International pediatric surgery partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa: a scoping literature review

Background
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces a critical shortage of pediatric surgical providers. International partnerships can play an important role in pediatric surgical capacity building but must be ethical and sustainable.

Objective
The purpose of this study is to perform a scoping literature review of international pediatric surgery partnerships in SSA from 2009 to 2019. We aim to categorize and critically assess past partnerships to aid in future capacity-building efforts.

Methods
We performed a scoping literature review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines. We searched the PubMed and Embase databases for articles published from 2009 to 2019 using 24 keywords. Articles were selected according to inclusion criteria and assessed by two readers. Descriptive analyses of the data collected were conducted in Excel.

Results
A total of 2376 articles were identified. After duplicates were removed, 405 articles were screened. In total, 83 articles were assessed for eligibility, and 62 were included in the review. The most common partnership category was short-term surgical trip (28 articles, 45%). A total of 35 articles (56%) included education of host country providers as part of the partnership. Only 45% of partnerships included follow-up care, and 50% included postoperative outcomes when applicable.

Conclusions
To increase sustainability, more partnerships must include education of local health-care providers, and short-term surgical trips must be integrated into long-term partnerships. More partnerships need to report postoperative outcomes and ensure follow-up care. Educating peri-operative providers, training general surgeons in common pediatric procedures, and increasing telehealth use are other goals for future partnerships.

A New Dawn for Brazilian Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Is on the Way — Issues Around and Outside the Operating Room

In some developing countries, congenital heart disease still stands out among the leading causes of death in the first year of life. Therefore, there is a great need to develop programs designed to improve outcomes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of congenital heart disease in these nations, where children have always been and still are severely underserved.
The Brazilian Public Health Care System demands universal access to treatment as a constitutional right. Therefore, an underfunded Pediatric Cardiac Surgery program is unacceptable since it will cost lives and increase the infant mortality rate. Additionally, poor funding decreases providers’ interest, impedes technological advances and multidisciplinary engagement, and reduces access to comprehensive care.
Unfortunately, in most developing countries, Pediatric Cardiac Surgery progress is still the result of isolated personal efforts, dedication, and individual resilience. This article aims to present the current state of Brazilian pediatric cardiac surgery and discuss the structural and human limitations in developing a quality care system for children with congenital heart disease. Considering such constraints, quality improvement programs via International collaboration with centers of excellence, based on proper data collection and outcomes analysis, have been introduced in the country. Such initiatives should bring a new dawn to Brazilian Pediatric Cardiac Surgery

The magnitude and perceived reasons for childhood cancer treatment abandonment in Ethiopia: from health care providers’ perspective

Background
Treatment abandonment is one of major reasons for childhood cancer treatment failure and low survival rate in low- and middle-income countries. Ethiopia plans to reduce abandonment rate by 60% (2019–2023), but baseline data and information about the contextual risk factors that influence treatment abandonment are scarce.

Methods
This cross-sectional study was conducted from September 5 to 22, 2021, on the three major pediatric oncology centers in Ethiopia. Data on the incidence and reasons for treatment abandonment were obtained from healthcare professionals. We were unable to obtain data about the patients’ or guardians’ perspective because the information available in the cancer registry was incomplete to contact adequate number of respondents. We used a validated, semi-structured questionnaire developed by the International Society of Pediatric Oncology Abandonment Technical Working Group. We included all (N = 38) health care professionals (physicians, nurses, and social workers) working at these centers who had more than one year of experience in childhood cancer service provision (a universal sampling and 100% response rate).

Results
The perceived mean abandonment rate in Ethiopia is 34% (SE 2.5%). The risk of treatment abandonment is dependent on the type of cancer (high for bone sarcoma and brain tumor), the phase of treatment and treatment outcome. The highest risk is during maintenance and treatment failure or relapse for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and during pre- or post-surgical phase for Wilms tumor and bone sarcoma. The major influencing risk factors in Ethiopia includes high cost of care, low economic status, long travel time to treatment centers, long waiting time, belief in the incurability of cancer and poor public awareness about childhood cancer.

Conclusions
The perceived abandonment rate in Ethiopia is high, and the risk of abandonment varies according to the type of cancer, phase of treatment or treatment outcome. Therefore, mitigation strategies to reduce the abandonment rate should include identifying specific risk factors and prioritizing strategies based on their level of influence, effectiveness, feasibility, and affordability.

An equity analysis on the household costs of accessing and utilising maternal and child health care services in Tanzania

Background
Direct and time costs of accessing and using health care may limit health care access, affect welfare loss, and lead to catastrophic spending especially among poorest households. To date, limited attention has been given to time and transport costs and how these costs are distributed across patients, facility and service types especially in poor settings. We aimed to fill this knowledge gap.

Methods
We used data from 1407 patients in 150 facilities in Tanzania. Data were collected in January 2012 through patient exit-interviews. All costs were disaggregated across patients, facility and service types. Data were analysed descriptively by using means, medians and equity measures like equity gap, ratio and concentration index.

Results
71% of patients, especially the poorest and rural patients, accessed care on foot. The average travel time and cost were 30 minutes and 0.41USD respectively. The average waiting time and consultation time were 47 min and 13 min respectively. The average medical cost was 0.23 USD but only18% of patients paid for health care. The poorest and rural patients faced substantial time burden to access health care (travel and waiting) but incurred less transport and medical costs compared to their counterparts. The consultation time was similar across patients. Patients spent more time travelling to public facilities and dispensaries while incurring less transport cost than accessing other facility types, but waiting and consultation time was similar across facility types. Patients paid less amount in public than in private facilities. Postnatal care and vaccination clients spent less waiting and consultation time and paid less medical cost than antenatal care clients.

Conclusions
Our findings reinforce the need for a greater investment in primary health care to reduce access barriers and cost burdens especially among the worse-offs. Facility’s construction and renovation and increased supply of healthcare workers and medical commodities are potential initiatives to consider. Other initiatives may need a multi-sectoral collaboration

How Climate Change May Threaten Progress in Neonatal Health in the African Region

Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging impacts on maternal and neonatal health in Africa. Populations in low-resource settings already experience adverse impacts from weather extremes, a high burden of disease from environmental exposures, and limited access to high-quality clinical care. Climate change is already increasing local temperatures. Neonates are at high risk of heat stress and dehydration due to their unique metabolism, physiology, growth, and developmental characteristics. Infants in low-income settings may have little protection against extreme heat due to housing design and limited access to affordable space cooling. Climate change may increase risks to neonatal health from weather disasters, decreasing food security, and facilitating infectious disease transmission. Effective interventions to reduce risks from the heat include health education on heat risks for mothers, caregivers, and clinicians; nature-based solutions to reduce urban heat islands; space cooling in health facilities; and equitable improvements in housing quality and food systems. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to reduce the long-term impacts of climate change that will further undermine global health strategies to reduce neonatal mortality.

Right-sided Weakness in a Rwandan Patient with Unrepaired Tetralogy of Fallot

Background

Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is the most common cyanotic congenital heart disease encountered in pediatrics. Long-term survival after surgical repair has improved; however, reported mortality rates in unrepaired TOF are significant. Associated complications include neurological sequelae, most frequently brain abscess and stroke. In countries without early intervention for congenital heart disease including TOF, delayed presentations and complications require recognition by healthcare workers.

Case presentation

A 22 year old male with a history of unrepaired TOF presented to Rwanda’s tertiary university hospital, University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) with acute right-sided hemiparesis. Diagnostic imaging identified a left-sided brain lesion consistent with brain abscess and cardiac mass concerning for an endocardial vegetation. He was managed with intravenous antibiotics, but subsequently died due to complications of septicemia.

Conclusion

In countries where surgical repair of TOF is not available, early recognition and medical management are key in temporizing the development of devastating sequelae. Describing the prevalence of CHD in Rwanda is urgent, requiring further research by which effective prevention and treatment strategies can be developed.

Perioperative outcomes – more than sevoflurane and scalpels

It is well understood that access to safe surgery is a major challenge in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where over five billion people do not have reliable access to surgical care, resulting in an estimated 17 million avoidable deaths per annum.1 Bickler et al. have predicted that up to 90% of children in LMICs will manifest a surgically treatable condition before the age of 15.2 If these conditions are not managed effectively, they result in severe morbidity or mortality. Butler et al. have echoed this sentiment, noting that up to 20% of children in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nepal, and Uganda needed surgery but that 62% of that cohort had an unmet surgical need.3 Despite paediatric surgical services in South Africa being positioned to offer a wide range of safe paediatric surgical interventions,4 the paucity of surgeons results in limited access to centralised centres and much of the population remains unserved.5

Staged Surgical Approach of Neonates with Esophageal Atresia and Tracheoesophageal Fistula from Low and Middle Income Countries

Background

Neonates born in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with esophageal atresia (EA) and tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) often do not have access to adequate surgical care. We have partnered with the non-profit organization World Pediatric Project (WPP) to facilitate care for such patients.

Methods

This was a retrospective review of the patients (n=9) in this program. Our protocol included placement of a gastrostomy tube by local surgeons before definitive repair at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). The outcomes included: demographics, length of stay, complications, mortality, and nutritional status.

Results

The median age at the time of admission to CHoR and at the time of surgery were 3.1 weeks [1.1 – 21.1] and 5.9 weeks [3.4 – 22], respectively. All the patients had a successful primary repair of the EA and TEF without postoperative mortality. As a result, every patient is now on regular PO diet by mouth without TPN dependence. Every patient has been seen in follow up in the U.S. and their home country.

Conclusion

We provided successful multidisciplinary care for neonates with EA and TEF from LMICs in partnership with WPP, which has provided essential support to identify and manage these patients.

Exploring the lived experiences of parents caring for infants with gastroschisis in Rwanda: The untold story

Pediatric surgery is a crucial pillar of health equity but is often not prioritized in the global health agenda, especially in low-and middle-income countries. Gastroschisis (GS) is a type of structural congenital anomaly that can be treated through surgical interventions. In Rwanda, neonatal surgical care is only available in one hospital. The experience of parents of children born with gastroschisis has not been previously studied in Rwanda. The objective of this study was to explore the lived experiences of parents of children diagnosed with GS in Rwanda. A qualitative study using a semi-structured interview guide was conducted. Parents who had children with gastroschisis and were discharged alive from the hospital in Rwanda were interviewed by trained data collectors, from May to July 2021. Data were transcribed, translated, and then coded using a structured code-book. Thematic analysis was conducted with the use of Dedoose software. Sixteen parents participated in the study. Five themes emerged from the data. They were: “GS diagnosis had a significant emotional impact on the parents”, “Parents were content with the life-saving medical care provided for their children despite some dissatisfaction due to the delayed initiation of care and shortage of medications”, “GS care was accompanied by financial challenges”, “support systems were important coping mechanisms” and “the impact of GS care extended into the post-discharge period”. Having a newborn with GS was an emotional journey. The lack of pre-knowledge about the condition created a shock to the parents. Parents found support from their faith and other parents with similar experiences. The experiences with the care received were mostly positive. The overall financial burden incurred from the medical treatment and indirect costs was high and extended beyond the hospital stay. Strengthening prenatal and hospital services, providing peer, spiritual and financial support could enhance the parents’ experience.

Management of Congenital Heart Disease in Low-Income Countries: The Challenges and the Way Forward

In this article, we will discuss the management of congenital heart disease in low-income and low-middle income countries. First, we will review the epidemiology of congenital heart disease in the low-income and low-middle income countries and compare it to that in the high-income countries; cardiac disease is the commonest cause of death globally. The challenges that are facing the delivery of pediatric cardiac services will be discussed and some solutions will be suggested to improve these services. Pediatric cardiac services face huge economic, financial, social, and health care system delivery challenges. Collaboration between countries and non-governmental and philanthropy organizations is strongly needed to improve delivery of pediatric cardiac services in low-income and low-middle income countries. Planning of pediatric cardiac services in these countries should consider the context of each country or region; some countries managed to transform their pediatric cardiac services to be better.