Short-term general, gynecologic, orthopedic, and pediatric surgical mission trips in Nicaragua: A cost-effectiveness analysis

Background Short-term surgical missions facilitated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may be a possible platform for cost-effective international global surgical efforts. The objective of this study is to determine if short-term surgical mission trips provided by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Esperança to Nicaragua from 2016 to 2020 are cost-effective.
Methods Using a provider perspective, the costs of implementing the surgical trips were collected via Esperança’s previous trip reports. The reports and patient data were analyzed to determine disability-adjusted life years averted from each surgical procedure provided in Nicaragua from 2016-2020. Average cost-effectiveness ratios for each surgical trip specialty were calculated to determine the average cost of averting one disability adjusted life year.
Results Esperança’s surgical missions’ program in Nicaragua from 2016 to 2020 was found to be cost-effective, with pediatric and gynecology surgical specialties being highly cost-effective and general and orthopedic surgical specialties being moderately cost-effective. These results were echoed in both scenarios of the sensitivity analysis, except for the orthopedic specialty which was found to not be cost-effective when testing an increased discount rate.
Conclusions The cost-effectiveness of short-term surgical missions provided by NGOs can be cost-effective, but limitations include inconsistent data from a societal perspective and lack of an appropriate counterfactual. Future studies should examine the capacity for NGOs to collect adequate data and conduct rigorous economic evaluations

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Oncology Clinical Research in Latin America (LACOG 0420)

COVID-19 has affected cancer care worldwide. Clinical trials are an important alternative for the treatment of oncologic patients, especially in Latin America, where trials can be the only opportunity for some of them to access novel and, sometimes, standard treatments.

This was a cross-sectional study, in which a 22-question survey regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oncology clinical trials was sent to 350 representatives of research programs in selected Latin American institutions, members of the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group.

There were 90 research centers participating in the survey, with 70 of them from Brazil. The majority were partly private or fully private (n = 77; 85.6%) and had confirmed COVID-19 cases at the institution (n = 57; 63.3%). Accruals were suspended at least for some studies in 80% (n = 72) of the responses, mostly because of sponsors’ decision. Clinical trials’ routine was affected by medical visits cancelation, reduction of patients’ attendance, reduction of other specialties’ availability, and/or alterations on follow-up processes. Formal COVID-19 mitigation policies were adopted in 96.7% of the centers, including remote monitoring and remote site initiation visits, telemedicine visits, reduction of research team workdays or home office, special consent procedures, shipment of oral drugs directly to patients’ home, and increase in outpatient diagnostic studies. Importantly, some of these changes were suggested to be part of future oncology clinical trials’ routine, particularly the ones regarding remote methods, such as telemedicine.

To our knowledge, this was the first survey to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on Latin American oncology clinical trials. The results are consistent with surveys from other world regions. These findings may endorse improvements in clinical trials’ processes and management in the postpandemic period.

Recommendations for streamlining precision medicine in breast cancer care in Latin America.

The incidence of breast cancer (BC) in LMICs has increased by more than 20% within the last decade. In areas such as Latin America (LA), addressing BC at national levels evoke discussions surrounding fragmented care, limited resources, and regulatory barriers. Precision Medicine (PM), specifically companion diagnostics (CDx), links disease diagnosis and treatment for better patient outcomes. Thus, its application may aid in overcoming these barriers.
Recent findings
A panel of LA experts in fields related to BC and PM were provided with a series of relevant questions to address prior to a multi-day conference. Within this conference, each narrative was edited by the entire group, through numerous rounds of discussion until a consensus was achieved. The panel proposes specific, realistic recommendations for implementing CDx in BC in LA and other LMIC regions. In these recommendations, the authors strived to address all barriers to the widespread use and access mentioned previously within this manuscript.
This manuscript provides a review of the current state of CDx for BC in LA. Of most importance, the panel proposes practical and actionable recommendations for the implementation of CDx throughout the Region in order to identify the right patient at the right time for the right treatment.

Global Neurosurgery Activities in the Latin American Region

Latin America comprises 33 countries and 15 dependencies of other countries, having a population of over 630 million inhabitants (Tables 1 and 2). As one of the most urbanized regions worldwide and with many diverse cities, there is a large variability in life expectancy and mortality profiles. A recent study on the life expectancy and mortality in 363 Latin American towns published in Nature found that Life expectancy at birth ranges from 74–83 years and 63–77 years in women and men. Regarding mortality profiles, they found proportionate mortality by violent injury from near 0%, similar to Italy, to almost 20%, identical to Iraq

Prevalence of clinically-evident congenital anomalies in the Western highlands of Guatemala

Congenital anomalies are a significant cause of death and disability for infants, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), where 95% of all deaths due to anomalies occur. Limited data on the prevalence and survival of infants with congenital anomalies are available from Central America. Estimates have indicated that 53 of every 10,000 live births in Guatemala are associated with a congenital anomaly. We aim to report on the incidence and survival of infants with congenital anomalies from a population-based registry and classify the anomalies according to the International Classification of Disease, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).

We conducted a planned secondary analysis of data from the Maternal Newborn Health Registry (MNHR), a prospective, population-based study carried out by the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research in seven research sites. We included all deliveries between 2014 and 2018 in urban and rural settings in Chimaltenango, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. These cases of clinically evident anomalies were reported by field staff and reviewed by medically trained staff, who classified them according to ICD – 10 categories. The incidence of congenital anomalies and associated stillbirth, neonatal mortality, and survival rates were determined for up to 42 days.

Out of 60,142 births, 384 infants were found to have a clinically evident congenital anomaly (63.8 per 10,000 births). The most common were anomalies of the nervous system (28.8 per 10,000), malformations and deformations of the musculoskeletal system (10.8 per 10,000), and cleft lip and palate (10.0 per 10,000). Infants born with nervous system anomalies had the highest stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates (14.6 and 9.0 per 10,000, respectively).

This is the first population-based report on congenital anomalies in Guatemala. The rates we found of overall anomalies are higher than previously reported estimates. These data will be useful to increase the focus on congenital anomalies and hopefully increase the use of interventions of proven benefit.

Assessment of Anesthesia Capacity in Public Surgical Hospitals in Guatemala

International standards for safe anesthetic care have been developed by the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Whether these standards are met is unknown in many nations, including Guatemala, a country with universal health coverage. We aimed to establish an overview of anesthesia care capacity in public surgical hospitals in Guatemala to help guide public sector health care development.

In partnership with the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS), a national survey of all public hospitals providing surgical care was conducted using the WFSA anesthesia facility assessment tool (AFAT) in 2018. Each facility was assessed for infrastructure, service delivery, workforce, medications, equipment, and monitoring practices. Descriptive statistics were calculated and presented.

Of the 46 public hospitals in Guatemala in 2018, 36 (78%) were found to provide surgical care, including 20 district, 14 regional, and 2 national referral hospitals. We identified 573 full-time physician surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians (SAO) in the public sector, with an estimated SAO density of 3.3/100,000 population. There were 300 full-time anesthesia providers working at public hospitals. Physician anesthesiologists made up 47% of these providers, with an estimated physician anesthesiologist density of 0.8/100,000 population. Only 10% of district hospitals reported having an anesthesia provider continuously present intraoperatively during general or neuraxial anesthesia cases. No hospitals reported assessing pain in the immediate postoperative period. While the availability of some medications such as benzodiazepines and local anesthetics was robust (100% availability across all hospitals), not all hospitals had essential medications such as ketamine, epinephrine, or atropine. There were deficiencies in the availability of essential equipment and basic intraoperative monitors, such as end-tidal carbon dioxide detectors (17% availability across all hospitals). Postoperative care and access to resuscitative equipment, such as defibrillators, were also lacking.

This first countrywide, MSPAS-led assessment of anesthesia capacity at public facilities in Guatemala revealed a lack of essential materials and personnel to provide safe anesthesia and surgery. Hospitals surveyed often did not have resources regardless of hospital size or level, which may suggest multiple factors preventing availability and use. Local and national policy initiatives are needed to address these deficiencies.

Designing for Health Accessibility: Case Studies of Human-Centered Design to Improve Access to Cervical Cancer Screening

Our world faces immense challenges in global health and equity. There continue to be huge disparities in access to health care across geographies, despite the massive strides that have been made to address health issues. In this dissertation, I explore the role of human-centered design to improve global health access and reduce disparities. Human-centered design, a cross-disciplinary creative problem-solving approach, has been applied and studied in both academic research and practice, but its role in improving global health access remains poorly understood.

In this dissertation, I present research on designing for health accessibility in the context of one particular disease: cervical cancer. Every year, 300,000 women around the world die of cervical cancer and ninety percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Cervical cancer is an illustrative example of the global disparities in access to health care, given that cervical cancer is preventable and the majority of global cervical cancer mortality is in low- and middle-income countries.

My research examines the work of two organizations that created unique solutions to improve access to cervical cancer screening in India and Nicaragua. I develop case studies of each organization grounded in ethnographic fieldwork, including over 250 hours of observation and 15 interviews over two years. Through these case studies, I show how early efforts to understand the barriers inhibiting cervical cancer screening access allow design practitioners to create novel and feasible ways to address these barriers. This demonstrates the importance of design practitioners considering multiple dimensions of accessibility, including availability, physical accessibility, accommodation, affordability, and acceptability, while conducting design research in order to improve the potential impact of their ideas and prototypes. Overall, this dissertation establishes the foundation of a new paradigm to “design for accessibility” that can inspire further application and research across sectors to address the many social equity and accessibility challenges facing our world.

A Case Study of a Point-of-Care Electronic Medical Record [SABER] in Totonicapán, Guatemala: Benefits, Challenges, and Future Directions

Background: The adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) in lower-income nations has progressed slowly due to the lack of adequate infrastructure, funding, and training. However, EMRs have been successfully implemented previously in resource-limited health systems in South Africa, Haiti, Cameroon, Kenya, and Peru. Detailed, organized, and easily accessible medical records are particularly important in emergency departments due to the volume and acuity of the patient population.

Methods: In order to further study the plausibility of an EMR in a resource-limited emergency department, a web-based, Spanish-language EMR known as SABER was developed for use in Hospital Nacional José Felipe Flores in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The software collects patient data including demographics, triage, initial evaluation, review of systems, physical exam, and evaluation and plan. It then generates a .pdf file consistent with information requirements of the Guatemalan Ministry of Health. Local physicians, medical students, and nurses were trained in the use of the software, which debuted in July 2016. To assess the effectiveness of SABER as an EMR, focus groups and Likert scale surveys were conducted with six physicians and 31 medical students working in the Hospital Nacional emergency department.

Results: Thirty of 32 medical students and six of six doctors would recommend SABER to another provider. Positive aspects identified by staff include ease of use, quick data entry, and the potential for large data set research.

Discussion: Remaining challenges include incorporating electronic nursing orders and lab results, troubleshooting technology problems including printer difficulties, a lack of electronic signature capability, and lack of integration with the rest of the hospital. Our study is consistent with other studies that show use of an EMR may help to reduce health disparities through improved patient records, medical data collection, and organization.

Cervical Cancer Screening With Human Papillomavirus Self-Sampling Among Transgender Men in El Salvador

Purpose: Sexual and gender minority persons in low-income countries have very limited access to routine health services. This study evaluated the feasibility of using a self-sampled human papillomavirus (HPV) test to increase access to screening for cervical cancer among transgender men in El Salvador. Methods: We partnered with a local advocacy organization for recruitment. A total of 24 transgender men (men assigned female at birth) ages 19-55 were enrolled and provided consent. Questionnaires assessed sociodemographics, health and sexual histories, and knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer. Screening was performed with a self-sampled HPV test. Participants with a positive test were offered colposcopy and cryotherapy treatment, if appropriate. Those with a negative test were advised to return in 5 years for rescreening. Results: Out of 24 consenting participants, 23 (95.83%) agreed to conduct HPV self-sampling, and 22/23 (95.65%) expressed willingness to self-sample in the future. Among self-sampled individuals, 3/23 (13%) tested positive and accepted colposcopy and biopsy. Analyses of biopsied tissue revealed one case of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 1. Conclusion: HPV self-sampling and subsequent procedures were accepted by the majority of participants. This screening method may be a viable alternative to cytology among transgender men in El Salvador.

Designing and implementing a practical prehospital emergency trauma care curriculum for lay first responders in Guatemala

Background Injury disproportionately affects low-income and middle-income countries, yet robust emergency medical services are often lacking to effectively address the prehospital injury burden. A half-day prehospital emergency trauma care curriculum was designed for first responders and piloted in the Sacatepéquez, Chimaltenango, and Escuintla departments in Guatemala.

Methods Three hundred and fifty-four law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and civilians volunteered to participate in a 5-hour emergency care course teaching scene safety, triage, airway management, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, fracture management, and victim transport. A validated 26-question pretest/post-test study instrument was contextually adapted and used to measure overall test performance, the primary study outcome, as well as test performance stratified by occupation, the secondary study outcome. Pretest/post-test score distributions were compared using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test. For test evaluation, knowledge acquisition on a by-question and by-category basis was examined using McNemar’s χ² test, whereas item difficulty indices used frequency-of-distribution tests and item discrimination indices used point biserial correlation.

Results Two hundred and eighty-seven participants qualified for inclusion. Participant mean pretest versus post-test scores improved 24 percentage points after course completion (43% vs 68%, p<0.001). Cronbach’s alpha yielded values of 0.86 (pretest) and 0.94 (post-test), suggesting testing instrument reliability. Between-group analyses demonstrated law enforcement and civilian participants improved more than firefighters (p<0.001). Performance on 23 of 26 questions improved significantly. All test questions except one showed an increase in their PPDI.

Discussion A 1-day, contextually adapted, 5-hour course targeting laypeople demonstrates significant improvements in emergency care knowledge. Future investigations of similar curricula should be trialed in alternate low-resource settings with increased civilian participation to evaluate efficacy and replicability as adequate substitutes for longer courses. This study suggests future courses teaching emergency care for lay first responders may be reduced to 5 hours duration.

Level of evidence Level II.