Strengthening the Health System as a Strategy to Achieving a Universal Health Coverage in Underprivileged Communities in Africa: A Scoping Review

Universal health coverage (UHC) is defined as people having access to quality healthcare services (e.g., treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care) they need, irrespective of their financial status. Access to quality healthcare services continues to be a challenge for many people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study was to conduct a scoping review to map out the health system strengthening strategies that can be used to attain universal health coverage in Africa. We conducted a scoping review and qualitatively synthesized existing evidence from studies carried out in Africa. We included studies that reported interventions to strengthen the health system, e.g., financial support, increasing work force, improving leadership capacity in health facilities, and developing and upgrading infrastructure of primary healthcare facilities. Outcome measures included health facility infrastructures, access to medicines, and sources of financial support. A total of 34 studies conducted met our inclusion criteria. Health financing and developing health infrastructure were the most reported interventions toward achieving UHC. Our results suggest that strengthening the health system, namely, through health financing, developing, and improving the health infrastructure, can play an important role in reaching UHC in the African context.

Prevalence of Paediatric Surgical Conditions in Eastern Uganda: A Cross-Sectional Study

Background
The role of surgery in global health has gained greater attention in recent years. Approximately 1.8 billion children below 15 years live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Many surgical conditions affect children. Therefore, paediatric surgery requires specific emphasis. Left unattended, the consequences can be dire. Despite this, there is a paucity of data regarding prevalence of surgical conditions in children in LMIC. The present objective was to investigate the prevalence of paediatric surgical conditions in children in a defined geographical area in Eastern Uganda.

Method
A cross-sectional study was carried out in the Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site located in Eastern Uganda. Through a two-stage, cluster-based sampling process, 490 households from 49 villages were randomly selected, generating a study population of 1581 children. The children’s caregivers were interviewed, and the children were physically examined by two medical doctors to identify any surgical conditions.

Results
The interview was performed with 1581 children, and 1054 were physically examined. Among these, the overall prevalence of any surgical condition was 16.0 per cent (n = 169). Of these, 39 per cent had an unmet surgical need (66 of 169). This is equivalent to a 6.3 per cent prevalence of current unmet surgical need. The most common groups of surgical condition were congenital anomalies and trauma-related conditions.

Conclusion
Surgical conditions in children are common in eastern Uganda. The unmet need for surgery is high. With a growing population, the need for paediatric surgical capacity will increase even further. The health care system must be reinforced to provide services for children with surgical conditions if United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 3 is to be achieved by 2030.

Inspirational Women in Surgery: Dr. Olive Kobusingye, Uganda

Dr. Olive Kobusingye has spent her career taking on an enormous challenge—improving trauma care in Uganda, in Africa, and worldwide. She was born in a village in southwestern Uganda, 5th in a family of six children. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a policeman and later a trader in agricultural produce. Both of her parents died young—her father when she was five and her mother when she was eleven. She went to all-girls missionary boarding schools until university. Her first ambition was to be an engineer, but she was talked out of it by her elder brother who was then at medical school. He told her that at Makerere University women did not do well in engineering no matter how bright they were. Medicine was her second choice.

Once at Makerere, she at first thought of going into forensic pathology and then psychiatry, but neither really caught her attention. Surgery was different. She saw patients brought in half dead and revived within a few hours of intervention. Her five years at medical school coincided with the five years that the National Resistance Army fought a civil war that left more than half a million Ugandans dead. She saw many victims of the war during her training. She did a rotating internship at Machakos General Hospital, in Kenya, to experience medicine in a more stable environment. It was here that she decided to pursue a career in surgery. Dr. Mohamad Alkama was head of surgery, and it was a joy to scrub for him. His operating lists included a great variety of surgeries, ranging from neurosurgery, orthopedics, general surgery and pediatric surgery. He did all of them with a positive attitude, always giving interns opportunities for hands-on experience during the surgery.

Two years later she returned to Uganda to begin her surgical residency and found that medical services were still quite poor. Shortages were a constant frustration—shortage of almost everything—sutures, equipment, anaesthesia, medicines, lab reagents. To compound the problem, AIDS was ravaging the country, putting medical workers at great risk. But, she felt herself very fortunate to have excellent surgeons as her teachers, especially Prof. JC Ssali who was her immediate supervisor, and who turned out to be a quieter, older version of Dr. Alkama.

Later when she decided to focus on accident & emergency surgery, the shortages did not let up, yet her patients could not wait for relatives to go and sell household property to buy medical supplies. The cost of mismanaged medical services in terms of lives needlessly lost was always “in her face”—especially the year she spent as the Acting Head of the Accident & Emergency at Mulago Hospital, the main hospital in the country. Frustrated at the many needless injuries, especially from road traffic crashes, she decided to take on trauma care and injury prevention as the focus of her career.

Over the ensuing two decades, she has been a major force in promoting both trauma care and injury prevention in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) globally. She founded the Injury Prevention Center at Makere University, one of the first academic injury prevention centers in Africa. Her research addressed straightforward ways to improve care for the injured in LMICs, something that she realized was possible, despite the extreme resource limitations. A major scientific contribution was her development of the Kampala Trauma Score (KTS), a simple way to risk-adjust injured patients, especially in locations where it would be difficult and time consuming to use the more complex scales used in high-income countries. The KTS is now used around the world. She also co-developed a training course for teams working in emergency units—the Trauma Team Training course. She has looked for ways to improve trauma care broadly in many countries, spending 5 years as the WHO Regional Adviser on Injury for Africa, based in Brazzaville, Congo, providing input on trauma care to 46 African countries.

She has always had an ability to see beyond the immediate problems, to the bigger issues that hamper care in places like Uganda. She states: “In trauma, patients are still getting debilitating osteomyelitis because there is not enough saline to do a decent debridement. Patients are dying for lack of a chest tube. These problems are not for ‘the surgical community’ to resolve. They are political problems. Perhaps the surgical community needs to begin addressing upstream factors which make our practice of surgery an impossible task.” This has led her to write two books addressing such bigger factors, in medical care overall and in politics [1, 2].

Despite the numerous frustrations in her work, she maintains a hopeful outlook. “I did not foresee it back then, but the thing I am most proud of now is having spent time with students. Having taken the time to show younger doctors how to do procedures that truly mattered to patients’ recovery. Even with severe shortages, there is always something we can offer patients. Good listening and a thorough exam. Gadgets are great, and if one has them, they should definitely use them to the max, but nothing seems to be able to replace good clinical acumen yet.”

Estimated incidence and case fatality rate of traumatic brain injury among children (0–18 years) in Sub-Saharan Africa. A systematic review and meta-analysis

Introduction
Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries have reported on the incidence and case fatality rate of children with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). However, there is lack of a general epidemiologic description of the phenomenon in this sub-region underpinning the need for an accurate and reliable estimate of incidence and outcome of children (0–18 years) with TBI. This study therefore, extensively reviewed data to reliably estimate incidence, case fatality rate of children with TBI and its mechanism of injury in SSA.

Methods
Electronic databases were systematically searched in English via Medline (PubMed), Google Scholar, and Africa Journal Online (AJOL). Two independent authors performed an initial screening of studies based on the details found in their titles and abstracts. Studies were assessed for quality/risk of bias using the modified Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS). The pooled case fatality rate and incidence were estimated using DerSimonian and Laird random-effects model (REM). A sub-group and sensitivity analyses were performed. Publication bias was checked by the funnel plot and Egger’s test. Furthermore, trim and fill analysis was used to adjust for publication bias using Duval and Tweedie’s method.

Results
Thirteen (13) hospital-based articles involving a total of 40685 participants met the inclusion criteria. The pooled case fatality rate for all the included studies in SSA was 8.0%; [95% CI: 3.0%-13.0%], and the approximate case fatality rate was adjusted to 8.2%, [95% CI:3.4%-13.0%], after the trim-and-fill analysis was used to correct for publication bias. A sub-group analysis of sub-region revealed that case fatality rate was 8% [95% CI: 2.0%-13.0%] in East Africa, 1.0% [95% CI: 0.1% -3.0%] in Southern Africa and 18.0% [95% CI: 6.0%-29.0%] in west Africa. The pooled incidence proportion of TBI was 18% [95% CI: 2.0%-33.0%]. The current review showed that Road Traffic Accident (RTA) was the predominant cause of children’s TBI in SSA. It ranged from 19.1% in South Africa to 79.1% in Togo.

Conclusion
TBI affects 18% of children aged 0 to 18 years, with almost one-tenth dying in SSA. The most common causes of TBI among this population in SSA were RTA and falls. TBI incidence and case fatality rate of people aged 0–18 years could be significantly reduced if novel policies focusing on reducing RTA and falls are introduced and implemented in SSA.

A systematic review of randomized control trials of HPV self-collection studies among women in sub-Saharan Africa using the RE-AIM framework

Introduction
Self-collection of samples for HPV testing may increase women’s access to cervical cancer screening in low- and middle-income settings. However, implementation remains poor in many regions. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine implementation data from randomized controlled trials evaluating human papillomavirus (HPV) self-collection testing among women in sub-Saharan Africa using the RE-AIM (Reach, Efficacy/Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance) framework.

Methods
We searched four electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Global Health) for pragmatic randomized controlled trials that promote HPV self-collection among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Study selection and data extraction were conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) checklist. Two researchers independently extracted information from each article using a RE-AIM data extraction tool. The reporting of RE-AIM dimensions was summarized and synthesized across included interventions.

Results
We identified 2008 citations, and eight studies were included. These reported on five unique interventions. The five interventions were conducted in five countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. Intervention reach (80%) was the most commonly reported RE-AIM dimension, followed by adoption (56%), efficacy/effectiveness (52%), implementation (47%), and maintenance (0%). All the interventions described increased uptake of HPV testing among study participants (effectiveness). However, the majority of the studies focused on reporting internal validity indicators such as inclusion criteria (100%) and exclusion criteria (100%), and few reported on external validity indicators such as participation rate (40%), intervention cost (40%), staff selection (20%), and cost of maintenance (0%).

Conclusions
Our review highlights the under-reporting of external validity indicators such as participation rate, intervention, and maintenance costs in studies of self-collection for HPV testing among women in SSA. Future research should focus on including factors that highlight internal validity factors and external validity factors to develop a greater understanding of ways to increase not only reach but also implementation and long-term maintenance of these interventions. Such data may advance the translation of HPV interventions into practice and reduce health disparities in SSA. Findings highlight the need for innovative tools such as participatory learning approaches or open challenges to expand knowledge and assessment of external validity indicators to ultimately increase the uptake of HPV testing among women in SSA.

Building Capacity and Infrastructure at Hospitals Implementing Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling: Experience and Lessons Learned From Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania

Background
Minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) is a useful tool to determine cause of death in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2019 the MITS Surveillance Alliance supported the implementation of small-scale postmortem studies using MITS in several LMICs.

Methods
In this article we describe the preparations, challenges, and lessons learned as part of implementing MITS across 4 study sites in 3 countries: Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania. We describe the process for building capacity to conduct MITS, which consisted of training in MITS sample collection, individual site assessment to determine readiness and gaps prior to implementation, site visits as sites began implementation of MITS, and feedback based on remote evaluation of histology slides via an online portal.

Results
The 4 study sites each conducted 100 MITS, for a total of 400. All 4 sites lacked sufficient infrastructure and facilities to conduct MITS, and upgrades were required. Common challenges faced by sites included that clinical autopsies were neither routinely conducted nor widely accepted. Limited clinical records made cause of death determination more difficult. Lessons learned included the importance of sensitization of the community and medical staff to MITS to enhance understanding and increase consent.

Conclusions
The study sites accomplished MITS and utilized the available support systems to overcome the challenges. The quality of the procedures was satisfactory and was facilitated through the organized capacity-building programs

Digital health in oncology in Africa: A scoping review and cross-sectional survey

Background
Low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, face a growing cancer burden. Adoption of digital health solutions has the potential to improve cancer care delivery and research in these countries. However, the extent of implementation and the impact of digital health interventions across the cancer continuum in Africa have not been studied.

Aims
To describe the current landscape of digital health interventions in oncology in Africa.

Methods
We conducted a scoping literature review and supplemented this with a survey. Following the PRISMA for Scoping Reviews guidelines, we searched literature in PubMed and Embase for keywords and synonyms for cancer, digital health, and African countries, and abstracted data using a structured form. For the survey, participants were delegates of the 2019 conference of the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer.

Results
The literature review identified 57 articles describing 40 digital health interventions or solutions from 17 African countries, while the survey included 111 respondents from 18 African countries, and these reported 25 different digital health systems. Six articles (10.5%) reported randomized controlled trials. The other 51 articles (89.5%) were descriptive or quasi-experimental studies. The interventions mostly targeted cancer prevention (28 articles, 49.1%) or diagnosis and treatment (23 articles, 40.4%). Four articles (7.0%) targeted survivorship and end of life, and the rest were cross-cutting. Cervical cancer was the most targeted cancer (25 articles, 43.9%). Regarding WHO classification of digital interventions, most were for providers (35 articles, 61.4%) or clients (13, 22.8%), while the others were for data services or cut across these categories. The interventions were mostly isolated pilots using basic technologies such as SMS and telephone calls for notifying patients of their appointments or results, or for cancer awareness; image capture apps for cervical cancer screening, and tele-conferencing for tele-pathology and mentorship.

Generally positive results were reported, but evaluation focused on structure and process measures such as ease of use, infrastructure requirements, and acceptability of intervention; or general benefits e.g. supporting training and mentorship of providers, communication among providers and clients, and improving data collection and management. No studies evaluated individualized clinical outcomes, and there were no interventions in literature for health system managers although the systems identified in the survey had such functionality, e.g. inventory management. The survey also indicated that none of the digital health systems had all the functionalities for a comprehensive EHR, and major barriers for digital health were initial and ongoing costs, resistance from clinical staff, and lack of fit between the EHR and the clinical workflows.

Conclusion
Digital health interventions in oncology in Africa are at early maturity stages but promising. Barriers such as funding, fit between digital health tools and clinical workflows, and inertia towards technology, shall need to be addressed to allow for advancement of digital health solutions to support all parts of the cancer continuum. Future research should investigate the impact of digital health solutions on long-term cancer outcomes such as cancer mortality, morbidity and quality of lif

Experiences of women seeking care for abortion complications in health facilities: Secondary analysis of the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Abortion in 11 African countries

Objective
Despite evidence of acute and long-term consequences of suboptimal experiences of care, standardized measurements across countries remain limited, particularly for postabortion care. We aimed to determine the proportion of women reporting negative experiences of care for abortion complications, identify risk factors, and assess the potential association with complication severity.

Methods
Data were sourced from the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Abortion for women who received facility-based care for abortion complications in 11 African countries. We measured women’s experiences of care with eight questions from an audio computer-assisted self-interview related to respect, communication, and support. Multivariable generalized estimating equations were used for analysis.

Results
There were 2918 women in the study sample and 1821 (62%) reported at least one negative experience of postabortion care. Participants who were aged under 30 years, single, of low socioeconomic status, and economically dependent had higher odds of negative experiences. Living in West or Central Africa, rather than East Africa, was also associated with reportedly worse care. The influence of complication severity on experience of care appeared significant, such that women with moderate and severe complications had 12% and 40% higher odds of reporting negative experiences, respectively.

Conclusion
There were widespread reports of negative experiences of care among women receiving treatment for abortion complications in health facilities. Our findings contribute to the scant understanding of the risk factors for negative experiences of postabortion care and highlight the need to address harmful provider biases and behaviors, alleviate health system constraints, and empower women in demanding better care.

Individual and facility-level factors associated with women’s receipt of immediate postpartum family planning counseling in Ethiopia: results from national surveys of women and health facilities

Background
Immediate postpartum family planning (IPPFP) helps prevent unintended and closely spaced pregnancies. Despite Ethiopia’s rising facility-based delivery rate and supportive IPPFP policies, the prevalence of postpartum contraceptive use remains low, with little known about disparities in access to IPPFP counseling. We sought to understand if women’s receipt of IPPFP counseling varied by individual and facility characteristics.

Methods
We used weighted linked household and facility data from the national Performance Monitoring for Action Ethiopia (PMA-Ethiopia) study. Altogether, 936 women 5–9 weeks postpartum who delivered at a government facility were matched to the nearest facility offering labor and delivery care, corresponding to the facility type in which each woman reported delivering (n = 224 facilities). We explored women’s receipt of IPPFP counseling and individual and facility-level characteristics utilizing descriptive statistics. The relationship between women’s receipt of IPPFP counseling and individual and facility factors were assessed through multivariate, multilevel models.

Results
Approximately one-quarter of postpartum women received IPPFP counseling (27%) and most women delivered government health centers (59%). Nearly all facilities provided IPPFP services (94%); most had short- and long-acting methods available (71 and 87%, respectively) and no recent stockouts (60%). Multivariate analyses revealed significant disparities in IPPFP counseling with lower odds of counseling among primiparous women, those who delivered vaginally, and women who did not receive delivery care from a doctor or health officer (all p < 0.05). Having never used contraception was marginally associated with lower odds of receiving IPPFP counseling (p < 0.10). IPPFP counseling did not differ by age, residence, method availability, or facility type, after adjusting for other individual and facility factors.

Conclusion
Despite relatively widespread availability of IPPFP services in Ethiopia, receipt of IPPFP counseling remains low. Our results highlight important gaps in IPPFP care, particularly among first-time mothers, women who have never used contraception, women who delivered vaginally, and those who did not receive delivery care from a doctor or health officer. As facility births continue to rise in Ethiopia, health systems and providers must ensure that equitable, high-quality IPPFP services are offered to all women.

Professional identity transitions, violations and reconciliations among new nurses in low- and middle-income countries

We examine how new nurses construct their professional identity in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) when they enter clinical practice and encounter practical norms violating procedural standards. We conducted interviews and focus group discussions with 47 Kenyan nurses. We describe new nurses experiencing ‘shock’ entering nursing practice (working and learning alone while responsible for many patients and doing ‘dirty work’), which contrasted with their idealized image and expectations of nursing and prior training. We explain this transition using theory about identity and identity work, which we argue elucidates nurses’ experiences in LMICs. We suggest that nurses’ transition into clinical practice violated pre-existing expectations for their professional identities, which then triggered identity work of ‘toughening up’, ‘maturing through experience’, and ‘learning practical norms’. Through this identity work, and finally experiencing satisfaction from caring for and nursing patients back to health, some nurses were able to restore their valued professional identity.

Our findings highlight the need for professional educators and healthcare policymakers in LMICs to reconsider the way new healthcare workers are prepared for and socialized into professional practice, acknowledging that nursing practice is often very different to training. We argue for developing formative spaces in which health professionals can safely discuss practical norms deviating from procedural standards. Drawing on such conversations, practical norms benefitting the quality and safety in resource constrained contexts might then be incorporated into care standards and ways found to address practical norms harming of patient care.