Health care seeking in modern urban LMIC settings: evidence from Lusaka, Zambia

Background
In an effort to improve population health, many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have expanded access to public primary care facilities and removed user fees for services in these facilities. However, a growing literature suggests that many patients bypass nearby primary care facilities to seek care at more distant or higher-level facilities. Patients in urban areas, a growing segment of the population in LMICs, generally have more options for where to seek care than patients in rural areas. However, evidence on care-seeking trajectories and bypassing patterns in urban areas remains relatively scarce.

Methods
We obtained a complete list of public health facilities and interviewed randomly selected informal sector households across 31 urban areas in Lusaka District, Zambia. All households and facilities listed were geocoded, and care-seeking trajectories mapped across the entire urban area. We analyzed three types of bypassing: i) not using health centers or health posts for primary care; ii) seeking care outside of the residential neighborhood; iii) directly seeking care at teaching hospitals.

Results
A total of 620 households were interviewed, linked to 88 health facilities. Among 571 adults who had recently sought non-emergency care, 65% sought care at a hospital. Among 141 children who recently sought care for diarrhea, cough, fever, or fast breathing, 34% sought care at a hospital. 71% of adults bypassed primary care facilities, 26% bypassed health centers and hospitals close to them for more distant facilities, and 8% directly sought care at a teaching hospital. Bypassing was also observed for 59% of children, who were more likely to seek care outside of the formal care sector, with 21% of children treated at drug shops or pharmacies.

Conclusions
The results presented here strongly highlight the complexity of urban health systems. Most adult patients in Lusaka do not use public primary health facilities for non-emergency care, and heavily rely on pharmacies and drug shops for treatment of children. Major efforts will likely be needed if the government wants to instate health centers as the principal primary care access point in this setting.

A mixed methods study to assess the impact of COVID-19 on maternal, newborn, child Health and nutrition in fragile and conflict-affected settings

Background: The impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented globally. The pandemic is reversing decades of progress in maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition (MNCHN), including fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS) whose populations were already facing challenges in accessing basic health and nutrition services. This study aimed to investigate the collateral impact of COVID-19 on funding, services and MNCHN outcomes in FCAS, as well as adaptations used in the field to continue activities.

Methods: A scoping review of peer-reviewed and grey literature published between

1st March 2020 – 31st January 2021 was conducted and analysed using a narrative synthesis approach. 39 remote semi-structured key informant interviews with humanitarian actors and donor staff within 12 FCAS were conducted between October 2020 and February 2021. Thematic analysis was undertaken independently by two researchers on interview transcripts and supporting documents provided by key informants, and triangulated with literature review findings.

Results: Funding for MNCHN has been reduced or suspended with increase in cost of continuing the same activities, and diversion of MNCHN funding to COVID-19 activities. Disruption in supply and demand of interventions was reported across different settings which, despite data evidence still being missing, points towards likely increased maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Some positive adaptations including use of technology and decentralisation of services have been reported, however overall adaptation strategies have been insufficient to equitably meet additional challenges posed by the pandemic, and have not been evaluated for their effectiveness.

Conclusions: COVID-19 is further exacerbating negative women’s and children’s health outcomes in FCAS. Increased funding is urgently required to re-establish MNCHN activities which have been deprioritised or halted. Improved planning to sustain routine health services and enable surge planning for emergencies with focus on the community/service users throughout adaptations is vital for improved MNCHN outcomes in FCAS.

Maternal knowledge and attitudes to childhood hearing loss and hearing services in the Pacific Islands: A cross-sectional survey protocol for urban and rural/remote Samoa

Introduction
The successful implementation of ear and hearing health services for children depends on the support and engagement of primary caregivers. The World Health Organization recommends childhood hearing screening programs for all member states to enable early detection and intervention for children with hearing loss. Ear and hearing specialists are limited in the Pacific Islands, a region with one of the highest global rates of ear disease and hearing loss. Given that a significant proportion of childhood hearing loss is preventable through public health measures, collaboration with health promotion activities is recommended to improve primary caregiver knowledge of avoidable ear and hearing disorders among infants and young children. Previous work has examined the knowledge and attitudes of parents in an urban Pacific Island settings, and this study will investigate for differences between urban and rural/remote Pacific Island populations.

Study design
Cross-sectional survey.

Methods
Questionnaire administered to mothers attending immunization clinics with their infants in urban (Apia) and rural/remote (Savai’i) Samoa. A 25-item questionnaire was formally translated from the original English into Samoan by an accredited translator in collaboration with an Ear, Nose and Throat registered nurse. It will be administered in a semi-structured interview style by a Health Promotion Officer in Samoan. The participating mothers are required to respond with ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘unsure.’ The questions assess knowledge of biomedical etiology of hearing impairment (9 questions), beliefs regarding non-biomedical etiology of hearing impairment (2 questions), knowledge of otitis media and its risk factors (5 questions), knowledge of hearing loss identification and intervention (4 questions), and attitudes towards hearing services for children (6 questions).

Results
Not applicable. Data to be collected.

Conclusion
We publish these protocols to facilitate similar studies in other Low- and Middle-Income Countries, and especially among our Pacific Island neighbours.

How do caregivers of children with congenital heart diseases access and navigate the healthcare system in Ethiopia?

Background
Surgery can correct congenital heart defects, but disease management in low- and middle-income countries can be challenging and complex due to a lack of referral system, financial resources, human resources, and infrastructure for surgical and post-operative care. This study investigates the experiences of caregivers of children with CHD accessing the health care system and pediatric cardiac surgery.

Methods
A qualitative study was conducted at a teaching hospital in Ethiopia. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 caregivers of 10 patients with CHD who underwent cardiac surgery. We additionally conducted chart reviews for triangulation and verification. Interviews were conducted in Amharic and then translated into English. Data were analyzed according to the principles of interpretive thematic analysis, informed by the candidacy framework.

Results
The following four observations emerged from the interviews: (a) most patients were diagnosed with CHD at birth if they were born at a health care facility, but for those born at home, CHD was discovered much later (b) many patients experienced misdiagnoses before seeking care at a large hospital, (c) after diagnosis, patients were waiting for the surgery for more than a year, (d) caregivers felt anxious and optimistic once they were able to schedule the surgical date. During the care-seeking journey, caregivers encountered financial constraints, struggled in a fragmented delivery system, and experienced poor service quality.

Conclusions
Delayed access to care was largely due to the lack of early CHD recognition and financial hardships, related to the inefficient and disorganized health care system. Fee waivers were available to assist low-income children in gaining access to health services or medications, but application information was not readily available. Indirect costs like long-distance travel contributed to this challenge. Overall, improvements must be made for district-level screening and the health care workforce.

Perspectives on perioperative management of children’s surgical conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income and middle-income countries: a global survey

Background
Many organizations have issued recommendations to limit elective surgery during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We surveyed providers of children’s surgical care working in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) to understand their perspectives on surgical management in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they were subsequently modifying their surgical care practices.

Methods
A survey of children’s surgery providers in LMICs was performed. Respondents reported how their perioperative practice had changed in response to COVID-19. They were also presented with 26 specific procedures and asked which of these procedures they were allowed to perform and which they felt they should be allowed to perform. Changes in surgical practice reported by respondents were analyzed thematically.

Results
A total of 132 responses were obtained from 120 unique institutions across 30 LMICs. 117/120 institutions (97.5%) had issued formal guidance on delaying or limiting elective children’s surgical procedures. Facilities in LICs were less likely to have issued guidance on elective surgery compared with middle-income facilities (82% in LICs vs 99% in lower middle-income countries and 100% in upper middle-income countries, p=0.036). Although 122 (97%) providers believed cases should be limited during a global pandemic, there was no procedure where more than 61% of providers agreed cases should be delayed or canceled.

Conclusions
There is little consensus on which procedures should be limited or delayed among LMIC providers. Expansion of testing capacity and local, context-specific guidelines may be a better strategy than international consensus, given the disparities in availability of preoperative testing and the lack of consensus towards which procedures should be delayed.