Effectiveness of community health workers on identification and mobilization of persons living with epilepsy in rural Rwanda using a validated screening tool
Engagement and training of community health workers (CHWs) have demonstrated their value in different conditions. Despite repeat epilepsy trainings of CHWs in Northern Rwanda, the treatment gap remained high. We hypothesized that effectiveness of CHWs on mobilization of patients living with epilepsy (PwE) could be improved using a validated tool for epilepsy screening.Methods
CHWs associated with health centers (HCs) of Gataraga, Kimonyi and Karwasa attended a 1-day training on epilepsy and Limoges epilepsy screening questionnaire (Kinyarwanda version). Thereafter, CHWs screened households in their villages for persons with one or more positive answer. CHWs then accompanied positively screened persons to a consultation for clinical evaluation and diagnosis by neurologists, and demographic data were collected. CHW variables were collected retrospectively.Results
A total of 1308 persons were screened positive by 281 CHWs. Clinical diagnosis of epilepsy was confirmed in 589 and in 93 additional unscreened PwE, presenting voluntarily at the consultation. Pre-intervention number of 48 PwE increased to 682 after, a 14.2-fold increase. The overall treatment gap amounted to 93.0%. The age distribution of male PwE preponderance at younger age inverted to females at older age.
CHW characteristics showed non-significant differences within and across HCs. Logistic regression did not relate CHW age, gender, and experience to screening results.Discussion
Equipping CHWs with a validated screening tool was effective in identifying and mobilizing PwE in a short time frame and offers opportunity for future scaling. Nonetheless, barriers to sustainability of care will need to be addressed before.
Medical students from German-speaking countries on abroad electives in Africa: destinations, motivations, trends and ethical dilemmas
International medical electives are one the highlights of medical training. Literature about international electives is scarce, and understanding what made a student choose one destination over another is unclear. Many medical students based in Europe travel to Africa each year for their elective, however, students’ expectations and motivations are yet largely unexplored.Methods
To gain insights into the factors driving students to travel to Africa, we analyzed two large international elective databases based in Germany. We reviewed elective testimonies and extrapolated geographical data as well as the choice of discipline for electives completed in Africa. Based on pre-defined categories, we also investigated students’ motivations and expectations.Results
We identified approximately 300 elective reports from medical students from German-speaking countries who chose to travel to Africa for their elective. Students commonly reported destinations in Southern and East Africa, with the Republic of South Africa and Tanzania being the most frequently selected destinations. Surgical disciplines were the most commonly reported choice. Diverse motivations were identified, including the desire to improve knowledge and clinical examination skills. A large proportion of students reported a link between destination choice and the potential to partake in surgical procedures not feasible at home; whether these surgeries were not or no longer practiced at home, or whether students could not partake due to level of training, was not ascertainable from the data. A trend-analysis revealed a growing interest in travelling to Africa for electives within the last 15 years. We observed a sharp decline in reports in 2020, a phenomenon most likely related to SARS-CoV-2-related travel restrictions.Conclusions
This study suggests that medical electives in Africa are commonly reported by medical students from German-speaking countries, with diverse motivations for the choice of destination. A non-neglectable proportion of students identified the possibility to engage in surgical procedures as one of the main reasons for choosing Africa. This poses a series of ethical dilemmas, and well-structured pre-departure trainings may be a solution to this. The recent dip in overseas electives should be seen as a unique opportunity for medical schools and universities to restructure their international elective programs.
Nigeria’s health sector aims to ensure that the right number of health workers that are qualified, skilled, and distributed equitably, are available for quality health service provision at all levels. Achieving this requires accurate and timely health workforce information. This informed the development of the Nigeria Health Workforce Registry (NHWR) based on the global, regional, and national strategies for strengthening the HRH towards achieving universal health coverage. This case study describes the process of conceptualizing and establishing the NHWR, and discusses the strategies for developing sustainable and scalable health workforce registries.Case presentation
In designing the NHWR, a review of existing national HRH policies and guidelines, as well as reports of previous endeavors was done to learn what had been done previously and obtain the views of stakeholders on how to develop a scalable and sustainable registry. The findings indicated the need to review the architecture of the registry to align with other health information systems, develop a standardized data set and guidance documents for the registry including a standard operating procedure to ensure that a holistic process is adopted in data collection, management and use nationally. Learning from the findings, a conceptual framework was developed, a registry managed centrally by the Federal Ministry of Health was developed and decentralized, a standardized tool based on a national minimum data was developed and adopted nationally, a registry prototype was developed using iHRIS Manage and the registry governance functions were integrated into the health information system governance structures. To sustain the functionality of the NHWR, the handbook of the NHWR that comprised of an implementation guide, the standard operating procedure, and the basic user training manual was developed and the capacity of government staff was built on the operations of the registry.Conclusion
In establishing a functional and sustainable registry, learning from experiences is essential in shaping acceptable, sustainable, and scalable approaches. Instituting governance structures that include and involve policymakers, health managers and users is of great importance in the design, planning, implementation, and decentralization stages. In addition, developing standardized tools based on the health system's needs and instituting supportable mechanisms for data flow and use for policy, planning, development, and management is essential.
A major challenge of prospective cohort studies is attrition in follow-up surveys. This study investigated attrition in a prospective cohort comprised of medical graduates in China. We described status of attrition, identified participants with higher possibility of attrition, and examined if attrition affect the estimation of the key outcome measures.Methods
The cohort study recruited 3,620 new medical graduates from four medical universities in central and western China between 2015 and 2019. Online follow-up surveys were conducted on an annual basis. Follow-up status was defined as complete (meaning that the participant completed all the follow-up surveys) and incomplete, while incomplete follow-up was further divided into ‘always-out’, ‘rejoin’ and ‘other’. Multivariable logistic and linear regressions were used to examine factors predicting attrition and the influence on the outcome measures of career development.Results
2364 (65.3%) participants completed all follow-up surveys. For those with incomplete follow-up, 520 (14.4%) were ‘always-out’, 276 (7.6%) rejoined in the 2020 survey. Willingness to participate in residency training (OR=0.80, 95%CI[0.66 - 0.98]) and willingness to provide sensitive information in the baseline survey predicted a lower rate of attrition (providing scores for university entrance exam OR=0.82, 95%CI[0.69 - 0.97]]; providing contact information (OR=0.46, 95%CI[0.32 - 0.66]); providing household income (OR=0.60, 95%CI[0.43 - 0.84]). Participants with compulsory rural service (OR=1.52, 95%CI[1.05 - 2.19]) and those providing university entrance scores (OR=1.64, 95%CI[1.15-2.33)) were more likely to rejoin in the follow-up survey. These factors associated with follow-up status did not have significant impact on key outcome measures of career development.Conclusions
Graduates who were unwilling to participate in residency training or not providing sensitive information should be targeted early in the cohort study to reduce attrition. More information about the study should be provided to those graduates early to facilitate their understanding of the meaning in participation. On the contrary, medical graduates with compulsory rural service and those who provided university entrance scores were more likely to rejoin in the cohort. The research team should invest more effort in contacting those graduates and returned them to the cohort.
Despite a significant increase in the skilled birth assisted (SBA) deliveries in India, there are huge gaps in availing maternity care services across social gradients - particularly across states and regions. Therefore, this study applies the spatial-regression model to examine the spatial distribution of SBA across districts of India. Furthermore, the study tries to understand the spatially associated population characteristics that influence the low coverage of SBA across districts of India and its regions.Methods
The study used national representative cross-sectional survey data obtained from the fourth round of National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2015-16. The effective sample size was 259,469 for the analysis. Moran’s I statistics and bivariate Local Indicator for Spatial Association maps were used to understand spatial dependence and clustering of deliveries conducted by SBA coverage in districts of India. Ordinary least square, spatial lag and spatial error models were used to examine the correlates of deliveries conducted by SBA.Results
Moran’s I value for SBA among women was 0.54, which represents a high spatial auto-correlation of deliveries conducted by SBA over 640 districts of India. There were 145 hotspots for deliveries conducted by SBA among women in India, which includes almost the entire southern part of India. The spatial error model revealed that with a 10% increase in exposure to mass media in a particular district, the deliveries conducted by SBA increased significantly by 2.5%. Interestingly, also with the 10% increase in the four or more antenatal care (ANC) in a particular district, the deliveries conducted by SBA increased significantly by 2.5%. Again, if there was a 10% increase of women with first birth order in a particular district, then the deliveries conducted by SBA significantly increased by 6.1%. If the district experienced an increase of 10% household as female-headed, then the deliveries conducted by SBA significantly increased by 1.4%.Conclusion
The present study highlights the important role of ANC visits, mass media exposure, education, female household headship that augment the use of an SBA for delivery. Attention should be given in promoting regular ANC visits and strengthening women’s education.
Systematic review of performance-enhancing health worker supervision approaches in low- and middle-income countries.
Accreditation and professional integration experiences of internationally qualified dentists working in the United Kingdom
Regulatory processes for Oral health care professionals are considered essential for patient safety and to ensure health workforce quality. The global variation in their registration and regulation is under-reported in the literature. Regulatory systems could become a barrier to their national and international movement, leading to loss of skilled human resources. The General Dental Council is the regulatory authority in the UK, one of the nine regulators of health care overseen by the Professional Standards Authority.Aim
The aim of this paper is to present the professional integration experiences of internationally qualified dentists (IQDs) working in the UK, against the background of regulation and accreditation nationally.Methods
Registration data were obtained from the General Dental Council to inform the sampling and recruitment of research participants. Semi-structured interviews of 38 internationally qualified dentists working in the United Kingdom were conducted between August 2014 and October 2017. The topic guide which explored professional integration experiences of the dentists was informed by the literature, with new themes added inductively. A phenomenological approach involving an epistemological stance of interpretivism, was used with framework analysis to detect themes.Results
Internationally qualified dentist’s professional integration was influenced by factors that could be broadly classified as structural (source country training; registration and employment; variation in practising dentistry) and relational (experiences of discrimination; value of networks and support; and personal attributes). The routes to register for work as a dentist were perceived to favour UK dental graduates and those qualifying from the European Economic Area. Dentists from the rest of the world reported experiencing major hurdles including succeeding in the licensing examinations, English tests, proving immigration status and succeeding in obtaining a National Health Service performer number, all prior to being able to practice within state funded dental care.Conclusion
The pathways for dentists to register and work in state funded dental care in UK differ by geographic type of registrant, creating significant inconsistencies in their professional integration. Professional integration is perceived by an individual IQD as a continuum dictated by host countries health care systems, workforce recruitment policies, access to training, together with their professional and personal skills. The reliance of the UK on internationally qualified dentists has increased in the past two decades, however, it is not known how these trends will be affected by UK’s exit from the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contested notions of challenges affecting Community Health Workers in low- and middle-income countries informed by the Silences Framework
Despite increasing evidence of the challenges affecting Community Health Workers (CHWs) such as those related to training, supportive supervision and remuneration, there is a need to explore concerns and challenges from the perspective of CHWs themselves. This commentary highlights some of the contested and unexplored notions of challenges affecting CHWs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) informed by the Silences Framework. This framework defines experiences that are under-explored, misunderstood or difficult to share because of the often invisible power relations within communities, but also in setting the research agenda. These challenges include the heavy workload imposed by several stakeholders, dealing with religious and cultural practices, and gendered barriers of care. The workload of CHWs is a major source of stress and anxiety as they have to balance both government and other stakeholders’ agendas to deliver interventions with their own need to provide for their families for those whose work is unpaid. The tensions of CHWs carrying out their work among members of the community whose religious or cultural beliefs are different from theirs also needs to be considered. Gender issues are an impediment to the work of CHWs, particularly with community members of the opposite sex around sensitive health issues. Lastly, CHWs have found themselves victims of domestic suspicion while fulfilling their duties in communities, such as when seen having conversations with spouses of other individuals in the community. Solutions to these challenges need to be co-produced with CHWs to both to strengthen their relationship with the communities they serve and shape more sustainable interventions for delivery of healthcare in LMICs.
Three decades of a lesson learned from Thailand: compulsory service for dentist workforce distribution
Thailand has encountered an imbalanced dentist distribution and an internal brain drain of dentists from public to private health care facilities. To tackle these challenges, the compulsory service (CS) program, which has been initially implemented for physicians, was extended for dentists.Method
This policy and workforce document review describes the background, development, and policy implementation of the CS program in Thailand during the past three decades. Outcomes after policy implementation and future directions are also discussed. The information was gathered from the relevant policy and workforce documents available from 1961 to 2021.Results
In Thailand, junior dentists, specifically newly graduates, have to enroll in the CS program by working as oral health practitioners in public hospitals for at least 3 years. Dentists must pay a maximum fine of 400 000 baht (~ 12 571 USD) if they wish to skip the program. This fine is lowered according to the number of attending years in the program. CS program conditions are related to each university’s admission track. The CS enrolled dentists receive several financial and non-financial benefits, including educational, employment-related, and living provisions. Altogether, successive Thai governments have launched directive policies to increase dentist distribution in rural areas and their retention in public hospitals. These policies have been implemented in 3 stages: (1) increase production of new dentists, (2) allocation of newly dental graduates to public hospitals, and (3) provide benefits for working in public hospitals.Conclusion
During the past three decades, several public policies have been implemented to improve dentist retention and distribution to public hospitals across Thailand, particularly in rural areas. The present CS program may not completely resolve the oral health inequalities because the dentist retention rate in public hospitals depends on multi-dimensional considerations. Further modifications on the CS program and future well-planned policies are needed.
The Portuguese Pharmaceutical Society (PPS) implemented a system of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for pharmacists in 2004. This system has evolved throughout the years, and currently all active pharmacists in Portugal are required to participate in the CPD program. Each CPD cycle takes 5 years. In each cycle, pharmacists must collect 15 CPD points, through participation in educational activities. The PPS accreditation process is managed via an online platform, where education/training providers, as well as pharmacists themselves, can submit educational activities for accreditation. Pharmacists may access their CPD status and assess their development at any point. The objective of this study was to analyze and review the educational activities submitted by providers over a 11-year period (2009–2019).Methods
Data from activities were retrieved from the PPS CPD online platform. All educational activities were labeled according to the area of pharmaceutical professional focus, type of promoter, and activity type.Results
During the study 3685 activities were analyzed. Over the last decade, submitted activities for accreditation increased in 52.6%. A significantly high proportion (98.9%) of these activities has been accredited. Promoters of activities were mostly pharmacies sectoral associations (29.6%), consultancy/training companies (19.6%), the PPS (18.5%), pharmaceutical industry (17.7%) and wholesalers’ consortia (9.0%). Academia represented only 2.3% of the total amount of educational activities. The most frequent topics were related to “pharmacology & pharmacotherapy” (9.9%), followed by “counselling” (9.8%) and “management & administration” (7.2%). The most accredited type of activities was face-to-face (68.9%) and e-learning trainings (13.1%).Conclusions
This study shows increasing interest in submitting CPD activities for accreditation between 2009 and 2019, but it also demonstrates that Academia could play a more interventive role in the lifelong learning education of Portuguese pharmacists.
Systematic review of performance-enhancing health worker supervision approaches in low- and middle-income countries
The strength of a health system—and ultimately the health of a population—depends to a large degree on health worker performance. However, insufficient support to build, manage and optimize human resources for health (HRH) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) results in inadequate health workforce performance, perpetuating health inequities and low-quality health services.Methods
The USAID-funded Human Resources for Health in 2030 Program (HRH2030) conducted a systematic review of studies documenting supervision enhancements and approaches that improved health worker performance to highlight components associated with these interventions’ effectiveness. Structured by a conceptual framework to classify the inputs, processes, and results, the review assessed 57 supervision studies since 2010 in approximately 29 LMICs.Results
Of the successful supervision approaches described in the 57 studies reviewed, 44 were externally funded pilots, which is a limitation. Thirty focused on community health worker (CHW) programs. Health worker supervision was informed by health system data for 38 approaches (67%) and 22 approaches used continuous quality improvement (QI) (39%). Many successful approaches integrated digital supervision technologies (e.g., SmartPhones, mHealth applications) to support existing data systems and complement other health system activities. Few studies were adapted, scaled, or sustained, limiting reports of cost-effectiveness or impact.Conclusion
Building on results from the review, to increase health worker supervision effectiveness we recommend to: integrate evidence-based, QI tools and processes; integrate digital supervision data into supervision processes; increase use of health system information and performance data when planning supervision visits to prioritize lowest-performing areas; scale and replicate successful models across service delivery areas and geographies; expand and institutionalize supervision to reach, prepare, protect, and support frontline health workers, especially during health emergencies; transition and sustain supervision efforts with domestic human and financial resources, including communities, for holistic workforce support. In conclusion, effective health worker supervision is informed by health system data, uses continuous quality improvement (QI), and employs digital technologies integrated into other health system activities and existing data systems to enable a whole system approach. Effective supervision enhancements and innovations should be better integrated, scaled, and sustained within existing systems to improve access to quality health care.
The effectiveness of supervision strategies to improve health care provider practices in low- and middle-income countries: secondary analysis of a systematic review
Although supervision is a ubiquitous approach to support health programs and improve health care provider (HCP) performance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), quantitative evidence of its effects is unclear. The objectives of this study are to describe the effect of supervision strategies on HCP practices in LMICs and to identify attributes associated with greater effectiveness of routine supervision.Methods
We performed a secondary analysis of data on HCP practice outcomes (e.g., percentage of patients correctly treated) from a systematic review on improving HCP performance. The review included controlled trials and interrupted time series studies. We described distributions of effect sizes (defined as percentage-point [%-point] changes) for each supervision strategy. To identify attributes associated with supervision effectiveness, we performed random-effects linear regression modeling and examined studies that directly compared different approaches of routine supervision.Results
We analyzed data from 81 studies from 36 countries. For professional HCPs, such as nurses and physicians, primarily working at health facilities, routine supervision (median improvement when compared to controls: 10.7%-points; IQR: 9.9, 27.9) had similar effects on HCP practices as audit with feedback (median improvement: 10.1%-points; IQR: 6.2, 23.7). Two attributes were associated with greater mean effectiveness of routine supervision (p < 0.10): supervisors received supervision (by 8.8–11.5%-points), and supervisors participated in problem-solving with HCPs (by 14.2–20.8%-points). Training for supervisors and use of a checklist during supervision visits were not associated with effectiveness. The effects of supervision frequency (i.e., number of visits per year) and dose (i.e., the number of supervision visits during a study) were unclear. For lay HCPs, the effect of routine supervision was difficult to characterize because few studies existed, and effectiveness in those studies varied considerably. Evidence quality for all findings was low primarily because many studies had a high risk of bias.Conclusions
Although evidence is limited, to promote more effective supervision, our study supports supervising supervisors and having supervisors engage in problem-solving with HCPs. Supervision’s integral role in health systems in LMICs justifies a more deliberate research agenda to identify how to deliver supervision to optimize its effect on HCP practices.
We describe the impact of COVID-19 on PEPFAR programs in Africa and how PEPFAR adapted and leveraged its interventions to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.Recent Findings
To mitigate the potential impact of COVID-19 on the HIV response and protect the gains, continuity of treatment was the guiding principle regarding the provision of services in PEPFAR-supported countries. As the COVID-19 pandemic matured, PEPFAR’s approach evolved from a strictly “protect and salvage” approach to a “restore and accelerate” approach that embraced innovative adaptations in service and “person-centered” care.Summary
The impact of service delivery interruptions caused by COVID-19 on progress towards HIV epidemic control in PEPFAR-supported African countries remains undetermined. With COVID vaccine coverage many months away and more transmissible variants being reported, Africa may experience more pandemic surges. HIV programs will depend on nimble and innovative adaptations in prevention and treatment services in order to advance epidemic control objectives.
Context specific realities and experiences of nurses and midwives in basic emergency obstetric and newborn care services in two district hospitals in Rwanda: a qualitative study
In low and middle-income countries, nurses and midwives are the frontline healthcare workers in obstetric care. Insights into experiences of these healthcare workers in managing obstetric emergencies are critical for improving the quality of care. This article presents such insights, from the nurses and midwives working in Rwandan district hospitals, who reflected on their experiences of managing the most common birth-related complications; postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) and newborn asphyxia. Rwanda has made remarkable progress in obstetric care. However, challenges remain in the provision of high-quality basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC). This study is a qualitative part of a broader research project about implementation of an mLearning and mHealth decision support tool in BEmONC services in Rwanda.Methods
In this exploratory qualitative aspect of the research, four focus group discussions (FGDs) with 26 nurses and midwives from two district hospitals in Rwanda were conducted. Each FGD was made up of two parts. The first part focused on the participants’ reflections on the research results (from the previous study), while the second part explored their experiences of delivering obstetric care services. The research results included: survey results reflecting their knowledge and skills of PPH management and of neonatal resuscitation (NR); and findings from a six-month record review of PPH management and NR outcomes, from the district hospitals under study. Data were analyzed using hybrid thematic analysis.Results
The analysis revealed three main themes: (1) reflections to the baseline research results, (2) self-reflection on the current practices, and (3) contextual factors influencing the delivery of BEmONC services. Nurses and midwives felt that the presented findings were a true reflection of the reality and offered diverse explanations for the results. The participants’ narratives of lived experiences of providing BEmONC services are also presented.Conclusion
The insights of nurses and midwives regarding the management of birth-related complications revealed multi-faceted factors that influence the quality of their obstetric care. Even though the study was focused on PPH management and NR, the resulting recommendations to improve quality of care could benefit the broader field of maternal and child health, particularly in low and middle-income countries.