Public Awareness Knowledge of Availability And Willingness to Use Neurosurgical Care Services in Africa: A CrossSectional ESurvey Protocol

Background: Barriers to care cause delays in seeking, reaching, and getting care. These delays affect low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), where 9 out of 10 LMIC inhabitants have no access to basic surgical care. Knowledge of healthcare utilization behavior within underserved communities is useful when developing and implementing health policies. Little is known about the neurosurgical health-seeking behavior of African adults. This study evaluates public awareness, knowledge of availability, and readiness for neurosurgical care services amongst African adults.

Methodology: The cross-sectional study will be run using a self-administered e-survey hosted on Google Forms (Google, CA, USA) disseminated from 10th May 2021 to 10th June 2021. The Questionnaire would be in two languages, English and French. The survey will contain closed-ended, open-ended, and Likert Scale questions. The structured questionnaire will have four sections with 42 questions; Sociodemographic characteristics, Definition of neurosurgery care, Knowledge of neurosurgical diseases, practice and availability, and Common beliefs about neurosurgical care. All consenting adult Africans will be eligible. A minimum sample size of 424 will be used. Data will be analyzed using SPSS version 26 (IBM, WA, USA). Odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals, Chi-Square test, and ANOVA will be used to test for associations between independent and dependent variables. A P-value <0.05 will be considered statistically significant. Also, a multinomial regression model will be used.

Dissemination: The study findings will be published in an academic peer-reviewed journal, and the abstract will be presented at an international conference.

Highlights

The burden of neurosurgical diseases is enormous in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa.
Unfortunately, most neurosurgical needs in Africa are unmet because of delays in seeking, reaching, and getting care.
Most efforts aimed at reducing barriers to care have focused on improving the neurosurgical workforce density and infrastructure. Little or no efforts have been directed towards understanding or reducing the barriers to seeking care.
We aimed to understand public awareness, willingness to use, and knowledge of the availability of neurosurgical care in Africa.
The study findings can inform effective strategies that promote the utilization of neurosurgical services and patient education in Africa.

Health system factors that influence diagnostic and treatment intervals in women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Background
Breast cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa experience long time intervals between their first presentation to a health care facility and the start of cancer treatment. The role of the health system in the increasing treatment time intervals has not been widely investigated. This review aimed to identify existing information on health system factors that influence diagnostic and treatment intervals in women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa to contribute to the reorientation of health policies in the region.

Methods
PubMed, ScienceDirect, African Journals Online, Mendeley, ResearchGate and Google Scholar were searched to identify relevant studies published between 2010 and July 2020. We performed a qualitative synthesis in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Related health system factors were extracted and classified according to the World Health Organization’s six health system building blocks. The quality of qualitative and quantitative studies was assessed by using the Critical Appraisal Skills Program Quality-Assessment Tool and the National Institute of Health Quality Assessment Tool, respectively. In addition, we used the Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research tool to assess the evidence for each qualitative finding.

Results
From 14,184 identified studies, this systematic review included 28 articles. We identified a total of 36 barriers and 8 facilitators that may influence diagnostic and treatment intervals in women with breast cancer. The principal health system factors identified were mainly related to human resources and service delivery, particularly difficulty accessing health care, diagnostic errors, poor management, and treatment cost.

Conclusion
The present review shows that diagnostic and treatment intervals among women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa are influenced by many related health system factors. Policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa need to tackle the financial accessibility to breast cancer treatment by adequate universal health coverage policies and reinforce the clinical competencies for health workers to ensure timely diagnosis and appropriate care for women with breast cancer in this region.

Addressing quality in surgical services in sub-Saharan Africa: hospital context and data standardisation matter

In low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), there remain critical gaps in the quality of surgical care. Comparatively high rates of surgical adverse events occur and are likely highly preventable. There has been substantial focus on improving access to health services, including surgical care in LMICs, yet quality oversight and improvement practices remain limited in these settings.4 Over the past decade, surgical volume has doubled in the most resource-poor settings; between 2004 and 2012, the annual number of operations jumped from 234 million to 313 million, with the biggest growth occurring in countries with the lowest amount of healthcare spending.5 6 This signals a profound shift: whereas prior efforts were focused on infections and maternal health, non-communicable diseases such as cancers and trauma are an increasing priority for LMIC health systems. With the rapid growth in surgical delivery, the quality and safety of care are critically important. Poor outcomes and high morbidity breed mistrust, scepticism and fear among local populations, and thus hinder the mission of health systems to provide timely and essential services, especially risky ones like surgery.

Cerebral aneurysms in Africa: A scoping review

Introduction
The epidemiology, management, and prognosis of cerebral aneurysms in Africa remain poorly understood. Most data to date has been from modeling studies. The authors aimed to describe the landscape of cerebral aneurysms in Africa based on published literature.

Methods
Articles on cerebral aneurysms in Africa from inception to June 9, 2020, were pulled from multiple databases (Medline, World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Library/Global Index Medicus African Journals Online, and Google Scholar). The search results were merged, uploaded into Rayyan. After deduplication, titles and abstracts were screened independently by four reviewers (FDT, USK, IN, NDAB) based on the pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria. A full-text review was conducted, followed by data extraction of study, patient, neuroimaging, therapeutic, and prognostic characteristics.

Results
Thirty-three articles were included in the full-text retrieval. These studies were published across 13 (24.0%) countries, notably in Morocco (30.3%, n = 10) and South Africa (15.2%, n = 5), and 14 (42.4%) of them were published on or after 2015. Together, the studies totaled 2289 patients; there was a female predominance in 18 (54.5%) study cohorts, and the most frequently cited aneurysms were located in the internal carotid (12.1%, n = 352) and anterior cerebral arteries (9.5%, n = 275). Open surgery (27.3%, n = 792) was the most widely used option in these studies ahead of coiling (3.2%, n = 94). The reported mortality rate following surgical intervention was 7.9%.

Conclusion
There are few peer-reviewed reports of aneurysm practice and variability in access to cerebral aneurysm care in Africa.

Access to care solutions in healthcare for obstetric care in Africa: A systematic review

Background
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems exist to reduce death and disability from life-threatening medical emergencies. Less than 9% of the African population is serviced by an emergency medical services transportation system, and nearly two-thirds of African countries do not have any known EMS system in place. One of the leading reasons for EMS utilization in Africa is for obstetric emergencies. The purpose of this systematic review is to provide a qualitative description and summation of previously described interventions to improve access to care for patients with maternal obstetric emergencies in Africa with the intent of identifying interventions that can innovatively be translated to a broader emergency context.

Methods
The protocol was registered in the PROSPERO database (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews) under the number CRD42018105371. We searched the following electronic databases for all abstracts up to 10/19/2020 in accordance to PRISMA guidelines: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus and African Index Medicus. Articles were included if they were focused on a specific mode of transportation or an access-to-care solution for hospital or outpatient clinic care in Africa for maternal or traumatic emergency conditions. Exclusion criteria included in-hospital solutions intended to address a lack of access. Reference and citation analyses were performed, and a data quality assessment was conducted. Data analysis was performed using a qualitative metasynthesis approach.

Findings
A total of 6,457 references were imported for screening and 1,757 duplicates were removed. Of the 4,700 studies that were screened against title and abstract, 4,485 studies were excluded. Finally, 215 studies were assessed for full-text eligibility and 152 studies were excluded. A final count of 63 studies were included in the systematic review. In the 63 studies that were included, there was representation from 20 countries in Africa. The three most common interventions included specific transportation solutions (n = 39), community engagement (n = 28) and education or training initiatives (n = 27). Over half of the studies included more than one category of intervention.

Interpretation
Emergency care systems across Africa are understudied and interventions to improve access to care for obstetric emergencies provides important insight into existing solutions for other types of emergency conditions. Physical access to means of transportation, efforts to increase layperson knowledge and recognition of emergent conditions, and community engagement hold the most promise for future efforts at improving emergency access to care.

The role of health service delivery networks in achieving universal health coverage in Africa

Most countries in Africa are faced with health system problems that vary from one to the next. Countries with a low Human Development Index (HDI) seem to be more prone to challenges in health service delivery. To mark its 70th anniversary on World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) selected the theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere” and the slogan “Health for All. ”UHC refers to ensuring that all people have access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship. UHC is a WHO’s priority objective. Most governments have made it their major goal.

This paper provides a perspective on the challenges of achieving UHC in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It also endeavors to spotlight the successful models of Health Service Delivery Networks (HSDNs) that make significant strides in making progress towards achieving UHC. HSDNs propose models that facilitate the attainment of affordability and accessibility while maintaining quality in delivering health services. Additionally, it brings up to speed the challenges associated with setting up HSDNs in health systems in SSA. It then makes propositions of what measures and strategic approaches should be implemented to strengthen HSDNs in SSA. This paper further argues that UHC is not only technically feasible but it is also attainable if countries embrace HSDNs in SSA.

Oxygen delivery systems for adults in Sub-Saharan Africa: A scoping review

Background
Respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Oxygen is an essential medicine used to treat hypoxemia from respiratory diseases. However, the availability and utilization of oxygen delivery systems for adults in sub-Saharan Africa is not well-described. We aim to identify and describe existing data around oxygen availability and provision for adults in sub-Saharan Africa, determine knowledge or research gaps, and make recommendations for future research and capacity building.

Methods
We systematically searched four databases for articles on April 22, 2020, for variations of keywords related to oxygen with a focus on countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Inclusion criteria were studies that included adults and addressed hypoxemia assessment or outcome, oxygen delivery mechanisms, oxygen availability, oxygen provision infrastructure, and oxygen therapy and outcomes.

Results
35 studies representing 22 countries met inclusion criteria. Availability of oxygen delivery systems ranged from 42%-94% between facilities, with wide variability in the consistency of availability. There was also wide reported prevalence of hypoxemia, with most studies focusing on specific populations. In facilities where oxygen is available, health care workers are ill-equipped to identify adult patients with hypoxemia, provide oxygen to those who need it, and titrate or discontinue oxygen appropriately. Oxygen concentrators were shown to be the most cost-effective delivery system in areas where power is readily available.

Conclusions
There is a substantial need for building capacity for oxygen delivery throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Addressing this critical issue will require innovation and a multi-faceted approach of developing infrastructure, better equipping facilities, and health care worker training

Cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment delays in the developing world: Evidence from a hospital-based study in Zambia

Expedited diagnostic processes for all suspected cervical cancer cases remain essential in the effort to improve clinical outcomes of the disease. However, in some developing countries like Zambia, there is paucity of data that assesses factors influencing diagnostic and treatment turnaround time (TAT) and other metrics vital for quality cancer care. We conducted a retrospective hospital-based study at the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) for cervical cancer cases presenting to the facility between January 2014 and December 2018. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize demographic characteristics while a generalized linear model of the negative binomial was used to assess determinants of overall TAT. Our study included 2121 patient case files. The median age was 49 years (IQR: ±17) and most patients (n=634, 31%) were aged between 41–50 years. The International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Cancer stage II (n =941, 48%) was the most prevalent while stage IV (n=103, 5.2%) was the least. The average diagnostic TAT in public laboratories was 1.48 (95%CI: 1.21–1.81) times longer than in private laboratories. Furthermore, referral delay was 55 days (IQR: 24–152) and the overall TAT (oTAT) was 110 days (IQR: 62–204). The age of the patient, HIV status, stage of cancer and histological subtype did not influence oTAT while marital status influenced oTAT. The observed longer oTAT may increase irreversible adverse health outcomes among cervical cancer patients. There is a need to improve cancer care in Zambia through improved health expenditure especially in public health facilities.

Anaesthesia facility evaluation: a Whatsapp survey of hospitals in Burundi

Background: Data regarding the capacity to provide safe anaesthesia is lacking in many low-income countries. With the increasing popularity of WhatsApp for both personal and professional communication in Africa, we sought to test the feasibility of using this platform to administer a brief survey of anaesthesia equipment availability in Burundi. The aims of the study were to survey a subset of anaesthesia equipment availability in Burundi and to assess the suitability of using a WhatsApp chat group to administer such a survey.

Methods: The survey was distributed via WhatsApp by ATSARPS (Agora des Techniciens Supérieurs Anesthésistes Réanimateurs pour la Promotion de la Santé), an association of anaesthesia providers in Burundi. The questions focused on the presence of five pieces of anaesthesia equipment recommended by the World Health Organization – World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WHO–WFSA) International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anesthesia, namely a Lifebox pulse oximeter, anaesthesia machine, capnograph, ECG and defibrillator. Questions were sent as free text, and responses were received as a reply or as a personal message to the president of ATSARPS who sent the survey.

Results: Responses received represented data from 55 (85%) of the 65 hospitals that offer anaesthesia care across Burundi. Eightynine per cent of hospitals had a Lifebox pulse oximeter, 91% had an anaesthesia machine, 16% had capnography, 24% had an ECG and 14% had a defibrillator. Among hospitals which responded to our survey, only 60% reported perfoming general endotracheal anaesthesia on a monthly basis.

Conclusion: Data collection in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can be challenging; therefore, simple, low-cost methods of data collection need to be developed. We have demonstrated the feasibility of using a WhatsApp chat group among a national society of anaesthesia providers in Burundi to perform an initial abbreviated audit of anaesthesia facilities. We have also identified significant deficits in anaesthesia equipment in Burundi.

The evaluation of a surgical task-sharing program in South Sudan

Background: Five billion people lack timely, affordable, and safe surgical services. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the region with the scarcest access to surgical care. The surgical workforce is crucial in closing this gap. In SSA, South Sudan has one of the lowest surgical workforce density. Task-sharing being a cost-effective training method, in 2019, the University of British Columbia collaborated with Médecins Sans Frontières to create the Essential Surgical Skills program and launched it in South Sudan. This study aims to evaluate this pilot program. Methods: This is a mixed-method prospective cohort study. Quantitative data include pre- and post-training outputs (number and types of surgeries, complication, re-operation, and mortality) and surgical proficiency of the trainees (quiz, Entrustable Professional Activity (EPA), and logbook data), and online survey for trainers. Semi-structured interviews were performed with trainees at the program completion. Results: Since July 2019, trainees performed 385 operations. The most common procedures were skin graft (14.8%), abscess drainage (9.61%), wound debridement and transverse laparotomy (7.79% each). 172 EPAs have been completed, out of which 136 (79%) showed that the trainee could independently perform the procedure. During the training, the operating room and surgical ward mortality remained similar to the pre-training phase. Furthermore, the surgical morbidity decreased from 25% to less than 5%. The pass rate for all quizzes was 100%. Interviews and survey showed that trainees’ surgical knowledge, interprofessional teamwork, trainers’ global insight on surgical training in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), and patient care has improved. Also, the program empowered trainees, developed career path, and local acceptance and retention. The modules were relevant to community needs. Conclusions: This study casts light on the feasibility of training surgeons through a virtual platform in under-resourced regions. The COVID-19 global pandemic highlighted the need to make LMICs independent from fly-in trainers and traditional apprenticeship. Knowledge translation of this training platform’s evaluation will hopefully inform Ministries of Health and their partners to develop their National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plans (NSOAPs). Furthermore, thanks to its scalability, both across levels of training and geography, it paves the way for virtual surgical education everywhere in the world.