasibility and appropriateness of harm reduction services in the Lao context.
Harm reduction should be a core element of a public health response to HIV where drug use and IDU exists. Recommendations include the necessity of increasing the awareness of harm reduction among law enforcement officers and providing appropriate evidence to support the needs of harm reduction policy and programs. HIV prevention and treatment strategies should be integrated within existing social and cultural frameworks, working with the task force for HIV/IDU and other government counterparts.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-28
PMCID: PMC3404925  PMID: 22769736
12.  Laos case study 
Peuan Mit is a Lao organization working to address the needs of children and youth living and working on the streets. This case study outlines how a trusted and strong relationship with local police provides mutual benefit.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-29
PMCID: PMC3413566  PMID: 22769869
13.  Care seeking behaviour and barriers to accessing services for sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers in Laos: a cross-sectional study 
Background
Prompt, correct diagnosis and treatment with health information are essential components of reproductive tract infection (RTI) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) services. This study aims to describe care seeking behaviour and barriers to accessing RTI/STI services among female sex workers (FSWs) in Laos.
Methods
A cross-sectional survey using closed and open-ended questions was performed in six districts along Road 9, traversing Savannakhet province from Thailand to Vietnam. In total, 407 FSWs were interviewed. The data were analyzed and presented descriptively. Multiple logistic regression analysis was applied to assess associations between respondents' background characteristics and care seeking behaviour.
Results
About half of the respondents (49%) were less than or equal to 19 years of age, and 50% had started or completed secondary school. Fifty-eight percent had been engaged in sex work for less than 1 year. Eighty-six percent of the respondents reported RTI/STI signs or symptoms currently or in the last 3 months but only two-thirds of those with symptoms sought treatment. Source of treatment for the last RTI/STI episode was the drop-in centre (53%) followed by a public hospital (23%), private clinic (12%), private pharmacy (9%), and herbalist (2%). The main barriers to service use were long waiting time, inconvenient location of the clinic, not knowing where to get the services needed, and negative attitudes among healthcare providers. Care seeking behaviour was associated with longer duration of sex work (OR = 2.6, 95%CI 1.52-5.36). Forty-four percent received health information from peer educators, 34% from fellow friends, 26% from a pimp, and 26% had received information from a healthcare provider during the visit.
Conclusion
There were several barriers to accessing RTI/STI services and they were related to both structural and individual factors. Innovative STI service strategies to inform FSWs about the importance of early diagnosis and treatment should be established. Continuous training for STI service providers focusing on counseling skills and awareness of the sexual health care needs for FSWs is recommended in order to minimize the barriers experienced by FSWs in this particular setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-37
PMCID: PMC3347996  PMID: 22333560
STI; Care seeking behaviour; Female sex worker (FSW); Laos
14.  Concurrent multiple health risk behaviors among adolescents in Luangnamtha province, Lao PDR 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:36.
Background
Multiple health risk behaviors (HRBs) among adolescents pose a threat to their health, including HIV/AIDS. Health risk behaviors such as alcohol use, smoking, substance use, and sexual risk behaviors among youth have been shown to co-occur with each others. The objectives of this study was to estimate the prevalence of single and concurrent health risk behaviors and to explore how health risk behavior is associated with socio-demographic factors and peers' behaviors.
Methods
A cross sectional design was used to examine health risk behaviors of adolescents between the age 14 and 19 years living in the Luangnamtha province, Lao PDR. The study was conducted between June and August, 2008. An ordinal logistic regression model that simultaneously explored demographic factors and the influence of the behavior of peers on three categories of multiple HRBs (no risk, one risk, and two or more health risk behaviors) was performed.
Results
A total of 1360 respondents, 669 (49.1%) boys with mean age 16.7 ± 1.6 and 699 (50.9%) girls aged 16.1 ± 1.5 were recruited into the study. The majority reported two or fewer risk behaviors. However, multiple risk behaviors increased with age for both sexes. About 46.8% (n = 637) reported no risk, 39.3 percent (n = 535) reported one risk, 8.1 percent (n = 110) reported two risks, and 5.8 percent reported more than two health risk behaviors.
The protective factors among boys were school attendance (OR = .53, CI = .33-.86), being Hmong and Yao ethnicity (OR = .48, CI-.26-.90), while being above the age of 15 (OR = 2.20, 95% CI = 1.33-3.60), Akha ethnicity (OR = 2.20, 95% CI = 1.04-4.61), peer's smoking (OR = 3.11, 95% CI = 2.1-4.6), and peer's drinking alcohol (OR = 1.88, 95% CI = 1.1-3.21) were significantly associated with the presence of multiple risk behaviors among boys.
Having some education (OR = 0.17, 95% CI = 0.06-0.45), and being of Hmong and Yao ethnicity (OR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.18-0.80) were factors that protected girls from multiple risk behaviors; while peer's drinking alcohol (OR = 2.55, 95% CI = 1.59-4.09) and peer's being sexually active (OR = 2.82, 95% CI = 1.65-4.8) were significantly associated with the presence of multiple risk behaviors among girls.
Conclusion
There are sex, age and ethnic differences in the concurrent health risk behaviors. The influencing factors are adolescent's education and peer influence. Interventions should focus to encourage adolescents to complete the compulsory primary education as well as help them to establish friendships and follow peers with good behavior. Risk reduction messages need to take account of diverse multiple HRBs within the specific socio-cultural and gender specific context and target vulnerable adolescents such as ethnic minorities and less educated adolescents.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-36
PMCID: PMC3031220  PMID: 21232108
15.  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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