Access to primary and secondary health care services for people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lebanon: a qualitative study

Background
People living with chronic conditions and physical disabilities face many challenges accessing healthcare services. In Lebanon, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant economic crisis further exacerbated the living conditions of this segment of the population. This study explored the barriers to accessing healthcare services among people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation during the pandemic.

Methods
We conducted semi-structured, in-depth phone interviews with users of the Physical Rehabilitation Program, offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross. We used a purposive sampling technique to achieve maximum variation. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, translated, and analyzed using thematic analysis following the “codebook” approach. Transcripts were coded and grouped in a matrix that allowed the development of themes and sub-themes inductively and deductively generated.

Results
Eight participants (7 males, 1 female) agreed to be interviewed and participated in the study between March and April, 2021. Barriers to healthcare services access were grouped according to five emerging themes: (1) economic barriers, included increasing costs of food, health services and medications, transportation, shortage of medications, and limited income; (2) structural barriers: availability of transportation, physical environment, and service quality and availability; (3) cultural barriers: marginalization due to their physical disabilities; favoritism in service provision; (4) personal barriers: lack of psychosocial support and limited knowledge about services; (5) COVID-19 barriers: fear of getting sick when visiting healthcare facilities, and heightened social isolation due to lockdowns and physical distancing.

Conclusion
The underlying economic crisis has worsened the conditions of people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation. The pandemic has made these individuals more vulnerable to external and contextual factors that cannot be addressed only at an individual level. In the absence of a protective legal framework to mitigate inequalities, we provide recommendations for governments and nongovernmental institutions to develop solutions for more equitable access to healthcare for this segment of the population.

Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation among physiotherapists in Lebanon

Background
Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading mortality risks worldwide for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Physiotherapists (PT) are core healthcare professionals who play a major role in the prevention of disease complications and in inspiring a healthy lifestyle. To identify challenges in the promotion of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation (CR) in Lebanon, a survey was conducted among PT and physiotherapy students. The aim was to assess the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of CR in Lebanon.

Results
The response rate was 46.1% (N = 322). Results show that 24.5% of respondents have good to excellent knowledge about CR. More than 60% of the respondents indicate possible barriers to starting a CR program, and one of two respondents identify the absence of skills as a main barrier. Findings highlight the importance of the role of PT as a mediator to increase a healthy lifestyle among patients and to promote the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and pulmonary diseases in the country.

Conclusions and recommendations
Our results support the evidence and clinical guidelines that PT play a major role by increasing the participation of patients in CR. A cost-effective CR program needs to be covered by the private and public system in Lebanon.

Primary care and pulmonary physicians’ knowledge and practice concerning screening for lung cancer in Lebanon, a middle‐income country

Background
Screening for lung cancer with low‐dose computed tomography (LDCT) was shown to reduce lung cancer incidence and overall mortality, and it has been recently included in international guidelines. Despite the rising burden of lung cancer in low and middle‐income countries (LMICs) such as Lebanon, little is known about what primary care physicians or pulmonologists know and think about LDCT as a screening procedure for lung cancer, and if they recommend it.

Objectives
Evaluate the knowledge about LDCT and implementation of international guidelines for lung cancer screening among Lebanese primary care physicians (PCPs) and pulmonary specialists.

Methodology
PCPs and PUs based in Lebanon were surveyed concerning knowledge and practices related to lung cancer screening by self‐administered paper questionnaires.

Results
73.8% of PCPs and 60.7% of pulmonary specialists recognized LDCT as an effective tool for lung cancer screening, with 63.6% of PCPs and 71% of pulmonary specialists having used it for screening. However, only 23.4% of PCPs and 14.5% of pulmonary specialists recognized the eligibility criteria for screening. Chest X‐ray was recognized as ineffective by only 55.8% of PCPs and 40.7% of pulmonary specialists; indeed, 30.2% of PCPs and 46% of pulmonary specialists continue using it for screening. The majority have initiated a discussion about the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening.

Conclusion
PCPs and pulmonary specialists are initiating discussions and ordering LDCT for lung cancer screening. However, a significant proportion of both specialties are still using a non‐recommended screening tool (chest x‐ray); only few PCPs and pulmonary specialists recognized the population at risk for which screening is recommended. Targeted provider education is needed to close the knowledge gap and promote proper implementation of guidelines for lung cancer screening.

Silver linings: a qualitative study of desirable changes to cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Introduction: Public health emergencies and crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate innovation and place renewed focus on the value of health interventions. Capturing important lessons learnt, both positive and negative, is vital. We aimed to document the perceived positive changes (silver linings) in cancer care that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify challenges that may limit their long-term adoption.

Methods: This study employed a qualitative design. Semi-structured interviews (n = 20) were conducted with key opinion leaders from 14 countries. The participants were predominantly members of the International COVID-19 and Cancer Taskforce, who convened in March 2020 to address delivery of cancer care in the context of the pandemic. The Framework Method was employed to analyse the positive changes of the pandemic with corresponding challenges to their maintenance post-pandemic.

Results: Ten themes of positive changes were identified which included: value in cancer care, digital communication, convenience, inclusivity and cooperation, decentralisation of cancer care, acceleration of policy change, human interactions, hygiene practices, health awareness and promotion and systems improvement. Impediments to the scale-up of these positive changes included resource disparities and variation in legal frameworks across regions. Barriers were largely attributed to behaviours and attitudes of stakeholders.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to important value-based innovations and changes for better cancer care across different health systems. The challenges to maintaining/implementing these changes vary by setting. Efforts are needed to implement improved elements of care that evolved during the pandemic.