Understanding patient health-seeking behaviour to optimise the uptake of cataract surgery in rural Kenya, Zambia and Uganda: findings from a multisite qualitative study

Cataract is a major cause of visual impairment globally, affecting 15.2 million people who are blind, and another 78.8 million who have moderate or severe visual impairment. This study was designed to explore factors that influence the uptake of surgery offered to patients with operable cataract in a free-of-charge, community-based eye health programme.

Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted with patients and healthcare providers in rural Zambia, Kenya and Uganda during 2018–2019. We identified participants using purposive sampling. Thematic analysis was conducted using a combination of an inductive and deductive team-based approach.

Participants consisted of 131 healthcare providers and 294 patients. Two-thirds of patients had been operated on for cataract. Two major themes emerged: (1) surgery enablers, including a desire to regain control of their lives, the positive testimonies of others, family support, as well as free surgery, medication and food; and (2) barriers to surgery, including cultural and social factors, as well as the inadequacies of the healthcare delivery system.

Cultural, social and health system realities impact decisions made by patients about cataract surgery uptake. This study highlights the importance of demand segmentation and improving the quality of services, based on patients’ expectations and needs, as strategies for increasing cataract surgery uptake.

Functional assessment of long bone fracture healing in Samburu County Referral Hospital (Kenya): the squat and smile challenge

The burden of musculoskeletal trauma is increasing in low- and middle-income countries. Due to the low clinical follow-up rates in these regions, the Squat-and-Smile test (S&S) has previously been proposed as a proxy to assess bone healing (BH) capacity after surgery involving bone fractures. This study deals with various aspects of using S&S and bone radiography examination to obtain information about an individual’s ability to recover after a trauma. In summary, we performed the S&S test to assess the possibility of recovering biomechanical function in lower limbs in a remote area of Kenya (Samburu County).

Eighty-nine patients (17.9% F; 31.7 ± 18.9 yrs) who underwent intramedullary nail treatment for femur or tibia fractures were enrolled in this study. Both S&S [evaluated by a goal attainment scale (GAS)] and x-ray (evaluated by REBORNE, Bone Healing Score) were performed at 6 and 24 weeks, postoperatively. An acceptable margin for satisfactory S&S GAS scores was determined by assessing its validity, reliability, and sensitivity.

S&S GAS scores increased over time: 80.2% of patients performed a satisfactory S&S at the 24-weeks follow-up with a complete BH. A high correlation between S&S GAS and REBORNE at the 6- and 24- weeks’ timepoint was found. Facial expression correlated partially with BH. The S&S proved to be accurate at correctly depicting the BH process (75% area fell under the Receiver Operator Curve).

The S&S provides a possible substitution for bone x-ray during BH assessment. The potential to remotely follow up the BH is certainly appealing in low- and middle-income countries, but also in high-income countries; as was recently observed with the Covid-19 pandemic when access to a hospital is not conceivable.

Task-sharing to support paediatric and child health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries: current practice and a scoping review of emerging opportunities

Demographic and epidemiological changes have prompted thinking on the need to broaden the child health agenda to include care for complex and chronic conditions in the 0–19 years (paediatric) age range. Providing such services will be undermined by general and skilled paediatric workforce shortages especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this paper, we aim to understand existing, sanctioned forms of task-sharing to support the delivery of care for more complex and chronic paediatric and child health conditions in LMICs and emerging opportunities for task-sharing. We specifically focus on conditions other than acute infectious diseases and malnutrition that are historically shifted.

We (1) reviewed the Global Burden of Diseases study to understand which conditions may need to be prioritized; (2) investigated training opportunities and national policies related to task-sharing (current practice) in five purposefully selected African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa); and (3) summarized reported experience of task-sharing and paediatric and child health service delivery through a scoping review of research literature in LMICs published between 1990 and 2019 using MEDLINE, Embase, Global Health, PsycINFO, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library.

We found that while some training opportunities nominally support emerging roles for non-physician clinicians and nurses, formal scopes of practices often remain rather restricted and neither training nor policy seems well aligned with probable needs from high-burden complex and chronic conditions. From 83 studies in 24 LMICs, and aside from the historically shifted conditions, we found some evidence examining task-sharing for a small set of specific conditions (circumcision, some complex surgery, rheumatic heart diseases, epilepsy, mental health).

As child health strategies are further redesigned to address the previously unmet needs careful strategic thinking on the development of an appropriate paediatric workforce is needed. To achieve coverage at scale countries may need to transform their paediatric workforce including possible new roles for non-physician cadres to support safe, accessible and high-quality care.

Undergraduate Surgical Education: a Global Perspective

Undergraduate surgical education is failing to prepare medical students to care for patients with surgical conditions, and has been significantly compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic. We performed a literature review and undertook semi-structured reflections on the current state of undergraduate surgical education across five countries: Egypt, Morocco, Somaliland, Kenya, and the UK. The main barriers to surgical education at medical school identified were (1) the lack of standardised surgical curricula with mandatory learning objectives and (2) the inadequacy of human resources for surgical education. COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges by depleting the pool of surgical educators and reducing access to learning opportunities in clinical environments. To address the global need for a larger surgical workforce, specific attention must be paid to improving undergraduate surgical education. Solutions proposed include the development of a standard surgical curriculum with learning outcomes appropriate for local needs, the incentivisation of surgical educators, the incorporation of targeted online and simulation teaching, and the use of technology.

Effectiveness of an mHealth system on access to eye health services in Kenya: a cluster-randomised controlled trial

There is limited access to eye health services in many low-income and middle-income populations. We aimed to assess the effectiveness in increasing service utilisation of the Peek Community Eye Health (Peek CEH) system, a smartphone-based referral system comprising decision support algorithms (Peek Community Screening app), SMS reminders, and real-time reporting.

In this cluster-randomised controlled trial of eye health in Kenya, community unit clusters were defined as one health centre and its catchment population. Clusters were randomly allocated (1:1) to receive Peek CEH and referral (intervention group) or standard care via periodic health centre-based outreach clinics and onward referral (control group). Individuals in the intervention group were assessed at home by screeners and those referred were asked to present for triage assessment in a central location. They received regular SMS reminders. In both groups, community sensitisation was done followed by a triage clinic at the cluster health centre 4 weeks after sensitisation. During triage, individuals in both groups were assessed and treated and, if necessary, referred to a specific hospital. Individuals in the intervention group received further SMS reminders. The primary outcome was the mean attendance rate (the number of people per 10 000 population) at triage of those with confirmed eye conditions, as assessed at 4 weeks after sensitisation in the intention-to-treat population. We estimated the intervention effect using a Student’s t-test on cluster-level rates. This trial is registered with Pan African Clinical Trial Registry, number 201807329096632.

Between Nov 26, 2018, and June 7, 2019, of the 85 community units in Trans Nzoia County, Kenya, 49 were excluded. We randomly allocated 18 community units each to the intervention group (68 348 individuals) and the control group (60 243 individuals). 9387 individuals from the intervention group and 3070 from the control group attended triage assessment. The mean attendance rate at triage by individuals with eye problems was 1429 (92% CI 1228–1629) in the intervention group and 522 (418–625) in the control group (rate difference 906 per 10 000 [95% CI 689–1124; p<0·0001]).

The Peek CEH system increased primary care attendance by people with eye problems compared with standard approaches, indicating the potential of this mobile health package to increase service uptake and guide appropriate task sharing.

Knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of Kenyan healthcare workers regarding pediatric discharge from hospital

To assess attitudes, perceptions, and practices of healthcare workers regarding hospital discharge and follow-up care for children under age five in Migori and Homa Bay, Kenya.

This mixed-methods study included surveys and semi-structured telephone interviews with healthcare workers delivering inpatient pediatric care at eight hospitals between November 2017 and December 2018.

The survey was completed by 111 (85%) eligible HCWs. Ninety-seven of the surveyed HCWs were invited for interviews and 39 (40%) participated. Discharge tasks were reported to be “very important” to patient outcomes by over 80% of respondents, but only 37 (33%) perceived their hospital to deliver this care “very well” and 23 (21%) believed their facility provides sufficient resources for its provision. The vast majority (97%) of participants underestimated the risk of pediatric post-discharge mortality. Inadequate training, understaffing, stock-outs of take-home therapeutics, and user fees were commonly reported health systems barriers to adequate discharge care while poverty was seen as limiting caregiver adherence to discharge and follow-up care. Respondents endorsed the importance of follow-up care, but reported supportive mechanisms to be lacking. They requested enhanced guidelines on discharge and follow-up care.

Kenyan healthcare workers substantially underestimated the risk of pediatric post-discharge mortality. Pre- and in-service training should incorporate instruction on discharge and follow-up care. Improved post-discharge deaths tracking–e.g., through vital registry systems, child mortality surveillance studies, and community health worker feedback loops–is needed, alongside dissemination which could leverage platforms such as routine hospital-based mortality reports. Finally, further interventional trials are needed to assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of novel packages to improve discharge and follow-up care.

Exploring women’s childbirth experiences and perceptions of delivery care in peri-urban settings in Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya continues to have a high maternal mortality rate that is showing slow progress in improving. Peri-urban settings in Kenya have been reported to exhibit higher rates of maternal death during labor and childbirth as compared to the general Kenyan population. Although research indicates that women in Kenya have increased access to facility-based birth in recent years, a small percentage still give birth outside of the health facility due to access challenges and poor maternal health service quality. Most studies assessing facility-based births have focused on the sociodemographic determinants of birthing location. Few studies have assessed women’s user experiences and perceptions of quality of care during childbirth. Understanding women’s experiences can provide different stakeholders with strategies to structure the provision of maternity care to be person-centered and to contribute to improvements in women’s satisfaction with health services and maternal health outcomes.

A qualitative study was conducted, whereby 70 women from the peri-urban area of Embakasi in the East side of Nairobi City in Kenya were interviewed. Respondents were aged 18 to 49 years and had delivered in a health facility in the preceding six weeks. We conducted in-depth interviews with women who gave birth at both public and private health facilities. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and translated for analysis. Braune and Clarke’s guidelines for thematic analysis were used to generate themes from the interview data.

Four main themes emerged from the analysis. Women had positive experiences when care was person-centered—i.e. responsive, dignified, supportive, and with respectful communication. They had negative experiences when they were mistreated, which was manifested as non-responsive care (including poor reception and long wait times), non-dignified care (including verbal and physical abuse lack of privacy and confidentiality), lack of respectful communication, and lack of supportive care (including being denied companions, neglect and abandonment, and poor facility environment).

To sustain the gains in increased access to facility-based births, there is a need to improve person-centered care to ensure women have positive facility-based childbirth experiences.

Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa – Historical Background and Development of Training Programs in East Africa.

Modern Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has its roots in the 1960s when Neurosurgeons from Europe set up Units in West Africa and East Africa. While it would be unfair to give credit to some individuals, and inadvertently not naming others, Prof Abdeslam El Khamlichi (1) in his book, “Emerging Neurosurgery in Africa,” quoting Professor Adelola Adeloye (2), provided a valuable account: A French Neurosurgeon, Dr. Courson, set up the first neurosurgical unit in West Africa in Senegal in 1967. He was joined by two other French neurosurgeons, Dr. Claude Cournil and Dr. Alliez, in 1972 and 1975. They trained the first Senegalese Neurosurgeon, Dr. Mamadou Gueye, who joined as a trainee in 1977. Dr. Gueye was to become the first Senegalese Professor and Chairman of the Neurosurgery Department.


In Ivory Coast, the first unit was set up by Dr. Claude Cournil in Abidjan in 1976, having left Dakar. He joined the first Ivorian Neurosurgeon, Dr. Kanga, who set up practice in 1974 in Abidjan. In Ghana, the first Neurosurgical Unit was set up by Ghanaian Neurosurgeon Dr. Osman Mustaffah in 1969. In Nigeria, the first units were set up by Nigerian Neurosurgeon Dr. Latunde Odeku started the service in Ibadan in 1962. He was joined by two other pioneer neurosurgeons, Dr. Adelola Adeloye in 1967 and Dr. Adebayo Ajayi Olumide in 1974. A second department was set up in Lagos by Dr. de Silva and Dr. Nosiru Ojikutu; in 1968, Dr. Samuel C. Ohaegbulam started the third service in Enugu in 1974 (2). In East Africa, Neurosurgical procedures had been carried out by Dr. Peter Clifford, an ENT surgeon, in 1955 (3).
In Kenya, modern Neurosurgery was introduced by Dr. Renato Ruberti, an Italian Neurosurgeon from Napoli, who set up Private practice in the European hospital in Nairobi in 1967 part-time at the King George V Hospital, which served as the National Hospital. He was joined in 1972 by Dr. Jawahar Dar, from New Delhi. The Indian Dr. Jawahar Dar set up the First Neurosurgery Unit at the King George V hospital, renamed Kenyatta National Hospital while teaching at the University of Nairobi. They were joined by Dr. Gerishom Sande, the first Kenyan Neurosurgeon following his training in Belfast, in 1979 (3).
In Uganda, on advice and recommendation of the renowned British Neurosurgeon, Professor Valentine Logue of the Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, was invited by the government in 1968 to advise the establishment of neurosurgery at Mulago Hospital, Dr. Ian Bailey moved to Uganda. He was instrumental in establishing the first neurosurgical unit in Uganda at Mulago Hospital in 1969, equipped with 54 beds for the department of neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgery (4). He was joined by the first Ugandan Neurosurgeon, Dr. Jovan Kiryabirwe, in 1971, who became the first indigenous Ugandan Neurosurgeon and the first African Neurosurgeon in East and Central Africa. He attended medical school at Makerere University School of Medicine in Kampala and subsequently completed postgraduate training at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Scotland; he also trained at Queens Square with Professor Logue (5).
In Tanzania, the first step towards modern neurosurgery was the establishment of orthopedic and trauma services in 1971 at the
Muhimbili Medical Center (MMC) by Professor Philemon Sarangi (6). At the time, orthopedic surgeons treated most of the cranial and spinal trauma. Over the next few years, several foreign neurosurgeons from Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union spent short stints practicing neurosurgery at MMC. Dr. Reulen, Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery at University Hospital in Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland, and later in Munich, Germany, provided the impetus for the establishment of a neurosurgery program at MMC teaching in hospital of the University of Dar-es-Salaam and creating a “sandwich” program with training split between national and international centers. He trained Dr. Simpert Kinunda, a plastic surgeon who later became the first Tanzanian with any neurosurgical training.
Peter Kadyanji was the first fully trained Tanzanian neurosurgeon, and he joined MMC in 1985 after completing his training in the Soviet Union. Yadon M. Kohi followed in Kadyanji’s footsteps, graduating from Makerere University and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. He obtained his FRCS in Ireland and Glasgow and later was appointed as the General Director of the National Commission for Science and Technology. Dr. Mlay was the third neurosurgeon to join MMC in 1989, with a specialty in pediatric neurosurgery. Professor Sarungi was essential to establish the Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI), which was opened in 1993 and later combined with MMC to become Muhimbili National Hospital, the national institute of neurosurgery, orthopedics, and traumatology.
Several neurosurgeons have practiced at MOI since its founding, including Dr. Abednego Kinasha and Dr. Joseph Kahamba. They, along with Professor Laurence Museru, the Medical Director of MOI, played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for training the current generation of neurosurgeons in Tanzania (6). Contemporary, locally trained neurosurgeons form the core of the specialized expertise in the country. They provide neurosurgical training and care at MOI at several healthcare institutions around the country. There are currently 20 neurosurgeons in the country, 18 of whom are in public service, one at a Mission hospital in Moshi, one in a private hospital (the Aga Khan University Hospital) Dar-es-salaam, and one at the Mnazi Mmoja/NED Institute in Zanzibar. No dedicated neuroscience nurses or beds are available in the country; however, currently, there are eight neurosurgical intensive care unit beds at MOI. An additional 14 at the new hospital within the Muhimbili hospital complex in Dar-es-Salaam opened in 2018. There are 5 CT scanners and 3 MRI scanners available across the country, mainly in Dar-es-Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.
In Zimbabwe, Dr. Lawrence Frazer Levy, a British neurosurgeon, started in 1956 (Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia). He set up the Neurosurgery Department at the Central Hospital in Harare (Salisbury), becoming its first Professor and Chairman in 1971. He was joined by a young Scottish neurosurgeon, Dr. Carol Auchtertonie, responsible for starting the second unit at the European Hospital in Harare. The two served patients from Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia, Malawi, and others for quite a long time (2). From these early beginnings, progress in neurosurgery remained slow, with only a handful of neurosurgeons available in SSA. In 1959, Professor Adelola Adeloye noted that there were only 20 neurosurgeons all across Africa, the majority practicing in South Africa (2). It is against this backdrop that the need to develop neurosurgical care in Sub-Saharan Africa came into focus.

Predictors of Five-Year Overall Survival in Women Treated for Cervical Cancer at the Kenyatta National Hospital in 2008

Cervical cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide. In many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) including Kenya cervical cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among women. This situation is due to the fact that despite the existence of effective preventive and early detection programs, lack of implementation in LMICs leads many women suffering from the disease to premature death. This study was aimed at estimating the five-year overall survival rates for women with cervical cancer in Kenya. To achieve this, the study employed a retrospective cohort design where medical records of all patients who commenced treatment for cervical cancer in 2008 were reviewed retrospectively over a period of five years from 2008- 2013. Data analysis involved the use of Stata v14.2 to generate descriptive statistics and conduct survival analysis. The five-year overall survival estimate for women with cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in 2008 was found to be 59%. Stage of disease at diagnosis, type of treatment received and whether or not treatment was initiated and completed are the three factors revealed to have the strongest influence on patient survival. Occupation which was used as a proxy for socio-economic status (SES) did not reflect the financial burden imposed on patients seeking treatment. However, the loss to follow up was significantly high at a rate of 82.3%; with no deaths observed after the first year, the overall survival estimate is only accurate over the first year. The results of this study provided insight on the relationship between various socio-demographic and clinical factors and patient outcomes of cervical cancer treatments at KNH. Moreover, it highlighted the ongoing health system challenges surrounding provision of and access to cancer treatment. The results will inform policy makers and health service providers on the quality and accessibility of available cervical cancer treatments as delivered within our healthcare setting

Implementing an intrapartum package of interventions to improve quality of care to reduce the burden of preterm birth in Kenya and Uganda

Quality of care during the intrapartum and immediate postnatal period for maternal and newborn health remains a major challenge due to the multiple health system bottlenecks in low-income countries. Reports of complex interventions that have been effective in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in these settings are usually limited in description, which inhibits learning and replication. We present a detailed account of the Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi) implementation process, experiences and lessons learnt to inform scale-up and replication.

Using the TiDieR framework, we detail how the PTBi implemented an integrated package of interventions through a pair-matched cluster randomized control trial in 20 health facilities in Migori County, Kenya, and the Busoga region in east central Uganda from 2016 to 2019. The package aimed to improve quality of care during the intrapartum and immediate postnatal period with a focus on preterm birth. The package included data strengthening (DS) and introduction of a modified WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist (mSCC), simulation-based training and mentoring (PRONTO), and a Quality Improvement (QI) Collaborative.

In 2016, DS and mSCC were introduced to improve existing data processes and increase the quality of data for measures needed to evaluate study impact. PRONTO and QI interventions were then rolled out sequentially. While package components were implemented with fidelity, some implementation processes required contextual adaptation to allow alignment with national priorities and guidelines, and flexibility to optimize uptake.

Lessons learned included the importance of synergy between interventions, the need for local leadership engagement, and the value of strengthening local systems and resources. Adaptations of individual elements of the package to suit the local context were important for effective implementation, and the TIDieR framework provides the guidance needed in detailed description to replicate such a complex intervention in other settings. Detailed documentation of the implementation process of a complex intervention with mutually synergistic components can help contextualize trial results and potential for scale-up. The trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.govNCT03112018, registered December 2016, posted April 2017.