Access to training in neurosurgery (Part 2): The costs of pursuing neurosurgical training

Opportunities for in-country neurosurgical training are severely limited in LMICs, particularly due to rigorous educational requirements and prohibitive upfront costs.

Research question
This study aims to evaluate financial barriers aspiring neurosurgeons face in accessing and completing neurosurgical training, specifically in LMICs, in order to determine the barriers to equitable access to training.

Material and methods
In order to assess the financial costs of accessing and completing neurosurgery residency, an electronic survey was administered to those with the most recent experience with the process: aspiring neurosurgeons, neurosurgical trainees, and recent neurosurgery graduates. We attempted to include a broad representation of World Health Organization (WHO) geographic regions and World Bank income classifications in order to determine differences among regions and countries of different income levels.

Our survey resulted in 198 unique responses (response rate 31.3%), of which 83% (n ​= ​165) were from LMICs. Cost data were reported for 48 individual countries, of which 26.2% were reported to require trainees to pay for their neurosurgical training. Payment amounts varied amongst countries, with multiple countries having costs that surpassed their annual gross national income as defined by the World Bank.

Discussion and conclusions
Opportunities for formal neurosurgical training are severely limited, especially in LMICs. Cost is an important barrier that can not only limit the capacity to train neurosurgeons but can also perpetuate inequitable access to training. Additional investment by governments and other stakeholders can help develop a sufficient workforce and reduce inequality for the next generation of neurosurgeons worldwide.

mHealth Interventions to Improve Cancer Screening and Early Detection: Scoping Review of Reviews

Cancer screening provision in resource-constrained settings tends to be opportunistic, and uptake tends to be low, leading to delayed presentation and treatment and poor survival.

The aim of this study was to identify, review, map, and summarize findings from different types of literature reviews on the use of mobile health (mHealth) technologies to improve the uptake of cancer screening.

The review methodology was guided by the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews). Ovid MEDLINE, PyscINFO, and Embase were searched from inception to May 2021. The eligible criteria included reviews that focused on studies of interventions that used mobile phone devices to promote and deliver cancer screening and described the effectiveness or implementation of mHealth intervention outcomes. Key data fields such as study aims, types of cancer, mHealth formats, and outcomes were extracted, and the data were analyzed to address the objective of the review.

Our initial search identified 1981 titles, of which 12 (0.61%) reviews met the inclusion criteria (systematic reviews: n=6, 50%; scoping reviews: n=4, 33%; rapid reviews: n=1, 8%; narrative reviews: n=1, 8%). Most (57/67, 85%) of the interventions targeted breast and cervical cancer awareness and screening uptake. The most commonly used mHealth technologies for increasing cancer screening uptake were SMS text messages and telephone calls. Overall, mHealth interventions increased knowledge about screening and had high acceptance among participants. The likelihood of achieving improved uptake-related outcomes increased when interventions used >1 mode of communication (telephone reminders, physical invitation letters, and educational pamphlets) together with mHealth.

mHealth interventions increase cancer screening uptake, although multiple modes used in combination seem to be more effective.

J Med Internet Res 2022;24(8):e36316

Decolonizing Global Surgery

By bringing health professionals across a variety of disciplines together, we are able to share strategies and create solutions for improving surgical care to these under-serviced regions. The Bethune Round Table 2022 took place virtually, June 16 – 19 and was hosted by BGSC,in co-operation with the Canadian Network for International Surgery. The theme for the BRT 2022 was “Decolonizing Global Surgery”.

The conference program consisted of 28 panelists and speakers and 98 abstracts (46 podium presentations and 52 posters) touching upon diverse aspects of global surgery including women in surgery, indigenous health, and sustainability in global partnerships. All sessions were recorded, including abstracts. All the abstracts presented are contained within this document.

The Connection between Climate Change, Surgical Care and Neglected Tropical Diseases

The surgical burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is set to rise alongside average temperatures and drought. NTDs with surgical indications, including trachoma and lymphatic filariasis, predominantly affect people in low- and middle-income countries where the gravest effects of climate change are likely to be felt. Vectors sensitive to temperature and rainfall will likely expand their reach to previously nonendemic regions, while drought may exacerbate NTD burden in already resource-strained settings. Current NTD mitigation strategies, including mass drug administrations, were interrupted by COVID-19, demonstrating the vulnerability of NTD progress to global events. Without NTD programming that meshes with surgical systems strengthening, climate change may outpace current strategies to reduce the burden of these diseases.

Achieving Antimicrobial Stewardship on the Global Scale: Challenges and Opportunities

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been clearly identified as a major global health challenge. It is a leading cause of human deaths and also has a toll on animals, plants, and the environment. Despite the considerable socio-economic impacts, the level of awareness of the problem remains woefully inadequate, and antimicrobials are not generally recognized as a global common good, one that everyone has a role and responsibility to conserve. It is imperative for antimicrobial stewardship to be more widely implemented to achieve better control of the AMR phenomenon. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations plays an important role in promoting and facilitating antimicrobial stewardship. The specific needs to be addressed and barriers to be overcome, in particular, in low- and middle-income countries in order to implement antimicrobial stewardship practices in agrifood systems are being identified. As a global community, it is essential that we now move beyond discussing the AMR problem and focus on implementing solutions. Thus, FAO provides multi-pronged support for nations to improve antimicrobial stewardship through programs to strengthen governance, increase awareness, develop and enhance AMR surveillance, and implement best practices related to antimicrobial resistance in agrifood systems. For example, FAO is developing a platform to collect data on AMR in animals and antimicrobial use (AMU) in plants (InFARM), working on a campaign to reduce the need to use antimicrobials, studying the use of alternatives to the use of antimicrobials (especially those used for growth promotion) and actively promoting the implementation of the Codex Alimentarius AMR standards. Together, these will contribute to the control of AMR and also bring us closer to the achievement of multiple sustainable development goals.

Building power-ful health systems: the impacts of electrification on health outcomes in LMICs

Critical disparities threaten health care in developing countries and hinder progress towards global development commitments. Almost a billion people and thousands of public services are not yet connected to electricity – a majority in sub-Saharan Africa. In economically fragile settings, clinics and health services struggle to gain and maintain their access to the most basic energy infrastructure. Less than 30% of health facilities in LMICs report access to reliable energy sources, truncating health outcomes and endangering patients in critical conditions. While ‘universal health coverage’ and ‘sustainable energy for all’ are two distinct SDGs with their respective targets, this review challenges their disconnect and inspects their interdependence in LMICs. To evaluate the impact of electrification on healthcare facilities in LMICs, this systematic review analysed relevant publications up to March 2021, using MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, CENTRAL, and CINAHL. Outcomes captured were in accordance with the WHO HHFA modules. A total of 5083 studies were identified, 12 fulfilled the inclusion criteria of this review – most were from Africa, with the exception of two studies from India and one from Fiji. Electrification was associated with improvements in the quality of antenatal care services, vaccination rates, emergency capabilities and primary health services; with many facilities reporting high-quality, reliable and continuous oxygen supplies, refrigeration and enhanced medical supply chains. Renewable energy sources were considered in six of the included studies, most highlighting their suitability for rural health facilities. Notably, solar-powered oxygen delivery systems reduced childhood mortality and length of hospital stay. Unavailable and unreliable electricity is a bottleneck to health service delivery in LMICs. Electrification was associated with increased service availability, readiness and quality of care – especially for women, children and those under critical care. This study indicates that stable and clean electrification allows new heights in achieving SDG 3 and SDG7 in LMICs.

Impacts of COVID-19 on contraceptive and abortion services in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionate effects on people living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), exacerbating weak health systems. We conducted a scoping review to identify, map, and synthesise studies in LMICs that measured the impact of COVID-19 on demand for, provision of, and access to contraceptive and abortion-related services, and reproductive outcomes of these impacts. Using a pre-established protocol, we searched bibliographic databases (December 2019–February 2021) and key grey literature sources (December 2019–April 2021). Of 71 studies included, the majority (61%) were not peer-reviewed, and 42% were based in Africa, 35% in Asia, 17% were multi-region, and 6% were in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most studies were based on data through June 2020. The magnitude of contraceptive service-related impacts varied widely across 55 studies (24 of which also included information on abortion). Nearly all studies assessing changes over time to contraceptive service provision noted declines of varying magnitude, but severe disruptions were relatively uncommon or of limited duration. Twenty-six studies addressed the impacts of COVID-19 on abortion and postabortion care (PAC). Overall, studies found increases in demand, reductions in provision and increases in barriers to accessing these services. The use of abortion services declined, but the use of PAC was more mixed with some studies finding increases compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. The impacts of COVID-19 varied substantially, including the country context, health service, and population studied. Continued monitoring is needed to assess impacts on these key health services, as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Facilitators and barriers impacting in-hospital Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) implementation: A scoping review on the implementation of TQIPs across income levels

Trauma describes physical injury along with the bodies associate reponse, and is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally, with low and middle income countries (LMICs) disproportionately affected. Understanding the implementation of in-hospital Trauma Quality Improvement Programs (TQIPs) and the factors determining success is critical to reduce the global trauma burden. The purpose of the review was to identify key facilitators and barriers to TQIP implementation across income levels by evaluating the range of literature on the topic.

We used information sources PubMed, Web of Science, and Global Index Medicus. The eligibility criteria was English language studies, of any design, published from June 2009 – January 2022. The Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses checklist extension for scoping reviews were used to carry out a three-stage screening process. Content analysis using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) identified facilitator and barrier themes for in-hospital TQIP implementation.

Twenty-eight studies met the eligibility criteria from 3923 studies. The main facilitators and barriers identified were the need to prioritise staff education and training, strengthen dialogue with stakeholders, and provide standardised best-practice guidelines. Data quality improvements were more apparent in LMICs while high-income countries (HICs) emphasised increased communication training.

Stakeholder prioritisation of in-hospital TQIPs, along with increased knowledge and consensus on trauma care best practice will further advance efforts to lower the global trauma burden. The focus of future in-hospital TQIPs in LMICs should primarily be concerned with improving data quality of registries, while interventions in HICs should focus on communication skills of healthcare professionals.

International Perspectives of Prehospital and Hospital Trauma Services: A Literature Review

Background: Evidence suggests that reductions in the incidence in trauma observed in some countries are related to interventions including legislation around road and vehicle safety measures, public behaviour change campaigns, and changes in trauma response systems. This study aims to briefly review recent refereed and grey literature about prehospital and hospital trauma care services in different regions around the world and describe similarities and differences in identified systems to demonstrate the diversity of characteristics present. Methods: Articles published between 2000 and 2020 were retrieved from MEDLINE and EMBASE. Since detailed comparable information was lacking in the published literature, prehospital emergency service providers’ annual performance reports from selected example countries or regions were reviewed to obtain additional information about the performance of prehospital care. Results: The review retained 34 studies from refereed literature related to trauma systems in different regions. In the U.S. and Canada, the trauma care facilities consisted of five different levels of trauma centres ranging from Level I to Level IV and Level I to Level V, respectively. Hospital care and organisation in Japan is different from the U.S. model, with no dedicated trauma centres; however, patients with severe injury are transported to university hospitals’ emergency departments. Other similarities and differences in regional examples were observed. Conclusions: The refereed literature was dominated by research from developed countries such as Australia, Canada, and the U.S., which all have organised trauma systems. Many European countries have implemented trauma systems between the 1990s and 2000s; however, some countries, such as France and Greece, are still forming an integrated system. This review aims to encourage countries with immature trauma systems to consider the similarities and differences in approaches of other countries to implementing a trauma system. View Full-Text

The impact of preoperative oral nutrition supplementation on outcomes in patients undergoing gastrointestinal surgery for cancer in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Malnutrition is an independent predictor for postoperative complications in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We systematically reviewed evidence on the impact of preoperative oral nutrition supplementation (ONS) on patients undergoing gastrointestinal cancer surgery in LMICs. We searched EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, Scopus, WHO Global Index Medicus, SciELO, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature (LILACS) databases from inception to March 21, 2022 for randomised controlled trials evaluating preoperative ONS in gastrointestinal cancer within LMICs. We evaluated the impact of ONS on all postoperative outcomes using random-effects meta-analysis. Seven studies reported on 891 patients (446 ONS group, 445 control group) undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal cancer. Preoperative ONS reduced all cause postoperative surgical complications (risk ratio (RR) 0.53, 95% CI 0.46–0.60, P < 0.001, I2 = 0%, n = 891), infection (0.52, 0.40–0.67, P = 0.008, I2 = 0%, n = 570) and all-cause mortality (0.35, 0.26–0.47, P = 0.014, I2 = 0%, n = 588). Despite heterogeneous populations and baseline rates, absolute risk ratio (ARR) was reduced for all cause (pooled effect −0.14, −0.22 to −0.06, P = 0.006; number needed to treat (NNT) 7) and infectious complications (−0.13, −0.22 to −0.06, P < 0.001; NNT 8). Preoperative nutrition in patients undergoing gastrointestinal cancer surgery in LMICs demonstrated consistently strong and robust treatment effects across measured outcomes. However additional higher quality research, with particular focus within African populations, are urgently required.