Task-sharing to support paediatric and child health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries: current practice and a scoping review of emerging opportunities

Demographic and epidemiological changes have prompted thinking on the need to broaden the child health agenda to include care for complex and chronic conditions in the 0–19 years (paediatric) age range. Providing such services will be undermined by general and skilled paediatric workforce shortages especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this paper, we aim to understand existing, sanctioned forms of task-sharing to support the delivery of care for more complex and chronic paediatric and child health conditions in LMICs and emerging opportunities for task-sharing. We specifically focus on conditions other than acute infectious diseases and malnutrition that are historically shifted.

We (1) reviewed the Global Burden of Diseases study to understand which conditions may need to be prioritized; (2) investigated training opportunities and national policies related to task-sharing (current practice) in five purposefully selected African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa); and (3) summarized reported experience of task-sharing and paediatric and child health service delivery through a scoping review of research literature in LMICs published between 1990 and 2019 using MEDLINE, Embase, Global Health, PsycINFO, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library.

We found that while some training opportunities nominally support emerging roles for non-physician clinicians and nurses, formal scopes of practices often remain rather restricted and neither training nor policy seems well aligned with probable needs from high-burden complex and chronic conditions. From 83 studies in 24 LMICs, and aside from the historically shifted conditions, we found some evidence examining task-sharing for a small set of specific conditions (circumcision, some complex surgery, rheumatic heart diseases, epilepsy, mental health).

As child health strategies are further redesigned to address the previously unmet needs careful strategic thinking on the development of an appropriate paediatric workforce is needed. To achieve coverage at scale countries may need to transform their paediatric workforce including possible new roles for non-physician cadres to support safe, accessible and high-quality care.

Taking Paediatrics Abroad: Working with low- and middle-income countries in a global pandemic

Children and young people around the world face challenges to their health and wellbeing. In particular, in low- and middle-income countries they experience a higher burden of disease, exacerbated by global inequity limiting access to quality health care. According to the inverse care law, the availability of quality health care varies inversely to the need of the population, and hardworking health-care professionals in under-resourced countries may face impediments to continued education or subspecialty training. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, collaborations have been developed between high-income and low- and-middle-income countries to address global disparities in health. These collaborations face challenges of high financial costs, difficulties creating long-term sustainable change, and with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, border closures preventing fly-in volunteers. In this paper, we describe the development of an innovative, paediatric-specific model of care for training and support between high- and low-income countries – Taking Paediatrics Abroad Ltd. Taking Paediatrics Abroad supports the development of mutually beneficial relationships between Australian paediatric health-care professionals and paediatric health-care professionals in developing countries and remote, underserved Australian Aboriginal communities. Since May 2020, there have been over 100 sessions covering a vast array of paediatric specialties. This article explores Taking Paediatrics Abroad’s model of care, its implementation and challenges, and opportunities for the futur

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on paediatric patients with cancer in low-income, middle-income and high-income countries: protocol for a multicentre, international, observational cohort study

Childhood cancers are a leading cause of non-communicable disease deaths for children around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted on global children’s cancer services, which can have consequences for childhood cancer outcomes. The Global Health Research Group on Children’s Non-Communicable Diseases is currently undertaking the first international cohort study to determine the variation in paediatric cancer management during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the short-term to medium-term impacts on childhood cancer outcomes.

Methods and analysis
This is a multicentre, international cohort study that will use routinely collected hospital data in a deidentified and anonymised form. Patients will be recruited consecutively into the study, with a 12-month follow-up period. Patients will be included if they are below the age of 18 years and undergoing anticancer treatment for the following cancers: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, Wilms tumour, sarcoma, retinoblastoma, gliomas, medulloblastomas and neuroblastomas. Patients must be newly presented or must be undergoing active anticancer treatment from 12 March 2020 to 12 December 2020. The primary objective of the study was to determine all-cause mortality rates of 30 days, 90 days and 12 months. This study will examine the factors that influenced these outcomes. χ2 analysis will be used to compare mortality between low-income and middle-income countries and high-income countries. Multilevel, multivariable logistic regression analysis will be undertaken to identify patient-level and hospital-level factors affecting outcomes with adjustment for confounding factors.

Ethics and dissemination
At the host centre, this study was deemed to be exempt from ethical committee approval due to the use of anonymised registry data. At other centres, participating collaborators have gained local approvals in accordance with their institutional ethical regulations. Collaborators will be encouraged to present the results locally, nationally and internationally. The results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Simulator-based ultrasound training for identification of endotracheal tube placement in a neonatal intensive care unit using point of care ultrasound

Simulators are an extensively utilized teaching tool in clinical settings. Simulation enables learners to practice and improve their skills in a safe and controlled environment before using these skills on patients. We evaluated the effect of a training session utilizing a novel intubation ultrasound simulator on the accuracy of provider detection of tracheal versus esophageal neonatal endotracheal tube (ETT) placement using point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). We also investigated whether the time to POCUS image interpretation decreased with repeated simulator attempts.

Sixty neonatal health care providers participated in a three-hour simulator-based training session in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, Pakistan. Participants included neonatologists, neonatal fellows, pediatric residents and senior nursing staff. The training utilized a novel low-cost simulator made with gelatin, water and psyllium fiber. Training consisted of a didactic session, practice with the simulator, and practice with intubated NICU patients. At the end of training, participants underwent an objective structured assessment of technical skills (OSATS) and ten rounds of simulator-based testing of their ability to use POCUS to differentiate between simulated tracheal and esophageal intubations.

The majority of the participants in the training had an average of 7.0 years (SD 4.9) of clinical experience. After controlling for gender, profession, years of practice and POCUS knowledge, linear mixed model and mixed effects logistic regression demonstrated marginal improvement in POCUS interpretation over repeated simulator testing. The mean time-to-interpretation decreased from 24.7 (SD 20.3) seconds for test 1 to 10.1 (SD 4.5) seconds for Test 10, p < 0.001. There was an average reduction of 1.3 s (β = − 1.3; 95% CI: − 1.66 to − 1.0) in time-to-interpretation with repeated simulator testing after adjusting for the covariates listed above.

We found a three-hour simulator-based training session had a significant impact on technical skills and performance of neonatal health care providers in identification of ETT position using POCUS. Further research is needed to examine whether these skills are transferable to intubated newborns in various health settings.

Clubfoot treatment in 2015: a global perspective.

Clubfoot affects around 174 000 children born annually, with approximately 90% of these in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC). Untreated clubfoot causes life-long impairment, affecting individuals’ ability to walk and participate in society. The minimally invasive Ponseti treatment is highly effective and has grown in acceptance globally. The objective of this cross-sectional study is to quantify the numbers of countries providing services for clubfoot and children accessing these.In 2015-2016, expected cases of clubfoot were calculated for all countries, using an incidence rate of 1.24/1000 births. Informants were sought from all LMIC, and participants completed a standardised survey about services for clubfoot in their countries in 2015. Data collected were analysed using simple numerical analysis, country coverage levels, trends over time and by income group. Qualitative data were analysed thematically.Responses were received from 55 countries, in which 79% of all expected cases of clubfoot were born. More than 24 000 children with clubfoot were enrolled for Ponseti treatment in 2015. Coverage was less than 25% in the majority of countries. There were higher levels of response and coverage within the lowest income country group. 31 countries reported a national programme for clubfoot, with the majority provided through public-private partnerships.This is the first study to describe global provision of, and access to, treatment services for children with clubfoot. The numbers of children accessing Ponseti treatment for clubfoot in LMIC has risen steadily since 2005. However, coverage remains low, and we estimate that less than 15% of children born with clubfoot in LMIC start treatment. More action to promote the rollout of national clubfoot programmes, build capacity for treatment and enable access and adherence to treatment in order to radically increase coverage and effectiveness is essential and urgent in order to prevent permanent disability caused by clubfoot.

Decreasing birth asphyxia: utility of statistical process control in a low-resource setting.

The neonatal period is a critical time for survival of the child. A disproportionate amount of neonatal deaths occur in low-resource countries and are attributable to perinatal events, especially birth asphyxia. This project aimed to reduce the incidence of birth asphyxia by 20% by June 2014 through training in neonatal resuscitation and improving the availability of resuscitation equipment in the delivery room in the National Hospital Abuja, Nigeria. A prospective, longitudinal study using statistical process control analytical methods was done enrolling babies delivered at the National Hospital Abuja. Low Apgar scores or birth asphyxia (defined a priori as any score <7 at 1, 5 and/or at 10 min) was assessed. To ensure reliability and validity of Apgar scoring, trainings on scoring were held for labour and delivery staff. Interventions included provision of additional equipment and trainings on neonatal resuscitation. Apgar scores were aggregated weekly over 25 months. Control charts with three SE confidence limits were used to monitor the proportion of scores ≤7. The baseline incidence of low Apgar scores, as defined a priori, was 33%, 17% and 10% while postintervention the incidence was 18%, 17% and 6% at 1, 5 and 10 min, respectively-a reduction of 45% and 40% in the 1-min and 10-min low Apgar scores. Increased communication, additional resuscitation equipment and training of delivery personnel on neonatal resuscitation are associated with reductions in measures of birth asphyxia. These improvements have been sustained and efforts are ongoing to spread our interventions to other special care delivery units/nursery in adjoining states. Our study demonstrates the feasibility and utility of using improvement science methods to assess and improve perinatal outcome in low-resource settings.

A systematic review and quality analysis of pediatric traumatic brain injury clinical practice guidelines.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a significant cause of mortality and morbidity for children globally. Adherence to evidence-based treatment guidelines have been shown to improve TBI outcomes. To inform the creation of a pediatric TBI management guideline for a low and middle income country context, we assessed the quality of available clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) for the acute management pediatric TBI.Articles were identified and retrieved from MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information and Global Index Medicus. These articles were screened by four reviewers independently. Based on the eligibility criteria, with the exception of literature reviews, opinion papers and editor’s letters, articles published from 1995 to November 11, 2016 which covered clinical recommendations, clinical practice or treatment guidelines for the acute management of pediatric TBI (within 24 hours) were included for review. A reference and citation analysis was performed. Seven independent reviewers from low, middle and high income clinical settings with knowledge of pediatric TBI management appraised the guidelines using the AGREE II instrument. Scores for the CPGs were aggregated by domain and overall assessment was determined.We screened 2372 articles of which 17 were retained for data extraction and guideline appraisal. Except for one CPG from a middle income country, the majority (16/17) of the guidelines were developed in high income countries. Seven guidelines were developed specifically for the pediatric population, while the remaining CPGs addressed the acute management of TBI in both adult and pediatric populations. The New Zealand Guideline Group (NZGG, 2006) received the highest overall assessment score of 46/49 (93.88%) followed by the Scandinavian Neurotrauma Committee (SNC, 2016) with a score of 45/49 (91.84%) followed by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN, 2009) and Brain Trauma Foundation (BTF 2012) both with scores of 44/49 (89.80%). CPGs from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCH 2006) and Sao Paulo Medical School Hospital/Brazilian Society of Neurosurgery (USP/BSN, 2001) received the lowest score of 27/49 (55.10%) subsequently followed by the Appropriateness Criteria (ACR, 2015) with 29/49 (59.18%). The domains for scope and purpose and clarity of presentation received the highest scores across the CPGs, while applicability and editorial independence domains had the lowest scores with a wider variability in score range for rigor of development and stakeholder involvement.To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review and guideline appraisal for pediatric CPGs concerning the acute management of TBI. Targeted guideline creation specific to the pediatric population has the potential to improve the quality of acute TBI CPGs. Furthermore, it is crucial to address the applicability of a guideline to translate the CPG from a published manuscript into clinically relevant local practice tools and for resource limited practice settings.

Out-of-Pocket and Catastrophic Expenses Incurred by Seeking Pediatric and Adult Surgical Care at a Public, Tertiary Care Centre in Uganda.

Surgical care is critical to establish effective healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries, yet the unmet need for surgical conditions is as high as 65% in Ugandan children. Financial burden and geographical distance are common barriers to help-seeking in adult populations and are unmeasured in the pediatric population. We thus measured out-of-pocket (OOP) expenses and distance traveled for pediatric surgical care in a tertiary hospital in Mbarara, Uganda, as compared to adult surgical and pediatric medical patients.

Patients admitted to pediatric surgical (n = 20), pediatric medical (n = 18) and adult surgical (n = 18) wards were interviewed upon discharge over a period of 3 weeks. Patient and caregiver-reported expenses incurred for the present illness included prior/future care needed, and travel distance/cost. The prevalence of catastrophic expenses (≥10% of annual income) was calculated and spending patterns compared between wards.

Thirty-five percent of pediatric medical patients, 45% of pediatric surgical patients and 55% of adult surgical patients incurred catastrophic expenses. Pediatric surgical patients paid more for their current treatment (p <  0.01)—specifically medications (p <  0.01) and tests (p <  0.01)—than pediatric medical patients, and comparable costs to adults. Adult patients paid more for treatment prior to the hospital (p = 0.04) and miscellaneous expenses (e.g., food while admitted) (p = 0.02). Patients in all wards traveled comparable distances.

Seeking healthcare at a publicly funded hospital is financially catastrophic for almost half of patients. Out-of-stock supplies and broken equipment make surgical care particularly vulnerable to OOP expenses because analgesics, anaesthesia and preoperative imaging are prerequisites to care.