Posts or Comments 25 February 2021

Monthly Archive for "September 2014"



Communication &Community &Ebola Bill Brieger | 27 Sep 2014

Communication Challenges: Malaria or Ebola

The purpose of health education of behavior change communication (BCC) is to share ideas such that all sides of the communication process learn to act in ways that better control and prevent disease and promote health.  Both community members (clients) and health workers (providers) need to change behavior is their interaction to become a health promoting dialogue.

This dialogue becomes easier when all parties share some common perceptions about the issue at hand. Both health workers and community members can usually agree that malaria often presents with high body temperature. Also both usually agree that malaria can be disruptive of daily life and even be deadly.

But there are differences. While both may agree that there are different types of malaria, the health worker may mention different species of Plasmodium such as falciparum, ovale, vivax, malariae and now even knowlesi. The community member may think of yellow malaria, heavy malaria, aching malaria, and ordinary malaria. These differences may put acceptance of interventions to control malaria into jeopardy. Fortunately, current downward trends in malaria incidence imply that our communicants have more in common than not.

Cases 20140924Along comes Ebola Viral Disease in West Africa, which has killed around 3000 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria at this writing.  The disease has never been seen on that side of the continent before. It is spreading more rapidly than it even did in its previous East and Central African outbreaks.  How does one communicate with people – both community members and health workers – about a disease they have never seen before?

The following encounter reported by BBC shows the initial confusion.

Not infrequently in the last few weeks I’ve encountered people complaining of a headache or a night of intense sweating. They slide off to the hospital and reappear a day or two later with a bag full of drugs, and they laugh it off. “Oh yeah, there are so many mosquitoes at this time of year,” they say. Better it be ‘normal’ malaria than death (Ebola).

The confusion results in harmful changes in treatment seeking behavior according to the The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Misinformation and denial are keeping sick people from getting help. Some people are hiding from government officials and medical teams because they fear that if they go into quarantine, they will never see their loved ones again. Since the early symptoms of malaria and Ebola are similar, many malaria patients are not getting treatment. This crisis jeopardizes the progress toward improving access to health care generally.

In his blog, Larry Hollen summarizes the dilemma as follows: Both diseases disproportionately affect the poor and ill-informed Because Ebola and malaria have common early symptoms, such as fever, headache and vomiting, there may be confusion about the cause of illness among both those who are ill and health care providers.

Efforts to communicate the nature and dangers of Ebola have proceeded anyway. Posters, billboards, radio spots and even local volunteers with bullhorns, armed with information from the ministries of health or NGOs remind people that Ebola can kill and that people must report to a health facility for testing and care.

This top-down approach to communication often meets skepticism and suspicion. The messages also do not match reality when people find health centers closed due to loss of staff or health workers reluctant to see febrile patients fearing that they may have Ebola, not malaria. A health education dialogue cannot take place under such circumstances.

In fact suspicion is the order of the day. Sierra Leone and Liberia have emerged not long ago from brutal civil wars that not only destroyed must health and other infrastructure but killed much of their populations and alienated those who survived. Reinforcing this suspicion and distrust are militaristic approaches in both countries to contain the poor populations most affected.

False rumors are spreading that the international donors who are slowly rallying resources to fight the disease are actually the ones who may have created and started the spread of Ebola. It is unfortunately not surprising under such circumstances that a health education team going to a remote village in Guinea were killed.

Some positive approaches to Ebola communication have been documented including the use of trusted community health workers making door-to-door visits in Sierra Leone. More effort is needed to plan a more inclusive dialogue among all parties in order to halt the Ebola epidemic. Dialogue can start from the known – like the similarities with malaria – and move into the unknown. Drugs and vaccines will not be enough, if trust and good communication are lacking.

Health Systems &Research Bill Brieger | 24 Sep 2014

AHI: Achieving People Centered Health Systems in Five African Countries

The African Health Initiative (AHI) will be presenting a second panel During the upcoming Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Cape Town (30 September-3 October), entitled “Achieving People Centered Health Systems in Five African Countries: Lessons from the African Health Initiative.”

AHI was established in 2008 by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and seeks to catalyze significant advances in strengthening health systems by supporting partnerships that will design, implement and evaluate large-scale models of care that link implementation research and workforce training directly to the delivery of integrated primary healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa.

globalsymposium_logosThe five AHI country projects (Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia) will be sharing their experiences during the panel presentation. We will be tweeting at each panel presentation, and you can follow at: #HSG2014 and “Health  Systems Global” and “Bill Brieger Malaria“.

Highlights of the second panel follow:

Community health workers in Tanzania

Community health workers in Tanzania

It is a common claim that randomized controlled trials (RCT) are the ‘gold standard’ for scientific inference, with rigor derived from the imposition of stable interventions and statistically robust controls, and power derived from operational units as study observations. In health systems research, however, the ‘gold standard’ is more appropriately based on the relevance of research to decision-making. As a consequence, impact research is appropriately combined with implementation research, and units of observation are based on the way that systems function and decisions are made.

Mixed method complexity trials are indicated, with units of observation that integrate research with management processes. Presentations by scientists who are engaged in complexity trials in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia will highlight statistical designs that violate conventional standards of RCT, but derive rigor from mixed method research, hierarchical observation and modeling, and plausibility trials.

“Proof of utility” is derived from the operational adaptation of project implementation to local realities, monitoring process and outputs, testing impact, and revising strategies over time as needed. A learning process approach produces evidence-generating localities where operations serve as realistic models for large scale change in national systems.

DSCN6602aVarious terms used in the scientific literature to characterize this theme, such as ‘open systems theory’, the strategic approach, or participatory planning, each embracing the perspective that people centered service systems are essential to health systems strengthening. Practical examples of how to achieve people centered programming, however, are rare.

This panel presents five case studies that have confronted the challenge of developing, testing, and sustaining people-centered health systems in resource constrained settings of sub-Saharan Africa. These are outlined below.

– The Ghana Essential Health Interventions Programme tests the child survival impact system strengthening interventions. When monitoring identified perinatal health problems, priority was shifted to improving newborn and emergency referral services. Combined with political advocacy, changes increased access, improved quality, and expanded the range of services.

DSCN6373– The Mozambique project improves service quality by giving facility, district and provincial managers skills for identifying and fixing systems problems. Initial skills-building through training in leadership and management had only transitory effects. An evidence-driven redesign improved facility and district level operations and improved accountability.

– In Rwanda health-center-focused quality improvement data identified strategies for compensating health centers for reaching specific operational goals. Initial results show that the scheme has enhanced performance and fostered cross-center learning.

– The Tanzania Connect Project tests the survival impact of deploying community health workers. Connect monitoring showed that unmet need for family planning was inadequately addressed. Connect was redesigned to include comprehensive doorstep family planning services.

Zambia’s Better Health Care Outcomes through Mentorship and Assessment project was developed from people centered lessons emerging from scaling up an HIV program. A 42 cluster stepped wedge tests the impact of improving outpatient care with training, structured forms, electronic data capture, and community engagement. In response to implementation challenges, volunteer density was increased and mortality and clinical data capture operations were reformed.

While the studies employ contrasting designs, the projects share an adaptive approach to implementation. A concluding session summarizes lessons learned and implications for health systems strengthening in Africa.

Uncategorized Bill Brieger | 22 Sep 2014

Improving the Quality of Primary Health Care in Five African Countries

The African Health Initiative (AHI), established in 2008 by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, seeks to catalyze significant advances in strengthening health systems by supporting partnerships that will design, implement and evaluate large-scale models of care that link implementation research and workforce training directly to the delivery of integrated primary healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa.

globalsymposium_logosDuring the upcoming Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Cape Town (30 September-3 October, the five AHI country projects (Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia) will be sharing their experiences in panel presentations. We will be tweeting at each panel presentation, and you can follow at: #HSG2014 and “Health  Systems Global” and “Bill Brieger Malaria“.

DSCN7134The first AHI panel is entitled “The Design, Implementation, and Preliminary Results of African Health Initiative (AHI) Strategies for Improving the Quality of Primary Health Care in Five Countries.” Please see an overview below.

Ever since the historic Alma Ata Conference called for national and international action to develop and implement primary health care throughout the world, research has been focused on the challenge of improving the accessibility and quality of health services in Africa. Although many promising interventions have emerged from such efforts, their full potential to improve the health of African families has been hindered by inter-connected systemic manpower, logistics, management, resource, and leadership problems. As a result, basic primary health care remains inaccessible and unaffordable to most families living in this region.

The African Health Initiative (AHI) aims to develop and test feasible means of solving these problems by implementing comprehensive packages of health strengthening interventions in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. The country teams participating in the AHI have created important healthcare-related innovations and have research capabilities that can be used to rigorously evaluate each project’s impact. All five projects have developed means of improving the quality of health services and assessing the impact of respective systems improvement strategies on childhood survival.

DSCN6259The purpose of this panel is to explain and contrast the design and implementation of project strategies for improving quality of care and to review preliminary results of project success. The targeted audience for this panel is health systems practitioners, clinical educators, researchers involved in the implementation or evaluation of community health workers programs.

AHI projects demonstrate practical means of utilizing research to develop and implement service quality improvement. Although evaluation designs differ, all focus on assessing the impact of improving service quality on childhood survival. As a set of initiatives, projects provide guidance on ways to achieve adaptive development of system strengthening in resource constrained settings.

The session will start with an overview of the AHI rationale and its focus on quality of care improvement. A presenter from each country team will review respective strategies for quality of care development. The Rwanda and Zambia projects will lead the discussion, as their projects enhance facility-based quality of care.

DSCN7150Rwanda, which introduced a district-wide initiative known as “All Babies Count”, combines a mentoring intervention with a learning collaborative for improving worker and system performance. In Zambia, the Better Health Care Outcomes through Mentorship and Assessment (BHOMA) project improves rural outpatient care quality by restructuring structured clinical information, the use of electronic technologies for transmitting patient data, and feedback to service personnel, managers and communities.

The “Ghana Essential Health Intervention Programme’s will discuss its strategy for evidence-driven quality improvement for prioritizing in-service training and emergency referral operations. The Tanzanian Connect project will illustrate the use of training, supervision, and community governance to develop and sustain quality assurance.

The Mozambique Strengthening Integrated Primary Health Care project will conclude by presenting their strategies for improving the delivery of health care by giving key health managers the skills and tools to identify and address service quality and efficiency problems.

Advocacy &Coordination &Partnership &Private Sector Bill Brieger | 11 Sep 2014

UN General Assembly Resolves to Fight Malaria

unlogo_blue_sml_enGhanaWeb reported this morning that, “The United Nations General Assembly at its 68th Session, adopted Resolution A/68/L.60, “Consolidating Gains and Accelerating Efforts to Control and Eliminate Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa, by 2015” by consensus.”

Likewise the UN itself issued a press release confirming that in a final act the Assembly adopted this resolution in order to call for increased support for the implementation of international commitments and goals pertaining to the fight to eliminate malaria. GhanaWeb reiterated the UN’s message that, “with just less than 500 days until the 2015 deadline of the MDGs, the adoption of this resolution by the General Assembly reiterates the commitment of UN Member States to keep malaria high on the international development agenda.”

The UN Press Release explained that, “The resolution urged malaria-endemic countries to work towards financial sustainability to increase national resources allocated to controlling that disease, while also working with the private sector to improve access to quality medical services.  Further, the resolution called upon Member States to establish or strengthen national policies, operational plans and research, with a view to achieving internationally agreed malaria targets for 2015.”

DSCN0730This effort is consistent with moves two years ago in the 66th General Assembly when it called for “accelerated efforts to eliminate malaria in developing countries, particularly Africa, by 2015, in consensus resolution” (document A/66/L.58) where the “Consolidating Gains …” document was first shared. The draft of the 2012  resolution, according to the UN Press release was sponsored by Liberia on behalf of the African Group, and called on Member States, particularly malaria-endemic countries, to strengthen national policies and operational plans, with a view to scaling up efforts to achieve internationally agreed malaria targets for 2015.

The sad irony of Liberia’s current predicament wherein the Ebola epidemic is rendering it nearly impossible to provide malaria services should give us pause. According to Reuters, “Treatable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea are left untended because frightened Liberians are shunning medical centers, and these deaths could outstrip those from the Ebola virus by three or four fold.”

The new resolution (A/68/L.60) in calling for increases national resources allocated to controlling that disease from public and private sources demonstrates the importance of national commitment to sustain and advance malaria control into the era of malaria elimination. It is now up to local malaria advocates to ensure that their governments, as well as private sector and local NGO partners, follow through to guarantee the needed quantity and quality of malaria services.

Asia &Elimination Bill Brieger | 03 Sep 2014

Press Release: Bangladesh joins APMEN as new Country Partner

Bangladesh joins the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) as Country Partner

apmen_bannerThe Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) is pleased to announce Bangladesh as the 16th Country Partner to join the Network.

APMEN brings together countries in the Asia Pacific region that have adopted a national or sub-national goal for malaria elimination, and connects them with a broad range of regional and global malaria partners to develop best practices for eliminating the disease. By strengthening linkages in eliminating countries, APMEN addresses important regional challenges such as Plasmodium vivax, and provides a forum for the discussion of important issues such as the spread of anti-malarial drug resistance.

Malaria remains endemic in 13 of the 64 districts in Bangladesh, and more than 13 million1 people are still at risk of the disease. Malaria control and elimination activities fall under the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The NMCP is currently aiming for malaria pre-elimination in four districts, with the goal of Bangladesh becoming malaria-free by 2020.

Director of Disease Control in Bangladesh and Public Health and Infectious Disease Specialist, Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, expressed his gratitude towards APMEN at the formalization of this important partnership, saying that it is another step forward for Bangladesh and the region to eliminate the disease.

The spatial distribution of Plasmodium falciparum malaria endemicity map in 2010 in Bangladesh - http://www.map.ox.ac.uk/browse-resources/endemicity/Pf_mean/BGD/

The spatial distribution of Plasmodium falciparum malaria endemicity map in 2010 in Bangladesh – http://www.map.ox.ac.uk/browse-resources/endemicity/Pf_mean/BGD/

“Bangladesh is moving very quickly towards elimination after concerted national efforts to focus on malaria control,” Professor Be-Nazir said.

“By joining APMEN, Bangladesh now has many windows of opportunities to learn from other eliminating countries in our region as we face similar challenges.”

According to the World Health Organization, Bangladesh has reduced the number of confirmed malaria cases from nearly 440,000 in 2000 to less than 30,000 in 2012; a 93% overall decline2. The success is a result of intensive control interventions such as high coverage and increased use of insecticide-treated nets, increased use of rapid diagnostic tests and effective antimalarial treatment, as well as the deployment of a high number of community health workers in collaboration with NGOs and augmenting services at the health facilities. The combination of technical and human resource capacity serves as a strong example of how national and international efforts can lead to reduced malaria transmission3.

Bangladesh, like many other APMEN Country Partners, face many challenges en route to its national elimination goal of 2020, namely  ensuring services  reach mobile populations in highly endemic districts such as the Jhum cultivators4, and sustaining commitment by the government, communities and development partners to malaria control and elimination.

Malaria was nearly eliminated from Bangladesh pre-1970, but never disappeared in the eastern border regions which are associated with tea gardens and forests. These districts have international boundaries with the eastern states of India and partly with Myanmar. In the 1990s, malaria re-emerged as a major public health concern.

A key Bangladesh public health organization, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), joined APMEN as a Partner Institution in August 2013.

APMEN Joint Secretariat (UQ) Office, School of Population Health | Room 117 | Public Health Building, Herston Road | Herston Qld 4006| Australia,  Email: apmen@sph.uq.edu.au | Website: www.apmen.org |  Phone (within Australia): 07 3365 5446 | Phone (from outside Australia): 61 7 3365 5446

Communication &ITNs Bill Brieger | 02 Sep 2014

Hearing, Seeing, Changing: Bednet Behavior

An important new article in Malaria Journal by colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs gives confidence to health educators and behavior change practitioners that their interventions do make a difference. Using the 2010 Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) from Zambia, they were able to comparing women’s reports of exposure to behavior change communication (BCC) messages and their use of insecticide treated nets (ITNs) the previous night.

CAM03755 smExposure to ITN messages was focused on women who “reported hearing or seeing any malaria messages in the past six months and also cited at least one specific channel: television or radio, in the newspaper, on posters or billboards, or from peer educators and drama groups.” Using two different analytic approaches, the authors found that exposure to messages was responsible for between 12-29% of net use. They concluded that the results “illustrate that BCC programmes can contribute to national programmes seeking to increase the use of ITNs inside the home.”

The recent MIS in a variety of endemic countries have taken up the task of measuring not just use of ITNs but also knowledge of the role of ITNs in preventing malaria and exposure to BCC messaging about ITNs.  Similar analysis should be performed on these data sets.

NetMark billboard aThe 2010 Nigeria MIS, for example, reported that 27.9% of women reported exposure to malaria messages in 4 weeks prior to the study. Likewise 57.9% of women had knowledge that Sleeping under mosquito net prevents malaria in pregnancy (MIP).  The 2012 MIS from Malawi reported that 25.3 women claimed exposure to malaria messages in past 4 weeks, and of those, 87.3% had knowledge that Sleeping under mosquito net prevents MIP.

A 2011 survey in Ghana found that 57.3% of women claimed exposure to malaria messages in past 4 weeks, and of those 83.7% had knowledge that Sleeping under and ITN prevents MIP. A question remains though, what was the actual nature of those media efforts to which women claim exposure?

The surveys do note the broad sources of information, e.g. radio, health workers/clinic, community activities. A review of overall national malaria strategies  and specific malaria BCC documents will certainly indicate that national programs and their partners intend to engage in a variety of BCC activities. The issue is whether, where and how those activities took place.

To give more validity to BCC outcomes, we must also encourage national malaria programs and their partners to document better their BCC activities so we can more easily attribute ITN behavior change itself to specific, funded interventions.