Understanding patient health-seeking behaviour to optimise the uptake of cataract surgery in rural Kenya, Zambia and Uganda: findings from a multisite qualitative study

Cataract is a major cause of visual impairment globally, affecting 15.2 million people who are blind, and another 78.8 million who have moderate or severe visual impairment. This study was designed to explore factors that influence the uptake of surgery offered to patients with operable cataract in a free-of-charge, community-based eye health programme.

Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted with patients and healthcare providers in rural Zambia, Kenya and Uganda during 2018–2019. We identified participants using purposive sampling. Thematic analysis was conducted using a combination of an inductive and deductive team-based approach.

Participants consisted of 131 healthcare providers and 294 patients. Two-thirds of patients had been operated on for cataract. Two major themes emerged: (1) surgery enablers, including a desire to regain control of their lives, the positive testimonies of others, family support, as well as free surgery, medication and food; and (2) barriers to surgery, including cultural and social factors, as well as the inadequacies of the healthcare delivery system.

Cultural, social and health system realities impact decisions made by patients about cataract surgery uptake. This study highlights the importance of demand segmentation and improving the quality of services, based on patients’ expectations and needs, as strategies for increasing cataract surgery uptake.

Misconceptions About Traumatic Brain Injuries in Five Sub-Saharan African Countries

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) remains a significant problem in certain regions of the world but receives little attention despite its enormous burden. This discrepancy could consequently lead to various misconceptions among the general public. This study evaluated misconceptions about TBI in five African countries.

Data for this cross-sectional study were collected using the Common Misconception about Traumatic Brain Injury (CM-TBI) questionnaire, which was electronically disseminated from January 16 to February 6, 2021. Associations between the percentage of correct answers and independent variables (i.e., sociodemographic characteristics and experience with TBI) were evaluated with the ANOVA test. Additionally, answers to the question items were compared against independent variables using the Chi-Square test. A P-value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

A total of 817 adults, 50.2% female (n=410), aged 24.3 ± 4.3 years, and majoritarily urban dwellers (94.6%, n=773) responded to the survey. They had received tertiary education (79.2%, n=647) and were from Nigeria (77.7%, n=635). Respondents had few misconceptions (mean correct answers=71.7%, 95% CI=71.0-72.4%) and the amnesia domain had the highest level of misconception (39.3%, 95% CI=37.7-40.8%). Surveyees whose friends had TBI were more knowledgeable about TBI (mean score difference=4.1%, 95% CI=1.2-6.9, P=0.01). Additionally, surveyees whose family members had experienced TBI had a better understanding of brain damage (mean score difference=5.7%, 95% CI=2.1-9.2%, P=0.002) and recovery (mean score difference=4.3%, 95% CI=0.40-8.2%, P=0.03).

This study identified some misconceptions about TBI among young adult Africans. This at-risk population should benefit from targeted education strategies to prevent TBI and reduce TBI patients' stigmatization in Africa.

The Status of Medical Devices and their Utilization in 9 Tertiary Hospitals and 5 Research institutions in Uganda

Advancements in technology have led to great strides in research and innovation that has resulted in an improvement of healthcare provision around the world. However, it has been shown that majority of the technology is underutilized in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ever-increasing sophistication and cost of medical equipment means that access and proper use is limited in Low- and Middle-Income countries. There is however a general paucity of well documented evidence for utilization of medical equipment in LMICs. The aim of this study is therefore to evaluate the current availability and utilization of medical equipment in tertiary hospitals and research facilitates in Uganda. This will provide baseline information to clinical/biomedical engineers, innovators, managers as well as policy makers.

The study evaluated the equipment currently used in 9 purposively selected public tertiary hospitals and 5 research laboratories representing different regions of Uganda. Data was collected by personnel specialized in the field of Biomedical Engineering utilizing a mixed method approach that involved inventory taking and surveys directed to the health workers in the designated health facilities.

The hospitals contributed 1995 (85%) pieces of medical equipment while the research laboratories contributed 343 (15%) pieces amounting to 2338 pieces of equipment involved in the study. On average, 34% of the medical equipment in the health facilities were faulty and 85.6% lacked manuals.

Discussion and Conclusion
Although innovative solutions and donated equipment address the immediate and long-term goals of resource constrained settings, our study demonstrated that there are a number of issues around existing medical devices and these need immediate attention.

Task-sharing to support paediatric and child health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries: current practice and a scoping review of emerging opportunities

Demographic and epidemiological changes have prompted thinking on the need to broaden the child health agenda to include care for complex and chronic conditions in the 0–19 years (paediatric) age range. Providing such services will be undermined by general and skilled paediatric workforce shortages especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this paper, we aim to understand existing, sanctioned forms of task-sharing to support the delivery of care for more complex and chronic paediatric and child health conditions in LMICs and emerging opportunities for task-sharing. We specifically focus on conditions other than acute infectious diseases and malnutrition that are historically shifted.

We (1) reviewed the Global Burden of Diseases study to understand which conditions may need to be prioritized; (2) investigated training opportunities and national policies related to task-sharing (current practice) in five purposefully selected African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa); and (3) summarized reported experience of task-sharing and paediatric and child health service delivery through a scoping review of research literature in LMICs published between 1990 and 2019 using MEDLINE, Embase, Global Health, PsycINFO, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library.

We found that while some training opportunities nominally support emerging roles for non-physician clinicians and nurses, formal scopes of practices often remain rather restricted and neither training nor policy seems well aligned with probable needs from high-burden complex and chronic conditions. From 83 studies in 24 LMICs, and aside from the historically shifted conditions, we found some evidence examining task-sharing for a small set of specific conditions (circumcision, some complex surgery, rheumatic heart diseases, epilepsy, mental health).

As child health strategies are further redesigned to address the previously unmet needs careful strategic thinking on the development of an appropriate paediatric workforce is needed. To achieve coverage at scale countries may need to transform their paediatric workforce including possible new roles for non-physician cadres to support safe, accessible and high-quality care.

Mobile Ecological Momentary Assessment and Intervention and Health Behavior Change Among Adults in Rakai, Uganda: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

An extraordinary increase in mobile phone ownership has revolutionized the opportunities to use mobile health approaches in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Ecological momentary assessment and intervention (EMAI) uses mobile technology to gather data and deliver timely, personalized behavior change interventions in an individual’s natural setting. To our knowledge, there have been no previous trials of EMAI in sub-Saharan Africa.

To advance the evidence base for mobile health (mHealth) interventions in LMICs, we conduct a pilot randomized trial to assess the feasibility of EMAI and establish estimates of the potential effect of EMAI on a range of health-related behaviors in Rakai, Uganda.

This prospective, parallel-group, randomized pilot trial compared health behaviors between adult participants submitting ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data and receiving behaviorally responsive interventional health messaging (EMAI) with those submitting EMA data alone. Using a fully automated mobile phone app, participants submitted daily reports on 5 different health behaviors (fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, and condomless sex with a non–long-term partner) during a 30-day period before randomization (P1). Participants were then block randomized to the control arm, continuing EMA reporting through exit, or the intervention arm, EMA reporting and behavioral health messaging receipt. Participants exited after 90 days of follow-up, divided into study periods 2 (P2: randomization + 29 days) and 3 (P3: 30 days postrandomization to exit). We used descriptive statistics to assess the feasibility of EMAI through the completeness of data and differences in reported behaviors between periods and study arms.

The study included 48 participants (24 per arm; 23/48, 48% women; median age 31 years). EMA data collection was feasible, with 85.5% (3777/4418) of the combined days reporting behavioral data. There was a decrease in the mean proportion of days when alcohol was consumed in both arms over time (control: P1, 9.6% of days to P2, 4.3% of days; intervention: P1, 7.2% of days to P3, 2.4% of days). Decreases in sex with a non–long-term partner without a condom were also reported in both arms (P1 to P3 control: 1.9% of days to 1% of days; intervention: 6.6% of days to 1.3% of days). An increase in vegetable consumption was found in the intervention (vegetable: 65.6% of days to 76.6% of days) but not in the control arm. Between arms, there was a significant difference in the change in reported vegetable consumption between P1 and P3 (control: 8% decrease in the mean proportion of days vegetables consumed; intervention: 11.1% increase; P=.01).

Preliminary estimates suggest that EMAI may be a promising strategy for promoting behavior change across a range of behaviors. Larger trials examining the effectiveness of EMAI in LMICs are warranted.

Trial Registration:
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04375423; https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04375423

Feasibility of establishing an infant hearing screening program and measuring hearing loss among infants at a regional referral hospital in south western Uganda

Despite the high burden of hearing loss (HL) globaly, most countries in resource limited settings lack infant hearing screening programs(IHS) for early HL detection. We examined the feasibility of establishing an IHS program in this setting, and in this pilot program measured the prevalence of infant hearing loss (IHL) and described the characteristics of the infants with HL.

We assessed feasibility of establishing an IHS program at a regional referral hospital in south-western Uganda. We recruited infants aged 1 day to 3 months and performed a three-staged screening. At stage 1, we used Transient Evoked Oto-acoustic Emissions (TEOAEs), at stage 2 we repeated TEOAEs for infants who failed TEOAEs at stage 1 and at stage 3, we conducted Automated brainstem responses(ABRs) for those who failed stage 2. IHL was present if they failed an ABR at 35dBHL.

We screened 401 infants, mean age was 7.2 days (SD = 7.1). 74.6% (299 of 401) passed stage 1, the rest (25.4% or 102 of 401) were referred for stage 2. Of those referred (n = 102), only 34.3% (35 of 102) returned for stage 2 screening. About 14.3% (5/35) failed the repeat TEOAEs in at least one ear. At stage 3, 80% (4 of 5) failed the ABR screening in at least one ear, while 25% (n = 1) failed the test bilaterally. Among the 334 infants that completed the staged screening, the prevalence of IHL was 4/334 or 12 per 1000. Risk factors to IHL were Newborn Special Care Unit (NSCU) admission, gentamycin or oxygen therapy and prematurity.

IHS program establishment in a resource limited setting is feasible. Preliminary data indicate a high prevalence of IHL. Targeted screening of infants at high risk may be a more realistic and sustainable initial step towards establishing IHS program s in a developing country like Uganda.

Access to pediatric surgery delivered by general surgeons and anesthesia providers in Uganda: Results from 2 rural regional hospitals

Significant limitations in pediatric surgical capacity exist in low- and middle-income countries, especially in rural regions. Recent global children’s surgical guidelines suggest training and support of general surgeons in rural regional hospitals as an effective approach to increasing pediatric surgical capacity.

Two years of a prospective clinical database of children’s surgery admissions at 2 regional referral hospitals in Uganda were reviewed. Primary outcomes included case volume and clinical outcomes of children at each hospital. Additionally, the disability-adjusted life-years averted by delivery of pediatric surgical services at these hospitals were calculated. Using a value of statistical life calculation, we also estimated the economic benefit of the pediatric surgical care currently being delivered.

From 2016 to 2019, more than 300 surgical procedures were performed at each hospital per year. The majority of cases were standard general surgery cases including hernia repairs and intussusception as well as procedures for surgical infections and trauma. In-hospital mortality was 2.4% in Soroti and 1% in Lacor. Pediatric surgical capacity at these hospitals resulted in over 12,400 disability-adjusted life-years averted/year. This represents an estimated economic benefit of 10.2 million US dollars/year to the Ugandan society.

This investigation demonstrates that lifesaving pediatric procedures are safely performed by general surgeons in Uganda. General surgeons who perform pediatric surgery significantly increase surgical access to rural regions of the country and add a large economic benefit to Ugandan society. Overall, the results of the study support increasing pediatric surgical capacity in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries through support and training of general surgeons and anesthesia providers.

Increasing Antimicrobial Resistance in Surgical Wards at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda, from 2014 to 2018—Cause for Concern?

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are major global public health challenges in our time. This study provides a broader and updated overview of AMR trends in surgical wards of Mulago National Referral Hospital (MNRH) between 2014 and 2018. Laboratory data on the antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of bacterial isolates from 428 patient samples were available. The most common samples were as follows: tracheal aspirates (36.5%), pus swabs (28.0%), and blood (20.6%). Klebsiella (21.7%), Acinetobacter (17.5%), and Staphylococcus species (12.4%) were the most common isolates. The resistance patterns for different antimicrobials were: penicillins (40–100%), cephalosporins (30–100%), β-lactamase inhibitor combinations (70–100%), carbapenems (10–100%), polymyxin E (0–7%), aminoglycosides (50–100%), sulphonamides (80–100%), fluoroquinolones (40–70%), macrolides (40–100%), lincosamides (10–45%), phenicols (40–70%), nitrofurans (0–25%), and glycopeptide (0–20%). This study demonstrated a sustained increase in resistance among the most commonly used antibiotics in Uganda over the five-year study period. It implies ongoing hospital-based monitoring and surveillance of AMR patterns are needed to inform antibiotic prescribing, and to contribute to national and global AMR profiles. It also suggests continued emphasis on infection prevention and control practices (IPC), including antibiotic stewardship. Ultimately, laboratory capacity for timely bacteriological culture and sensitivity testing will provide a rational choice of antibiotics for HAI.

Infection Prevention and Control at Lira University Hospital, Uganda: More Needs to Be Done

Globally, 5%–15% of hospitalized patients acquire infections (often caused by antimicrobial-resistant microbes) due to inadequate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. We used the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Infection Prevention and Control Assessment Framework’ (IPCAF) tool to assess the IPC compliance at Lira University hospital (LUH), a teaching hospital in Uganda. We also characterized challenges in completing the tool. This was a hospital-based, cross-sectional study conducted in November 2020. The IPC focal person at LUH completed the WHO IPCAF tool. Responses were validated, scored, and interpreted per WHO guidelines. The overall IPC compliance score at LUH was 225/800 (28.5%), implying a basic IPC compliance level. There was no IPC committee, no IPC team, and no budgets. Training was rarely or never conducted. There was no surveillance system and no monitoring/audit of IPC activities. Bed capacity, water, electricity, and disposal of hospital waste were adequate. Disposables and personal protective equipment were not available in appropriate quantities. Major challenges in completing the IPCAF tool were related to the detailed questions requiring repeated consultation with other hospital stakeholders and the long time it took to complete the tool. IPC compliance at LUH was not optimal. The gaps identified need to be addressed urgently.

The Importance of Collaboration in Global Neurosurgery

Collaboration, the kind built upon mutual respect, trust, and a shared vision, is the only reasonable approach to the immense challenges faced by the field of global neurosurgery. We must develop collaborations that foster the free flow of knowledge and resources to ensure that all patients, regardless of geographic location, have access to timely, safe, affordable, and effective neurosurgical care. Developing global, multi-institutional collaborations requires that all parties confront the realities of racism, colonialism, paternalism, and many other isms along with the true magnitude of the problem. Over the past two decades, our Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neurology (DGNN) team has strived to live up to these ideals. We are constantly adapting and evolving our collaborative approach.

DGNN’s initial collaborative work brought together Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Mulago National Referral Hospital, and Duke Health to provide direct neurosurgical care to patients in Uganda. Our shared principles of twinning guided our care delivery (pairing team members for bilateral knowledge exchange), training (developing new neurosurgeons in Uganda), and technology (providing the necessary equipment to perform neurosurgery) (1). This approach has led to 25 neurosurgery camps, over 500 total camp operations, over 5 tons of donated medical equipment and consumables, the establishment of neurosurgery residency programs, three neurosurgery units, and has more than tripled the number of neurosurgeons in Uganda, to date (2,3). Building, maintaining, and strengthening trust is the most important factor that underpins our collaboration’s success. Trust has been built through open and honest conversations, shared decision-making responsibilities, consistency over the years, and the shared vision of improving access to neurosurgery for all Ugandans.