Crohn’s Disease Among the Poorest Billion: Burden of Crohn’s Disease in Low- and Lower-Middle-Income Countries

To establish the epidemiology and patterns of care of Crohn’s Disease in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

A cross-sectional survey of gastroenterology providers in countries where the world’s poorest billion live was conducted to learn more about the state of diagnostic and treatment capacity for Crohn’s. Quantitative data were analyzed in R and Excel.

A total of 46 survey responses from 15 countries were received, giving a response rate of 54.8%. All responses collected were from providers practicing in Africa and South Asia. The mean number of patients with Crohn’s cared for in the last year was 89.5 overall but ranged from 0 reported at one facility in Rwanda to 1000 reported at two different facilities in India. Overall, Crohn’s disease made up 20.6% of the inflammatory bowel disease diagnoses reported by survey respondents, with Africa exhibiting a larger proportion of Crohn’s compared to ulcerative colitis than Asia. Most providers reported that patients with Crohn’s have symptoms for 6–24 months prior to diagnosis and that 26–50% of their patients live in rural areas. The most reported diagnostic challenges are differentiating between Crohn’s and intestinal tuberculosis, poor disease awareness, and lack of trained pathologists. The most widely reported challenge in managing Crohn’s disease is patients’ inability to afford biologics, reported by 65% of providers.

Our study suggests there may be a greater burden of Crohn’s disease in low- and lower-middle-income countries than is indicated in prior literature. Respondents reported many challenges in diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease.

Building power-ful health systems: the impacts of electrification on health outcomes in LMICs

Critical disparities threaten health care in developing countries and hinder progress towards global development commitments. Almost a billion people and thousands of public services are not yet connected to electricity – a majority in sub-Saharan Africa. In economically fragile settings, clinics and health services struggle to gain and maintain their access to the most basic energy infrastructure. Less than 30% of health facilities in LMICs report access to reliable energy sources, truncating health outcomes and endangering patients in critical conditions. While ‘universal health coverage’ and ‘sustainable energy for all’ are two distinct SDGs with their respective targets, this review challenges their disconnect and inspects their interdependence in LMICs. To evaluate the impact of electrification on healthcare facilities in LMICs, this systematic review analysed relevant publications up to March 2021, using MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, CENTRAL, and CINAHL. Outcomes captured were in accordance with the WHO HHFA modules. A total of 5083 studies were identified, 12 fulfilled the inclusion criteria of this review – most were from Africa, with the exception of two studies from India and one from Fiji. Electrification was associated with improvements in the quality of antenatal care services, vaccination rates, emergency capabilities and primary health services; with many facilities reporting high-quality, reliable and continuous oxygen supplies, refrigeration and enhanced medical supply chains. Renewable energy sources were considered in six of the included studies, most highlighting their suitability for rural health facilities. Notably, solar-powered oxygen delivery systems reduced childhood mortality and length of hospital stay. Unavailable and unreliable electricity is a bottleneck to health service delivery in LMICs. Electrification was associated with increased service availability, readiness and quality of care – especially for women, children and those under critical care. This study indicates that stable and clean electrification allows new heights in achieving SDG 3 and SDG7 in LMICs.

Mobile-Social Learning for Continuing Professional Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Integrative Review

Access to continuing professional development (CPD) for health care workers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is severely limited. Digital technology serves as a promising platform for supporting CPD for health care workers by providing educational content virtually and enabling virtual peer-to-peer and mentor interaction for enhanced learning. Digital strategies for CPD that foster virtual interaction can increase workforce retention and bolster the health workforce in LMICs.

The objective of this integrative review was to evaluate the evidence on which digital platforms were used to provide CPD to health care workers and clinical students in LMICs, which was complemented with virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. We phrased this intersection of virtual learning and virtual interaction as mobile-social learning.

A comprehensive database and gray literature search was conducted to identify qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, along with empirical evidence, that used digital technology to provide CPD and virtual interaction with peers or mentors. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed. Eligible articles were written in English, conducted in an LMIC, and used a mobile device to provide CPD and facilitate virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. Titles, abstracts, and full texts were screened, followed by an assessment of the quality of evidence and an appraisal of the articles. A content analysis was then used to deductively code the data into emerging themes.

A total of 750 articles were identified, and 31 (4.1%) were included in the review. SMS text messaging and mobile instant messaging were the most common methods used to provide continuing education and virtual interaction between peers and mentors (25/31, 81%). Across the included articles, participants had high acceptability for using digital platforms for learning and interaction. Virtual peer interaction and mentorship were found to contribute to positive learning outcomes in most studies (27/31, 87%) through increased knowledge sharing, knowledge gains, improved clinical skills, and improved service delivery. Peer-to-peer and mentor interaction were found to improve social support and reduce feelings of isolation (9/31, 29%). There were several challenges in the implementation and use of digital technology for mobile-social learning, including limited access to resources (eg, internet coverage and stable electricity), flexibility in scheduling to participate in CPD, and sociobehavioral challenges among students.

The summary suggests that mobile-social learning is a useful modality for curriculum dissemination and skill training and that the interface of mobile and social learning serves as a catalyst for improved learning outcomes coupled with increased social capital.

The role of non-governmental organizations in strengthening healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries: Lessons from Santé Diabète in Mali

Non-governmental organizations play a vital part in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals as defined by the United Nations. These Goals also include targets related to noncommunicable diseases. However, non-governmental organizations have played a limited role in this area despite such diseases causing the bulk of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Through their activities, non-governmental organizations should aim to strengthen health systems, yet they often only support these for a single disease. Mali, like many other low- and middle-income countries, is facing an increasing burden of diabetes and a health system not adapted to address this challenge. Santé Diabète, a non-governmental organization based in Mali since 2003, has been working specifically on diabetes, and has developed a wide range of activities to improve the national health system. This paper describes changes in the diabetes environment in Mali between 2004 and 2018 based on two health system assessments carried out using a Rapid Assessment Protocol. Over this period, the health system was strengthened with regard to financing and access to medical products. Leadership and governance, service delivery and health workforce were all improved but still partially rely on sustained support from Santé Diabète. The key lesson from this study is that to be effective in changing the management of noncommunicable diseases in a low- and middle-income country, non-governmental organizations need to play a variety of roles, many of which may change over time.

Has Latin America achieved universal health coverage yet? Lessons from four countries

Seven years after the commitment to United Nations’ call for Universal Health Coverage, healthcare services in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico are generally accessible and affordable; but they still struggle to meet population health demands and address the rising health care costs. We aim to describe measures taken by these four countries to commit by Universal Health Coverage, addressing their barriers and challenges.

Scoping literature review, supplemented with targeted stakeholders survey.

The four countries analysed achieved an overall index of essential coverage of 76–77%, and households out of pocket health expenditures fall below 25%. Services coverage was improved by expanding access to primary healthcare systems and coverage for non-communicable diseases, while provided community outreach by the increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers. New pharmaceutical support programs provided access to treatments for chronic conditions at zero cost, while high-costs drugs and cancer treatments were partially guaranteed. However, the countries lack with effective financial protection mechanisms, that continue to increase out of pocket expenditure as noted by lowest financial protection scores, and lack of effective financial mechanisms besides cash transfers.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico have made progress towards UHC. Although, better financial protection is urgently required.

Diaspora engagement: a scoping review of diaspora involvement with strengthening health systems of their origin country

Diaspora communities are a growing source of external aid and resources to address unmet needs of health systems of their homelands. Although numerous articles have been published, these endeavors as a whole have not been systematically assessed.

Examine the available literature to assess activities through which diasporas engage with the health system in their origin country and what barriers they face in their interventions.

This is a scoping review from 1990–2018 using the PRISMA-Scr framework to examine both peer-reviewed and gray literature on (1) specific activities through which diasporas contribute to the health system in their origin country; (2) major health needs diasporas have tried to address; and (3) barriers faced by diaspora healthcare efforts.

The initial search identified 119 articles, of which 45 were eligible after excluding non-relevant studies. These were case studies of diaspora contributions to health systems in their origin country (13), interviews (13), literature reviews (9), general articles on the topic (4), and correspondences or presentations (6). The healthcare needs diasporas have sought to address include health workforce emigration (‘brain drain’) (10), capacity building for research and training (10), inadequate infrastructure (5), and finances (4). Specific activities included short-term missions (11), establishing partnerships (9), emigration back to country of origin (8), specific research and training programs (8), and financial remittances (5). Specific barriers identified were most commonly financial need within the origin country (8), lack of sustainability (6), communication issues (6), lack of intention to return to the origin country (5), infrastructure (4), and political concerns (3).

Further research on how to expand the scope of and reduce barriers to diaspora engagement is needed to optimize the effectiveness of diaspora contributions to their origin countries. Metrics and standards should be developed for assessing impact of diaspora engagement and interventions.

Estimating the emergency care workforce in South Africa

Background: Emergency care is viewed as a fundamental human right in South Africa’s constitution. In the public sector, all emergency medical services (EMS) come under the Directorate: Emergency Medical Services and Disaster Medicine at the National Department of Health (NDoH), which provides regulation, policy and oversight guidance to provincial structures.

Aim: The aim of the study is to understand the supply and status of human resources for EMS in South Africa.

Setting: This research was undertaken for South Africa using the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) database from 2002 to 2019.

Methods: A retrospective record-based review of the HPCSA database was undertaken to estimate the current registered and future need for emergency care personnel forecasted up to 2030.

Results: There are 76% Basic Ambulance Assistants registered with HPCSA. An additional 96 000 personnel will be required in 2030 to maintain the current ratio of 95.9 registered emergency care personnel per 100 000 population. The profile of an emergency care personnel employed in South Africa is likely to be a black male in the age group of 30–39-years, residing in one of the economically better-resourced provinces.

Conclusion: It is time that the current educational framework is revised. Policy interventions must be undertaken to avoid future shortages of the trained emergency care personnel within South Africa.

A longitudinal surgical systems strengthening research program for medical students: the exploration of a model for global health education

In response to the staggering global burden of conditions requiring emergency and essential surgery, the development of international surgical system strengthening (SSS) is fundamental to achieving universal, timely, quality, and affordable surgical care. Opportunity exists in identifying optimal collaborative processes that both promote global surgery research and SSS, and include medical students. This study explores an education model to engage students in academic global surgery and SSS via institutional support for longitudinal research.

We set out to design a program to align global health education and longitudinal health systems research by creating an education model to engage medical students in academic global surgery and SSS.

Program design and implementation
In 2015, medical schools in the United States and Colombia initiated a collaborative partnership for academic global surgery research and SSS. This included development of two longitudinal academic tracks in global health medical education and academic global surgery, which we differentiated by level of institutional resourcing. Herein is a retrospective evaluation of the first two years of this program by using commonly recognized academic output metrics.

Main achievements
In the first two years of the program, there were 76 total applicants to the two longitudinal tracks. Six of the 16 (37.5%) accepted students selected global surgery faculty as mentors (Acute Care Surgery faculty participating in SSS with Colombia). These global surgery students subsequently spent 24 total working weeks abroad over the two-year period participating in culminating research experiences in SSS. As a quantitative measure of the program’s success, the students collectively produced a total of twenty scholarly pieces in the form of accepted posters, abstracts, podium presentations, and manuscripts in partnership with Colombian research mentors.

Policy implications
The establishment of scholarly global health education and research tracks has afforded our medical students an active role in international SSS through participation in academic global surgery research. We propose that these complementary programs can serve as a model for disseminated education and training of the future global systems-aware surgeon workforce with bidirectional growth in south and north regions with traditionally under-resourced SSS training programs.

Feasibility and diagnostic accuracy of Telephone Administration of an adapted wound heaLing QuestiONnaire for assessment for surgical site infection following abdominal surgery in low and middle-income countries (TALON): protocol for a study within a trial (SWAT)

Surgical site infection is the most common complication of abdominal surgery, with a global impact on patients and health systems. There are no tools to identify wound infection that are validated for use in the global setting. The overall aim of the study described in this protocol is to evaluate the feasibility and validity of a remote, digital pathway for wound assessment after hospital discharge for patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

A multi-centre, international, mixed-methods study within a trial, conducted in two stages (TALON-1 and TALON-2). TALON-1 will adapt and translate a universal reporter outcome measurement tool (Bluebelle Wound Healing Questionnaire, WHQ) for use in global surgical research (SWAT store registration: 126) that can be delivered over the telephone. TALON-2 will evaluate a remote wound assessment pathway (including trial retention) and validate the diagnostic accuracy of this adapted WHQ through a prospective cohort study embedded within two global surgery trials. Embedded community engagement and involvement activities will be used to optimise delivery and ensure culturally attuned conduct. TALON-1 and TALON-2 are designed and will be reported in accordance with best practice guidelines for adaptation and validation of outcome measures, and diagnostic test accuracy studies.

Methods to identify surgical site infection after surgery for patients after hospital discharge have the potential to improve patient safety, trial retention, and research efficiency. TALON represents a large, pragmatic, international study co-designed and delivered with LMIC researchers and patients to address an important research gap in global surgery trial methodology.

Barriers and enablers to country adoption of National Surgical, Obstetric, and Anesthesia Plans

This paper examines the adoption and diffusion of National Surgical Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plans (NSOAPs), a policy instrument, to improve surgical healthcare services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It draws on recent trends in health system reform and empiricism to understand NSOAP effectiveness for large-scale improvement in surgical system objectives (surgical outcomes, patient satisfaction and financial risk protection). While the study reveals that NSOAP adoption has occurred in several countries, its translation into effective, responsive and equitable coverage of surgical healthcare services (diffusion) with enduring impact has yet to occur on a large-scale. NSOAP adoption and diffusion has been constrained by two principal considerations: (I) suboptimal funding allocation to develop NSOAPs and implement within a health system context; (II) inadequate translation of the NSOAP into implementable activities that lead to improved health system performance. We argue that a systems perspective—dynamically optimizing the NSOAP in relation to specific health system, adoption system, and contextual factors—may enhance the scale-up of NSOAPs and lead to sustainably funded programs that enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness and equity of surgical healthcare service over the long-term. We explore three specific areas—technology, financing, governance—which could be harnessed to enhance the adoption and diffusion of NSOAPs.