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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Causes of futile life-sustaining interventions from the perspective of physicians and nurses in university hospitals in Tehran

Providing futile interventions can lead to moral distress for healthcare providers and impose high costs on healthcare systems. Despite this, evidence demonstrates that such interventions still continue in many parts of the world, particularly in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Therefore, this current study was conducted to investigate reasons for providing futile interventions from the perspective of physicians and nurses working at hospitals affiliated to Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS)

In this cross-sectional (descriptive-analytical) study, 249 participants including 128 physicians and 121 nurses working in hospitals affiliated to TUMS were recruited through convenience sampling. Data was collected using a 25-item questionnaire assessing causes of providing futile medical and life-sustaining interventions, grouped into 3 domains of “demands of patients/relatives”, “personal reasons of the healthcare team” and “organisation/infrastructural” limitations. Data was analysed using SPSS 16 and the extent to which participants agreed with each of the causes of futile interventions was expressed as a percentage. Comparisons between the views of physicians and nurses on individual questionnaire items was performed using the Chi-squared test. A linear regression analysis was used to compare the views of physicians and nurses in each of the 3 domains of the questionnaire, and for intra-group comparisons.

For both physicians and nurses, the most common reasons for futile interventions related to patients and their relatives including demands/insistence on the continuation of treatment and false hope for the patient’s recovery. Compared to physicians, nurses gave greater importance to the domains of patient/relatives’ demands as well as personal reasons of the healthcare team. Physicians expressed strongest agreement with the domain of organisation/infrastructural limitations, including lack of guidelines and palliative care centres.

This study demonstrates that despite awareness of the healthcare team members regarding the futility of some interventions, they are still performed due to the reasons highlighted. Therefore, it clinical guidelines should be developed for appropriate end-of-life care, including restricting the use of futile interventions, increase public and professional awareness and knowledge around futile end-of-life interventions and strengthen palliative care services, thereby leading to greater efficiency and justice in the healthcare system.

Cancer Burden Among Arab-World Females in 2020: Working Toward Improving Outcomes

Cancer is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. This work presents the Arab-world females’ cancers (AFCs) statistics in 2020, compared with the 2018 AFCs statistics, the Arab-world male cancers statistics, and the world females’ cancers (WFCs) statistics in 2020. This can help set the stage for a better policy for cancer control programs and improve outcomes.

A descriptive review of the 2020 Global Cancer Observatory concerning AFCs was performed. Data on various cancers were compiled and compared among the countries in the region and WFCs.

A total estimate of 244,317 new cases and 132,249 deaths is reported in AFCs; representing 2.65% and 2.99% of WFCs, respectively, with an average crude incidence/mortality ratio of 116.2 (/100,000 population)/62.9 (/100,000 population) and an age-standardized incidence/mortality ratio of 137.7(/100,000 population)/77.2(/100,000 population) compared with 238.8(/100,000 population)/114.6(/100,000 population) and 186(/100,000 population)/84.2(/100,000 population) of WFCs, respectively. Five-year prevalent cases were 585,295; 2.28% of WFCs. In comparison to males, females accounted for 47.8% of the whole population, 52.9% in incidence, 46.9% in mortality, and 56.9% in the prevalence of patients with cancer. Mortality-to-incidence ratio (MIR) was 0.54 (range 0.39-0.62 in Arab countries, compared with 0.48 globally), and it ranged from 0.14 to 0.97 in the 30 AFC types. Breast cancer was the most common cancer in incidence and mortality, with an MIR of 0.39.

The 2020 descriptive analysis of the females’ cancers in the Arab world revealed a relatively high MIR compared with females’ cancers worldwide; a lower MIR compared with the males; and comparable MIR to 2018 one. We call for more in-depth studies to determine the causes of these differences that might translate into actionable interventions and better outcomes.

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

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.

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.

The Symptom Burden and Quality of Life in Cancer Patients in the Gaza Strip, Palestine: A Cross-Sectional Study

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, but there is an absence of evidence systematically assessing symptom burden and quality of life (QoL) using validated tools. Our objective was to assess associations between socio-demographic and disease-related characteristics, symptom burden and QoL in a sample of cancer patients accessing outpatient services in the Gaza Strip.

A cross-sectional, descriptive survey using interviews and medical record review involving patients with cancer accessing oncology outpatient services at Al Rantisi Hospital and European Gaza Hospital (EGH) in the Gaza Strip was employed. Socio-demographic and disease-related data, the Lebanese version of the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS-Leb), and the Arabic version of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire-C30 (EORTC QLQ-C30) were collected. Multiple linear regression was used to judge the relative influence of determinants of QoL.

Of 414 cancer patients approached, 385 patients consented to participation. The majority were women (64.7%) with a mean age of 52 years (SD = 16.7). Common cancer diagnoses were breast (32.2%), haematological (17.9%) and colorectal (9.1%). The median number of symptoms was 10 (IQR 1.5–18.5). Mean overall QoL was 70.5 (SD 19.9) with common physical and psychological symptoms identified. A higher burden of symptoms was associated with marital status, education and income. Limited access to both opioids and psychological support were reported.

A high symptom burden was identified in outpatients with cancer. Increasing provision and access to supportive care for physical and psychological symptoms should be prioritised alongside exploring routine assessment of symptom burden and QoL.

The Overlooked Issue of Outpatient Combination Antibiotic Prescribing in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: An Example from Syria

This study aimed to determine and describe the prevalence of combination antibiotics dispensed in outpatients with health insurance in Syria. Data on all dispensed medicines between June 2018 and May 2019 for 81,314 adults were obtained, and medicines belonging to the J01 group of the World Health Organization (WHO) anatomical therapeutic classification (ATC) were included in the analysis. Prescriptions were stratified according to the number of antibiotics, age, and sex. Antibiotic utilization was expressed as the number of prescriptions per 1000 persons per year. Out of 59,404 prescriptions for antibiotics, 14.98% contained antibiotic combinations, distributed to 22.49% of the patients. The prevalence of dispensing antibiotic combinations was higher in female patients (23.00%), and the youngest (18–30 years, 26.19%) and oldest age groups (>70 years, 25.19%). The antibiotics most commonly combined were co-amoxiclav, second- and third-generation cephalosporins, and macrolides. Over 60% of the combinations contained ceftriaxone alone or in combination with sulbactam. The present study shows an alarmingly widespread prescription of antibiotic combinations, posing a risk to global health by promoting resistance development

The Standardization of Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates Using Prediction Models in Iran: Observational Study of National Nosocomial Infection Registry Data

Many factors contribute to the spreading of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

This study aimed to standardize the HAI rate using prediction models in Iran based on the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) method.

In this study, the Iranian nosocomial infections surveillance system (INIS) was used to gather data on patients with HAIs (126,314 infections). In addition, the hospital statistics and information system (AVAB) was used to collect data on hospital characteristics. First, well-performing hospitals, including 357 hospitals from all over the country, were selected. Data were randomly split into training (70%) and testing (30%) sets. Finally, the standardized infection ratio (SIR) and the corrected SIR were calculated for the HAIs.

The mean age of the 100,110 patients with an HAI was 40.02 (SD 23.56) years. The corrected SIRs based on the observed and predicted infections for respiratory tract infections (RTIs), urinary tract infections (UTIs), surgical site infections (SSIs), and bloodstream infections (BSIs) were 0.03 (95% CI 0-0.09), 1.02 (95% CI 0.95-1.09), 0.93 (95% CI 0.85-1.007), and 0.91 (95% CI 0.54-1.28), respectively. Moreover, the corrected SIRs for RTIs in the infectious disease, burn, obstetrics and gynecology, and internal medicine wards; UTIs in the burn, infectious disease, internal medicine, and intensive care unit wards; SSIs in the burn and infectious disease wards; and BSIs in most wards were >1, indicating that more HAIs were observed than expected.

The results of this study can help to promote preventive measures based on scientific evidence. They can also lead to the continuous improvement of the monitoring system by collecting and systematically analyzing data on HAIs and encourage the hospitals to better control their infection rates by establishing a benchmarking system.

Knowledge of Palestinian women about cervical cancer warning signs: a national cross- sectional study

Timely presentation and diagnosis of cervical cancer (CC) are crucial to decrease its mortality especially in low- and middle-income countries like Palestine. This study aimed to evaluate the knowledge of Palestinian women about CC warning signs and determine the factors associated with good knowledge.

This was a national cross-sectional study conducted between July 2019 and March 2020 in Palestine. Stratified convenience sampling was used to recruit adult women from hospitals, primary healthcare centers, and public spaces of 11 governorates. A translated-into-Arabic version of the validated CC awareness measure (CeCAM) was used to assess women’s knowledge of 12 CC warning signs.

Of 8086 approached, 7223 participants completed the CeCAM (response rate = 89.3%). A total of 7058 questionnaires were included in the analysis: 2655 from the Gaza Strip and 4403 from the West Bank and Jerusalem (WBJ). The median age [interquartile range] for all participants was 34.0 [24.0, 42.0] years. Participants recruited from the WBJ were older, getting higher monthly income, and having more chronic diseases than those recruited from the Gaza Strip.

The most frequently identified warning sign was ‘vaginal bleeding after menopause’ (n = 5028, 71.2%) followed by ‘extreme generalized fatigue’ (n = 4601, 65.2%) and ‘unexplained weight loss’ (n = 4578, 64.9%). Only 1934 participants (27.4%) demonstrated good knowledge of CC warning signs. Participants from the Gaza Strip were slightly more likely than participants from the WBJ to have a good level of knowledge. Factors associated with having good knowledge included having a bachelor or postgraduate degree, being married, divorced, or widowed as well as knowing someone with cancer.

The overall awareness of CC warning signs was low. Educational interventions are needed to increase Palestinian women’s awareness of CC warning signs.

A minimum data set for traumatic brain injuries in Iran

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the major public health concerns worldwide. Developing a TBI registry could facilitate characterizing TBI, monitoring the quality of care, and quantifying the burden of TBI by collecting comparable and standardized epidemiological and clinical data. However, a national standard tool for data collection of the TBI registry has not been developed in Iran yet. This study aimed to develop a national minimum data set (MDS) for a hospital-based registry of patients suffering from TBI in Iran.

The MDS was designed in two phases, including a literature review and a Delphi study with content validation by an expert panel. After the literature review, a comprehensive list of administrative and clinical items was obtained. Through a two-round e-Delphi approach conducted by invited experts with clinical and research experience in the field of TBI, the final data elements were selected.

An MDS of TBI was assigned to two parts: administrative part with five categories including 52 data elements, and clinical part with nine categories including 130 data elements.

For the first time in Iran, we developed an MDS specified for TBI consisting of 182 data elements. The MDS would facilitate implementing a TBI’s national level registry and providing essential, comparable, and standardized information.

Breast Cancer in the Gaza Strip: The impact of the medical permit regime on public health

For the last 14 years, the Gaza Strip has been subject to an illegal blockade imposed by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. This severe restriction on movement prevents Gazans from accessing critical resources and makes access to health care, even for the most severely ill patients, contingent on a convoluted permit system run by the Israeli military. Consequences of the permit system include major delays in treatment and adverse health outcomes. My thesis explores the impact of the permit system on health outcomes for breast cancer patients in Gaza and offers recommendations for improving public health via community-based and political initiatives