Assessment of the quality of sexual and reproductive health services delivered to adolescents at Ujala clinics: A qualitative study in Rajasthan, India

The Adolescent Friendly Health Clinic (AFHCs), a key component of the Government of India’s National Adolescent Health Programme a.k.a. Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), aims to increase the accessibility and utilization of sexual-reproductive health services by adolescents and youth. However, low quality of care provided at AFHCs by counsellors calls for attention. We, thus, explore both the clients’ and providers’ perspectives using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global standards for quality health-care services for adolescents to assess the quality of the sexual reproductive health service delivery at AFHCs in Rajasthan, India. We conducted a qualitative study, comprising observation of the service delivery using mystery clients (MCs) (n = 12) and in-depth interviews with the counsellors (n = 4) in four AFHCs. Interviews were transcribed in local language and were translated in English. The transcripts were coded thematically. Our study, using five of the eight WHO global standards for quality health-care services for adolescents highlighted several gaps in the quality-of-service delivery at AFHCs. We unearth various intricacies related to the quality of the services provided at the AFHCs by referring to the relevant input, process, and the output criteria of WHO global standards I, III, IV, V and VI. Our study calls for efforts to improve- (i) the counsellors’ competencies to increase adolescents’ health literacy on sensitive topics, (ii) the facilities at the clinic to ensure privacy, comfort and confidentiality of the adolescents seeking services, (iii) the referrals to improve appropriate package of services, and (iv) an overall environment to ensure an equity and non-discrimination for all the adolescents. Our findings unearth the barriers that both the service providers and the adolescents face at the AFHCs and underscore the need for regular monitoring and evaluation of the AFHCs to strengthen the facility-based intervention of the RKSK programme.

Development of a remote learning educational model for international Emergency Medicine trainees in the era of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has pressured post-graduate medical education programs to shift from traditional in-person teaching to remote teaching and learning. Remote learning in medical education has been described in the literature mostly in the context of local in-country teaching. International remote medical education poses unique challenges for educators, especially in low-middle income countries (LMICs) who need continued Emergency Medicine (EM) specialty development. Our objective is to describe the development and implementation of our remote educational curriculum for EM trainees in West Bengal, India, and to assess trainee satisfaction with our remote learning curriculum.

Our curriculum was developed by adapting remote learning techniques used in Western post-graduate medical education, conducting literature searches on remote learning modalities, and through collaboration with local faculty in India. We assessed resident satisfaction in our curriculum with feedback surveys and group discussions.

The remote educational curriculum had overall high trainee satisfaction ratings for weekly livestream video lectures and throughout our monthly educational modules (median ratings 9-10 out of a 10-point Likert scale). Qualitative feedback regarding specific lecture topics and educational modules were also received.

International remote education in LMICs poses a unique set of challenges to medical educators. Residents in our study reported high satisfaction with the curriculum, but there is a lack of clarity regarding how a remote curriculum may impact academic and clinical performance. Future studies are needed to further evaluate the efficacy and academic and clinical implications of remote medical education in LMICs.

Surgical Management During the COVID-19 Era at a Private Tertiary Care Hospital of Karachi, Pakistan: A Cross-Sectional Study

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), declared a pandemic in March 2020, has affected the entire healthcare system, including the surgical practice. Guidelines for the management of surgical patients during this COVID-19 era need to be established to provide timely yet safe surgical care. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the outcomes of the COVID-19 testing algorithm established for surgery patients presenting to a tertiary care hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, and to compare the outcomes among patients who underwent elective versus emergency surgery.

This is a cross-sectional study conducted at a tertiary care hospital in Pakistan to apply and assess the outcomes of the COVID-19 testing algorithm established for patients presenting for surgery. We included all patients who underwent any surgery from May to October 2020. The total sample size was 6,846. The data were analyzed using SPSS version 23 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA). The categorical variables were assessed using the chi-square or Fisher’s exact test. A p-value of <0.05 was considered significant.

A total of 6,846 surgeries were performed from May 1 to October 31, 2020. In total, 74% of the surgeries were elective procedures. We observed that a significantly higher proportion of emergency surgery patients tested positive for COVID-19 (4.2%) compared to elective surgery patients (25/5,063, 0.5%). A higher proportion of surgeries were performed in September (1,437, 21%) and October (1,445, 21%) while the lowest number of surgeries were performed in May (625, 9.1%). From week one to week five, a higher proportion of emergency surgeries were performed (32%) compared to elective surgeries (25%). Only 1.9% of the patients who were undergoing surgery were COVID-19 positive, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases presenting in June. Overall, 74.7% of the COVID-19-positive patients underwent emergency surgeries.

The timely establishment of well-defined guidelines for surgical management during the pandemic allowed us to provide timely and effective surgical care to patients with the priority of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and preventing unnecessary deferral of surgeries.

Needs Assessment of Leadership and Governance in Cardiovascular Health in Nepal

Good governance and leadership are essential to improve healthy life expectancy particularly in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study aimed to epitomize the challenges and opportunities for leadership and good governance for the health system to address non-communicable diseases particularly cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in Nepal.
The objective of this study was to understand and document CVD programs and policy formulation processes and to identify the government capacity to engage stakeholders for planning and implementation purposes.
A national-level task force was formed to coordinate and steer the overall need assessment process. A qualitative study design was adopted using “The Health System Assessment Approach”. Eighteen indicators under six topical areas in leadership and governance in cardiovascular health were assessed using desk review and key informant interviews.
Voice and accountability exist in planning for health from the local level. The government has shown a strong willingness and has a strategy to work together with the private and non-government sectors in health however, the coordination has not been effective. There are strong rules in place for regulatory quality, control of corruption, and maintaining financial transparency. The government frequently relies on evidence generated from large-scale surveys for health policy formulation and planning but research in cardiovascular health has been minimum. There is a scarcity of cardiovascular disease-specific protocols.
Despite plenty of opportunities, much homework is needed to improve leadership and governance in cardiovascular health in Nepal. The government needs to designate a workforce for specific programs to help monitor the enforcement of health sector regulations, allocate enough funding to encourage CVD research, and work towards developing CVD-specific guidelines, protocols, and capacity building.

Knowledge, awareness, attitudes and screening practices towards breast and cervical cancer among women in Nepal: a scoping review

Breast and cervical cancers have emerged as major global health challenges and disproportionately affect women in low- and middle-income countries, including Nepal. This scoping review aimed to map the knowledge, attitudes and screening practices for these cancers among Nepali women to improve cancer outcomes and reduce inequality.

Five electronic databases (CINAHL, Embase, Global Health, PsycINFO and PubMed), grey literature, and reference and citation lists were searched for articles published in English up to June 2021. Articles were screened against inclusion/exclusion criteria, and data from eligible studies were extracted. Results were summarised narratively.

The search yielded 615 articles, 38 of which were included in this scoping review (27 cervical cancer, 10 breast cancer, 1 both cancers). Levels of knowledge regarding breast and cervical varied widely. The main knowledge gaps were misconceptions about symptoms and risk factors, and poor understanding of screening behaviours. Screening practices were mostly inadequate due to socio-cultural, geographical or financial barriers. Positive attitudes towards cervical screening were associated with higher education and increased knowledge of screening modalities. Higher levels of knowledge, (health) literacy and participation in awareness campaigns facilitated breast cancer screening.

Knowledge and screening practices for breast and cervical cancer among Nepali women were poor and highlight the need for awareness and education programmes. Future research should explore community health worker-led awareness and screening interventions for cervical cancer, and programmes to increase the practice of breast self-examination and clinical breast examinations to support early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Changes in patterns and outcomes of trauma patients after betterment in law and order situation of the city

Objective: To assess the impact of the law and order situation of a city on the pattern of traumatic injuries and the overall outcomes of trauma victims.

Method: The retrospective study of prospective trauma surgery data was done at Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, and comprised data of patients with torso injuries before the improvement of law and order situation from January 2012 to March 2013 in Group A, and of those with similar injuries after the law and order situation improved in the city from January 2018 to March 2019 in Group B. The required data was collected by a single researcher using a predesigned questionnaire. Inter-group comparison was done to see the difference in patterns of injuries and outcomes. Data were analysed using SPSS 22.

Results: Of the 676 cases reviewed, Group A had 416(61.5%); 363(87%) males and 53(13%) females with overall mean age of 37±13 years. Group B had 260(38.5%); 219(84%) males and 41(16%) females with overall mean age of 36±13 years (p>0.05). Penetrating trauma alone or combined with blunt force was the most common mechanism in Group A i.e. 245 (59%) patients, while in group B blunt trauma was the commonest cause 209 (80.4%) patients. There was an overall 156 (37.5%) cases reduction in torso trauma cases. Mortality in Group A was 22(5.3%) and in Group B it was 7(2.7%).

Conclusion: With the improvement in the law and order situation, there was reduction in overall trauma cases and the pattern of trauma shifted from penetrating to blunt injuries.

Impact of COVID-19 on Cardiovascular Disease Presentation, Emergency Department Triage and Inpatient Cardiology Services in a Low- to Middle-Income Country – Perspective from a Tertiary Care Hospital of Pakistan

Aims: To identify the changes in cardiovascular disease presentation, emergency room triage and inpatient diagnostic and therapeutic pathways.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi. We collected data for patients presenting to the emergency department with cardiovascular symptoms between March–July 2019 (pre-COVID period) and March–July 2020 (COVID period). The comparison was made to quantify the differences in demographics, clinical characteristics, admission, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and in-hospital mortality between the two periods.

Results: Of 2976 patients presenting with cardiac complaints to the emergency department (ED), 2041(69%) patients presented during the pre-COVID period, and 935 (31%) patients presented during the COVID period. There was significant reduction in acute coronary syndrome (ACS) (8% [95% CI 4–11], p < 0.001) and heart failure (↓6% [95% CI 3–8], p < 0.001). A striking surge was noted in Type II Myocardial injury (↑18% [95% CI 20–15], p < 0.001) during the pandemic. There was reduction in cardiovascular admissions (coronary care unit p < 0.01, coronary step-down unit p = 0.03), cardiovascular imaging (p < 0.001), and procedures (percutaneous coronary intervention p = 0.04 and coronary angiography p = 0.02). No significant difference was noted in mortality (4.7% vs. 3.7%). The percentage of patients presenting from rural areas declined significantly during the COVID period (18% vs. 14%, p = 0.01). In the subgroup analysis of sex, we noticed a falling trend of intervention performed in females during the COVID period (8.2% male vs. 3.3 % female). Conclusions: This study shows a significant decline in patients presenting with Type I myocardial infarction (MI) and a decrease in cardiovascular imaging and procedures during the COVID period. There was a significant increase noted in Type II MI.

Lessons learnt from emergency medicine services during the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of India and the United States

India and the United States have both witnessed a high burden of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic was declared in early 2020. However, the COVID-19 restrictions have met with mixed responses in India and the US. Despite recommendations to continue social isolation and personal hygiene measures, India has not been able to curb the rise in daily cases. Our findings demonstrate the difference in the manner by which India and the US differ in their emergency handling of patients. We conducted a thorough review of the existing protocols and data concerning emergency responses in India and the US. The triage and care of suspected COVID-19 positive patients is different across India and the US. We find that there is a shortage of oxygenation, vaccination and other essential supplies in India. Further, the US is able to triage patients through telemedicine and EMS before suspected COVID-19 patients arrive, which is less prevalent in India. Our study identifies the importance of the emergency department (ED) as a critical contributor to the prevention and care of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in India have been struggling to accommodate a huge influx of patients during its second wave with the ED playing a key link in their COVID-19 response.

Diabetic retinopathy service delivery and integration into the health system in Pakistan—Findings from a multicentre qualitative study

This paper is based on qualitative research carried out in a diabetic retinopathy (DR) programme in three districts of Pakistan. It analyses the organisation and delivery of DR services and the extent to which the interventions resulted in a fully functioning integrated approach to DR care and treatment. Between January and April 2019, we conducted 14 focus group discussions and 37 in-depth interviews with 144 purposively selected participants: patients, lady health workers (LHWs) and health professionals. Findings suggest that integration of services was helpful in the prevention and management of DR. Through the efforts of LHWs and general practitioners, diabetic patients in the community became aware of the eye health issues related to uncontrolled diabetes. However, a number of systemic pressure points in the continuum of care seem to have limited the impact of the integration. Some components of the intervention, such as a patient tracking system and reinforced interdepartmental links, show great promise and need to be sustained. The results of this study point to the need for action to ensure inclusion of DR on the list of local health departments’ priority conditions, greater provision of closer-to-community services, such as mobile clinics. Future interventions will need to consider the complexity of adding diabetic retinopathy to an already heavy workload for the LHWs.

Building Capacity and Infrastructure at Hospitals Implementing Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling: Experience and Lessons Learned From Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania

Minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) is a useful tool to determine cause of death in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2019 the MITS Surveillance Alliance supported the implementation of small-scale postmortem studies using MITS in several LMICs.

In this article we describe the preparations, challenges, and lessons learned as part of implementing MITS across 4 study sites in 3 countries: Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania. We describe the process for building capacity to conduct MITS, which consisted of training in MITS sample collection, individual site assessment to determine readiness and gaps prior to implementation, site visits as sites began implementation of MITS, and feedback based on remote evaluation of histology slides via an online portal.

The 4 study sites each conducted 100 MITS, for a total of 400. All 4 sites lacked sufficient infrastructure and facilities to conduct MITS, and upgrades were required. Common challenges faced by sites included that clinical autopsies were neither routinely conducted nor widely accepted. Limited clinical records made cause of death determination more difficult. Lessons learned included the importance of sensitization of the community and medical staff to MITS to enhance understanding and increase consent.

The study sites accomplished MITS and utilized the available support systems to overcome the challenges. The quality of the procedures was satisfactory and was facilitated through the organized capacity-building programs