From Theory to Implementation: Adaptations to a Quality Improvement Initiative According to Implementation Context

As countries continue to invest in quality improvement (QI) initiatives in health facilities, it is important to acknowledge the role of context in implementation. We conducted a qualitative study between February 2019 and January 2020 to explore how a QI initiative was adapted to enable implementation in three facility types: primary health centres, public hospitals and private facilities in Lagos State, Nigeria.

Despite a common theory of change, implementation of the initiative needed to be adapted to accommodate the local needs, priorities and organisational culture of each facility type. Across facility types, inadequate human and capital resources constrained implementation and necessitated an extension of the initiative’s duration. In public facilities, the local governance structure was adapted to facilitate coordination, but similar adaptations to governance were not possible for private facilities. Our findings highlight the importance of anticipating and planning for the local adaptation of QI initiatives according to implementation environment

Patterns, travel to care and factors influencing obstetric referral: Evidence from Nigeria’s most urbanised state

The criticality of referral makes it imperative to study its patterns and factors influencing it at a health systems level. This study of referral in Lagos, Nigeria is based on health records of 4181 pregnant women who presented with obstetric emergencies at one of the 24 comprehensive emergency obstetric care (EmOC) facilities in the state between November 2018 and October 2019 complemented with distance and time data extracted from Google Maps. Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analyses were conducted. About a quarter of pregnant women who presented with obstetric emergencies were referred. Most referrals were from primary health centres (41.9 %), private (23.5 %) and public (16.2 %) hospitals. Apart from the expected low-level to high-level referral pattern, there were other patterns observed including non-formal, multiple, and post-delivery referrals. Travel time and distance to facilities that could provide needed care increased two-fold on account of referrals compared to scenarios of going directly to the final facility, mostly travelling to these facilities by private cars/taxis (72.8 %). Prolonged/obstructed labour was the commonest obstetric indication for referral, with majority of referred pregnant women delivered via caesarean section (52.9 %). After adjustment, being married, not being registered for antenatal care at facility of care, presenting at night or with a foetus in distress increased the odds of referral. However, parity, presentation in the months following the commissioning of a new comprehensive EmOC facility or with abortion reduced the likelihood of being referred. Our findings underscore the need for health systems strengthening interventions that support women during referral and the importance of antenatal care and early booking to aid identification of potential pregnancy complications whilst establishing robust birth preparedness plans that can minimise the need for referral in the event of emergencies. Indeed, there are context-specific influences that need to be addressed if effective referral systems are to be designed.

Communication Intervention Using Digital Technology to Facilitate Informed Choices at Childbirth in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

In Brazil and other low- and middle-income countries, excess interventions in childbirth are associated with an increase in preterm and early-term births, contributing to stagnant morbidity and mortality of mothers and neonates. The fact that women often report a negative experience with vaginal childbirth, with physical pain and feelings of unsafety, neglect, or abuse, may explain the high acceptability of elective cesarean sections. The recognition of information needs and of the right to informed choice during childbirth can help change this reality. The internet has been the main source of health information, but its quality is highly variable.

This study aimed to develop and evaluate an information and communication strategy through a smartphone app with respect to childbirth, to facilitate informed choices for access to safer and evidence-based care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A randomized controlled trial, with 2 arms (intervention and control) and a closed, blind, parallel design, will be conducted with a smartphone app designed for behavior and opinion research in Brazil, with women of reproductive age previously registered on the app. After completing an entry questionnaire to verify the eligibility criteria and obtaining ethical consent, approximately 20,000 participants will be randomly allocated to the intervention and control groups at a 1:1 ratio. Participants allocated to the intervention group will be invited to engage in a digital information and communication strategy, which is designed to expand evidence-based knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages of options for labor and childbirth and the safety of the care processes. The information is based on the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization for a positive childbirth experience and has been updated to include the new challenges and disruptions in maternity care within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The control group will receive information regarding disposable and reusable diapers as a placebo intervention. The groups will be compared in their responses in generating the birth plan and the entry and exit questionnaires, regarding responses less or more aligned with the guidelines for a positive childbirth experience. A qualitative component to map information needs is included.

The digital trial started recruiting participants in late October 2020, and data collection has been projected to be complete by December 2020.

This study will evaluate an innovative intervention that has the potential to promote better communication between women and providers, such that they can make better choices using an approach suitable for use during the COVID-19 pandemic

Trends in national and subnational wealth related inequalities in use of maternal health care services in Nepal: an analysis using demographic and health surveys (2001–2016)

Maternal health affects the lives of many women and children globally every year and it is one of the high priority programs of the Government of Nepal (GoN). Different evidence articulate that the equity gap in accessing and using maternal health services at national level is decreasing over 2001–2016. This study aimed to assess whether the equity gap in using maternal health services is also decreasing at subnational level over this period given the geography of Nepal has already been identified as one of the predictors of accessibility and utilization of maternal health services.

The study used wealth index scores for each household and calculated the concentration curves and indexes in their relative formulation, with no corrections. Concentration curve was used to identify whether socioeconomic inequality in maternity services exists and whether it was more pronounced at one point in time than another or in one province than another. The changes between 2001 and 2016 were also disaggregated across the provinces. Test of significance of changes in Concentration Index was performed by calculating pooled standard errors. We used R software for statistical analysis.

The study observed a progressive and statistically significant decrease in concentration index for at least four antenatal care (ANC) visit and institutional delivery at national level over 2001–2016. The changes were not statistically significant for Cesarean Section delivery. Regarding inequality in four-ANC all provinces except Karnali showed significant decreases at least between 2011 and 2016. Similarly, all provinces, except Karnali, showed a statistically significant decrease in concentration index for institutional delivery between 2011 and 2016.

Despite appreciable progress at national level, the study found that the progress in reducing equity gap in use of maternal health services is not uniform across seven provinces. Tailored investment to address barriers in utilization of maternal health services across provinces is urgent to make further progress in achieving equitable distribution in use of maternal health services. There is an opportunity now that the country is federalized, and provincial governments can make a need-based improvement by addressing specific barriers.

How do Supply- and Demand-side Interventions Influence Equity in Healthcare Utilisation? Evidence from Maternal Healthcare in Senegal

The launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, followed by the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, and the increasing focus on achieving universal health coverage has led to numerous interventions on both supply- and demand-sides of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. While tremendous progress has been achieved, inequities in access to healthcare persist, leading to calls for a closer examination of the equity implications of these interventions. This paper examines the equity implications of two such interventions in the context of maternal healthcare in Senegal. The first intervention on the supply-side focuses on improving the availability of maternal health services while the second intervention, on the demand-side, abolished user fees for facility deliveries. Using three rounds of Demographic Health Surveys
covering the period 1992 to 2010 and employing three measures of socioeconomic status (SES) based on household wealth, mothers’ education and rural/urban residence – we find that although both interventions increase utilisation of maternal health services, the rich benefit more from the supply-side intervention, thereby increasing inequity, while the poor benefit more from the demand-side intervention i.e. reducing inequity. Both interventions positively influence facility deliveries in rural areas although the increase in facility deliveries after the demand-side intervention is more than the increase after the supply-side intervention. There is no significant difference in utilisation based on mothers’ education. Since people from different SES categories are likely to respond differently to interventions on the supply- and demand-side of the health system, policymakers involved in the design of health programmes should pay closer attention to concerns of inequity and elite capture that may unintentionally result from these interventions

Improving emergency obstetric referral systems in low and middle income countries: a qualitative study in a tertiary health facility in Ghana.

Timely access to emergency obstetric care is crucial in preventing mortalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The referral of patients from lower levels of care to higher levels has been identified as an integral component of the health care delivery system in Ghana. To this effect, in 2012, the National Referral Policy and Guidelines was developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to help improve standard procedures and reduce delays which affect access to emergency care. Nonetheless, ensuring timely access to care during referral of obstetric emergencies has been problematic. The study aimed to identify barriers associated with the referral of emergency obstetric cases to the leading national referral centre. It specifically examines the lived experiences of patients, healthcare providers and relatives of patients on the referral system. Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra was used as a case study in 2016.The qualitative method was used and in-depth interviews were conducted with 89 respondents: healthcare providers [n = 34];patients [n = 31] and relatives of patients [n = 24] using semi-structured interview guides. Purposive sampling techniques were used in selecting healthcare providers and patients and convenience sampling techniques were used in selecting relatives of patients. The study identified a range of barriers encountered in the referral process and broadly fall under the major themes: referral transportation system, referrer-receiver communication barriers, inadequate infrastructure and supplies and insufficient health personnel. Some highlights of the problem included inadequate use of ambulance services, poor management of patients during transit, lack of professional escort, unannounced emergency referrals, lack of adequate information and feedback and limited supply of beds, drugs and blood. These findings have implications on type II and III of the three delays model. Initiatives to improve the transportation system for the referral of obstetric emergencies are vital in ensuring patients’ safety during transfer. Communication between referring and receiving facilities should be enhanced. A strong collaboration is needed between teaching hospitals and other stakeholders in the referral chain to foster good referral practices and healthcare delivery. Concurrently, supply side barriers at referred facilities including ensuring sufficient provision for bed, blood, drugs, and personnel must be addressed.

Health and sustainable development; strengthening peri-operative care in low income countries to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes

Uganda is far from meeting the sustainable development goals on maternal and neonatal mortality with a maternal mortality ratio of 383/100,000 live births, and 33% of the women gave birth by 18 years. The neonatal mortality ratio was 29/1000 live births and 96 stillbirths occur every day due to placental abruption, and/or eclampsia – preeclampsia and other unkown causes. These deaths could be reduced with access to timely safe surgery and safe anaesthesia if the Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care services (CEmONC), and appropriate intensive care post operatively were implemented. A 2013 multi-national survey by Epiu et al. showed that, the Safe Surgical Checklist was not available for use at main referral hospitals in East Africa. We, therefore, set out to further assess 64 government and private hospitals in Uganda for the availability and usage of the WHO Checklists, and investigate the post-operative care of paturients; to advocate for CEmONC implementation in similarly burdened low income countries.

The cross-sectional survey was conducted at 64 government and private hospitals in Uganda using preset questionnaires.

We surveyed 41% of all hospitals in Uganda: 100% of the government regional referral hospitals, 16% of government district hospitals and 33% of all private hospitals. Only 22/64 (34.38%: 95% CI = 23.56–47.09) used the WHO Safe Surgical Checklist. Additionally, only 6% of the government hospitals and 14% not-for profit hospitals had access to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) services for postoperative care compared to 57% of the private hospitals.

There is urgent need to make WHO checklists available and operationalized. Strengthening peri-operative care in obstetrics would decrease maternal and neonatal morbidity and move closer to the goal of safe motherhood working towards Universal Health Care.