A plastic and reconstructive surgery landscape assessment of Malawi: a scoping review of Malawian literature

Background
Plastic and reconstructive surgery (PRS) remains highly relevant to the unmet need for surgery in Malawi. Better understanding the current PRS landscape and its barriers may help address some of these challenges. This scoping review aimed to describe: (1) the scope and focus of the PRS literature being produced in Malawi and (2) the challenges, deficits, and barriers to providing accessible, high-quality PRS in Malawi.

Methods
This scoping review was conducted on four databases (SCOPUS, PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE) from inception through September 1, 2020 following the PRISMA-ScR guidelines.

Results
The database search retrieved 3852 articles, of which 31 were included that examined the burden of PRS-related conditions in Malawi. Of these 31 articles, 25 primarily discussed burn-related care. Burns injuries have a high mortality rate; between 27 and 75% in the studies. The literature revealed that there are only two burn units nationally with one PRS specialist in each unit, compounded by a lack of interest in PRS specialization by Malawian medical students. Congenital anomalies were the only other PRS-related condition examined and reported in the literature, accounting for 23% of all pediatric surgeries in tertiary facilities.

Conclusions
There is a need to increase the country’s capacity to handle burn reconstruction and other PRS-related conditions to reduce overall morbidity and mortality. Additional publicly funded research at the district and community level is warranted to determine the true burden of PRS disease in Malawi to derive health system strengthening and workforce capacity building strategies.

Estimating the health burden of road traffic injuries in Malawi using an individual based model

Background

Road traffic injuries are a significant cause of death and disability globally. However, in some countries the exact health burden caused by road traffic injuries is unknown. In Malawi, there is no central reporting mechanism for road traffic injuries and so the exact extent of the health burden caused by road traffic injuries is hard to determine. A limited number of models predict the incidence of death due to road traffic injury in Malawi. These estimates vary greatly, owing to differences in assumptions and so the health burden caused on the population by road traffic injuries remains unclear.

Methods

We use an individual based model and combine an epidemiological model of road traffic injuries with a health seeking behaviour and health system model. We provide a detailed representation of road traffic injuries in Malawi, from the onset of the injury through to the final health outcome. We also investigate the effects of an assumption made by other models, that multiple injuries do not contribute to health burden caused by road accidents.

Results

Our model estimates an overall average incidence of death between 23.5 to 29.8 deaths per 100,000 person years due to road traffic injuries and an average of 180,000 to 225,000 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per year between 2010 and 2020 in an estimated average population size of 1,364,000 over the 10-year period. Our estimated incidence of death falls within the range of other estimates currently available for Malawi, whereas our estimated number of DALYs is greater than the only other estimate available for Malawi, the GBD estimate predicting and average of 126,200 DALYs per year over the same time period. Our estimates, which account for multiple injuries, predict a 22-58% increase in overall health burden compared to the model ran as a single injury model.

Conclusions

Road traffic injuries are difficult to model with conventional modelling methods, owing to the numerous types of injuries that occur. Using an individual based model framework, we can provide a detailed representation of road traffic injuries. Our results indicate a higher health burden caused by road traffic injuries than previously estimated.

On prioritising global health’s triple crisis of sepsis, COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance: a mixed-methods study from Malawi

Sepsis causes 20% of global deaths, particularly among children and vulnerable populations living in developing countries. This study investigated how sepsis is prioritised in Malawi’s health system to inform health policy. In this mixed-methods study, twenty multisectoral stakeholders were qualitatively interviewed and asked to quantitatively rate the likelihood of sepsis-related medium-term policy outcomes being realised. Respondents indicated that sepsis is not prioritised in Malawi due to a lack of local sepsis-related evidence and policies. However, they highlighted strong linkages between sepsis and maternal health, antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19, which are already existing national priorities, and offers opportunities for sepsis researchers as policy entrepreneurs. To address the burden of sepsis, we recommend that funding should be channelled to the generation of local evidence, evidence uptake, procurement of resources and treatment of sepsis cases, development of appropriate indicators for sepsis, adherence to infection prevention and control measures, and antimicrobial stewardship.

Epidemiology of adult trauma injuries in Malawi: results from a multisite trauma registry

Background
Large-scale multisite trauma registries with broad geographic coverage in low-income countries are rare. This lack of systematic trauma data impedes effective policy responses.

Methods
All patients presenting with trauma at 10 hospitals in Malawi from September 2018 to March 2020 were enrolled in a prospective registry. Using data from 49,241 cases, we analyze prevalence, causes, and distribution of trauma in adult patients, and timeliness of transport to health facilities and treatment.

Results
Falls were the most common mechanism of injury overall, but road traffic crashes (RTCs) were the most common mechanism of serious injury, accounting for (48%) of trauma admissions. This pattern was consistent across all central and district hospitals, with only one hospital recording  55, Glasgow Coma Score < 12, and presentation at hospital on a weekend.

Conclusions
RTCs make up almost half of hospitalized trauma cases in this setting, are equally common in referral and district hospitals, and are an important predictor of injury severity. Pedestrians and cyclists are just as affected as those in vehicles. Many of those injured in vehicles do not take adequate safety precautions. Most trauma patients, including those with serious injuries, do not receive prompt medical attention. Greater attention to safety for both motorized and especially non-motorized road users, and more timely, higher quality emergency medical services, are important policy priorities for Malawi and other developing countries with high burdens of RTC trauma.

Treatment outcomes of esophageal cancer in Eastern Africa: protocol of a multi-center, prospective, observational, open cohort study

Background
Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a major cause of cancer morbidity and mortality in Eastern Africa. The majority of patients with ESCC in Eastern Africa present with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. Several palliative interventions for ESCC are currently in use within the region, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy with and without chemotherapy, and esophageal stenting with self-expandable metallic stents; however, the comparative effectiveness of these interventions in a low resource setting has yet to be examined.

Methods
This prospective, observational, multi-center, open cohort study aims to describe the therapeutic landscape of ESCC in Eastern Africa and investigate the outcomes of different treatment strategies within the region. The 4.5-year study will recruit at a total of six sites in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania (Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania; Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya; Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya; and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi). Treatment outcomes that will be evaluated include overall survival, quality of life (QOL) and safety. All patients (≥18 years old) who present to participating sites with a histopathologically-confirmed or presumptive clinical diagnosis of ESCC based on endoscopy or barium swallow will be recruited to participate. Key clinical and treatment-related data including standardized QOL metrics will be collected at study enrollment, 1 month following treatment, 3 months following treatment, and thereafter at 3-month intervals until death. Vital status and QOL data will be collected through mobile phone outreach.

Discussion
This study will be the first study to prospectively compare ESCC treatment strategies in Eastern Africa, and the first to investigate QOL benefits associated with different treatments in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings from this study will help define optimal management strategies for ESCC in Eastern Africa and other resource-limited settings and will serve as a benchmark for future research.

Trial registration
This study was retrospectively registered with the ClinicalTrials.gov database on December 15, 2021, NCT05177393.

A qualitative study of barriers and facilitators to adequate environmental health conditions and infection control for healthcare workers in Malawi

The burden of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) is greater in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. Inadequate environmental health (EH) conditions and work systems contribute to HAIs in countries like Malawi. We collected qualitative data from 48 semi-structured interviews with healthcare workers (HCWs) from 45 healthcare facilities (HCFs) across Malawi and conducted a thematic analysis. The facilitators of infection prevention and control (IPC) practices in HCFs included disinfection practices, patient education, and waste management procedures. HCWs reported barriers such as lack of IPC training, bottlenecks in maintenance and repair, hand hygiene infrastructure, water provision, and personal protective equipment. This is one of the most comprehensive assessments to date of IPC practices and environmental conditions in Malawian HCFs in relation to HCWs. A comprehensive understanding of barriers and facilitators to IPC practices will help decision-makers craft better interventions and policies to support HCWs to protect themselves and their patients.

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.

Gastrointestinal endoscopy capacity in Eastern Africa

Background and study aims Limited evidence suggests that endoscopy capacity in sub-Saharan Africa is insufficient to meet the levels of gastrointestinal disease. We aimed to quantify the human and material resources for endoscopy services in eastern African countries, and to identify barriers to expanding endoscopy capacity.

Patients and methods In partnership with national professional societies, digestive healthcare professionals in participating countries were invited to complete an online survey between August 2018 and August 2020.

Results Of 344 digestive healthcare professionals in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, 87 (25.3 %) completed the survey, reporting data for 91 healthcare facilities and identifying 20 additional facilities. Most respondents (73.6 %) perform endoscopy and 59.8 % perform at least one therapeutic modality. Facilities have a median of two functioning gastroscopes and one functioning colonoscope each. Overall endoscopy capacity, adjusted for non-response and additional facilities, includes 0.12 endoscopists, 0.12 gastroscopes, and 0.09 colonoscopes per 100,000 population in the participating countries. Adjusted maximum upper gastrointestinal and lower gastrointestinal endoscopic capacity were 106 and 45 procedures per 100,000 persons per year, respectively. These values are 1 % to 10 % of those reported from resource-rich countries. Most respondents identified a lack of endoscopic equipment, lack of trained endoscopists and costs as barriers to provision of endoscopy services.

Conclusions Endoscopy capacity is severely limited in eastern sub-Saharan Africa, despite a high burden of gastrointestinal disease. Expanding capacity requires investment in additional human and material resources, and technological innovations that improve the cost and sustainability of endoscopic services.

Unmet Surgical Need in Malawi

Introduction
Globally, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi, surgical conditions receive a low level of priority in national health systems. The burden of surgical diseases is not well documented and the reasons for which people still live with treatable conditions and disabilities or sometimes present late for care have also not been studied. There is also little information on surgical deaths from untreated conditions in both adults and children, including trauma, as well as potential barriers to obtaining surgical care.
Objectives
The aim of this thesis was therefore to describe the untreated surgical conditions, in both adults and children, the barriers to surgical health care, as well as to document information about deaths from surgical conditions in Malawi.
Methods
This thesis is based on four papers. All four involved data collected using the SOSAS tool, which is a questionnaire-based data collection tool for documenting household information in the communities. The tool had three sections, the first section capturing demographic data for the households; including number of occupants, ages, gender, location and type of household, and tribe. The next two sections were similar but involved interviewing two different people and asking about information relating to surgical conditions present for both adults and paediatric age groups, including injuries, associated disability from acquired or congenital disorders, transportation to health facility and location of death from different surgical conditions. The two household members interviewed, included the head of household and another random member within the household. Data collection was centrally organized by a project group, and performed by third year medical students from the University of Malawi, College of Medicine.
Data was collected as a national survey from the 28 districts in Malawi. The National Statistics Board helped us to identify the villages used in the study.
Results
We found that a third of the Malawian population were living with a surgical condition and were in need of a surgical consultation or treatment. These conditions were either congenital or the result of a traumatic or other non-traumatic condition. We also found that almost one fifth of the children with a surgical condition that could have been treated by surgery, instead remained with a disability that affected their daily lives.
In addition, we found that transportation poses a barrier to timely access to surgical health care. Transportation barriers included the lack of efficient public transportation, cost implications, and long travel distances to get to a health facility capable of offering care by either consultation or surgical procedures.
Other findings were that acute abdominal distention, body masses and trauma, contribute to surgical conditions that are highly associated with mortality in Malawian communities. We also noted that there are various reasons that lead to delays in obtaining formal health care, including initial consultations with traditional herbalists before going to the hospital.
Conclusion
Almost 6 million Malawian people, including an estimated 2 million children, are living with a condition that could be treated by either a surgical procedure or consultation. There are an estimated 1 million disabled children currently living with such surgically treatable conditions. The treatment of these conditions is hampered by transportation barriers. The transportation barriers have led to delays in obtaining timely surgical health care service, something that often leads to mortality. The common causes of these deaths are from injuries, but also other surgical emergencies. Most of these deaths occur outside a health facility environment.

Protocol for a prospective cohort study of open tibia fractures in Malawi with a nested implementation of open fracture guidelines

Background: Road traffic injury (RTI) is the largest cause of death amongst 15–39-year-old people worldwide, and the burden of injuries such as open tibia fractures are rapidly increasing in Malawi. This study aims to investigate disability and economic outcomes of people with open tibia fractures in Malawi and improve these with locally delivered implementation of open fracture guidelines.
Methods: This is a prospective cohort study describing function, quality of life and economic burden of open tibia fractures in Malawi. In total, 160 participants will be recruited across six centres and will be followed-up with face-to-face interviews at six weeks, three months, six months and one year following injury. The primary outcome will be function at one year measured by the short musculoskeletal functional assessment (SMFA) score. Secondary outcomes will include quality of life measured by EuroQol EQ-5D-3L, catastrophic loss of income and implementation outcomes (acceptability, adoption, appropriateness, costs, feasibility, fidelity, penetration, and sustainability) at one year. A nested pilot pre-post implementation study of an interventional bundle for all open fractures will be developed based on other implementation studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Regression analysis will be used to model and investigate associations between SMFA score and fracture severity, infection and the pre- and post-training course period.
Outcome: This prospective cohort study will report patient reported outcomes from open tibia fractures in low-resource settings. Subsequent detailed evaluation of both the clinical and implementation components of the study will promote sustainability of improved open fractures management in the study sites and further scale-up of open fracture management guidelines.
Ethics: Ethics approval has been obtained from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and College of Medicine Research and Ethics committee.