Comparison of Challenges and Problems Encountered in the Practice of Exclusive Breast Feeding by Primiparous and Multiparous Women in Rural Areas of Sindh, Pakistan: A Cross-Sectional Study

Introduction: The UNICEF (United Nations International Children Education Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization) recommend exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for the first six months of life. EBF is considered to be an important practice for enhancing infant health and wellbeing. Breastfeeding offers a wide range of psychological and physical health benefits in the long-term and short-term for young children, infants, and mothers. This study aims to compare exclusive breastfeeding practice among primiparous and multiparous mothers including reasons for discontinuing exclusive breastfeeding and problems faced during breastfeeding.

Methodology: This cross-sectional study was conducted in rural areas of Sindh, registered with the Maternal Newborn Health Registry (MNHR). The study used a systematic sampling technique for the enrollment of study participants. A survey questionnaire was used to collect data from mothers about the practices of EBF. A total of 397 mothers were interviewed and analyzed.

Results: Among Primiparous mothers, 14.1% of mothers initiated breastfeeding within one hour of birth, while 22.4% of multiparous mothers, initiated breastfeeding within one hour of birth. The difference between the two is statistically insignificant (p-value=0.234). A high percentage of multiparous mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for six months (63.5%) as compared to primiparous mothers (51.5%). The most common reason for introducing pre-lacteal feed before six months among primiparous mothers is the lack of adequate milk production to fulfill baby needs; this was the case for 35.4% of mothers. On the other hand, the baby remaining hungry post breastfeeding was the major reason among multiparous mothers (44.0%) for introducing pre-lacteal feed before six months.

Conclusion: This study helped in the identification of issues faced by primiparous and multiparous mothers during exclusive breastfeeding. Interventions for promoting EBF need to be tailored as per the need and challenges of the population.

Predictors of iron consumption for at least 90 days during pregnancy: Findings from National Demographic Health Survey, Pakistan (2017–2018)

Iron supplementation is considered an imperative strategy for anemia prevention and control during pregnancy in Pakistan. Although there is some evidence on the predictors of iron deficiency anemia among Pakistani women, there is a very limited understanding of factors associated with iron consumption among Pakistani pregnant women. Thus, this study aimed to investigate the predictors of iron consumption for at least ≥90 days during pregnancy in Pakistan.

We analyzed dataset from the nationally representative Pakistan Demographic Health Survey 2017–2018. The primary outcome of the current study was the consumption of iron supplementation for ≥90 days during the pregnancy of the last birth. Women who had last childbirth 5 years before the survey and who responded to the question of iron intake were included in the final analysis (n = 6370). We analyzed the data that accounted for complex sampling design by including clusters, strata, and sampling weights.

Around 30% of the women reported consumed iron tablets for ≥90 days during their last pregnancy. In the multivariable logistic regression analysis, we found that factors such as women’s age (≥ 25 years) (adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR) = 1.52; 95% CI: 1.42–1.62)], wealth index (rich/richest) (aPR = 1.25; [95% CI: 1.18–1.33]), primary education (aPR = 1.33; [95% CI: 1.24–1.43), secondary education (aPR = 1.34; [95% CI: 1.26–1.43), higher education (aPR = 2.13; [95% CI: 1.97–2.30), women’s say in choosing husband (aPR = 1.68; [95% CI: 1.57–1.80]), ≥ five antenatal care visits (aPR =2.65; [95% CI (2.43–2.89]), history of the last Caesarian-section (aPR = 1.29; [95% CI: 1.23–1.36]) were significantly associated with iron consumption for ≥90 days.

These findings demonstrate complex predictors of iron consumption during pregnancy in Pakistan. There is a need to increase the number of ANC visits and the government should take necessary steps to improve access to iron supplements by targeting disadvantaged and vulnerable women who are younger, less educated, poor, and living in rural areas.

Fears and barriers: problems in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in Pakistan

Women in Pakistan lack appropriate awareness about diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer due to a range of multifaceted barriers. There is a dearth of literature examining the socio-cultural factors that inhibit women from breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment in Punjab, Pakistan. Addressing this gap, this qualitative study sought to identify and explore the barriers that hinder women from seeking timely screening and treatment.

In this process 45 women (age = 18–50 years) with breast cancer were purposively sampled and interviewed from the Punjab Institute of Nuclear Medicine (PINUM) hospital, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

An inductive approach was used to analyze the data which resulted in the emergence of eight subthemes under the umbrella of three major themes that delineate individual, socio-cultural and structural barriers to seek screening and treatment of breast cancer in Punjab. Individual barriers included lack of awareness, hesitance in accepting social support, and spiritual healing. The identified socio-cultural factors included feminine sensitivity, stigmatization, and aversion to male doctors. Lack of financial resources and apathetic medical services were structural barriers that hinder screening and treatment.

These barriers can be addressed through raising awareness and community mobilization about breast-self exam and treatment. The healthcare system should also pay attention to socio-psychological and cultural factors impeding women’s access to available health facilities.

Understanding the role of lady health workers in improving access to eye health services in rural Pakistan – findings from a qualitative study

In 1994, the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) Programme was established in Pakistan to increase access to essential primary care services and support health systems at the household and community levels. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in northern Pakistan, eye care is among the many unmet needs that LHWs were trained to address, including screening and referral of people with eye conditions to health facilities. However, despite an increase in referrals by LHWs, compliance with referrals in KPK has been very low. We explored the role of LHWs in patient referral and the barriers to patient compliance with referrals.

Qualitative methodology was adopted. Between April and June 2019, we conducted eight focus group discussions and nine in-depth interviews with 73 participants including patients, LHWs and their supervisors, district managers and other stakeholders. Data were analysed thematically using NVivo software version 12.

LHWs have a broad understanding of basic health care and are responsible for a wide range of activities at the community level. LHWs felt that the training in primary eye care had equipped them with the skills to identify and refer eye patients. However, they reported that access to care was hampered when referred patients reached hospitals, where disorganised services and poor quality of care discouraged uptake of referrals. LHWs felt that this had a negative impact on their credibility and on the trust and respect they received from the community, which, coupled with low eye health awareness, influenced patients’ decisions about whether to comply with a referral. There was a lack of trust in the health care services provided by public sector hospitals. Poverty, deep-rooted gender inequities and transportation were the other reported main drivers of non-adherence to referrals.

Results from this study have shown that the training of LHWs in eye care was well received. However, training alone is not enough and does not result in improved access for patients to specialist services if other parts of the health system are not strengthened. Pathways for referrals should be agreed and explicitly communicated to both the health care providers and the patients.

Occurrence, associated risk factors, and treatment of surgical site infections in Pakistan

Globally, surgical site infections are one of the common infections which lead to a large amount of mortality and morbidity in postsurgical care. The risk for surgical site infection is multidimensional which includes mainly; patient, surgery, and hospital-related factors. This study is aimed to determine the burden of SSIs along with contributed risk factors. A prospective observational cross-sectional study was conducted in one of the largest public-sector hospitals in Pakistan. A total of 412 patients were recruited in the study with full consent and monitored for 30 days after surgery with direct and indirect surveillance. Overall, in seven different surgical procedures the incidence (29.8%) rate of SSI was observed; in appendectomy (n = 17, 4.1%), exploratory laparotomy (n = 51, 12.6%), laparoscopic cholecystectomy (n = 12, 2.90%), mesh repair (n = 17, 4.01%), thyroidectomy (5, 1.2%), transurethral resection of the prostate (n = 11, 2.6%), and transurethral resection of the bladder (10, 2.4%). The average SSI rate in every single procedure was about 18 (4.27%) per surgical procedure out of 123 (29.85%) SSI cases. Types of SSI identified were superficial, deep incisional and organ/space (n = 76, 18.4%, n = 23, 5.5%, and n = 24, 5.7%). Incidence of SSIs during admission, at readmission, and post-surveillance cases were (n = 50, 12.1%, n = 25, 6.0% and n = 48, 11.6%). Associated risk factors found contributed to the incidence of SSI (p < 0.05). Pre-operative (n = 348, 84.5%) and 6 (1.5%) surgical patients did not received the post-operative antibiotics. The P. aeruginosa (n = 15, 12.1%) and S. aureus (13, 10.5%). Cefoperazone and sulbactam were the most prescribed antibiotics. Associated risk factors and treatment outcomes of surgical patients have a direct association with the incidence of SSI. Hospital-based antimicrobial stewardship, implementation of surgical guidelines, patient care, and education are needed to develop at wards level in hospitals.

Prevalence of Trachoma in Pakistan: Results of 42 Population-Based Prevalence Surveys from the Global Trachoma Mapping Project

Purpose: Previous phases of trachoma mapping in Pakistan completed baseline surveys in 38 districts. To help guide national trachoma elimination planning, we set out to estimate trachoma prevalence in 43 suspected-endemic evaluation units (EUs) of 15 further districts.

Methods: We planned a population-based trachoma prevalence survey in each EU. Two-stage cluster sampling was employed, using the systems and approaches of the Global Trachoma Mapping Project. In each EU, residents aged ≥1 year living in 30 households in each of 26 villages were invited to be examined by trained, certified trachoma graders. Questionnaires and direct observation were used to evaluate household-level access to water and sanitation.

Results: One EU was not completed due to insecurity. Of the remaining 42, three EUs had trichiasis prevalence estimates in ≥15-year-olds ≥0.2%, and six (different) EUs had prevalence estimates of trachomatous inflammation—follicular (TF) in 1–9-year-olds ≥5%; each EU requires trichiasis and TF prevalence estimates below these thresholds to achieve elimination of trachoma as a public health problem. All six EUs with TF prevalences ≥5% were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Household-level access to improved sanitation ranged by EU from 6% to 100%. Household-level access to an improved source of water for face and hand washing ranged by EU from 37% to 100%.

Conclusion: Trachoma was a public health problem in 21% (9/42) of the EUs. Because the current outbreak of extremely drug-resistant typhoid in Pakistan limits domestic use of azithromycin mass drug administration, other interventions against active trachoma should be considered here.

Self-Diagnosis of Surgical Site Infections: Lessons From a Tertiary Care Centre in Karachi, Pakistan

Background and Objective: Surgical site infections (SSIs) usually manifest post-discharge, rendering accurate diagnosis and treatment challenging, thereby catalyzing the development of alternate strategies like self-monitored SSI surveillance. This study aimed to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of patients and Infection Control Monitors (ICMs) to develop a replicable method of SSI-detection.
Methods: A two-year prospective diagnostic accuracy study was conducted in Karachi, Pakistan between 2015 and 2017. Patients were educated about SSIs and provided with questionnaires to elicit symptoms of SSI during post-discharge self-screening. Results of patient’s self-screening and ICM evaluation at followups were compared to surgeon evaluation.
Results: A total of 348 patients completed the study, among whom 18 (5.5%) developed a SSI. Patient selfscreening had a sensitivity of 39%, specificity of 95%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 28%, and negative predictive value (NPV) of 97%. ICM evaluation had a sensitivity of 82%, specificity of 99%, PPV of 82%, and NPV of 99%.
Conclusion: Patients cannot self-diagnose a SSI reliably. However, diagnostic accuracy of ICMs is significantly higher and they may serve as a proxy for surgeons, thereby reducing the burden on specialized surgical workforce in LMICs. Regardless, supplementing post-discharge follow-up with patient self-screening could
increase SSI-detection and reduce burden on health systems.