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Preview: Health Policy and Planning - current issue

Health Policy and Planning Current Issue

Published: Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2018 04:44:36 GMT


Thank You to Reviewers 2017

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Health Policy and Planning depends on a dedicated and generous group of reviewers. Below is a list of reviewers from 2017 to whom we would like to express our sincere appreciation. Your efforts have resulted in the publication of more than 150 papers. We hope that this high-quality research will continue to guide and support health systems development in low- and middle-income countries.

How to assess and prepare health systems in low- and middle-income countries for integration of services—a systematic review

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Despite growing support for integration of frontline services, a lack of information about the pre-conditions necessary to integrate such services hampers the ability of policy makers and implementers to assess how feasible or worthwhile integration may be, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We adopted a modified systematic review with aspects of realist review, including quantitative and qualitative studies that incorporated assessment of health system preparedness for and capacity to implement integrated services. We searched Medline via Ovid, Web of Science and the Cochrane library using terms adapted from Dudley and Garner’s systematic review on integration in LMICs. From an initial list of 10 550 articles, 206 were selected for full-text review by two reviewers who independently reviewed articles and inductively extracted and synthesized themes related to health system preparedness. We identified five ‘context’ related categories and four health system ‘capability’ themes. The contextual enabling and constraining factors for frontline service integration were: (1) the organizational framework of frontline services, (2) health care worker preparedness, (3) community and client preparedness, (4) upstream logistics and (5) policy and governance issues. The intersecting health system capabilities identified were the need for: (1) sufficiently functional frontline health services, (2) sufficiently trained and motivated health care workers, (3) availability of technical tools and equipment suitable to facilitate integrated frontline services and (4) appropriately devolved authority and decision-making processes to enable frontline managers and staff to adapt integration to local circumstances. Moving beyond claims that integration is defined differently by different programs and thus unsuitable for comparison, this review demonstrates that synthesis is possible. It presents a common set of contextual factors and health system capabilities necessary for successful service integration which may be considered indicators of preparedness and could form the basis for an ‘integration preparedness tool’.

Cost-effectiveness of health systems strengthening interventions in improving maternal and child health in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Health systems strengthening (HSS) interventions are increasingly being implemented to improve maternal and child health (MCH) services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study reviews global literature on cost-effectiveness of HSS interventions in improving MCH. A systematic review was conducted. Keywords, based on World Health Organization framework on health systems and prior studies, were applied to search in bibliographic databases and on the web. Articles that estimated cost-effectiveness of HSS interventions in LMICs were included in the analysis. Each of the 24 selected studies from 15 countries was assessed in terms of quality and biases using Cochrane’s criteria. Review Manager and an Excel template were used to extract data and synthesize findings. HSS interventions concentrated on the components of service delivery, health financing, human resources and quality improvement. Within each component, there existed diverse strategies to strengthen health systems. Among the 24 studies, 15 were rated as high quality, 5 as medium and 4 as low quality. A majority of studies reported cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted or cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained; other studies reported cost per life saved or life year gained. However, studies used mixed perspectives of analyses. Compared with gross domestic product per capita, interventions in studies reporting cost per DALY averted or QALY gained were all cost-effective, including performance-based financing, health insurance and quality improvement. This review shows the diversity of HSS interventions in improving MCH, and their potential cost-effectiveness. However, the different perspectives employed in the studies, costing components included in the analyses, and heterogeneous measures of effectiveness and outputs, made it challenging to compare cost-effectiveness across all studies, calling for more and standardized cost-effectiveness studies. For policy making, it is critical to examine long-term cost-effectiveness of programs and cost-effectiveness of synergistic demand- and supply-side interventions.

Success factors for implementing and sustaining a mature electronic medical record in a low-resource setting: a case study of iSanté in Haiti

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Electronic health information systems, including electronic medical records (EMRs), have the potential to improve access to information and quality of care, among other things. Success factors and challenges for novel EMR implementations in low-resource settings have increasingly been studied, although less is known about maturing systems and sustainability. One systematic review identified seven categories of implementation success factors: ethical, financial, functionality, organizational, political, technical and training. This case study applies this framework to iSanté, Haiti’s national EMR in use in more than 100 sites and housing records for more than 750 000 patients. The author group, consisting of representatives of different agencies within the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP), funding partner the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Haiti, and implementing partner the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), identify successes and lessons learned according to the seven identified categories, and propose an additional cross-cutting category, sustainability. Factors important for long-term implementation success of complex information systems are balancing investments in hardware and software infrastructure upkeep, user capacity and data quality control; designing and building a system within the context of the greater eHealth ecosystem with a plan for interoperability and data exchange; establishing system governance and strong leadership to support local system ownership and planning for system financing to ensure sustainability. Lessons learned from 10 years of implementation of the iSanté EMR system are relevant to sustainability of a full range of increasingly interrelated information systems (e.g. for laboratory, supply chain, pharmacy and human resources) in the health sector in low-resource settings.

Social costs of illicit financial flows in low- and middle-income countries: the case of infant vaccination coverage

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The liberalization of capital flows is generally associated with prospects of higher growth. However, in developing countries, opening the capital account may also facilitate the flow of capital out of the country through illicit financial flows (IFFs). Given that IFFs drain the scarce public resources available to finance the provision of public goods and services, the extent of illicit capital flows from developing countries is serious cause for concern. In this context, as a first step in analysing the social costs of IFFs in developing countries, this article studied the relationship between IFFs and infant immunization coverage rates. Data for 56 low- and middle-income countries for the period 2002–13 were used in the empirical analysis. The main result was that the relative level of IFFs to total trade negatively impacted vaccination coverage but only in the case of countries with very high levels of perceived corruption. In this case, the total effect of an annual 1 p.p. increase in the ratio of IFFs to total trade was to reduce the level of vaccination coverage rates over the coming years by 0.19 p.p. Given that there was an annual average of 18 million infants in this cluster of 25 countries, this result suggests that at least 34 000 children may not receive this basic health care intervention in the future as a consequence of this increase in IFFs in any particular year.

How do external donors influence national health policy processes? Experiences of domestic policy actors in Cambodia and Pakistan

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Although concerns have historically been raised about the influence of external donors on health policy process in recipient countries, remarkably few studies have investigated perspectives and experiences of domestic policymakers and advisers. This study examines donor influence at different stages of the health policy process (priority setting, policy formulation, policy implementation and monitoring and evaluation) in two aid-dependent LMICs, Cambodia and Pakistan. It identifies mechanisms through which asymmetries in influence between donors and domestic policy actors emerge. We conducted 24 key informant interviews—14 in Pakistan and 10 in Cambodia—with high-level decision-makers who inform or authorize health priority setting, allocate resources and/or are responsible for policy implementation, identifying three routes of influence: financial resources, technical expertise and indirect financial and political incentives. We used both inductive and deductive approaches to analyse the data. Our findings indicate that different routes of influence emerged depending on the stage of the policy process. Control of financial resources was the most commonly identified route by which donors influenced priority setting and policy implementation. Greater (perceived) technical expertise played an important role in donor influence at the policy formulation stage. Donors’ power in influencing decisions, particularly during the final (monitoring and evaluation) stage of the policy process, was mediated by their ability to control indirect financial and political incentives as well as direct control of financial resources. This study thus helps unpack the nuances of donor influence over health policymaking in these settings, and can potentially indicate areas that require attention to increase the ownership of domestic actors of their countries’ health policy processes.

Thresholds for decision-making: informing the cost-effectiveness and affordability of rotavirus vaccines in Malaysia

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Cost-effectiveness thresholds (CETs) based on the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH) are extensively used in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) lacking locally defined CETs. These thresholds were originally intended for global and regional prioritization, and do not reflect local context or affordability at the national level, so their value for informing resource allocation decisions has been questioned. Using these thresholds, rotavirus vaccines are widely regarded as cost-effective interventions in LMICs. However, high vaccine prices remain a barrier towards vaccine introduction. This study aims to evaluate the cost-effectiveness, affordability and threshold price of universal rotavirus vaccination at various CETs in Malaysia. Cost-effectiveness of Rotarix and RotaTeq were evaluated using a multi-cohort model. Pan American Health Organization Revolving Fund’s vaccine prices were used as tender price, while the recommended retail price for Malaysia was used as market price. We estimate threshold prices defined as prices at which vaccination becomes cost-effective, at various CETs reflecting economic theories of human capital, societal willingness-to-pay and marginal productivity. A budget impact analysis compared programmatic costs with the healthcare budget. At tender prices, both vaccines were cost-saving. At market prices, cost-effectiveness differed with thresholds used. At market price, using ‘CMH thresholds’, Rotarix programmes were cost-effective and RotaTeq were not cost-effective from the healthcare provider’s perspective, while both vaccines were cost-effective from the societal perspective. Using other CETs, both vaccines were not cost-effective at market price, from the healthcare provider’s and societal perspectives. At tender and cost-effective prices, rotavirus vaccination cost ∼1 and 3% of the public health budget, respectively. Using locally defined thresholds, rotavirus vaccination is cost-effective at vaccine prices in line with international tenders, but not at market prices. Thresholds representing marginal productivity are likely to be lower than those reflecting human capital and individual preference measures, and may be useful in determining affordable vaccine prices.

Scaling up newborn care in Afghanistan: opportunities and challenges for the health sector

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Newborn health in Afghanistan is receiving increased attention, but reduction in newborn deaths there has not kept pace with declines in maternal and child mortality. Using the continuum of care and health systems building block frameworks, this article identifies, organizes and provides a synthesis of the available evidence on and gaps in coverage of care and health systems, programmes, policies and practices related to newborn health in Afghanistan. Newborn mortality in Afghanistan is related to the nation’s weak health system, itself associated with decades of conflict, low and uneven coverage of essential interventions, demand-side and cultural specificities, and compromised quality. A majority of deliveries still take place at home. Birth asphyxia, low birth weight, perinatal infections and poor post-natal care are responsible for many preventable newborn deaths. Though the situation has improved, there remain many opportunities to accelerate progress. Analyses conducted using the Lives Saved Tools suggest that an additional 10 405 newborn lives could be saved in Afghanistan in 5 years (2015–20), through reasonable increases in coverage of these high-impact interventions. A long-term vision and strong leadership are essential for the Ministry of Public Health to play an effective stewardship role in formulating related policy and strategy, setting standards and monitoring maternal and newborn services. Promotion of equitable access to health services, including health workforce planning, development and management, and the coordination of much-needed donor support are also imperative.

‘The money can be a motivator, to me a little, but mostly PBF just helps me to do better in my job.’ An exploration of the motivational mechanisms of performance-based financing for health workers in Malawi

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Performance-based financing (PBF) is assumed to improve health care delivery by motivating health workers to enhance their work performance. However, the exact motivational mechanisms through which PBF is assumed to produce such changes are poorly understood to date. Although PBF is increasingly recognized as a complex health systems intervention, its motivational effect for individual health workers is still often reduced to financial ‘carrots and sticks’ in the literature and discourse. Aiming to contribute to the development of a more comprehensive understanding of the motivational mechanisms, we explored how PBF impacted health worker motivation in the context of the Malawian Results-based Financing for Maternal and Newborn Health (RBF4MNH) Initiative. We conducted in-depth interviews with 41 nurses, medical assistants and clinical officers from primary- and secondary-level health facilities 1 and 2 years after the introduction of RBF4MNH in 2013. Six categories of motivational mechanisms emerged: RBF4MNH motivated health workers to improve their performance (1) by acting as a periodic wake-up call to deficiencies in their day-to-day practice; (2) by providing direction and goals to work towards; (3) by strengthening perceived ability to perform successfully at work and triggering a sense of accomplishment; (4) by instilling feelings of recognition; (5) by altering social dynamics, improving team work towards a common goal, but also introducing social pressure; and (6) by offering a ‘nice to have’ opportunity to earn extra income. However, respondents also perceived weaknesses of the intervention design, implementation-related challenges and contextual constraints that kept RBF4MNH from developing its full motivating potential. Our results underline PBF’s potential to affect health workers’ motivation in ways which go far beyond the direct effects of financial rewards to individuals. We strongly recommend considering all motivational mechanisms more explicitly in future PBF design to fully exploit the approach’s capacity for enhancing health worker performance.

How to do (or not to do)… Measuring health worker motivation in surveys in low- and middle-income countries

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

A health system’s ability to deliver quality health care depends on the availability of motivated health workers, which are insufficient in many low income settings. Increasing policy and researcher attention is directed towards understanding what drives health worker motivation and how different policy interventions affect motivation, as motivation is key to performance and quality of care outcomes. As a result, there is growing interest among researchers in measuring motivation within health worker surveys. However, there is currently limited guidance on how to conceptualize and approach measurement and how to validate or analyse motivation data collected from health worker surveys, resulting in inconsistent and sometimes poor quality measures. This paper begins by discussing how motivation can be conceptualized, then sets out the steps in developing questions to measure motivation within health worker surveys and in ensuring data quality through validity and reliability tests. The paper also discusses analysis of the resulting motivation measure/s. This paper aims to promote high quality research that will generate policy relevant and useful evidence.

Treatment of tuberculosis in complex emergencies in developing countries: a scoping review

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Almost 172 million people live in complex emergencies globally resulting from political and/or economic instability. The provision and continuity of health care in complex emergencies remain a significant challenge. Health agencies are often hesitant to implement tuberculosis programmes in particular because its treatment requires a longer commitment than most acute diseases. However, not treating tuberculosis promptly increases mortality and untreated tuberculosis further increases the incidence of tuberculosis. Given that complex emergencies are increasing globally, there is an urgent need to analyse the available evidence to improve our understanding of how best to deliver tuberculosis programmes in such settings. Using a scoping review method, we selected and analysed 15 studies on tuberculosis programmes in complex emergencies. We found that despite the challenges, tuberculosis programmes have been successful in complex emergencies. We identified seven cross-cutting factors that were found to be important: service providers and treatment regime, training and supervision, donor support, adherence, leadership and coordination, monitoring and government and community support. In general, programmes showed greater creativity and flexibility to adapt to the local conditions and at times, it also meant diverting from the WHO guidelines. We identify areas of further research including the need to study the effectiveness of programmes that divert from the WHO guidelines and their implication on drug resistance.

The silencing of political context in health research in Ethiopia: why it should be a concern

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

In 2004, the Ethiopian government launched what has been called an innovative and groundbreaking solution to the country’s public health challenges; the Health Extension Programme (HEP). The positive public health outcomes that have been reported following the implementation of the HEP have led researchers and global health actors to propose it as a model for other countries to emulate. In this systematic review, we point to a potential weakness and methodological bias in the existing research. Despite being implemented within a context of an increasingly authoritarian regime, research conducted following the implementation of HEP reflects a limited discussion of the political context. Following a discussion of why political context is marginalized we provide arguments for why a focus on political context is important: first, political context has an impact on health systems and actualizes questions related to good governance and ethics. While some of the studies we reviewed acknowledge the importance of political factors we contend that the one-sided focus on the positive relationship between political will, political commitment and political leadership on the one hand, and key public health outcomes on the other, reflects a narrow engagement with health system governance frameworks. This leads to a silencing of issues actualized by the authoritarian nature of the Ethiopian regime. Secondly, the political context has methodological implications. More specifically, we contend that the current political situation increases the probability of social desirability bias. In order to balance the overarching positive literature on Ethiopia’s health system, research that takes the political context into account is much needed.

Health system factors affecting implementation of integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI): qualitative insights from a South African province

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy has been adopted by 102 countries including South Africa, as the preferred primary health care (PHC) delivery strategy for sick children under 5 years. Despite substantial investment to support IMCI in South Africa, its delivery remains sub-optimal, with varied implementation in different settings. There is scarce research globally, and in the local context, examining the effects of health system characteristics on IMCI implementation. This study explored key determinants of IMCI delivery in a South African province, with a specific focus on health system building blocks using a health system dynamics framework. In-depth interviews were conducted with 38 districts, provincial and national respondents involved with IMCI co-ordination and delivery, exploring their involvement in, and perceptions of, IMCI strategy implementation. Identified barriers included poor definition of elements of a service package for children and how IMCI aligned with this, incompetence of trained nurses exacerbated by inappropriate rotation practices, use of inappropriate indicators to track progress, multiple cadres coordinating similar activities with poor role delineation, and fragmented, vertical governance of programmes included within IMCI, such as immunization. Enabling practices in one district included the use of standardized child health records incorporating IMCI activities and stringent practice monitoring through record audits. Using IMCI as a case study, our work highlights critical health system deficiencies affecting service delivery for young children which need to be resolved to reposition IMCI within the broader child ‘survive, thrive and transform’ agenda. Recommendations for appropriate health system strengthening include the need for redefining IMCI within a broader PHC service package for children, prioritizing post-training supervision and mentoring of practitioners through appropriate duty allocation and rotation policies, strengthening IMCI monitoring with a specific focus on quality of care and building stronger clinical governance through workforce allocation, role delineation and improved accountability.

The influence of gender and household headship on voluntary health insurance: the case of North-West Cameroon

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Within the existing health financing literature, males are typically categorized as the household‘s decision-makers. While this view accurately reflects many local sociocultural realities, approximately a quarter of sub-Saharan African households are now headed by females. In light of various efforts to expand health insurance coverage in the region, it is necessary to examine whether the factors influencing voluntary health insurance enrolment are analogous across male- and female-headed households. This study sought to identify the gendered determinants of voluntary enrolment into a church-run micro health insurance scheme. A cross-sectional survey of 550 households was carried out in Bui and Donga-Mantung Divisions of North-West Cameroon in May 2016. A structured questionnaire was administered on health insurance membership, household attributes, headship characteristics and health-seeking behaviour. We assessed the influence of gender on the associations between health insurance enrolment and the explanatory variables using logistic regression. This study found that voluntary health insurance demand was influenced by involvement in social networks regardless of gender. However, in line with entrenched household roles, men’s understanding of potential household health risks ultimately facilitated their enrolment decisions, while economically empowered women prioritised their direct knowledge of household health risks. Men’s demand for health insurance was correlated primarily with their education level (OR = 2.238 [CI 1.228–2.552]), as well as with their socioeconomic status (OR = 2.207 [CI 1.173–4.153]), age (OR = 2.238 [CI 1.151–4.352]) and trust of the insurance provider (OR = 4.770 [CI 2.407–9.453]). Conversely, women’s enrolment decision was primarily associated with their income levels (OR = 5.842 [CI 1.589–21.484]), as well as by the presence of children (OR = 3.734 [CI 1.228–11.348]). The influence of wealth on health insurance enrolment highlights the need for policymakers to subsidize health insurance schemes for vulnerable population groups. Further, it is imperative to develop sensitization campaigns that are simple and digestible to facilitate understanding of health insurance across all target groups.

Assessing the contraceptive supply environment in Kinshasa, DRC: trend data from PMA2020

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) is a population-based and facility-based survey program conducted in 11 countries to track contraceptive use dynamics and the supply environment. Annual data collection provides trend data unavailable from any other source. Two-stage cluster sampling was used to select 58 enumeration areas in Kinshasa; data were collected in 2014, 2015 and 2016 from three to six service delivery points (SDPs) per EA. Of the 228–248 SDPs surveyed each year, only two-thirds reported to offer family planning (FP) services. Of those reporting to offer FP, one-fifth or more did not do so on the day of the survey. As of 2016, only one-half of SDPs offering FP had at least three methods available, a proxy for contraceptive choice; only one in five had at least five methods. Long-acting reversible contraceptives, including implants and IUDs, were less widely offered and more often stocked out than resupply methods, including condoms, pills and injectables. Contraceptive stockouts were rampant: in 2016, over a quarter of the SDPs experienced stockouts of all methods (except condoms) in the previous 3 months, and two of the three most widely used methods—implants and injectables—were also the most likely to be stocked out. The findings documented the inconsistency in pricing of methods across facilities; moreover, less than one quarter of SDPs posted prices. Patterns in the contraceptive supply environment remained relatively unchanged between 2014 and 2016. The PMA2020 SDP module provides timely, actionable information to the DRC government, FP implementing organizations and donors involved in FP service delivery in Kinshasa, DRC. Yet the value of this information will be determined by the ability of the local FP stakeholders to use it in bringing the needed improvements identified by this survey to the contraceptive supply environment.