International pediatric surgery partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa: a scoping literature review

Background
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces a critical shortage of pediatric surgical providers. International partnerships can play an important role in pediatric surgical capacity building but must be ethical and sustainable.

Objective
The purpose of this study is to perform a scoping literature review of international pediatric surgery partnerships in SSA from 2009 to 2019. We aim to categorize and critically assess past partnerships to aid in future capacity-building efforts.

Methods
We performed a scoping literature review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines. We searched the PubMed and Embase databases for articles published from 2009 to 2019 using 24 keywords. Articles were selected according to inclusion criteria and assessed by two readers. Descriptive analyses of the data collected were conducted in Excel.

Results
A total of 2376 articles were identified. After duplicates were removed, 405 articles were screened. In total, 83 articles were assessed for eligibility, and 62 were included in the review. The most common partnership category was short-term surgical trip (28 articles, 45%). A total of 35 articles (56%) included education of host country providers as part of the partnership. Only 45% of partnerships included follow-up care, and 50% included postoperative outcomes when applicable.

Conclusions
To increase sustainability, more partnerships must include education of local health-care providers, and short-term surgical trips must be integrated into long-term partnerships. More partnerships need to report postoperative outcomes and ensure follow-up care. Educating peri-operative providers, training general surgeons in common pediatric procedures, and increasing telehealth use are other goals for future partnerships.

Telesurgery’s potential role in improving surgical access in Africa

An estimated five billion people worldwide lack access to surgical care, while LMICs including African nations require an additional 143 million life-saving surgical procedures each year.African hospitals are under-resourced and understaffed, causing global attention to be focused on improving surgical access in the continent. The African continent saw its first telesurgery application when the United States Army Special Operations Forces in Somalia used augmented reality to stabilize lifethreatening injuries.Various studies have been conducted since the first telesurgery implementation in 2001 to further optimize its application.In context of a relative shortage of healthcare resources and personnel telesurgery can considerably improve quality and access to surgical services in Africa.telesurgery can provide remote African regions with access to knowledge and tools that were previously unavailable, driving innovative research and professional growth of surgeons in the region.At the same time, telesurgery allows less trained surgeons in remote areas with lower social determinants of health, such as access, to achieve better health outcomes. However, lack of stable internet access, expensive equipment costs combined with low expenditure on healthcare limits expansive utilization of telesurgery in Africa. Regional and international policies aimed at overcoming these obstacles can improve access, optimize surgical care and thereby reduce disease burden associated with surgical conditions in Africa.

Cervical cancer prevention in countries with the highest HIV prevalence: a review of policies

Introduction
Cervical cancer (CC) is the leading cause of cancer-related death among women in sub-Saharan Africa. It occurs most frequently in women living with HIV (WLHIV) and is classified as an AIDS-defining illness. Recent World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations provide guidance for CC prevention policies, with specifications for WLHIV. We systematically reviewed policies for CC prevention and control in sub-Saharan countries with the highest HIV prevalence.

Methods
We included countries with an HIV prevalence ≥ 10% in 2018 and policies published between January 1st 2010 and March 31st 2022. We searched Medline via PubMed, the international cancer control partnership website and national governmental websites of included countries for relevant policy documents. The online document search was supplemented with expert consultation for each included country. We synthesised aspects defined in policies for HPV vaccination, sex education, condom use, tobacco control, male circumcision,cervical screening, diagnosis and treatment of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer, monitoring mechanisms and cost of services to women while highlighting specificities for WLHIV.

Results
We reviewed 33 policy documents from nine countries. All included countries had policies on CC prevention and control either as a standalone policy (77.8%), or as part of a cancer or non-communicable diseases policy (22.2%) or both (66.7%). Aspects of HPV vaccination were reported in 7 (77.8%) of the 9 countries. All countries (100%) planned to develop or review Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials for CC prevention including condom use and tobacco control. Age at screening commencement and screening intervals for WLHIV varied across countries. The most common recommended screening and treatment methods were visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) (88.9%), Pap smear (77.8%); cryotherapy (100%) and loop electrosurgical procedure (LEEP) (88.9%) respectively. Global indicators disaggregated by HIV status for monitoring CC programs were rarely reported. CC prevention and care policies included service costs at various stages in three countries (33.3%).

Conclusion
Considerable progress has been made in policy development for CC prevention and control in sub Saharan Africa. However, in countries with a high HIV burden, there is need to tailor these policies to respond to the specific needs of WLHIV. Countries may consider updating policies using the recent WHO guidelines for CC prevention, while adapting them to context realities.

Improvements in Child Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment in Africa

In Africa, more than 50% of cases of childhood cancer go undiagnosed. Africa accounts for 146,000 of the projected 397,000 new cases globally per year (including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases) (Ward et al, 2019a). Of the diagnosed cases, only 11.6% of children in Africa survive (Ward et al, 2019b). Based on the above modeling exercise, we estimate that only about one-third of those who are diagnosed actually receive treatment; no hard data are available. Increasing access to treatment will increase survival, although to reach survival rates comparable to high income countries, investments will also be needed to decrease treatment abandonment and improve quality of treatment (Ward et al, 2019b).We recommend investing to expand treatment of five key cancers that are both treatable and affordable. These five cancers together account
for 40% of the burden of childhood cancer in Africa. Studies of cost per child treated in subSaharan Africa for three of the conditions (Burkitt lymphoma, nephroblastoma and earlystage retinoblastoma) were $1248, $1976 and $2202 USD respectively in various low- and lower-middle income countries in Africa. More conservatively, costs of a comprehensive cancer centre in one African country which achieved a projected 5-year survival rate of 35% for a cohort of children with multiple cancer types, were around $10,000 per child in 2018 USD, or around 6.5 times per capita GNI (see text below for all study references).
Benefit:cost ratios were estimated as 9.1 to 19.3 for the three diseases for which studies were available, and a more conservative 5.2:1 for a comprehensive centre which treats not only the priority diseases, but also provides treatment for other less-treatable conditions and palliative care to children for whom cure is not possible. Ratios would be a little lower (4.6:1) but still very attractive if indirect costs to families were included in treatment costs, and higher if non-profit organizations took the lead in small investments to reduce treatment abandonment rates, as has been done successfully in a number of low- and middleincome country (LMIC) contexts.
Expanding care from the estimated one-third of those diagnosed to all those currently diagnosed would cost $407m using the comprehensive cancer centre model. This amount would double, if 90% coverage of were attained (i.e. if 80% of all undiagnosed children could be diagnosed and linked to treatment). The value of the benefits would however be an estimated 5.2 times the costs, or $2116m. There are other potential unquantifiable benefits, such as helping to show that cancer is indeed curable and helping reduce the stigma associated with cancer in Africa, potentially leading adults with cancer to seek care earlier and improve their survival. In addition, improving capabilities to treat childhood cancers has the potential to strengthen health systems more broadly, by developing radiologic and pathologic services, medicines procurement and supply management, surgical facilities, health human resource training and retention, and supportive care capacities.

Nonphysician Sedation Providers in Africa: What Counts and What Is Being Counted?

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – WB Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking, 1963.

Does your anesthesia providers’ level of training impact your outcomes? This question has been widely evaluated and debated in the perioperative literature. With increasing demand for surgical and procedural services facilitated by anesthesia care globally, an answer will continue to be sought. Van der Merwe et al1 in their article “Postoperative outcomes associated with procedural sedation conducted by physician and non-physician anesthesia providers: findings from the prospective, observational African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS)” published in this month’s Anesthesia & Analgesia, have added to this discussion, with a secondary analysis of data from the African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS). Although their study provides some interesting insights into the outcomes of procedural sedation across the continent, our opinion is that the question remains largely unanswered.

To date, most of the literature evaluating the association between anesthesia care provider type and outcomes has focused on anesthesia care in highly developed health care systems. Questions have focused on task-shifting, where the responsibility for tasks is shifted from a more highly trained health care provider to health workers with shorter training and fewer qualifications, and task-sharing, where both levels of providers perform the task and may even work closely together. Examples include family doctors in Canada providing unsupervised anesthesia care in community hospitals after adding an additional year of training in anesthesia to their family medicine residency program; certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), practicing independently in many US states; and French anesthesiologists supervising nurse anesthetists with a 1:2 ratio. Ultimately, the hope is that by shifting/sharing tasks, access to care will improve with less-resource input and with similar (or in the case of task-sharing) even safer outcomes.2

Countries with a gross national income per capita of <$12,696 US dollars (USDs) are often (problematically) lumped together as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)3 regardless of the profound diversity in this categorization, which contains around 85% of the world’s population.4 There is a critical shortage in human resources for health (HRH) globally, particularly in anesthesia. However, HRH are one of the most complex parts of health systems, with huge international variation in terms of numbers of health care workers, their training, their point of entry into training, their scope of practice, interprofessionalism, resilience, burnout, and retention of health care workers within the system.5–7 Developing a deep understanding of how to most effectively and efficiently provide safe anesthesia care is an urgent priority in improving global surgical outcomes; however, nuances in context make generalizations problematic.

Ven der Merwe et al1 aimed to evaluate this question by comparing patient outcomes when procedural sedation was delivered by nonphysician versus physician anesthesia providers. The primary data source, the ASOS, is a landmark study, where investigators collected a large amount of data (11,422 patients) over a relatively short amount of time, with good coverage of a broad geographic area.8 Its largely descriptive statistical analysis has been highly informative of perioperative outcomes in Africa, which appear to be much worse than previously published global data. In contrast, the Van der Merwe et al1 study is a small subset of the primary data (336 patients, ~3% of the full cohort), with a more complex comparative statistical analysis, with the authors concluding that receipt of sedation from a nonphysician provider was significantly associated with increased odds of severe complications. While these results must be interpreted with great caution (as we will outline below), the findings raise important questions about perioperative health care systems in Africa.

How Climate Change May Threaten Progress in Neonatal Health in the African Region

Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging impacts on maternal and neonatal health in Africa. Populations in low-resource settings already experience adverse impacts from weather extremes, a high burden of disease from environmental exposures, and limited access to high-quality clinical care. Climate change is already increasing local temperatures. Neonates are at high risk of heat stress and dehydration due to their unique metabolism, physiology, growth, and developmental characteristics. Infants in low-income settings may have little protection against extreme heat due to housing design and limited access to affordable space cooling. Climate change may increase risks to neonatal health from weather disasters, decreasing food security, and facilitating infectious disease transmission. Effective interventions to reduce risks from the heat include health education on heat risks for mothers, caregivers, and clinicians; nature-based solutions to reduce urban heat islands; space cooling in health facilities; and equitable improvements in housing quality and food systems. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to reduce the long-term impacts of climate change that will further undermine global health strategies to reduce neonatal mortality.

Exposure to family planning messages and contraceptive use among women of reproductive age in Sub-Saharan Africa: A crosssectional program impact evaluation study

Many women of reproductive age in sub Saharan Africa are not utilizing any contraceptive method which is contributing to the high burden of maternal mortality. This study determined the prevalence, trends, and the impact of exposure to family planning messages (FPM) on contraceptive use (CU) among women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We utilized the most recent data from demographic and health surveys across 26 SSA countries between 2013 and 2019. We assessed the prevalence and trends and quantified the impact of exposure to FPM on contraceptive use using augmented inverse probability weighting with regression adjustment. Sensitivity analysis of the impact estimate was conducted using endogenous treatment effect models, inverse probability weighting, and propensity score with nearest-neighbor matching techniques. The study involved 328,386 women of reproductive age. The overall prevalence of CU and the percentage of women of reproductive age in SSA exposed to FPM were 31.1% [95% CI: 30.6–31.5] and 38.9% [95% CI: 38.8–39.4] respectively. Exposure to FPM increased CU by 7.1 percentage points (pp) [95% CI = 6.7, 7.4] among women of reproductive age in SSA. The impact of FPM on CU was highest in Central Africa [6.7 pp; 95% CI: [5.7–7.7] and lowest in Southern Africa [2.2 pp; 95% CI: [1.3-3.0]. There was a marginal decline in the impact estimate among adolescents (estimate = 6.0 pp [95% CI = 5.0, 8.0]). Exposure to FPM has contributed to an increase in CU among women of reproductive age. Programs that are geared towards intensifying exposure to FPM through traditional media in addition to exploring avenues for appropriate use of electronic media remain critical.

Right-sided Weakness in a Rwandan Patient with Unrepaired Tetralogy of Fallot

Background

Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is the most common cyanotic congenital heart disease encountered in pediatrics. Long-term survival after surgical repair has improved; however, reported mortality rates in unrepaired TOF are significant. Associated complications include neurological sequelae, most frequently brain abscess and stroke. In countries without early intervention for congenital heart disease including TOF, delayed presentations and complications require recognition by healthcare workers.

Case presentation

A 22 year old male with a history of unrepaired TOF presented to Rwanda’s tertiary university hospital, University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) with acute right-sided hemiparesis. Diagnostic imaging identified a left-sided brain lesion consistent with brain abscess and cardiac mass concerning for an endocardial vegetation. He was managed with intravenous antibiotics, but subsequently died due to complications of septicemia.

Conclusion

In countries where surgical repair of TOF is not available, early recognition and medical management are key in temporizing the development of devastating sequelae. Describing the prevalence of CHD in Rwanda is urgent, requiring further research by which effective prevention and treatment strategies can be developed.

Predictors and management outcomes of perforated appendicitis in sub-Saharan African countries: A retrospective cohort study

Background
Previous studies have found an association between various predictors and perforated appendicitis. However, there is limited evidence of studies determining the severity of acute appendicitis (AA) in resource-limited settings. Thus, this study aimed to identify predictors and outcomes of perforated appendicitis (PA) in sub-Saharan countries.

Methods
This is a retrospective cohort study of 298 adult patients who underwent surgical intervention for acute appendicitis. Demographic characteristics, clinical parameters, intraoperative findings, length of hospital stay, and postoperative complications were collected. We computed multivariate logistic regression to identify predictors of PA. P-value 38 °C (AOR = 4.569; 95% CI (2.249–9.282), and duration of symptoms >2 days (AOR = 2.704; 95% CI (1.400–5.222). Perforation was associated with an increased rate of postoperative complications (45.07vs. 6.41%; P 38 °C were the best predictors of PA. The overall total postoperative complications and the length of hospital stays were higher in PA. Based on our findings, we recommend that the identified predictors should be considered during the preoperative diagnosis and subsequent management.

The Effect and Feasibility of mHealth-Supported Surgical Site Infection Diagnosis by Community Health Workers After Cesarean Section in Rural Rwanda: Randomized Controlled Trial

Background:
The development of a surgical site infection (SSI) after cesarean section (c-section) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries, including Rwanda. Rwanda relies on a robust community health worker (CHW)–led, home-based paradigm for delivering follow-up care for women after childbirth. However, this program does not currently include postoperative care for women after c-section, such as SSI screenings.

Objective:
This trial assesses whether CHW’s use of a mobile health (mHealth)–facilitated checklist administered in person or via phone call improved rates of return to care among women who develop an SSI following c-section at a rural Rwandan district hospital. A secondary objective was to assess the feasibility of implementing the CHW-led mHealth intervention in this rural district.

Methods:
A total of 1025 women aged ≥18 years who underwent a c-section between November 2017 and September 2018 at Kirehe District Hospital were randomized into the three following postoperative care arms: (1) home visit intervention (n=335, 32.7%), (2) phone call intervention (n=334, 32.6%), and (3) standard of care (n=356, 34.7%). A CHW-led, mHealth-supported SSI diagnostic protocol was delivered in the two intervention arms, while patients in the standard of care arm were instructed to adhere to routine health center follow-up. We assessed intervention completion in each intervention arm and used logistic regression to assess the odds of returning to care.

Results:
The majority of women in Arm 1 (n=295, 88.1%) and Arm 2 (n=226, 67.7%) returned to care and were assessed for an SSI at their local health clinic. There were no significant differences in the rates of returning to clinic within 30 days (P=.21), with high rates found consistently across all three arms (Arm 1: 99.7%, Arm 2: 98.4%, and Arm 3: 99.7%, respectively).

Conclusions:
Home-based post–c-section follow-up is feasible in rural Africa when performed by mHealth-supported CHWs. In this study, we found no difference in return to care rates between the intervention arms and standard of care. However, given our previous study findings describing the significant patient-incurred financial burden posed by traveling to a health center, we believe this intervention has the potential to reduce this burden by limiting patient travel to the health center when an SSI is ruled out at home. Further studies are needed (1) to determine the acceptability of this intervention by CHWs and patients as a new standard of care after c-section and (2) to assess whether an app supplementing the mHealth screening checklist with image-based machine learning could improve CHW diagnostic accuracy.