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.

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.

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

eHealth for service delivery in conflict: a narrative review of the application of eHealth technologies in contemporary conflict settings

The role of eHealth in conflict settings is increasingly important to address geographic, epidemiologic and clinical disparities. This study categorizes various forms of eHealth usage in conflict and aims to identify gaps in evidence to make recommendations for further research and practice. The analysis was carried out via a narrative hermeneutic review methodology. Articles that fulfilled the following screening criteria were reviewed: (1) describing an eHealth intervention in active conflict or ongoing insurgency, (2) an eHealth intervention targeting a conflict-affected population, (3) an e-learning platform for delivery in conflict settings and (4) non-interventional descriptive reviews relating to eHealth in conflict. Of the 489 papers eligible for screening, 46 merited final inclusion. Conflict settings described include Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Chechnya, Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty-six studies described specific eHealth initiatives, while the remainder were more generic review papers exploring general principles. Analysis resulted in the elucidation of three final categories of current eHealth activity in conflict-affected settings: (1) eHealth for clinical management, (2) e-learning for healthcare in conflict and (3) eHealth for information management in conflict. Obvious disparities in the distribution of technological dividends from eHealth in conflict are demonstrated by this review. Conflict-affected populations are predominantly subject to ad hoc and voluntary initiatives delivered by diaspora and civil society organizations. While the deployment of eHealth technologies in conflict settings is increasingly normalized, there is a need for further clarification of global norms relating to practice in this context.

Perceptions of Non-Communicable Disease and War Injury Management in the Palestinian Health System: A Qualitative Study of Healthcare Providers Perspectives

Background: Palestine, like other low-income countries, is confronting an increasing epidemic of non-communicable disease (NCD) and trend of war injury. The management of health problems often presents a critical challenge to the Palestinian health system (PHS). Understanding the perceptions of healthcare providers is essential in exploring the gaps in the health system to develop an effective healthcare intervention. Unfortunately, health research on management of NCD and war injury has largely been neglected and received little attention. Therefore, the study aimed to explore the perspectives of healthcare providers regarding NCD and war injury management in the PHS in the Gaza Strip.
Methods: A qualitative study approach was used, based on four focus group discussions (FGDs) involving a purposive sampling strategy of 30 healthcare providers from three main public hospitals in Gaza Strip. A semi-structured topic guide was used, and the focus group interviews data were analyzed using manifest content analysis. The study was approved by the Palestinian Health Research Council (PHRC) for ethics approval.
Results: From the healthcare providers perspective, four main themes and several sub-themes have emerged from the descriptive manifest content analysis: functioning of healthcare system; system-related challenges; patients-related challenges; strategies and actions to navigating the challenges and improving care. Informants frequently discussed that despite some positive aspects in the system, fundamental changes and significant improvements are needed. Some expressed serious concerns that the healthcare system needs complete rebuilding to facilitate the management of NCD and war-related injury. They perceived important barriers to effective management of NCD and war injury such as poor hospital infrastructure and logistics, shortage of micro and sub-specialities and essential resources. Participants also expressed a dilemma and troubles in communication and interactions, especially during emergencies or crises. The informants stressed the unused of updated clinical management guidelines. There was a consensus regarding poor shared-care/task sharing, partnership, and cooperation among healthcare facilities.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that fundamental changes and significant reforms are needed in the health system to make healthcare services more effective, timely, and efficient. The study disclosed the non-use of clinical guidelines as well as suboptimal sectorial task-sharing among different stakeholders and healthcare providers. A clear and comprehensive healthcare policy considering the gaps in the system must be adopted for the improvement and development of care in the PHS.

Determinants of surgeons’ adherence to preventive intraoperative measures of surgical site infection in Gaza Strip hospitals: a multi-centre cross-sectional study

Surgical site infection (SSI) is one of the most common hospital-acquired infections and is associated with serious impact on the rates of morbidity, mortality as well as healthcare costs. This study examined factors influencing the application of several intraoperative preventive measures of SSI by surgeons and surgical residents in the Gaza Strip.

A cross-sectional study was conducted from December 2016 to February 2017 at the operation rooms of the three major hospitals located in the Gaza-Strip, Palestine. Inclusion criteria for patients were being adult (aged ≥18 years), no history of wound infection at time of operation and surgical procedure under general anaesthesia with endotracheal intubation. The association between different patient- and procedure-related SSI risk factors and adherence to several intraoperative SSI preventive measures was tested.

In total, 281 operations were observed. The mean patient age ± standard deviation (SD) was 38.4 ± 14.6 years and the mean duration of surgery ± SD was 58.2 ± 32.1 minutes. A hundred-thirty-two patients (47.0%) were male. Location and time of the operation were found to have significant associations with adherence to all SSI preventive measures except for antibiotic prophylaxis. Type of operation had a significant association with performing all measures except changing surgical instruments. Patient age did not have a statistically significant association with adherence to any measure.

The results suggest that the surgeon could be a major factor that can lead to a better outcome of surgical procedures by reducing postoperative complications of SSI. Operating department professionals would benefit from clinical guidance and continuous training, highlighting the importance of persistent implementation of SSI preventive measures in everyday practice to improve the quality of care provided to surgical patients.