Strengthening the Health System as a Strategy to Achieving a Universal Health Coverage in Underprivileged Communities in Africa: A Scoping Review

Universal health coverage (UHC) is defined as people having access to quality healthcare services (e.g., treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care) they need, irrespective of their financial status. Access to quality healthcare services continues to be a challenge for many people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study was to conduct a scoping review to map out the health system strengthening strategies that can be used to attain universal health coverage in Africa. We conducted a scoping review and qualitatively synthesized existing evidence from studies carried out in Africa. We included studies that reported interventions to strengthen the health system, e.g., financial support, increasing work force, improving leadership capacity in health facilities, and developing and upgrading infrastructure of primary healthcare facilities. Outcome measures included health facility infrastructures, access to medicines, and sources of financial support. A total of 34 studies conducted met our inclusion criteria. Health financing and developing health infrastructure were the most reported interventions toward achieving UHC. Our results suggest that strengthening the health system, namely, through health financing, developing, and improving the health infrastructure, can play an important role in reaching UHC in the African context.

Geographic accessibility to cancer treatment in Brazil: A network analysis

Geographic accessibility to healthcare services is a fundamental component in achieving universal health coverage, the central commitment of the Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS). For cancer patients, poor accessibility has been associated with inadequate treatment, worse prognosis, and poorer quality of life.

We explored nationwide healthcare data from the SUS health information systems, and mapped the geographic accessibility to cancer treatment in two time-frames: 2009–2010 and 2017–2018. We applied social network analysis (SNA) to estimate the commuting route, flow, and distances travelled by cancer patients to undergo surgical, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy treatment.

A total of 12,751,728 treatment procedures were analyzed. Overall, more than half of the patients (49·2 to 60·7%) needed to travel beyond their municipality of residence for treatment, a fact that did not change over time. Marked regional differences were observed, as patients living in the northern and midwestern regions of the country had to travel longer distances (weighted average of 296 to 870 km). Cancer care hubs and attraction poles were mostly identified in the southeast and northeast regions, with Barretos being the main hub for all types of treatment throughout time.

Important regional disparities in the accessibility to cancer treatment in Brazil were revealed, suggesting the need to review the distribution of specialized care in the country. The data presented here contribute to ongoing research on improving access to cancer care and can provide reference to other countries, offering relevant data for oncological and healthcare service evaluation, monitoring, and strategic planning.

This work was funded by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation – Fiocruz (Inova – no. 8451635123 to BPF) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq (no. 407060/2018–9 to BPF); Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel – CAPES (scholarship to PCA, Finance Code 001); and Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia de Inovação em Doenças de Populações Negligenciadas (INCT-IDPN).

The 4-Year Experience with Implementation and Routine Use of Pathogen Reduction in a Brazilian Hospital

(1) Background: We reviewed the logistics of the implementation of pathogen reduction (PR) using the INTERCEPT Blood System™ for platelets and the experience with routine use and clinical outcomes in the patient population at the Sírio-Libanês Hospital of São Paulo, Brazil. (2) Methods: Platelet concentrate (PC), including pathogen reduced (PR-PC) production, inventory management, discard rates, blood utilization, and clinical outcomes were analyzed over the 40 months before and after PR implementation. Age distribution and wastage rates were compared over the 10 months before and after approval for PR-PC to be stored for up to seven days. (3) Results: A 100% PR-PC inventory was achieved by increasing double apheresis collections and production of double doses using pools of two single apheresis units. Discard rates decreased from 6% to 3% after PR implementation and further decreased to 1.2% after seven-day storage extension for PR-PCs. The blood utilization remained stable, with no increase in component utilization. A significant decrease in adverse transfusion events was observed after the PR implementation. (4) Conclusion: Our experience demonstrates the feasibility for Brazilian blood centers to achieve a 100% PR-PC inventory. All patients at our hospital received PR-PC and showed no increase in blood component utilization and decreased rates of adverse transfusion reactions

Leadership development for orthopaedic trauma surgeons in Latin America: opportunities for and barriers to skill acquisition

There is growing interest in leadership courses for physicians. Few opportunities are available in global regions with limited resources. This study describes orthopaedic trauma surgeons’ desired leadership skill acquisition, opportunities, and barriers to course participation in Latin America.

Latin American orthopaedic trauma surgeons from the Asociación de Cirujanos Traumatólogos de las Americas (ACTUAR) network were surveyed. This survey solicited and gauged the surgeons’ level of interest in leadership topics and their relative importance utilizing a 5-point Likert-scale. Additionally, comparisons were calculated between middle-income countries (MICs) and high-income countries (HICs) to ascertain if needs were different between groups. The survey included demographic information, nationality, level of training, years in practice, leadership position, needs assessment, and perceived barriers for leadership educational opportunities.

One hundred forty-four orthopaedic surgeons completed the survey, representing 18 countries across Latin America; 15 MICs and 3 HICs. Participants had more than 20 years in practice (49%) and held leadership positions (81%) in hospital settings (62%), national orthopaedic societies (45%), and/or clinical settings (40%). Sixty-three percent had never attended a leadership course due to lack of opportunities/invitations (69%), difficulty missing work (24%), and costs (21%). Ninety-seven percent expressed interest in attending a leadership course. No difference in needs was determined between respondents from MICs and HICs. Professional Ethics, Crisis Management/Organizational Change Management, and High Performing Team-Building were identified as the most important leadership topics.

Orthopaedic surgeons in Latin America demonstrate an interest in acquiring additional leadership skills but have few opportunities. Identifying interests, knowledge gaps, and core competencies can guide the development of such opportunities.

Training facilitated by inter-institutional collaboration and telemedicine: An alternative for improving results in the placenta accreta spectrum

Placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) is a severe condition that requires trained interdisciplinary group participation. However, achieving that specific training is difficult without academic programs or hospitals dedicated to teaching PAS skills.

We describe an interinstitutional collaboration process focused on improving PAS treatment and facilitated by telemedicine. Finally, we propose a replicable model for other centres

Study Design
This was a retrospective, descriptive study including PAS patients treated over 10-years in a low-middle income country (LMIC) hospital (local hospital [LH]). We evaluated the clinical results and impact of interinstitutional collaboration with a PAS expert group (EG) at another LMIC. Virtual strategies of continuous communication between the LH and EG were used, such as telemedicine, teleradiology and telepresence during surgeries.

Eighty-nine PAS patients were included. We observed a progressive improvement in clinical results (intraoperative bleeding, transfusion frequency, postoperative length of stay and frequency of complications) as the LH fixed interdisciplinary group gained experience by treating more cases.

Interinstitutional collaboration (through telemedicine and remote supervision) and PAS team formation, were related to the best results in the most recent years of observation. Thus, ongoing PAS team training, facilitated by inter-institutional collaboration and telemedicine, is a valid strategy for improving clinical outcomes in PAS.

A longitudinal surgical systems strengthening research program for medical students: the exploration of a model for global health education

In response to the staggering global burden of conditions requiring emergency and essential surgery, the development of international surgical system strengthening (SSS) is fundamental to achieving universal, timely, quality, and affordable surgical care. Opportunity exists in identifying optimal collaborative processes that both promote global surgery research and SSS, and include medical students. This study explores an education model to engage students in academic global surgery and SSS via institutional support for longitudinal research.

We set out to design a program to align global health education and longitudinal health systems research by creating an education model to engage medical students in academic global surgery and SSS.

Program design and implementation
In 2015, medical schools in the United States and Colombia initiated a collaborative partnership for academic global surgery research and SSS. This included development of two longitudinal academic tracks in global health medical education and academic global surgery, which we differentiated by level of institutional resourcing. Herein is a retrospective evaluation of the first two years of this program by using commonly recognized academic output metrics.

Main achievements
In the first two years of the program, there were 76 total applicants to the two longitudinal tracks. Six of the 16 (37.5%) accepted students selected global surgery faculty as mentors (Acute Care Surgery faculty participating in SSS with Colombia). These global surgery students subsequently spent 24 total working weeks abroad over the two-year period participating in culminating research experiences in SSS. As a quantitative measure of the program’s success, the students collectively produced a total of twenty scholarly pieces in the form of accepted posters, abstracts, podium presentations, and manuscripts in partnership with Colombian research mentors.

Policy implications
The establishment of scholarly global health education and research tracks has afforded our medical students an active role in international SSS through participation in academic global surgery research. We propose that these complementary programs can serve as a model for disseminated education and training of the future global systems-aware surgeon workforce with bidirectional growth in south and north regions with traditionally under-resourced SSS training programs.

Association between government policy and delays in emergent and elective surgical care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil: a modeling study

The impact of public health policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on access to surgical care is poorly defined. We aim to quantify the surgical backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brazilian public health system and determine the relationship between state-level policy response and the degree of state-level delays in public surgical care.

Monthly estimates of surgical procedures performed per state from January 2016 to December 2020 were obtained from Brazil’s Unified Health System Informatics Department. Forecasting models using historical surgical volume data before March 2020 (first reported COVID-19 case) were constructed to predict expected monthly operations from March through December 2020. Total, emergency, and elective surgical monthly backlogs were calculated by comparing reported volume to forecasted volume. Linear mixed effects models were used to model the relationship between public surgical delivery and two measures of health policy response: the COVID-19 Stringency Index (SI) and the Containment & Health Index (CHI) by state.

Between March and December 2020, the total surgical backlog included 1,119,433 (95% Confidence Interval 762,663–1,523,995) total operations, 161,321 (95%CI 37,468–395,478) emergent operations, and 928,758 (95%CI 675,202–1,208,769) elective operations. Increased SI and CHI scores were associated with reductions in emergent surgical delays but increases in elective surgical backlogs. The maximum government stringency (score = 100) reduced emergency delays to nearly zero but tripled the elective surgical backlog.

Strong health policy efforts to contain COVID-19 ensure minimal reductions in delivery of emergent surgery, but dramatically increase elective backlogs. Additional coordinated government efforts will be necessary to specifically address the increased elective backlogs that accompany stringent responses.

Barriers to Trauma Care in South and Central America: a systematic review

Trauma is widespread in Central and South America and is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. Providing high quality emergency trauma care is of great importance. Understanding the barriers to care is challenging; this systematic review aims to establish current the current challenges and barriers in providing high-quality trauma care within the 21 countries in the region.

OVID Medline, Embase, EBM reviews and Global Health databases were systematically searched in October 2020. Records were screened by two independent researchers. Data were extracted according to a predetermined proforma. Studies of any type, published in the preceding decade were included, excluding grey literature and non-English records. Trauma was defined as blunt or penetrating injury from an external force. Studies were individually critically appraised and assessed for bias using the RTI item bank.

57 records met the inclusion criteria. 20 countries were covered at least once. Nine key barriers were identified: training (37/57), resources and equipment (33/57), protocols (29/57), staffing (17/57), transport and logistics (16/57), finance (15/57), socio-cultural (13/57), capacity (9/57), public education (4/57).

Nine key barriers negatively impact on the provision of high-quality trauma care and highlight potential areas for improving care in Central & South America. Many countries in the region, along with rural areas, are under-represented by the current literature and future research is urgently required to assess barriers to trauma management in these countries.

Practical considerations for expediting breast cancer treatment in Brazil

Patients in Brazil continue to present with late-stage breast cancer. Notwithstanding these figures, policies and programs to overcome this long-lasting scenario have had limited results. We enlist the main barriers for advancing breast cancer diagnosis in Brazil, based on the available evidence, and we propose feasible strategies that may serve as a platform to address this major public health challenge.

Neurotrauma Registry Implementation in Colombia: A Qualitative Assessment

Objectives Latin America is among several regions of the world that lacks robust data on injuries due to neurotrauma. This research project sought to investigate a multi-institution brain injury registry in Colombia, South America, by conducting a qualitative study to identify factors affecting the creation and implementation of a multi-institution TBI registry in Colombia before the establishment of the current registry.

Methods Key informant interviews and participant observation identified barriers and facilitators to the creation of a TBI registry at three health care institutions in this upper-middle-income country in South America.

Results The study identified barriers to implementation involving incomplete clinical data, limited resources, lack of information and technology (IT) support, time constraints, and difficulties with ethical approval. These barriers mirrored similar results from other studies of registry implementation in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Ease of use and integration of data collection into the clinical workflow, local support for the registry, personal motivation, and the potential future uses of the registry to improve care and guide research were identified as facilitators to implementation. Stakeholders identified local champions and support from the administration at each institution as essential to the success of the project.

Conclusion Barriers for implementation of a neurotrauma registry in Colombia include incomplete clinical data, limited resources and lack of IT support. Some factors for improving the implementation process include local support, personal motivation and potential uses of the registry data to improve care locally. Information from this study may help to guide future efforts to establish neurotrauma registries in Latin America and in LMICs.