Health Systems Research Unit

Cape Town, South Africa

Health Systems Research Unit

Cape Town, South Africa
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Background: The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness Strategy (IMCI), developed by WHO/UNICEF, aims to contribute to reducing childhood morbidity and mortality (MDG4) in resource-limited settings. Since 1996 more than 100 countries have adopted IMCI. IMCI case management training (ICMT) is one of three IMCI components and training is usually residential over 11 consecutive days. Follow-up after ICMT is an essential part of training. We describe the barriers to rapid acceleration of ICMT and review country perspectives on how to address these barriers. Methods. A multi-country exploratory cross-sectional questionnaire survey of in-service ICMT approaches, using quantitative and qualitative methods, was conducted in 2006-7: 27 countries were purposively selected from all six WHO regions. Data for this paper are from three questionnaires (QA, QB and QC), distributed to selected national focal IMCI persons/programme officers, course directors/facilitators and IMCI trainees respectively. QC only gathered data on experiences with IMCI follow-up. Results: 33 QA, 163 QB and 272 QC were received. The commonest challenges to ICMT scale-up relate to funding (high cost and long duration of the residential ICMT), poor literacy of health workers, differing opinions about the role of IMCI in improving child health, lack of political support, frequent changes in staff or rules at Ministries of Health and lack of skilled facilitators. Countries addressed these challenges in several ways including increased advocacy, developing strategic linkages with other priorities, intensifying pre-service training, re-distribution of funds and shortening course duration. The commonest challenges to follow-up after ICMT were lack of funding (93.1% of respondents), inadequate funds for travelling or planning (75.9% and 44.8% respectively), lack of gas for travelling (41.4%), inadequately trained or few supervisors (41.4%) and inadequate job aids for follow-up (27.6%). Countries addressed these by piggy backing IMCI follow-up with routine supervisory visits. Conclusions: Financial challenges to ICMT scale-up and follow-up after training are common. As IMCI is accepted globally as one of the key strategies to meet MDG4 several steps need to be taken to facilitate rapid acceleration of ICMT, including reviewing core competencies followed by competency-driven shortened training duration or 'on the job' training, 'distance learning' or training using mobile phones. Linkages with other 'better-funded' programmes e.g. HIV or malaria need to be improved. Routine Primary Health Care (PHC) supervision needs to include follow-up after ICMT. © 2011 Goga and Muhe ; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Bhutta Z.A.,Aga Khan University | Yakoob M.Y.,Aga Khan University | Lawn J.E.,Saving Newborn Lives Save the Children | Lawn J.E.,Health Systems Research Unit | And 5 more authors.
The Lancet | Year: 2011

Worldwide, 2·65 million (uncertainty range 2·08 million to 3·79 million) stillbirths occur yearly, of which 98 occur in countries of low and middle income. Despite the fact that more than 45 of the global burden of stillbirths occur intrapartum, the perception is that little is known about effective interventions, especially those that can be implemented in low-resource settings. We undertook a systematic review of randomised trials and observational studies of interventions which could reduce the burden of stillbirths, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. We identified several interventions with sufficient evidence to recommend implementation in health systems, including periconceptional folic acid supplementation or fortification, prevention of malaria, and improved detection and management of syphilis during pregnancy in endemic areas. Basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care were identified as key effective interventions to reduce intrapartum stillbirths. Broad-scale implementation of intervention packages across 68 countries listed as priorities in the Countdown to 2015 report could avert up to 45 of stillbirths according to a model generated from the Lives Saved Tool. The overall costs for these interventions are within the general estimates of cost-effective interventions for maternal care, especially in view of the effects on outcomes across maternal, fetal, and neonatal health. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Lawn J.E.,Saving Newborn Lives | Lawn J.E.,Health Systems Research Unit | Lawn J.E.,Institute of Child Health | Blencowe H.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | And 6 more authors.
The Lancet | Year: 2011

Despite increasing attention and investment for maternal, neonatal, and child health, stillbirths remain invisible - not counted in the Millennium Development Goals, nor tracked by the UN, nor in the Global Burden of Disease metrics. At least 2·65 million stillbirths (uncertainty range 2·08 million to 3·79 million) were estimated worldwide in 2008 (≥1000 g birthweight or ≥28 weeks of gestation). 98 of stillbirths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, and numbers vary from 2·0 per 1000 total births in Finland to more than 40 per 1000 total births in Nigeria and Pakistan. Worldwide, 67 of stillbirths occur in rural families, 55 in rural sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, where skilled birth attendance and caesarean sections are much lower than that for urban births. In total, an estimated 1·19 million (range 0·82 million to 1·97 million) intrapartum stillbirths occur yearly. Most intrapartum stillbirths are associated with obstetric emergencies, whereas antepartum stillbirths are associated with maternal infections and fetal growth restriction. National estimates of causes of stillbirths are scarce, and multiple (>35) classification systems impede international comparison. Immediate data improvements are feasible through household surveys and facility audit, and improvements in vital registration, including specific perinatal certificates and revised International Classification of Disease codes, are needed. A simple, programme-relevant stillbirth classification that can be used with verbal autopsy would provide a basis for comparable national estimates. A new focus on all deaths around the time of birth is crucial to inform programmatic investment. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


Townsend L.,Medical Research Council | Townsend L.,Health Systems Research Unit | Mathews C.,University of Cape Town | Zembe Y.,Medical Research Council
Prevention Science | Year: 2013

Prevention of new HIV infections needs to move to the forefront in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In the current economic crisis, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) should invest limited resources to amass reliable evidence-based information about behavioral prevention efforts, and on behaviors that are driving the epidemic among people who are engaging in those behaviors. This paper aims to provide a systematic review and synthesis of behavioral interventions among a group of people in high HIV-burden countries: heterosexual men in LMICs. The review includes articles published between January 2001 and May 2010 that evaluated behavioral prevention interventions among heterosexual males aged 18+ years in LMICs. The studies were evaluated using the quality assessment tool for quantitative studies developed by the Effective Public Health Practice Project. The review identified 19 articles that met the review's inclusion criteria. Most studies were conducted in South Africa (n=6); two each in Uganda and Thailand; and one in each of Angola, Brazil, Bulgaria, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. Eight of 19 interventions increased condom use among their respective populations. Those interventions that sought to reduce the number of sexual partners had little effect, and those that addressed alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence had mixed effects. There was no evidence for any specific format of intervention that impacted best on any of the targeted risk behaviors. The paucity of evaluated interventions for heterosexual men in LMICs suggests that adult men in these countries remain underrepresented in HIV prevention efforts. © 2012 Society for Prevention Research.


Hongoro C.,Health Systems Research Unit | Hongoro C.,Tshwane University of Technology | Dinat N.,University of Witwatersrand
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management | Year: 2011

Context: Increasing access to palliative care services in low- and middle-income countries is often perceived as unaffordable despite the growing need for such services because of the increasing burden of chronic diseases including HIV and AIDS. Objectives: The aim of the study was to establish the costs and cost drivers for a hospital outreach palliative care service in a low-resource setting, and to elucidate possible consequential quality-of-life improvements and potential cost savings. Methods: The study used a cost accounting procedure to cost the hospital outreach services - using a step-down costing method to measure unit (average) costs. The African Palliative Care Association Palliative Outcome Score (APCA POS) was applied at five intervals to a cohort of 72 consecutive and consenting patients, enrolled in a two-month period. Results: The study found that of the 481 and 1902 patients registered for outreach and in-hospital visits, respectively, 4493 outreach hospital visits and 3412 in-hospital visits were done per year. The costs per hospital outreach visit and in-hospital visit were US$71 and US$80, respectively. The cost per outreach visit was 50% less than the average cost of a patient day equivalent for district hospitals of $142. Some of the POS of a subsample (n = 72) showed statistically significant improvements. Conclusion: Hospital outreach services have the potential to avert hospital admissions in generally overcrowded services in low-resource settings and may improve the quality of life of patients in their home environments. © 2011 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Nkonki L.,Health Systems Research Unit | Cliff J.,Eduardo Mondlane University | Sanders D.,University of the Western Cape
Bulletin of the World Health Organization | Year: 2011

Lay health workers are key to achieving universal health-care coverage, therefore measuring worker attrition and identifying its determinants should be an integral part of any lay health worker programme. Both published and unpublished research on lay health workers has largely focused on the types of interventions they can deliver effectively. This is an imperative since the main objective of these programmes is to improve health outcomes. However, high attrition rates can undermine the effectiveness of these programmes. There is a lack of research on lay health worker attrition. Research that aims to answer the following three key questions would help address this knowledge gap: what is the magnitude of attrition in programmes? What are the determinants of attrition? What are the most successful ways of reducing attrition? With community-based interventions and task shifting high on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals' policy agenda, research on lay health worker attrition and its determinants requires urgent attention.


Leon N.,Health Systems Research Unit | Schneider H.,University of the Western Cape | Daviaud E.,Health Systems Research Unit
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making | Year: 2012

Background: Mobile phone technology has demonstrated the potential to improve health service delivery, but there is little guidance to inform decisions about acquiring and implementing mHealth technology at scale in health systems. Using the case of community-based health services (CBS) in South Africa, we apply a framework to appraise the opportunities and challenges to effective implementation of mHealth at scale in health systems. Methods. A qualitative study reviewed the benefits and challenges of mHealth in community-based services in South Africa, through a combination of key informant interviews, site visits to local projects and document reviews. Using a framework adapted from three approaches to reviewing sustainable information and communication technology (ICT), the lessons from local experience and elsewhere formed the basis of a wider consideration of scale up challenges in South Africa. Results: Four key system dimensions were identified and assessed: government stewardship and the organisational, technological and financial systems. In South Africa, the opportunities for successful implementation of mHealth include the high prevalence of mobile phones, a supportive policy environment for eHealth, successful use of mHealth for CBS in a number of projects and a well-developed ICT industry. However there are weaknesses in other key health systems areas such as organisational culture and capacity for using health information for management, and the poor availability and use of ICT in primary health care. The technological challenges include the complexity of ensuring interoperability and integration of information systems and securing privacy of information. Finally, there are the challenges of sustainable financing required for large scale use of mobile phone technology in resource limited settings. Conclusion: Against a background of a health system with a weak ICT environment and limited implementation capacity, it remains uncertain that the potential benefits of mHealth for CBS would be retained with immediate large-scale implementation. Applying a health systems framework facilitated a systematic appraisal of potential challenges to scaling up mHealth for CBS in South Africa and may be useful for policy and practice decision-making in other low- and middle-income settings. © 2012 Leon et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Doherty T.,Health Systems Research Unit
Tropical medicine & international health : TM & IH | Year: 2014

To report on risk factors for severe events (hospitalisation or infant death) within the first half of infancy amongst HIV-unexposed infants in South Africa. South African data from the multisite community-based cluster-randomised trial PROMISE EBF promoting exclusive breastfeeding in three sub-Saharan countries from 2006 to 2008 were used. The South African sites were Paarl in the Western Cape Province, and Umlazi and Rietvlei in KwaZulu-Natal. This analysis included 964 HIV-negative mother-infant pairs. Data on severe events and infant feeding practices were collected at 3, 6, 12 and 24 weeks post-partum. We used a stratified extended Cox model to examine the association between the time to the severe event and covariates including birthweight, with breastfeeding status as a time-dependent covariate. Seventy infants (7%) experienced a severe event. The median age at first hospitalisation was 8 weeks, and the two main reasons for hospitalisation were cough and difficult breathing followed by diarrhoea. Stopping breastfeeding before 6 months (HR 2.4; 95% CI 1.2-5.1) and low birthweight (HR 2.4; 95% CI 1.3-4.3) were found to increase the risk of a severe event, whilst maternal completion of high school education was protective (HR 0.3; 95% CI 0.1-0.7). A strengthened primary healthcare system incorporating promotion of breastfeeding and appropriate caring practices for low birthweight infants (such as kangaroo mother care) are critical. Given the leading reasons for hospitalisation, early administration of oral rehydration therapy and treatment of suspected pneumonia are key interventions needed to prevent hospitalisation in young infants. © 2014 The Authors. Tropical Medicine & International Health Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Loveday M.,Health Systems Research Unit
The international journal of tuberculosis and lung disease : the official journal of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease | Year: 2013

To improve the treatment of patients co-infected with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and the human immunodeficiency virus, we measured the relationship between treatment outcomes and hospital performance at four decentralised MDR-TB sites in South Africa. We describe hospital performance from the patient's perspective by the use of a graphic that visually represents a patient's treatment journey. The graphic was used to report study findings to study sites and as a catalyst for a quality improvement process.


Tuberculosis rates in the world remain high, especially in low- and middle-income countries. International tuberculosis (TB) policy generally recommends the use of directly observed therapy (DOT) to ensure treatment adherence. This article examines a change in TB treatment support that occurred in 2005 in South Africa, from DOT to the enhanced TB adherence programme (ETA). Seven key individuals representing academics, policy makers and service providers involved in the development of the ETA programme or knowledgeable about the issue were purposively sampled and interviewed, and participant observation was conducted at ETA programme steering group meetings. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the data, drawing on the Kingdon model of agenda setting. This model suggests that three independent streams - problem, policy and politics - come together at a certain point, often facilitated by policy entrepreneurs, to provide an opportunity for an issue to enter the policy agenda. The results suggest the empowerment-oriented programme emerged through the presence of policy entrepreneurs with access to resources. Policy entrepreneurs were influenced by a number of simultaneously occurring challenges including problems within the existing programme; a perceived mismatch between patient needs and the existing TB treatment model; and the TB-HIV co-epidemic. Policy entrepreneurs saw the ART approach as a possible solution to these challenges. The Kingdon model contributed to describing the process of policy change. Research evidence seemed to influence this change diffusely, through the interaction of policy entrepreneurs and academics.

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