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

Background
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.

Methods
Scoping literature review, supplemented with targeted stakeholders survey.

Results
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.

Conclusions
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

Background
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.

Objective
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.

Methods
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.

Results
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).

Conclusion
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

Background
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.

Objectives
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)

Background
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).

Methods
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.

Discussion
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.

The role of health service delivery networks in achieving universal health coverage in Africa

Most countries in Africa are faced with health system problems that vary from one to the next. Countries with a low Human Development Index (HDI) seem to be more prone to challenges in health service delivery. To mark its 70th anniversary on World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) selected the theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere” and the slogan “Health for All. ”UHC refers to ensuring that all people have access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship. UHC is a WHO’s priority objective. Most governments have made it their major goal.

This paper provides a perspective on the challenges of achieving UHC in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It also endeavors to spotlight the successful models of Health Service Delivery Networks (HSDNs) that make significant strides in making progress towards achieving UHC. HSDNs propose models that facilitate the attainment of affordability and accessibility while maintaining quality in delivering health services. Additionally, it brings up to speed the challenges associated with setting up HSDNs in health systems in SSA. It then makes propositions of what measures and strategic approaches should be implemented to strengthen HSDNs in SSA. This paper further argues that UHC is not only technically feasible but it is also attainable if countries embrace HSDNs in SSA.

Measuring barriers to fistula care: investigating composite measures for targeted fistula programming in Nigeria and Uganda

Background
Accessing surgical repair poses challenges to women living with female genital fistula who experience intersectional vulnerabilities including poverty, gender, stigma and geography. Barriers to fistula care have been described qualitatively in several low- and middle-income countries, but limited effort has been made to quantify these factors. This study aimed to develop and validate composite measures to assess barriers to accessing fistula repair in Nigeria and Uganda.

Methods
This quantitative study built on qualitative findings to content validate composite measures and investigates post-repair client surveys conducted at tertiary hospitals in Northern and Southern Nigeria and Central Uganda asking women about the degree to which a range of barriers affected their access. An iterative scale development approach included exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of two samples (n = 315 and n = 142, respectively) using STATA 13 software. Reliability, goodness-of-fit, and convergent and predictive validity were assessed.

Results
A preliminary 43-item list demonstrated face and content validity, triangulated with qualitative data collected prior to and concurrently with survey data. The iterative item reduction approach resulted in the validation of a set of composite measures, including two indices and three sub-scales. These include a Financial/Transport Inaccessibility Index (6 items) and a multidimensional Barriers to Fistula Care Index of 17 items comprised of three latent sub-scales: Limited awareness (4 items), Social abandonment (6 items), and Internalized stigma (7 items). Factor analyses resulted in favorable psychometric properties and good reliability across measures (ordinal thetas: 0.70–0.91). Higher levels of barriers to fistula care are associated with a woman living with fistula for longer periods of time, with age and geographic settings as potential confounders.

Conclusions
This set of composite measures that quantitatively captures barriers to fistula care can be used separately or together in research and programming in low- and middle-income countries.

Assessing the Indirect Effects of COVID-19 on Healthcare Delivery, Utilization, and Health Outcomes: A Scoping Review

Background
The COVID-19 pandemic and global efforts to contain its spread, such as stay-at-home orders and transportation shutdowns, have created new barriers to accessing healthcare, resulting in changes in service delivery and utilization globally. The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of the literature published thus far on the indirect health effects of COVID-19 and to explore the data sources and methodologies being used to assess indirect health effects.

Methods
A scoping review of peer-reviewed literature using three search engines was performed.

Results
One hundred and seventy studies were included in the final analysis. Nearly half (46.5%) of included studies focused on cardiovascular health outcomes. The main methodologies used were observational analytic and surveys. Data was drawn from individual health facilities, multicentre networks, regional registries, and national health information systems. Most studies were conducted in high-income countries with only 35.4% of studies representing low- and middle-income countries.

Conclusion
Healthcare utilization for non-COVID-19 conditions has decreased almost universally, across both high- and lower-income countries. The pandemic’s impact on non-COVID-19 health outcomes, particularly for chronic diseases, may take years to fully manifest and should be a topic of ongoing study. Future research should be tied to system improvement and the promotion of health equity, with researchers identifying potentially actionable findings for national, regional, and local health leadership. Public health professionals must also seek to address the disparity in published data from LMICs as compared to high-income countries.