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

Background
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).

Methods
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.

Results
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).

Conclusions
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

BACKGROUND:
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.

METHODS:
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.

RESULTS:
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.

CONCLUSIONS:
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.

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.

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.

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.

An approach to identify a minimum and rational proportion of caesarean sections in resource-poor settings: a global network study.

Caesarean section prevalence is increasing in Asia and Latin America while remaining low in most African regions. Caesarean section delivery is effective for saving maternal and infant lives when they are provided for medically-indicated reasons. On the basis of ecological studies, caesarean delivery prevalence between 9% and 19% has been associated with better maternal and perinatal outcomes, such as reduced maternal land fetal mortality. However, the specific prevalence of obstetric and medical complications that require caesarean section have not been established, especially in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). We sought to provide information to inform the approach to the provision of caesarean section in low-resource settings.We did a literature review to establish the prevalence of obstetric and medical conditions for six potentially life-saving indications for which caesarean section could reduce mortality in LMICs. We then analysed a large, prospective population-based dataset from six LMICs (Argentina, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Pakistan, and Zambia) to determine the prevalence of caesarean section by indication for each site. We considered that an acceptable number of events would be between the 25th and 75th percentile of those found in the literature.Between Jan 1, 2010, and Dec 31, 2013, we enrolled a total of 271 855 deliveries in six LMICs (seven research sites). Caesarean section prevalence ranged from 35% (3467 of 9813 deliveries in Argentina) to 1% (303 of 16 764 deliveries in Zambia). Argentina’s and Guatemala’s sites all met the minimum 25th percentile for five of six indications, whereas sites in Zambia and Kenya did not reach the minimum prevalence for caesarean section for any of the indications. Across all sites, a minimum overall caesarean section of 9% was needed to meet the prevalence of the six indications in the population studied.In the site with high caesarean section prevalence, more than half of the procedures were not done for life-saving conditions, whereas the sites with low proportions of caesarean section (below 9%) had an insufficient number of caesarean procedures to cover those life-threatening causes. Attempts to establish a minimum caesarean prevalence should go together with focusing on the life-threatening causes for the mother and child. Simple methods should be developed to allow timely detection of life-threatening conditions, to explore actions that can remedy those conditions, and the timely transfer of women with those conditions to health centres that could provide adequate care for those conditions.Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Freedom of choice, expressions of gratitude: Patient experiences of short-term surgical missions in Guatemala.

Lack of surgical care has been highlighted as a critical global health problem, and short-term medical missions (STMMs) have become a de facto measure to address this shortfall. Participation in STMMs is an increasingly popular activity for foreign medical professionals to undertake in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where their clinical skills may be in short supply. While there is emerging literature on the STMM phenomenon, patient experiences of surgical missions are underrepresented. This research addresses this gap through thirty-seven in-depth interviews with patients or caregivers who received care from a short-term surgical mission within the three years prior to the four-week data collection period in July and August 2013. Interviews were conducted in Antigua, Guatemala and nearby communities, and participants came from 9 different departments of the country. These first-hand accounts of health-seeking through a surgical mission provide important insights into the benefits and challenges of STMMs that patients encounter, including waiting time, ancillary costs, and access to care. Patient agency in care-seeking is considered within the pluralistic, privatized health care context in Guatemala in which foreign participants deliver STMM care.

Health Care in Guatemala.

There are 10 hospitals with general surgery training programs in Guatemala. Of those 10 hospitals, only 3 are tertiary care hospitals, and all of these are located in Guatemala City. Two are part of the public health system and the other belongs to a semiprivate public health system. There are currently no colorectal training programs. If a Guatemalan surgeon wishes to pursue a career in coloproctology, he or she has to look for training opportunities abroad.

Competency-Based Education in Low Resource Settings: Development of a Novel Surgical Training Program.

BACKGROUND:
The unmet burden of surgical disease represents a major global health concern, and a lack of trained providers is a critical component of the inadequacy of surgical care worldwide. Competency-based training has been advanced in high-income countries, improving technical skills and decreasing training time, but it is poorly understood how this model might be applied to low- and middle-income countries. We describe the development of a competency-based program to accelerate specialty training of in-country providers in cleft surgery techniques.

METHODS:
The program was designed and piloted among eight trainees at five international cleft lip and palate surgical mission sites in Latin America and Africa. A competency-based evaluation form, designed for the program, was utilized to grade general technical and procedure-specific competencies, and pre- and post-training scores were analyzed using a paired t test.

RESULTS:
Trainees demonstrated improvement in average procedure-specific competency scores for both lip repairs (60.4-71.0%, p < 0.01) and palate (50.6-66.0%, p < 0.01). General technical competency scores also improved (63.6-72.0%, p < 0.01). Among the procedural competencies assessed, surgical markings showed the greatest improvement (19.0 and 22.8% for lip and palate, respectively), followed by nasal floor/mucosal approximation (15.0%) and hard palate dissection (17.1%).

CONCLUSION:
Surgical delivery models in LMICs are varied, and trade-offs often exist between goals of case throughput, quality and training. Pilot program results show that procedure-specific and general technical competencies can be improved over a relatively short time and demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating such a training program into surgical outreach missions.