Quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa: A protocol for systematic review

Background: The delivery of high-quality health care services and performance is the main aim of all health care systems globally. This review objective is to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa through a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing studies.

Methods: The search will be conducted in pre-determined databases (e.g., PubMed), for eligible studies between 2000 and 2020, to identify studies published in English, which applied the service quality gap (SERVIQUAL) model to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa. The search will also include a review of reference lists of included studies for other eligible studies. Eligible studies will include experimental and observational studies. Two authors will independently screen the search output, select studies and extract data, resolve discrepancies by consensus and discussions. Two authors will use Cochrane risk of bias tools for experimental studies, and Hoy for observational studies. The review will also assess study quality and risk of bias using standardized tools. The review aims to provide comprehensive information on the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa.

Discussion: Understanding patients’ or clients’ expectations and perceptions on the quality of health care services provided in the health care systems are very crucial in the improvement of the health status of the general population. The SERVIQUAL model is a standardized tool used to assess the quality gap of patients/clients perspectives on health care services in hospitals globally. The findings from this review will provide information on the quality gap of health care provided in public hospitals in SSA. Also, we anticipate that the findings will inform policymakers in health care systems on how to improve and maintain the quality of health care services in public hospitals in different African settings.

Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO CRD 420212264100 dated 25/07/2021

Burden and trend of colorectal cancer in 54 countries of Africa 2010–2019: a systematic examination for Global Burden of Disease

Background
Colorectal cancer plays significant role in morbidity, mortality and economic cost in Africa.

Objective
To investigate the burden and trends of incidence, mortality, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) of colorectal cancer in Africa from 2010 to 2019.

Methods
This study was conducted according to Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2019 analytic and modeling strategies. The recent GBD 2019 study provided the most updated and compressive epidemiological evidence of cancer incidence, mortality, years lived with disability (YLDs), years of life lost (YLLs), and DALYs.

Results
In 2019, there were 58,000 (95% UI: 52,000–65,000), 49,000 (95% UI: 43,000–54,000), and 1.3 million (95% UI: 1.14–1.46) incident cases, deaths and DALYs counts of colorectal cancer respectively in Africa. Between 2010 and 2019, incidence cases, death, and DALY counts of CRC were significantly increased by 48% (95% UI: 34–62%), 41% (95% UI: 28–55%), and 41% (95% UI: 27–56%) respectively. Change of age-standardised rates of incidence, death and DALYs were increased by 11% (95% UI: 1–21%), 6% (95% UI: − 3 to 16%), and 6% (95% UI: − 5 to 16%) respectively from 2010 to 2019. There were marked variations of burden of colorectal cancer at national level from 2010 to 2019 in Africa.

Conclusion
Increased age-standardised death rate and DALYs of colorectal cancer indicates low progress in CRC standard care-diagnosis and treatment, primary prevention of modifiable risk factors and implementation of secondary prevention modality. This serious effect would be due to poor cancer infrastructure and policy, low workforce capacity, cancer center for diagnosis and treatment, low finical security and low of universal health coverage in Africa.

Evaluating the impact of neurosurgical rotation experience in Africa on the interest and perception of medical students towards a career in neurosurgery: a protocol for a continental, cross-sectional study

Introduction
Africa has the second highest neurosurgical workforce deficit globally. Despite the many recent advancements in increasing neurosurgical access in Africa, published reports have shown that the vast majority of undergraduate students have little or no exposure to neurosurgery. The lack of exposure may pose a challenge in reducing the neurosurgical workforce deficit, which is one of the long-term strategies of tackling the unmet burden of disease. Students may also miss the opportunity to appreciate the specialty and its demands as well as nurture their interest in the field. This study aims to assess the impact of a neurosurgical rotation during medical school in shaping the perception and interest of students towards a career in neurosurgery.

Methods
The cross-sectional study will be conducted through the dissemination of a self-administered e-survey hosted on Google Forms from 21st February 2021 to 20th March 2021. The survey will contain five-point Likert scale, multiple-choice and free-text questions. The structured questionnaire will have four sections with 27 items: (i) socio-demographic background, (ii) neurosurgical experience, (iii) perception towards a neurosurgical career and (iv) interest in a neurosurgical career. All consenting medical students in African medical schools who are in their clinical years (defined as fourth to sixth years or higher years of study) will be eligible. Odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals, Wilcoxon rank-sum test, Welch t-test and adjusted logistic regression models will be used to test for associations between independent and dependent variables. Statistical significance will be accepted at P < 0.05.

Paediatric anaesthesia care in Africa: challenges and opportunities

In 2015, the World Health Organization and member states recognised surgery and anaesthesia care as a component of universal health coverage, yet 1.7 billion children and adolescents continue to lack access to safe surgical care. An overwhelming proportion of these children are from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).1,2 In Africa, where almost 50% of the population is under the age of 15, children are disproportionately affected. Without sustained global efforts, these inequities and injustices will persist.1 Findings from previous studies suggest a 10–100 times increase in paediatric perioperative mortality in children in LMICs as compared to high-income countries (HICs).3,4 While pieces of the puzzle may be missing, it is clear that not only is access a problem, but also the safety and quality of the perioperative care provided is of concern.

Feasibility of delivering foot and ankle surgical courses in a partnership in Eastern, Central and Sothern Africa

Foot and ankle pathology if not treated appropriately and in a timely manner can adversely affect both disability and quality adjusted life years. More so in the low- and middle-income countries where ambulation is the predominant means of getting around for the majority of the population in order to earn a livelihood. This has necessitated the equipping of the new generation of orthopaedic surgeons with the expertise and skills set to manage these conditions. To address this need, surgeons from the British Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (BOFAS) and College of Surgeons of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) transferred the “Principles of Foot and Ankle Surgery” course to an African regional setting. The course was offered to surgical trainees from 14-member countries of the COSECSA region and previously in the UK. The faculty was drawn from practicing surgeons experienced in both surgical education and foot and ankle surgery. The course comprises didactic lectures, case-based discussions in small groups, patient evaluations and guided surgical dissections on human cadavers. It was offered free to all participants. The feasibility of the course was evaluated using the model defined by Bowen considering the eight facets of acceptability, demand, implementation, practicality, adaptation, integration, expansion and limited efficacy. At the end of the course participants were expected to give verbal subjective feedback and objective feedback using a cloud based digital feedback questionnaire. The course content was evaluated by the participants as “Poor”, “Below average”, “Average”, “Good” and “Excellent”, which was converted into a value from 1–5 for analysis. The non-parametric categorical data was analysed using the Two-sample Wilcoxon rank-sum (Mann–Whitney) test, and significance was considered to be p < 0.05.

Treatment outcomes of esophageal cancer in Eastern Africa: protocol of a multi-center, prospective, observational, open cohort study

Background
Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a major cause of cancer morbidity and mortality in Eastern Africa. The majority of patients with ESCC in Eastern Africa present with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. Several palliative interventions for ESCC are currently in use within the region, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy with and without chemotherapy, and esophageal stenting with self-expandable metallic stents; however, the comparative effectiveness of these interventions in a low resource setting has yet to be examined.

Methods
This prospective, observational, multi-center, open cohort study aims to describe the therapeutic landscape of ESCC in Eastern Africa and investigate the outcomes of different treatment strategies within the region. The 4.5-year study will recruit at a total of six sites in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania (Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania; Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya; Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya; and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi). Treatment outcomes that will be evaluated include overall survival, quality of life (QOL) and safety. All patients (≥18 years old) who present to participating sites with a histopathologically-confirmed or presumptive clinical diagnosis of ESCC based on endoscopy or barium swallow will be recruited to participate. Key clinical and treatment-related data including standardized QOL metrics will be collected at study enrollment, 1 month following treatment, 3 months following treatment, and thereafter at 3-month intervals until death. Vital status and QOL data will be collected through mobile phone outreach.

Discussion
This study will be the first study to prospectively compare ESCC treatment strategies in Eastern Africa, and the first to investigate QOL benefits associated with different treatments in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings from this study will help define optimal management strategies for ESCC in Eastern Africa and other resource-limited settings and will serve as a benchmark for future research.

Trial registration
This study was retrospectively registered with the ClinicalTrials.gov database on December 15, 2021, NCT05177393.

Competencies for Nurses Regarding Psychosocial Care of Patients With Cancer in Africa: An Imperative for Action

Psychosocial care is considered an important component of quality cancer care. Individuals treated for cancer can experience biologic or physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical consequences (eg, financial), which have an impact on their quality of living. With the establishment of cancer centers in Africa, there is growing advocacy regarding the need for psychosocial care, given the level of unmet supportive care needs and high emotional distress reported for patients. Nurses are in an ideal position to provide psychosocial care to patients with cancer and their families but must possess relevant knowledge and skills to do so. Across Africa, nurses are challenged in gaining the necessary education for psychosocial cancer care as programs vary in the amount of psychosocial content offered. This perspective article presents competencies regarding psychosocial care for nurses caring for patients with cancer in Africa. The competencies were adapted by expert consensus from existing evidenced-based competencies for oncology nurses. They are offered as a potential basis for educational program planning and curriculum development for cancer nursing in Africa. Recommendations are offered regarding use of these competencies by nursing and cancer program leaders to enhance the quality of care for African patients with cancer and their family members. The strategies emphasize building capacity of nurses to engage in effective delivery of psychosocial care for individuals with cancer and their family members.

Digital health in oncology in Africa: A scoping review and cross-sectional survey

Background
Low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, face a growing cancer burden. Adoption of digital health solutions has the potential to improve cancer care delivery and research in these countries. However, the extent of implementation and the impact of digital health interventions across the cancer continuum in Africa have not been studied.

Aims
To describe the current landscape of digital health interventions in oncology in Africa.

Methods
We conducted a scoping literature review and supplemented this with a survey. Following the PRISMA for Scoping Reviews guidelines, we searched literature in PubMed and Embase for keywords and synonyms for cancer, digital health, and African countries, and abstracted data using a structured form. For the survey, participants were delegates of the 2019 conference of the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer.

Results
The literature review identified 57 articles describing 40 digital health interventions or solutions from 17 African countries, while the survey included 111 respondents from 18 African countries, and these reported 25 different digital health systems. Six articles (10.5%) reported randomized controlled trials. The other 51 articles (89.5%) were descriptive or quasi-experimental studies. The interventions mostly targeted cancer prevention (28 articles, 49.1%) or diagnosis and treatment (23 articles, 40.4%). Four articles (7.0%) targeted survivorship and end of life, and the rest were cross-cutting. Cervical cancer was the most targeted cancer (25 articles, 43.9%). Regarding WHO classification of digital interventions, most were for providers (35 articles, 61.4%) or clients (13, 22.8%), while the others were for data services or cut across these categories. The interventions were mostly isolated pilots using basic technologies such as SMS and telephone calls for notifying patients of their appointments or results, or for cancer awareness; image capture apps for cervical cancer screening, and tele-conferencing for tele-pathology and mentorship.

Generally positive results were reported, but evaluation focused on structure and process measures such as ease of use, infrastructure requirements, and acceptability of intervention; or general benefits e.g. supporting training and mentorship of providers, communication among providers and clients, and improving data collection and management. No studies evaluated individualized clinical outcomes, and there were no interventions in literature for health system managers although the systems identified in the survey had such functionality, e.g. inventory management. The survey also indicated that none of the digital health systems had all the functionalities for a comprehensive EHR, and major barriers for digital health were initial and ongoing costs, resistance from clinical staff, and lack of fit between the EHR and the clinical workflows.

Conclusion
Digital health interventions in oncology in Africa are at early maturity stages but promising. Barriers such as funding, fit between digital health tools and clinical workflows, and inertia towards technology, shall need to be addressed to allow for advancement of digital health solutions to support all parts of the cancer continuum. Future research should investigate the impact of digital health solutions on long-term cancer outcomes such as cancer mortality, morbidity and quality of lif

Restrictive abortion laws, COVID-19, telehealth, and medication abortion in the SDG era

Annual worldwide abortion rates reportedly increased from 55·7 million between 2010 and 2014, to 73·3 million in 2015–19.1, 2 About 4·7–13·2% of maternal deaths annually are abortion-related, with the highest burden in Asia and Africa.3 Elimination of unsafe abortion, defined by WHO4 as “an abortion that is carried out either by a person lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both”, is therefore a critical step towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 livebirths (SDG 3.1) and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services by 2030 (SDG 3.7). Some of the relevant factors that might impact positively on abortion-related morbidity and mortality are discussed here.
Asia, Latin America, and Africa have some of the most legally restrictive abortion laws, yet these regions account for 97% of the global burden of unsafe abortions.1, 3 Abortion rates in settings with restrictive laws are not necessarily lower than in regions with permissive laws. In fact, almost 62% of all abortion-related deaths are recorded in Africa alone.3 These predominantly restrictive abortion laws lead to delayed decisions to seek care until advanced gestational ages, when the abortion becomes more difficult to undertake, and care is often sought from clandestine sources to circumvent the law. Nigeria and Argentina, which were selected by Heidi Moseson and colleagues5 for their research, are countries with some of the highest rates of unsafe abortion. Therefore, the findings of this research are relevant to many other countries with similar prevailing circumstances.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology defines telehealth as “the technology-enhanced health care framework that includes services such as virtual visits, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health care”.6 With the COVID-19 pandemic, use of telehealth has become widespread in many aspects of health-care delivery systems. Specifically, with respect to abortion, telehealth not only facilitates access for women seeking abortion services, but also provides the additional benefits of confidentiality and avoidance of stigmatisation, with similar clinical outcomes to facility-based management.7, 8 However, in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), such as Nigeria, termination for any reason apart from saving maternal life is not only illegal, but the provider of such medications and services is liable to 14 years imprisonment. Such laws might significantly impede the optimal use of telehealth for abortion services across various regions of the world.
Medication abortion has been in use for at least two decades, with current regimens including misoprostol alone and misoprostol and mifepristone in combination. Evidence supports the effectiveness and efficiency of medication abortion, especially in pregnancies of less than 10 weeks, which was further affirmed by the findings from Moseson and colleagues.5 Medication abortion is also associated with lower risks of cervical injuries, uterine perforations, and post-abortion sepsis than is surgical abortion, and might therefore reduce abortion-related morbidity and maternal mortality.9, 10 However, conventional medication abortion is physician supervised, and initially involves hospital admission. The cost of health facility visits can be prohibitive in LMICs, where people pay out-of-pocket for health care and might be living on less than US$1 per day.
Apart from the social stigma associated with abortion, women cannot seek health care without the permission and accompaniment of a male relative in some cultural and religious settings. Moseson and colleagues5 showed that self-managed medication abortion is highly effective at early gestational ages, obviating the need for health facility visits. The study also showed that home-managed abortion with accompaniment support by trained, non-medical personnel was non-inferior to historical controls who underwent physician-supervised, facility-based management. These findings might influence access to and safe management of abortion, thereby facilitating reproductive health decision making by women, with more efficient use of resources through telemedicine and task shifting. However, such benefits might remain impossible to explore in settings with restrictive abortion laws.
There is also a need to balance these benefits against the possibility of abuse, exploitation, and forced abortions by male partners at home, especially in settings where women are less empowered to make decisions concerning their reproductive health. Further qualitative research is needed for strategic planning towards SDG targets 3.1 and 3.7. Although this can be achieved without hindrance in some settings, it is unclear how much data might be obtainable from regions within restrictive abortion jurisdictions, where the line between legality and illegality could easily be crossed by researchers unless laws are revised.
We declare no competing interests.

Rapid assessment of the civil registration and vital statistics performance of health facilities in the five districts of Zambia: A cross-sectional study

Background
Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) are essential administrative tools for accurate statistical data on vital events. However, civil registration coverage is particularly poor in low- and middle-income countries. Currently, CRVS are attracting global attention, as their improvement is considered a priority. While health facility is one of the important actors involved in the management of quality CRVS, its function in CRVS remains unclear. Therefore, this work aims to investigate the CRVS performance of the health facility in Zambia, a low-income country, and identify the gaps for effective policy-making.

Methods
To assess the health facilities’ CRVS performance, a questionnaire was developed based on existing assessment tools for the whole CRVS; this comprised 21 multiple-choice questions in 10 areas with four choices awarded between 0 and 3 points according to performance. These questionnaire-based interviews were conducted by information officers in all health facilities per first, secondary, and tertiary-level in five target districts of Zambia, selected via socioeconomic and geographic features. The average points were calculated in each area by each level of healthcare system and summarized in a single chart.

Results
The results indicated low scores in the following areas: staff compliance with standard reporting procedures, infrastructure, capacity of coding based on International Classification of Diseases among health personnel, documentation of the cause of death in medical records, and absence of a system to identify the cause of death of brought-in-dead cases.

Conclusion
The tool developed in this work to evaluate the CRVS performance of health facilities was useful for identifying the gaps that need to be overcome to ensure the quality of CRVS in Zambia. However, its validity should be further investigated in other areas in Zambia as well as in other countries.