Distribution of the workforce involved in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature

A skilled health workforce is instrumental for the delivery of multidisciplinary cancer care and in turn a critical component of the health systems. There is, however, a paucity of data on the vast inequalities in cancer workforce distribution, globally. The aim of this study is to describe the global distribution and density of the health care workforce involved in multidisciplinary cancer management.

We carried out a systematic review of the literature to determine ratios of health workers in each occupation involved in cancer care per 100 000 population and per 100 cancer patients (PROSPERO: protocol CRD42018095414).

We identified 33 eligible papers; a majority were cross-sectional surveys (n = 16). The analysis of the ratios of health providers per population and per patients revealed deep gaps across the income areas, with gradients of workforce density, highest in high-income countries versus low-income areas. Benchmark estimates of optimal workforce availability were provided in a secondary research analysis: mainly high-income countries reported workforce capacities closer to benchmark estimates. A paucity of literature was defined for critical health providers, including for pediatric oncology, surgical oncology, and cancer nurses.

The availability and distribution of the cancer workforce is heterogeneous, and wide gaps are described worldwide. This is the first systematic review on this topic. These results can inform policy formulation and modelling for capacity building and scaleup.

Health research capacity building of health workers in fragile and conflict-affected settings: a scoping review of challenges, strengths, and recommendations

Fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS) have a strong need to improve the capacity of local health workers to conduct health research in order to improve health policy and health outcomes. Health research capacity building (HRCB) programmes are ideal to equip health workers with the needed skills and knowledge to design and lead health-related research initiatives. The study aimed to review the characteristics of HRCB studies in FCASs in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to recommend future directions for the field.

We conducted a scoping review and searched four databases for peer-reviewed articles that reported an HRCB initiative targeting health workers in a FCAS and published after 2010. Commentaries and editorials, cross-sectional studies, presentations, and interventions that did not have a capacity building component were excluded. Data on bibliographies of the studies and HRCB interventions and their outcomes were extracted. A descriptive approach was used to report the data, and a thematic approach was used to analyse the qualitative data.

Out of 8822 articles, a total of 20 were included based on the eligibility criteria. Most of the initiatives centred around topics of health research methodology (70%), targeted an individual-level capacity building angle (95%), and were delivered in university or hospital settings (75%). Ten themes were identified and grouped into three categories. Significant challenges revolved around the lack of local research culture, shortages in logistic capability, interpersonal difficulties, and limited assessment and evaluation of HRCB programmes. Strengths of HRCB interventions included being locally driven, incorporating interactive pedagogies, and promoting multidisciplinary and holistic training. Common recommendations covered by the studies included opportunities to improve the content, logistics, and overarching structural components of HRCB initiatives.

Our findings have important implications on health research policy and related capacity building efforts. Importantly, FCASs should prioritize (1) funding HRCB efforts, (2) strengthening equitable international, regional, and national partnerships, (3) delivering locally led HRCB programmes, (4) ensuring long-term evaluations and implementing programmes at multiple levels of the healthcare system, and (5) adopting engaging and interactive approaches.

From short-term surgical missions towards sustainable partnerships. A survey among members of visiting teams

An estimated five billion people lack access to safe surgical care across the globe. Traditionally, providing short-term surgical missions has been the main strategy for health professionals from high-income countries to support surgical care in low- and middle-income countries. However, traditional missions have come under criticism because evidence of their sustainable value is lacking, along with any robust documentation and application of recommendations by participants of ongoing surgical missions. Using survey data collection and analysis, this study aims to provide a framework on how to improve the use of visiting surgical teams to strengthen surgical services in resource-poor settings.

An online survey was conducted among members of foreign teams to collect data on five specific areas: basic characteristics of the mission, main activities. follow-up and reporting, the local registration process and collaboration with local actors. The survey included 58 respondents from 13 countries, and representing 20 organizations.

During surgical missions, training activities were considered most impactful, and reporting on outcome/s, along with long-term follow-up were strongly recommended. According to almost all participants (94 percent), the focus should be on establishing collaborative practices with local actors, and encourage strategic, long-term changes under their leadership.

Building sustainable partnerships within local healthcare systems is the way forward for foreign surgical parties that aim to improve surgical care in low- and- middle income countries. When foreign help is offered, local stakeholders should be in the lead.

Evaluation of a Ten-Year Team-Based Collaborative Capacity-Building Program for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Uzbekistan: Lessons and Implications

Most children who have congenital heart disease in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including Uzbekistan, do not receive adequate and timely pediatric cardiac surgical care. To strengthen the surgical capacity of a local pediatric cardiac surgery team in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the JW LEE Center for Global Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine has developed a team-based training program and has been collaboratively conducting surgeries and care in order to transfer on-site knowledge and skills from 2009 to 2019.

To evaluate the long-term effects of the collaborative program on the cardiac surgical capacity of medical staff (teamwork, surgical complexity, and patients’ pre-surgical weights) as well as changes in the lives of the patients and their families. To derive lessons and challenges for other pediatric cardiac surgical programs in LMICs.

To assess the effects of this ten-year long program, a mixed-methods design was developed to examine the trend of surgical complexity measured by Risk Adjustment for Congenital Heart Surgery 1 score (RACHS-1) and patients’ pre-surgical weights via medical record review (surgical cases: n = 107) during the decade. Qualitative data was analyzed from in-depth interviews (n = 31) with Uzbek and Korean medical staff (n = 10; n = 4) and caregivers (n = 17).

During the decade, the average RACHS-1 of the cases increased from 1.9 in 2010 to 2.78 in 2019. The average weight of patients decreased by 2.8 kg from 13 kg to 10.2 kg during the decade. Qualitative findings show that the surgical capacity, as well as attitudes toward patients and colleagues of the Uzbek medical staff, improved through the effective collaboration between the Uzbek and Korean teams. Changes in the lives of patients and their families were also found following successful surgery.

Team-based training of the workforce in Uzbekistan was effective in improving the surgical skills, teamwork, and attitudes of medical staff, in addition, a positive impact on the life of patients and their families was demonstrated. It can be an effective solution to facilitate improvements in pediatric cardiovascular disease in LMICs if training is sustained over a long period.

Addressing the fistula treatment gap and rising to the 2030 challenge

Obstetric fistula is a neglected public health and human rights issue. It occurs almost exclusively in low‐resource regions, resulting in permanent urinary and/or fecal incontinence. Although the exact prevalence remains unknown, it starkly outweighs the limited pool of skilled fistula surgeons needed to repair this childbirth injury. Several global movements have, however, enabled the international community to make major strides in recent decades. FIGO’s Fistula Surgery Training Initiative, launched in 2012, has made significant gains in building the capacity of local fistula surgeons to steadily close the fistula treatment gap. Training and education are delivered via FIGO and partners’ Global Competency‐based Fistula Surgery Training Manual and tailored toward the needs and skill level of each trainee surgeon (FIGO Fellow). There are currently 62 Fellows from 22 fistula‐affected countries on the training program, who have collectively performed over 10 000 surgical repairs. The initiative also contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (1, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 17). The UN’s ambitious target to end fistula by 2030 will be unobtainable unless sufficient resources are mobilized and affected countries are empowered to develop their own sustainable eradication plans, including access to safe delivery and emergency obstetric services.

Building neurosurgical capacity in low and middle income countries

Neurosurgery capacity in low- and middle-income countries is far from adequate; yet burden of neurological diseases, especially neuro-trauma, is projected to increase exponentially. Previous efforts to build neurosurgical capacity have typically been individual projects and short termmissions. Recognizing the dual needs of addressing disease burden and building sustainable, long-term neurosurgical care capacity, we describe in this paper an ongoing collaboration between the Mulago Hospital Department of Neurosurgery (Kampala, Uganda) and Duke University Medical Center (Durham, NC, USA) as a replicable model to meet the dual needs. The collaboration employs a threefold approach to building capacity: technology, twinning, and training performed together in a top-down approach. Also described are lessons learned to date by Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neurosciences (DGNN) and applicability beyond Kampala.