Context and Priorities for Health Systems Strengthening for Pain and Disability in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Secondary Qualitative Study and Content Analysis of Health Policies

Musculoskeletal (MSK) health impairments contribute substantially to the pain and disability burden in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet health systems strengthening (HSS) responses are nascent. We aimed to explore the contemporary context, framed as challenges and opportunities, for improving population-level prevention and management of MSK health in LMICs using secondary qualitative data from a previous study exploring HSS priorities for MSK health globally; and (2) to contextualize these findings through an analysis of health policies for integrated management of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in select LMICs. Part 1: 12 transcripts of interviews with LMIC-based key informants (KIs) were inductively analysed. Part 2: systematic content analysis of health policies for integrated care of NCDs where KIs were resident (Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa). A thematic framework of LMIC-relevant challenges and opportunities was empirically-derived, organized around 5 meta-themes: (1) MSK health is a low priority; (2) social determinants adversely affect MSK health; (3) healthcare system issues de-prioritize MSK health; (4) economic constraints restrict system capacity to direct and mobilize resources to MSK health; (5) build research capacity. Twelve policy documents were included, describing explicit foci on cardiovascular disease (100%), diabetes (100%), respiratory conditions (100%) and cancer (89%); none explicitly focussed on MSK health. Policy strategies were coded into three categories: (1) general principles for people-centred NCD care; (2) service delivery; (3) system strengthening. Four policies described strategies to address MSK health in some way, mostly related to injury care. Priorities and opportunities for HSS for MSK health identified by KIs aligned with broader strategies targeting NCDs identified in the policies. MSK health is not currently prioritized in NCD health policies among selected LMICs. However, opportunities to address the MSK-attributed disability burden exist through integrating MSK-specific HSS initiatives with initiatives targeting NCDs generally and injury and trauma care.

Global Surgery 2030: a roadmap for high income country actors.

The Millennium Development Goals have ended and the Sustainable Development Goals have begun, marking a shift in the global health landscape. The frame of reference has changed from a focus on 8 development priorities to an expansive set of 17 interrelated goals intended to improve the well-being of all people. In this time of change, several groups, including the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, have brought a critical problem to the fore: 5 billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care when needed. The magnitude of this problem and the world’s new focus on strengthening health systems mandate reimagined roles for and renewed commitments from high income country actors in global surgery. To discuss the way forward, on 6 May 2015, the Commission held its North American launch event in Boston, Massachusetts. Panels of experts outlined the current state of knowledge and agreed on the roles of surgical colleges and academic medical centres; trainees and training programmes; academia; global health funders; the biomedical devices industry, and news media and advocacy organisations in building sustainable, resilient surgical systems. This paper summarises these discussions and serves as a consensus statement providing practical advice to these groups. It traces a common policy agenda between major actors and provides a roadmap for maximising benefit to surgical patients worldwide. To close the access gap by 2030, individuals and organisations must work collectively, interprofessionally and globally. High income country actors must abandon colonial narratives and work alongside low and middle income country partners to build the surgical systems of the future.