Facilitators, barriers and potential solutions to the integration of depression and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) care in Malawi: a qualitative study with service providers

Integration of depression services into infectious disease care is feasible, acceptable, and effective in sub-Saharan African settings. However, while the region shifts focus to include chronic diseases, additional information is required to integrate depression services into chronic disease settings. We assessed service providers’ views on the concept of integrating depression care into non-communicable diseases’ (NCD) clinics in Malawi. The aim of this analysis was to better understand barriers, facilitators, and solutions to integrating depression into NCD services.

Between June and August 2018, we conducted nineteen in-depth interviews with providers. Providers were recruited from 10 public hospitals located within the central region of Malawi (i.e., 2 per clinic, with the exception of one clinic where only one provider was interviewed because of scheduling challenges). Using a semi structured interview guide, we asked participants questions related to their understanding of depression and its management at their clinic. We used thematic analysis allowing for both inductive and deductive approach. Themes that emerged related to facilitators, barriers and suggested solutions to integrate depression assessment and care into NCD clinics. We used CFIR constructs to categorize the facilitators and barriers.

Almost all providers knew what depression is and its associated signs and symptoms. Almost all facilities had an NCD-dedicated room and reported that integrating depression into NCD care was feasible. Facilitators of service integration included readiness to integrate services by the NCD providers, availability of antidepressants at the clinic. Barriers to service integration included limited knowledge and lack of training regarding depression care, inadequacy of both human and material resources, high workload experienced by the providers and lack of physical space for some depression services especially counseling. Suggested solutions were training of NCD staff on depression assessment and care, engaging hospital leaders to create an NCD and depression care integration policy, integrating depression information into existing documents, increasing staff, and reorganizing clinic flow.

Findings of this study suggest a need for innovative implementation science solutions such as reorganizing clinic flow to increase the quality and duration of the patient-provider interaction, as well as ongoing trainings and supervisions to increase clinical knowledge.

Demand and capacity to integrate pelvic organ prolapse and genital fistula services in low-resource settings.

There is a need for expanded access to safe surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as illustrated by the report of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. Packages of closely-related surgical procedures may create platforms of capacity that maximize impact in LMIC. Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and genital fistula care provide an example. Although POP affects many more women in LMICs than fistula, donor support for fistula treatment in LMICs has been underway for decades, whereas treatment for POP is usually limited to hysterectomy-based surgical treatment, occurring with little to no donor support. This capacity-building discrepancy has resulted in POP care that is often non-adherent to international standards and in non-integration of POP and fistula services, despite clear areas of similarity and overlap. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and potential value of integrating POP services at fistula centers.

Fistula repair sites supported by the Fistula Care Plus project were surveyed on current demand for and capacity to provide POP, in addition to perceptions about integrating POP and fistula repair services.

Respondents from 26 hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia completed the survey. Most fistula centers (92%) reported demand for POP services, but many cannot meet this demand. Responses indicated a wide variation in assessment and grading practices for POP; approaches to lower urinary tract symptom evaluation; and surgical skills with regard to compartment-based POP, and urinary and rectal incontinence. Fistula surgeons identified integration synergies but also potential conflicts.

Integration of genital fistula and POP services may enhance the quality of POP care while increasing the sustainability of fistula care.