Equitable access to quality trauma systems in Low and Middle Income Countries

Injuries in low-income and middle-income countries are prevalent and their number is expected to increase. Death and disability after injury can be reduced if people reach healthcare facilities in a timely manner. Knowledge of barriers to access to quality injury care is necessary to intervene to improve outcomes. We combined a four-delay framework with WHO Building Blocks and Institution of Medicine Quality Outcomes Frameworks to describe barriers to trauma care in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, South Africa and Rwanda. We used a parallel convergent mixed-methods research design, integrating the results to enable a holistic analysis of the barriers to access to quality injury care. Data were collected using surveys of patient experiences of injury care, interviews and focus group discussions with patients and community leaders, and a survey of policy-makers and healthcare leaders on the governance context for injury care. We identified 121 barriers across all three countries. Of these, 31 (25.6%) were shared across countries. More than half (18/31, 58%) were predominantly related to delay 3 (‘Delays to receiving quality care’). The majority of the barriers were captured using just one of the multiple methods, emphasising the need to use multiple methods to identify all barriers. Given there are many barriers to access to quality care for peoplewho have been injured in Rwanda, Ghana and South Africa, but few of these are shared across countries, solutions to overcome these barriers may also be contextually dependent. This suggests the need for rigorous assessments of contexts using multiple data collection methods before developing interventions to improve access to quality car

Economic evaluation of expanding inguinal hernia repair among adult males in Ghana

An unmet need for inguinal hernia repair is significant in Ghana where the number of specialist general surgeons is extremely limited. While surgical task sharing with medical doctors without formal specialist training in surgery has been adopted for inguinal hernia repair in Ghana, no prior research has been conducted on the long-term costs and health outcomes associated with expanding operations to repair all inguinal hernias among adult males in Ghana. The study aimed to estimate cost-effectiveness of elective open mesh repair performed by medical doctors and surgeons for adult males with primary inguinal hernia compared to no treatment in Ghana and to project costs and health gains associated with expanding operation services through task sharing between medical doctors and surgeons. The study analysis adopted a healthcare system perspective. A Markov model was constructed to assess 10-year differences in costs and outcomes between operations conducted by medical doctors or surgeons and no treatment. A 10-year budget impact analysis on service expansion for groin hernia repair through increasing task sharing between the providers was conducted. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for medical doctors and surgeons were USD 120 and USD 129 respectively per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted compared to no treatment, which are below the estimated threshold value for cost-effectiveness in Ghana of USD 371–491. Repairing all inguinal hernias (1.4 million) through task sharing between the providers in the same timeframe is estimated to cost USD 194 million. Total health gains of 1.5 million DALYs averted are expected. Inguinal hernia repair is cost-effective regardless of the type of surgical provider. Scaling up of inguinal hernia repair is worthwhile, with the potential to substantially reduce the disease burden in the country.

Development and Implementation of an Antimicrobial Stewardship Checklist in Sub-saharan Africa: a Co-creation Consensus Approach

Background:

Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives promote the responsible use of antimicrobials in healthcare settings as a key measure to curb the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Defining the core elements of AMS is essential for developing and evaluating comprehensive AMS programmes. This project used co-creation and Delphi-consensus procedures to adapt and extend the existing published international AMS checklist. The overall objective was to arrive at a contextualised checklist of core AMS elements and key behaviours for use within healthcare settings in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as to implement the checklist in health institutions in four African countries.

Method:

The AMS checklist tool was developed using a modified Delphi approach to achieve local, expert consensus on items to be included on the checklist. Fourteen healthcare/public health professionals from Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana were invited to review, score and comment on items from a published, global AMS checklist. Following their feedback, eight items were re-phrased and 25 new items added to the checklist. The final AMS checklist tool was deployed across 19 healthcare sites and used to assess AMS programmes before and after an AMS intervention in 14 of the 19 sites.

Findings:

The final tool comprised 54 items. Across the 14 sites, the checklist consistently showed improvements for all AMS components following the intervention. The greatest improvements observed were the presence of formal multidisciplinary AMS structures (79%) and the execution of a point-prevalence survey (72%). Elements with the least improvement were access to laboratory/imaging services (7%) and the presence of adequate financial support for AMS (14%). In addition to capturing quantitative and qualitative changes associated with the AMS intervention, project evaluation suggested that administering the AMS checklist made unique contributions to ongoing AMS activities. Furthermore, 29 additional AMS activities were reported as a direct result of the prompting checklist questions.

Conclusion:

Contextualised, co-created AMS tools are necessary for managing antimicrobial use across healthcare settings and increasing local AMS ownership and commitment. This study led to the development of a new AMS checklist which proved successful in capturing AMS improvements in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana. The tool also made unique contributions to furthering local AMS efforts. The study extends existing AMS materials for low and middle-income countries and provides empirical evidence for successful use in practice.

COVID-19 and resilience of healthcare systems in ten countries

Declines in health service use during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could have important effects on population health. In this study, we used an interrupted time series design to assess the immediate effect of the pandemic on 31 health services in two low-income (Ethiopia and Haiti), six middle-income (Ghana, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa and Thailand) and high-income (Chile and South Korea) countries. Despite efforts to maintain health services, disruptions of varying magnitude and duration were found in every country, with no clear patterns by country income group or pandemic intensity. Disruptions in health services often preceded COVID-19 waves. Cancer screenings, TB screening and detection and HIV testing were most affected (26–96% declines). Total outpatient visits declined by 9–40% at national levels and remained lower than predicted by the end of 2020. Maternal health services were disrupted in approximately half of the countries, with declines ranging from 5% to 33%. Child vaccinations were disrupted for shorter periods, but we estimate that catch-up campaigns might not have reached all children missed. By contrast, provision of antiretrovirals for HIV was not affected. By the end of 2020, substantial disruptions remained in half of the countries. Preliminary data for 2021 indicate that disruptions likely persisted. Although a portion of the declines observed might result from decreased needs during lockdowns (from fewer infectious illnesses or injuries), a larger share likely reflects a shortfall of health system resilience. Countries must plan to compensate for missed healthcare during the current pandemic and invest in strategies for better health system resilience for future emergencies.

A qualitative document analysis of policies influencing preeclampsia management by midwives in Ghana

Background
Preeclampsia is a global issue that causes significant morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The care women with preeclampsia receive in LMICs is below the standard experienced by women in westernised countries due to multiple interacting factors. A review of policy factors influencing the management of preeclampsia in Ghana is needed.

Aim
This study focuses on the midwife’s role and scope of practice concerning preeclampsia management. The study aimed to explore the congruence between Ghanaian preeclampsia guidelines and international best practice recommendations for midwifery practice. The study also aimed to describe how recommendations are incorporated into Ghanaian guidelines.

Method/design
This study was a qualitative document analysis of national and tertiary hospital policies related to midwives’ scope of practice in Ghana. Altheide’s five-step process (sampling, data collection, data coding and organisation, data analysis and report) was used to systematically source and analyse the content of written documents.

Results
The findings illustrated several recommendation shortcomings in Ghanaian documents at the national and tertiary hospital levels. The content of Ghanaian preeclampsia management guidelines was not comprehensive, contained conflicting information, and was not backed by research evidence. The standards of practice for midwives were consistent at both the national and tertiary hospital levels. Midwives had limited roles in detection, management, stabilisation, and referral of women with preeclampsia.

Conclusion
Uniform guidelines incorporating international recommendations are urgently needed to improve multi-professional collaboration, solidify midwives’ roles, and optimise maternal and fetal outcomes.

Inequalities in prevalence of birth by caesarean section in Ghana from 1998-2014

Background
Caesarean section (CS) is an intervention to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality, for complicated pregnancy and labour. We analysed trends in the prevalence of birth by CS in Ghana from 1998 to 2014.

Methods
Using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Equity Assessment Toolkit (HEAT) software, data from the 1998-2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys (GDHS) were analysed with respect of inequality in birth by CS. First, we disaggregated birth by CS by four equity stratifiers: wealth index, education, residence, and region. Second, we measured inequality through simple unweighted measures (Difference (D) and Ratio (R)) and complex weighted measures (Population Attributable Risk (PAR) and Population Attributable Fraction (PAF)). A 95% confidence interval was constructed for point estimates to measure statistical significance.

Results
The proportion of women who underwent CS increased significantly between 1998 (4.0%) and 2014 (12.8%). Throughout the 16-year period, the proportion of women who gave birth by CS was positively skewed towards women in the highest wealth quintile (i.e poorest vs richest: 1.5% vs 13.0% in 1998 and 4.0% vs 27.9% in 2014), those with secondary education (no education vs secondary education: 1.8% vs 6.5% in 1998 and 5.7% vs 17.2% in 2014) and women in urban areas (rural vs urban 2.5% vs 8.5% in 1998 and 7.9% vs 18.8% in 2014). These disparities were evident in both complex weighted measures of inequality (PAF, PAR) and simple unweighted measures (D and R), although some uneven trends were observed. There were also regional disparities in birth by CS to the advantage of women in the Greater Accra Region over the years (PAR 7.72; 95% CI 5.86 to 9.58 in 1998 and PAR 10.07; 95% CI 8.87 to 11.27 in 2014).

Conclusion
Ghana experienced disparities in the prevalence of births by CS, which increased over time between 1998 and 2014. Our findings indicate that more work needs to be done to ensure that all subpopulations that need medically necessary CS are given access to maternity care to reduce maternal and perinatal deaths. Nevertheless, given the potential complications with CS, we advocate that the intervention is only undertaken when medically indicated.

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.

Exploring the experiences of National Health Insurance Scheme subscribers and non-subscribers in accessing healthcare within the Accra Metropolitan Area

Maintaining the health and wellbeing of a nation largely depends on the state of health care policies and programs that guarantees citizens access to health care. Policies and social intervention programs such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) should create an enabling operational environment for health institutions. The study examines the experiences of subscribers and non-subscribers of the National Health Insurance Scheme in accessing health care in the Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA) in Ghana. It identifies the challenges in accessing health care, the resources available to individuals and the other strategies individuals employ in accessing health care. A combination of primary and secondary sources was used to collect data for the study. Using a qualitative research design, twelve participants were sampled using a stratified sampling technique. Interviews conducted revealed that many participants had negative experiences in accessing health care with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Delays in registration processes, long queuing systems at health centres and delays in reimbursement of health centres by the government were some of the core challenges that led to these negative experiences in accessing health care. As a result, many people resort to alternative means to cater for their health needs. The study further revealed that some people utilized the formal health care facilities only in critical conditions due to past negative experiences and perceptions around accessing health care with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). However, the NHIS was seen or perceived as an important mechanism for removing financial barrier to achieving equitable access to health care for all citizens in Ghana. The results further showed that the NHIS has improved access and benefits to maternal and child health services. The study concluded by advocating for an improvement and a rebalance of efforts by decision makers to inculcate more health promotion approaches or concepts in making policies concerning public health.

Ghanaian views of short-term medical missions: The pros, the cons, and the possibilities for improvement

Background
Various governments in Ghana have tried to improve healthcare in the country. Despite these efforts, meeting health care needs is a growing concern to government and their citizens. Short term medical missions from other countries are one of the responses to meet the challenges of healthcare delivery in Ghana. This research aimed to understand Ghanaian perceptions of short-term missions from the narratives of host country staff involved. The study from which this paper is developed used a qualitative design, which combined a case study approach and political economy analysis involving in-depth interviews with 28 participants.

Result
Findings show short term medical mission programs in Ghana were largely undertaken in rural communities to address shortfalls in healthcare provision to these areas. The programs were often delivered free and were highly appreciated by communities and host institutions. While the contributions of STMM to health service provision have been noted, there were challenges associated with how they operated. The study found concerns over language and how volunteers effectively interacted with communities. Other identified challenges were the extent to which volunteers undermined local expertise, using fraudulent qualifications by some volunteers, and poor skills and lack of experience leading to wrong diagnoses sometimes. The study found a lack of awareness of rules requiring the registration of practitioners with national professional regulatory bodies, suggesting non enforcement of volunteers’ need for local certification.

Conclusion
Short Term Medical Missions appear to contribute to addressing some of the critical gaps in healthcare delivery. However, there is an urgent need to address the challenges of ineffective utilisation and lack of oversight of these programs to maximise their benefits

Incidence patterns, care continuum and impact of treatment on survival among women with breast cancer in Ghana and the United States

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Of the five breast cancer subtypes, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype. Black women in the US and Ghana are more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC, at young ages and advanced stages. Combining information from Ghana and the US, this project identified the breast cancer care continuum in Ghana, examined the breast cancer incidence patterns in Ghana and the US and assessed the optimal surgical treatment for TNBC. In the first manuscript, we examined how women in Ghana navigate the healthcare system and factors that influence their decisions and ability to seek and access breast cancer care. We interviewed thirty-one women diagnosed with breast cancer in Kumasi, Ghana. Based on the findings from the interviews, we presented a framework showing specific steps in the pathways and how women transition from one step to another. In the second manuscript, we assessed factors explaining the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among Ghanaian women compared to women in the US. To achieve these aims we analyzed breast cancer data from the Kumasi Cancer Registry, the only population-based cancer registry in Ghana, and compared it to the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. Population age structure, screening and cohort effects explain the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among women in Ghana In the third manuscript, we examined whether the poor prognosis of TNBC warrants a more aggressive surgical approach and whether there is value in expanded use of radiation therapy among women with TNBC who receive mastectomy. We found that breast conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy is an effective treatment for women with early-stage TNBC. Findings from this dissertation are timely due to the rapidly rising burden of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and persistent disparities in the US.