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Preview: Health Policy and Planning - current issue

Health Policy and Planning Current Issue

Published: Fri, 21 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2017 07:44:23 GMT


Thank you to reviewers 2016


Health Policy and Planning depends on a dedicated and generous group of reviewers. Below is a list of reviewers from 2016 to whom we would like to express our sincere appreciation. Your efforts have resulted in the publication of more than 160 papers. We hope that this high-quality research will continue to guide and support health systems development in low- and middle-income countries.

Building a middle-range theory of free public healthcare seeking in sub-Saharan Africa: a realist review


Realist reviews are a new form of knowledge synthesis aimed at providing middle-range theories (MRTs) that specify how interventions work, for which populations, and under what circumstances. This approach opens the ‘black box’ of an intervention by showing how it triggers mechanisms in specific contexts to produce outcomes. We conducted a realist review of health user fee exemption policies (UFEPs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This article presents how we developed both the intervention theory (IT) of UFEPs and a MRT of free public healthcare seeking in SSA, building on Sen’s capability approach. Over the course of this iterative process, we explored theoretical writings on healthcare access, services use, and healthcare seeking behaviour. We also analysed empirical studies on UFEPs and healthcare access in free care contexts. According to the IT, free care at the point of delivery is a resource allowing users to make choices about their use of public healthcare services, choices previously not generally available to them. Users’ ability to choose to seek free care is influenced by structural, local, and individual conversion factors. We tested this IT on 69 empirical studies selected on the basis of their scientific rigor and relevance to the theory. From that analysis, we formulated a MRT on seeking free public healthcare in SSA. It highlights three key mechanisms in users’ choice to seek free public healthcare: trust, risk awareness and acceptability. Contextual elements that influence both users’ ability and choice to seek free care include: availability of and control over resources at the individual level; characteristics of users’ and providers’ communities at the local level; and health system organization, governance and policies at the structural level.

Health facility management and access: a qualitative analysis of challenges to seeking healthcare for children under five in Uganda


While several studies have documented the various barriers that caretakers of children under five routinely confront when seeking healthcare in Uganda, few have sought to capture the ways in which caretakers themselves prioritize their own barriers to seeking services. To that end, we asked focus groups of caretakers to list their five greatest challenges to seeking care on behalf of children under five. Using qualitative content analysis, we grouped responses according to four categories: (1) geographical access barriers; (2) facility supplies, staffing, and infrastructural barriers; (3) facility management and administration barriers (e.g. health worker professionalism, absenteeism and customer care); and (4) household barriers related to financial circumstances, domestic conflicts with male partners and a stated lack of knowledge about health-related issues. Among all focus groups, caretakers mentioned supplies, staffing and infrastructure barriers most often and facility management and administration barriers the least. Caretakers living furthest from public facilities (8–10 km) more commonly mentioned geographical barriers to care and barriers related to financial and other personal circumstances. Caretakers who lived closest to health facilities mentioned facility management and administration barriers twice as often as those who lived further away. While targeting managerial barriers is vitally important—and increasingly popular among national planners and donors–it should be done while recognizing that alleviating such barriers may have a more muted effect on caretakers who are geographically harder to reach – and by extension, those whose children have an increased risk of mortality. In light of calls for greater equity in child survival programming – and given the limited resource envelopes that policymakers often have at their disposal – attention to the barriers considered most vital among caretakers in different settings should be weighed.

Drivers of health system strengthening: learning from implementation of maternal and child health programmes in Mozambique, Nepal and Rwanda


There is a growing understanding that strong health systems are crucial to sustain progress. Health systems, however, are complex and much of their success depends on factors operating at different levels and outside the health system, including broader governance and political commitment to health and social development priorities. Recognizing these complexities, this article offers a pragmatic approach to exploring the drivers of progress in maternal and child health in Mozambique, Nepal and Rwanda. To do this, the article builds on a semi-systematic literature review and case study findings, designed and analysed using a multi-level framework. At the macro level, governance with effective and committed leaders was found to be vital for achieving positive health outcomes. This was underpinned by clear commitment from donors coupled by a significant increase in funding to the health sector. At the meso level, where policies are operationalized, inter-sectoral partnerships as well as decentralization and task-shifting emerged as critical. At micro (service interface) level, community-centred models and accessible and appropriately trained and incentivized local health providers play a central role in all study countries. The key drivers of progress are multiple, interrelated and transversal in terms of their operation; they are also in a constant state of flux as health systems and contexts develop. Without seeking to offer a blueprint, the study demonstrates that a ‘whole-system’ approach can help elicit the key drivers of change and potential pathways towards desirable outcomes. Furthermore, understanding the challenges and opportunities that are instrumental to progress at each particular level of a health system can help policy-makers and implementers to navigate this complexity and take action to strengthen health systems.

Did contracting effect the use of primary health care units in Pakistan?


For many years, Pakistan has had a wide network of Basic Health Units spread across the country, but their utilization by the population in rural and peri-urban areas has remained low. As of 2004, in an attempt to improve the utilization and performance of these public primary healthcare facilities, the government has gradually started contracting-in intergovernmental organizations to manage these BHUs. Using five nationally representative household surveys conducted between 2001 and 2012, and exploiting the gradual roll-out of this reform to apply a difference-in-difference approach, we evaluate its impact on BHU utilization. We find that contracting of the BHU management did not have any effect on health care use generally in the population, but it did significantly increase the use of BHU for childhood diarrhoea for the poor (by 4% points) and rural (3% points) households. These increases were accompanied by lower rates of self-treatment and private facilities usage. We do not find any significant effects on the self-reported satisfaction with BHU utilization. Our findings contrast with earlier small-scale studies that reported larger effects of the contracting of primary care in Pakistan. We speculate that the modest additional budget, the limited management authority of the contracting agency and the lack of clear performance indicators are reasons for the small impact of the contracting reform. Apparently critical aspects of services delivery such as location of BHUs, ineffective referral system and medical practice variation in public and private sectors have contributed to the overall low utilization of BHUs, yet these were beyond the scope of the contracting reform.

Can school-based distribution be used to maintain coverage of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets: evidence from a large scale programme in southern Tanzania?


Many sub-Saharan African countries have achieved substantial gains in insecticide treated bednet coverage since 2005. The Tanzania National Malaria Control Programme identified school-based net distribution as one potential ‘keep-up’ strategy for the purpose of maintaining long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) coverage after a nationwide mass campaign in 2011. The School Net Programme (SNP) was implemented in three regions of southern Tanzania and distributed one LLIN to each enrolled child attending schools in primary grades (standards) 1, 3, 5 and 7, and secondary grades (forms) 2 and 4 in 2013 and again with slightly modified eligibility criteria in 2014 and 2015. Household surveys in the programme area as well as in a control area were conducted after each of the SNP distributions to measure ownership and use of long-lasting insecticide treated nets. Ownership of at least one LLIN after the first distribution was 76.1% (95% CI 70.8–80.7) in the intervention area and 78.6% (95% CI 74.4–82.3) in the control area. After the second distribution, ownership of at least one LLIN had dropped significantly in the control area to 65.4% (95% CI 59.5–71.0) in 2015 (P < 0.001), while coverage in the intervention area was maintained at 79.3% (95% CI 75.4 × 82.6). Ownership of at least one LLIN in intervention area remained stable following the second round of net distribution. During the same period LLIN ownership, especially of enough nets to ensure all household member access, fell significantly in the control area. These results demonstrate that the SNP may be sufficient to maintain stable LLIN coverage following a mass distribution of LLINs.

Understanding the linkages between social safety nets and childhood violence: a review of the evidence from low- and middle-income countries


As many as one billion children experience violence every year, and household- and community-level poverty are among the risk factors for child protection violations. Social safety nets (SSNs) are a main policy tool to address poverty and vulnerability, and there is substantial evidence demonstrating positive effects on children’s health and human capital. This paper reviews evidence and develops a framework to understand linkages between non-contributory SSNs and the experience of childhood emotional, physical and sexual violence in low- and middle-income countries. We catalogue 14 rigorous impact evaluations, 11 of which are completed, analysing 57 unique impacts on diverse violence indicators. Among these impacts, approximately one in five represent statistically significant protective effects on childhood violence. Promising evidence relates to sexual violence among female adolescents in Africa, while there is less clear evidence of significant impacts in other parts of the developing world, and on young child measures, including violent discipline. Further, few studies are set up to meaningfully unpack mechanisms between SSNs and childhood violence; however, those most commonly hypothesized operate at the household level (through increases in economic security and reductions in poverty-related stress), the interpersonal level (improved parental behaviours, caregiving practices, improved psychosocial well-being) and at the child-level (protective education and decreases in problem or risky behaviours). It is important to emphasize that traditional SSNs are never designed with violence prevention as primary objectives, and thus should not be considered as standalone interventions to reduce risks for childhood violence. However, SSNs, particularly within integrated protection systems, appear to have potential to reduce violence risk. Linkages between SSNs and childhood violence are understudied, and investments should be made to close this evidence gap.

Investments in children’s health and the Kenyan cash transfer for orphans and vulnerable children: evidence from an unconditional cash transfer scheme


Child mortality is one of the most pressing global health and policy issues in the developing world. The leading drivers of death—pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria—are preventable and treatable. However, these illnesses are exacerbated by a lack of accessible nutrition, water, basic and preventive health services, and sanitary living conditions—all factors which are more likely to disproportionately impact the poor. We examine whether Kenya’s largest social protection impacts children’s incidence of upper respiratory illness. The Kenya Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children was designed to support orphans affected by HIV/AIDS and has covered over 240,000 households as of 2014. Using longitudinal, cluster-randomized program data from 2007 to 2009, we run a generalized linear latent and mixed method estimation model on a sample of children 0–7 years and under-5 years of age. We find that the program is associated with a decrease in illness in children 0–7 years of age (P < 0.05), but found no effects on a stratified sample of under-5 children. Furthermore, no impacts on health care seeking in the event of illness were detected. This study is one of few examining children’s health using data from a large scale unconditional cash transfer program. With the widespread adoption of over 123 cash transfer programs across sub-Saharan Africa, these findings suggest social cash transfer programs are capable of promoting the multidimensional well-being for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Culture matters: indigenizing patient safety in Bhutan


Studies show that if quality of healthcare in a country is to be achieved, due consideration must be given to the importance of the core cultural values as a critical factor in improving patient safety outcomes. The influence of Bhutan’s traditional (core) cultural values on the attitudes and behaviours of healthcare professionals regarding patient care are not known. This study aimed to explore the possible influence of Bhutan’s traditional cultural values on staff attitudes towards patient safety and quality care. Undertaken as a qualitative exploratory descriptive inquiry, a purposeful sample of 94 healthcare professionals and managers were recruited from three levels of hospitals, a training institute and the Ministry of Health. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis strategies. The findings of the study suggest that Bhutanese traditional cultural values have both productive and counterproductive influences on staff attitudes towards healthcare delivery and the processes that need to be in place to ensure patient safety. Productive influences encompassed: karmic incentives to avoid preventable harm and promote safe patient care; and the prospective adoption of the ‘four harmonious friends’ as a culturally meaningful frame for improving understanding of the role and importance of teamwork in enhancing patient safety. Counterproductive influences included: the adoption of hierarchical and authoritative styles of management; unilateral decision-making; the legitimization of karmic beliefs; differential treatment of patients; and preferences for traditional healing practices and rituals. Although problematic in some areas, Bhutan’s traditional cultural values could be used positively to inform and frame an effective model for improving patient safety in Bhutan’s hospitals. Such a model must entail the institution of an ‘indigenized’ patient safety program, with patient safety research and reporting systems framed around local patient safety concerns and solutions, including religious and cultural concepts, values and perspectives.

Horizontal inequity in outpatient care use and untreated morbidity: evidence from nationwide surveys in India between 1995 and 2014


Equity in healthcare has been a long-term guiding principle of health policy in India. We estimate the change in horizontal inequities in healthcare use over two decades comparing the older population (60 years or more) with the younger population (under 60 years). We used data from the nationwide healthcare surveys conducted in India by the National Sample Survey Organization in 1995–96 and 2014 with sample sizes 633 405 and 335 499, respectively. Bivariate and multivariate logit regression analyses were used to study the socioeconomic differentials in self-reported morbidity (SRM), outpatient care and untreated morbidity. Deviations in the degree to which healthcare was distributed according to need were measured by horizontal inequity index (HI). In each consumption quintile the older population had four times higher SRM and outpatient care rate than the younger population in 2014. In 1995–96, the pro-rich inequity in outpatient care was higher for the older (HI: 0.085; 95% CI: 0.066, 0.103) than the younger population (0.039; 0.034, 0.043), but by 2014 this inequity became similar. Untreated morbidity was concentrated among the poor; more so for the older (−0.320; −0.391, −0.249) than the younger (−0.176; −0.211, −0.141) population in 2014. The use of public facilities increased most in the poorest and poor quintiles; the increase was higher for the older than the younger population in the poorest (1.19 times) and poor (1.71 times) quintiles. The use of public facilities was disproportionately higher for the poor in 2014 than in 1995–96 for the older (−0.189; −0.234, −0.145 vs − 0.065; −0.129, −0.001) and the younger (−0.145; −0.175, −0.115 vs − 0.056; −0.086, −0.026) population. The older population has much higher morbidity and is often more disadvantaged in obtaining treatment. Health policy in India should pay special attention to equity in access to healthcare for the older population.

Evaluating the impact of contracting out basic health care services in the state of São Paulo, Brazil


As a means of dealing with shortcomings in the coverage, quality and efficiency of the public health care sector, several municipalities in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, have started to contract pre-certified non-profit or non-governmental organizations to take part in the delivery of health care services.This paper explores the impact of introducing these contracts in the primary health care sector. Using data on the 645 municipalities in the state of São Paulo and difference-in-differences methods, we estimate the effect of contracting out in the primary health care sector on various dimensions of mortality and health care use. The results show that implementation of the contracting out strategy significantly increases the number of primary health care appointments by approximately one appointment per user of the national health care system per year. Point estimates indicate a reducing effect on hospitalization for preventable diseases.

Realizing the promise of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health


Reflecting on Storeng and Béhague (“Lives in the balance”: the politics of integration in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Health Policy and Planning Storeng and Béhague (2016).) historical ethnography of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), this commentary provides a more current account of PMNCH’s trajectory since its inception in 2005. It highlights PMNCH’s distinct characteristics and how it is positioned to play an instrumental role in the current global health landscape.

The effect of health insurance and health facility-upgrades on hospital deliveries in rural Nigeria: a controlled interrupted time-series study


Background: Access to quality obstetric care is considered essential to reducing maternal and new-born mortality. We evaluated the effect of the introduction of a multifaceted voluntary health insurance programme on hospital deliveries in rural Nigeria.Methods: We used an interrupted time-series design, including a control group. The intervention consisted of providing voluntary health insurance covering primary and secondary healthcare, including antenatal and obstetric care, combined with improving the quality of healthcare facilities. We compared changes in hospital deliveries from 1 May 2005 to 30 April 2013 between the programme area and control area in a difference-in-differences analysis with multiple time periods, adjusting for observed confounders. Data were collected through household surveys. Eligible households (n = 1500) were selected from a stratified probability sample of enumeration areas. All deliveries during the 4-year baseline period (n = 460) and 4-year follow-up period (n = 380) were included.Findings: Insurance coverage increased from 0% before the insurance was introduced to 70.2% in April 2013 in the programme area. In the control area insurance coverage remained 0% between May 2005 and April 2013. Although hospital deliveries followed a common stable trend over the 4 pre-programme years (P = 0.89), the increase in hospital deliveries during the 4-year follow-up period in the programme area was 29.3 percentage points (95% CI: 16.1 to 42.6; P < 0.001) greater than the change in the control area (intention-to-treat impact), corresponding to a relative increase in hospital deliveries of 62%. Women who did not enroll in health insurance but who could make use of the upgraded care delivered significantly more often in a hospital during the follow-up period than women living in the control area (P = 0.04).Conclusions: Voluntary health insurance combined with quality healthcare services is highly effective in increasing hospital deliveries in rural Nigeria, by improving access to healthcare for insured and uninsured women in the programme area.

Policy ideals and everyday politics in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health—the role of ethnography


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the commentary entitled ‘Realizing the Promise of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’ (Fassil et al. 2017), which comments on our historical ethnography of the Partnership’s early years (Storeng and Béhague 2016).

Cost-effectiveness of an HPV self-collection campaign in Uganda: comparing models for delivery of cervical cancer screening in a low-income setting


With the availability of a low-cost HPV DNA test that can be administered by either a healthcare provider or a woman herself, programme planners require information on the costs and cost-effectiveness of implementing cervical cancer screening programmes in low-resource settings under different models of healthcare delivery. Using data from the START-UP demonstration project and a micro-costing approach, we estimated the health and economic impact of once-in-a-lifetime HPV self-collection campaign relative to clinic-based provider-collection of HPV specimens in Uganda. We used an individual-based Monte Carlo simulation model of the natural history of HPV and cervical cancer to estimate lifetime health and economic outcomes associated with screening with HPV DNA testing once in a lifetime (clinic-based provider-collection vs a self-collection campaign). Test performance and cost data were obtained from the START-UP demonstration project using a micro-costing approach. Model outcomes included lifetime risk of cervical cancer, total lifetime costs (in 2011 international dollars [I$]), and life expectancy. Cost-effectiveness ratios were expressed using incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). When both strategies achieved 75% population coverage, ICERs were below Uganda’s per capita GDP (self-collection: I$80 per year of life saved [YLS]; provider-collection: I$120 per YLS). When the self-collection campaign achieved coverage gains of 15–20%, it was more effective than provider-collection, and had a lower ICER unless coverage with both strategies was 50% or less. Findings were sensitive to cryotherapy compliance among screen-positive women and relative HPV test performance. The primary limitation of this analysis is that self-collection costs are based on a hypothetical campaign but are based on unit costs from Uganda. Once-in-a-lifetime screening with HPV self-collection may be very cost-effective and reduce cervical cancer risk by > 20% if coverage is high. Demonstration projects will be needed to confirm the validity of our logistical, costing and compliance assumptions.