Equity in Malaria Programming, the example of bednets

The WHO defines Equity as “the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification. ‘Health equity’ or ‘equity in health’ implies that ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.”

WHO goes on to say that, “Countries and programs need to disaggregate selected health indicators by key stratifiers including demographic characteristics (gender, age), place of residence (urban/rural, subnational), socioeconomic status (wealth, education), as well as other characteristics (migrant/minority status etc.).”

Writing for the Tropical Disease Research Program, H. Kristian Heggenhougen, Veronica Hackethal, and Pramila Vivek in the publication, The behavioural and social aspects of malaria and its control, say that …

“What must now be clear is our conviction that any review of factors for world-wide malaria control must give specific attention to issues of socio-economic inequity and disease epidemiology.” Malaria is not an equal opportunity killer, but disproportionately affects certain segments of the population. Heggenhougen et al. continue that, “while we argue for a focused attack on malaria, we cannot avoid noting that without attention to these larger matters – inequity and marginalization – any improvement in health, including malaria, may be short-lived.”

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and its Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) provide an important snapshot on equity issues in the rollout and coverage of major malaria.   In particular, we look at the issue of long lasting insecticide-treated nets in two countries, Ghana (2016 MIS) and Liberia (2016 MIS), to demonstrate how equity issues can be seen. Two three measures are considered, wealth quintile, location (urban/rural) and gender/sex.

In Ghana we see that having at least one net for the household is more common in lower income groups. These groups are more vulnerable. Although not specifically shown in the MIS, one might assume that people in the higher income groups have better quality housing that provides less opportunity for mosquito entry. Likewise households in rural areas, where anopheles are more likely to breed, have a higher proportion of nets. So while nets are not ‘equally distributed by these characteristics, they are more favorably available in those households that may be more vulnerable to malaria.

When we look at the indicator of universal coverage where it is expected that there should be one net for every two household members, the proportion meeting that goal is much lower than simply having a net in the household for all groups.  That said the pattern of higher proportions among rural and lower income groups remains. Within households, the Ghana MIS a nearly equal proportion of female (43%) and male (41%) had slept under a net the night prior to the survey.

Overall, Liberia has much lower LLIN coverage than Ghana. The pattern for location is similar to that of Ghana, but for wealth, the poorest group (Q1) have lower coverage that wealth quintile groups 2-4. Also as in Ghana the Female (40%) and male (38%) are very similar.

We encourage readers to review the recent MIS and/or DHS reports from the countries where they work and look for differences in net availability as well as uptake of other malaria control interventions to determine the level of equity in intervention access and use, but also as one sees in Liberia, take action to ensure that strategies are in place to reach the poorest and most vulnerable segment of society.

Guinea: The Challenge of Malaria Control in a Post-Ebola Context

The preliminary 2018 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data have been released for Guinea (Conakry). Since the last DHS in 2012, Guinea and its neighbors experienced the largest Ebola outbreak in history, an event that damaged already weak health systems.

The previous DHS showed very weak malaria indicators. Only 47% of households had at least one ITN, which averages to 0.8 ITNs per person (compared to the universal coverage of 2.0). Among vulnerable groups only 26% of children below the age of 5 years slept under an ITN, as did 28% of pregnant women. Very few, 18%, pregnant women got two doses of IPTp, and only 5% of febrile children received ACTs (testing was not reported then).

Not much has changed concerning ITN coverage as reported in 2018. Slight improvements are seen in IPTp (which now requires 3 or more doses) and malaria testing and treatment for children. Ironically none of the indicators has passed the original 2006 Roll Back Malaria target of 60%, let alone 80% for 2010 and not of course the drive for universal coverage.

DHS has released a preliminary report for 2018 and the malaria component is summarized in the charts posted here. The national coverage for ITNs is 44%, slightly lower than 2012, but the average per household member is slightly higher at 1.1. Again, these numbers do not mark significant progress. Looking at wealth and ITN ownership there is a slight benefit in terms of equity in net possession among those with lower income, but this must be seen in the overall context of very low basic coverage.

Having a net in the household and using it are different challenges as seen in the reports of sleeping under the net on the night prior to the survey among children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. The sad finding is that even in households that own a net, the coverage of these two groups remains very low. This is reflected in the low net per person ratio nationally (1.1).

One would almost wonder if malaria is a neglected disease in Guinea. The reality is that since 2003, Guinea has received around $172 million US dollars in malaria project funding from the Global Fund. Its most recent annual funding from the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is around $14 million.  Of that PMI funding 24% was designated for nets and related activities, while 52% was to be spent on medicines, diagnostics and pharmaceutical management. These investments include systems strengthening and capacity building in addition to commodities.

PMI provides the needed context: “Since the country was declared Ebola-free in in June of 2016, Guinea continues to make positive advances towards building a strong health system in line with the health recovery plan. The government continues to mobilize internal and external resources for rolling out the health system recovery plan, but much remains to be done if this plan is to yield the intended results.” Areas in particular need of strengthening within the National Malaria Control Program include coordination, health information systems, leadership, supervision and logistics.

Three years have passed since the last Ebola case in Guinea. Hopefully the country can stave off another outbreak and at the same time strengthen its health system. Guinea may not yet be targeted for malaria elimination, but until systems are strengthened, the resources going into malaria control will not be able to push malaria indicators toward saving more lives.

A child’s personal experiences with malaria lead to a life career fighting the disease

Gbenga Jokodola tells his story of growing up to fight malaria in Nigeria. Gbenga has a MPH in Field Epidemiology from the University of Ibadan, and a BPharm from Ahmadu Bello University. He is currently working with Malaria Consortium as a Zonal Project Manager on the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) Project, delivering preventive care to over 400,000 children between the ages of 3 – 59 months in Jigawa and Katsina States of Nigeria. He has worked on several malaria projects over the years sponsored by Unicef, the Global Fund, Catholic Relief Services and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As he narrates below, his early experiences with malaria were formative of his present focus in life.

At 3 months of age Gbenga was probably still protected from malaria by maternal antibodies and did not realize what malaria held in store for his future

Growing up in Zaria, northern Nigeria in the 70s and 80s was one of the best experience any child could ask for. I lived with my parents in two rented rooms in a compound on one of the streets in Sabon Gari Zaria – a community that had virtually all the tribes in Nigeria and of course, with all the love and communal living you can ever get from a true Nigerian community.

In such loving setting we enjoyed as children, I imagined that mosquito communities also lived around our pit latrine and backyard. I imagined that parent-mosquitoes trained their off-springs very well on how to bite and fly away tactfully, how to dodge the usual clap-like manner we use in killing mosquitoes, which homes to avoid visiting, and so on.

I was reputed to be a strong boy then, one of the few kids who were “strong”; I was a “tough” boy who rarely fell ill to malaria. Then, it was common to hear, “Gbenga is a strong boy”. I ate and slept in any room in our compound – with or without covering from mosquito and was hailed for doing so by my friends who often fall ill to malaria.

Life lesson as a Primary School pupil: There is no immunity against malaria

One day, the “malaria forces” (mosquitoes) taught me a life lesson: Indeed, there is no immunity against malaria.

My local Government primary school rotated school attendance between morning and afternoon every week. As an 8-year-old, while preparing for my afternoon school I suddenly felt very cold and sleepy at the same time and decided to lie down briefly on my senior brother’s 6-spring bed in our sitting room. Shortly after, I was shivering and sweating profusely under 3 of my mother’s wrappers.

Help was not immediately near as most people were out. My head was pounding like I was a piece of yam being pounded with a pestle in my mother’s mortar. My stomach was churning. All the while, I kept saying “I am a strong boy, I will not be sick”! I was in that state for over an hour. I began to wonder if I was strong after all and will not end up dying. I could no longer talk but my teeth were chattering.

Gbenga second from left at about 7 years old in company of Sisters and friends in the compound

Sweating profusely, yet I was cold! I was helpless. It was in this state that one of our neighbor’s daughters walked into our sitting room, wondering if there was any food to eat. Immediately she saw the “strong man” shivering under 3 wrappers, she raised an alarm. Her shout saved me as neighbors immediately rushed into our sitting room. Among them was a relation of the landlord, a beautiful “Aunty” Esther, who was visiting from the Ahmadu Bello University school of Nursing. As soon as she came over, she said: “this is malaria!”.

Aunty Esther immediately organized and rescued me that day; she saved the life of the “strong man”! She quickly sought iced-cold water and toweled my body with my father’s “untouchable” towel hanging on the door of the inner room. Ah, what a good feel it was! She then gave me a sweet syrup which I later found out to be Paracetamol syrup. After about 30 minutes, she returned with a plate of hot rice and stew, encouraging me to eat before treatment with anti-malarial medication. I struggled to eat the rice, angry that I had lost my ever-available appetite! I only took few spoons, amidst the encouragement I received from all present.

I was then given an injection by Aunty Nurse Esther, tucked back into the bed and told to prepare to sleep. She then said, “Gbenga, no school for you today, okay? You even need to get well before you resume school”. Everyone knew I loved school. I had to lose a precious school day (and three more days) to malaria! So, I simply focused on staying alive, wondering which “wicked” mosquito bit me. That was the day I dramatically lost my title of “strong man” to malaria, painfully realizing that I was not immune to malaria at all!

My treatment against malaria was continued with further jabs of the needle (twice a day) over the course of the next 3 days at the Dispensary/Primary Health Unit “Aunty” Esther directed my parents to. I got well and resumed school after the third day. Later, I researched and found out I was treated with a sedative, Chloroquine and Paracetamol.

Gbenga with classmates at First Baptist Church, Benin Street, Sabon Gari Zaria

My parents later introduced “Sunday-Sunday Medicine” (one Sweetened pyrimethamine tablet weekly) against Malaria to our diet on Sundays. With this painful encounter with Malaria, I resolved to fight mosquitoes; I was determined to regain my “strong man” title. I made up my mind to be a community health worker, saving communities from diseases like malaria.

Fast-forward to Year 2007: My new twist in combating Malaria

By the year 2007, my personal malaria episodes had lessened with greater knowledge of the disease. In addition, the application of the preventive, diagnostic and treatment procedures reduced my malaria episodes to about 1 in 3 years. With each episode, I normally use laboratory test (microscopy) to confirm if severity is +, ++, or even +++. Thereafter, I get a prescription from a Physician on appropriate medication to use.

However, while practicing in Abuja, I encountered a tearful case of death from malaria, of an 8-year old beautiful daughter of a colleague. Three days prior to her death, a Community Pharmacist had dispensed anti-malarial medication to her, based on prescription tendered by the father from a Government hospital he had earlier taken her to. The news of her death brought back memories of how I would have died as

ACCESS-SMC Project: Scaling up access to seasonal malaria chemoprevention in the Sahel

an 8-year old from this same Malaria. Yes, this same Malaria! That death of the 8-year old triggered a fresh resolve in me to step up my fight with mosquitoes and combat malaria squarely at community, state, National and global levels.

Still at War with Malaria in 2018

Now armed with post-graduate training in Public Health/Epidemiology and field-based experience, my Malaria diagnosis strategy has now changed. I now use Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDT). If confirmed positive, I receive prescription on the most applicable Artemisinin-based combination Therapy (ACT) to use.

My malaria story continues and will only end when mosquitoes are defeated – when children and adults no longer fall ill nor die from mosquito bites that cause malaria.

You can follow Gbenga on Twitter.

Asymptomatic Malaria – we need to eliminate what we can’t see

After the World’s first attempt at eradicating the complicated disease malaria mainly through a single tool, a period of control set in where the aim was to reduce mortality through prompt and presumptive treatment of fevers with anti-malarials, particularly in young children. During this period in the 1980s and 1990s it was recognized that parasite-based diagnostic capabilities in the form of microscopy were limited, so in malaria endemic areas, it was worth providing inexpensive medicines like chloroquine (CQ) and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) to febrile children in order to save lives. When the fevers did not resolve, other illnesses explored.

The difficulty arose in identifying cases that did not offer clinical clues that they might be malaria. Today countries approaching malaria elimination face challenges, such as seen in Zanzibar where, “outdoor transmission, a large asymptomatic parasite reservoir and imported infections, require novel tools and reoriented strategies to prevent a rebound effect and achieve elimination.”[i] Here we examine the challenge of asymptomatic malaria infections.

Background

By 1998 when the Roll Back Malaria partnership formed, there had been enough research done so that the malaria community had a better arsenal of interventions including insecticide-treated bed nets, artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and intermittent preventive treatment with SP during pregnancy. The Abuja Declaration of 2000 set a target of 80% coverage of these interventions by the year 2010.

While ACTs overcame the challenges of parasite resistance that had developed for the single drugs, CQ and SP, it cost several times more than those medicines. The need for easy-to-use, inexpensive, point-of-care diagnostics was recognized so that not only would ACTs be targeted only to parasitologically confirmed malaria cases, but also in the process, overuse and misuse would not contribute to parasite resistance of these new drugs.[ii] Unfortunately, the development and dissemination of antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), lagged behind the availability of ACTs meaning that health workers unfortunately continued their business as usual with presumptive treatment using ACTs. 

The benefits of RDTs were generally two-fold. First, they could be used by front-line, auxiliary and community-based health workers. Secondly, they tended to identify more cases than microscopy. The big challenge was convincing health workers to use them and trust the results, because the era of presumptive treatment had given these staff a false sense of confidence in their own clinical diagnostic abilities.

Although reaching the 2010 coverage targets has remained illusive for most endemic countries, there has been enough progress for major reductions in incidence (despite a recent upsurge).[iii] As the proportion of actual malaria cases among febrile illness patients declines, concern has risen that transmission might continue among people with subclinical or asymptomatic malaria. Here we explore the extent of this problem and new directions in parasitological testing needed to ensure continued progress toward elimination in each endemic country.

Understanding the Risk of Asymptomatic Malaria

Risk can relate to geographical, epidemiological, and socio-demographic factors as well as history of malaria interventions. Kenya has stratified the country by higher and lower malaria transmission areas. Even the higher areas are comparatively low compared to its higher transmission neighbors. Studying the prevalence of asymptomatic malaria in some of these higher transmission areas in the west of the country was seen as a way to better identify people at risk and learn about intervention effectiveness. An examination of apparently healthy children (no symptoms) revealed a Plasmodium falciparum malaria prevalence 36.0% (27.5%, 44.5%) by RDT and 22.3% (16.0%, 28.6%) by thick film microscopy.[iv] Living in a household with electricity was protective but the adjusted odds ratio of prevalence comparing households with and without indoor residual spray showed only borderline benefit. Unfortunately, in Zanzibar, asymptomatic malaria infection was not associated “with use of any vector control.”1

A major challenge in detecting cases through routine health care systems is care seeking patterns of care seeking for fever. The 2018 World Malaria Report acknowledges that there are major equity challenges in care seeking wherein families with higher incomes, better education and living in urban areas are more likely to seek help for their febrile children that rural, poor and less educated families who would be more at risk. Care seeking without the signs of fever is more challenging. A dual strategy of enabling better service utilization as well as outreach to detect cases will be necessary to detect asymptomatic cases.3

In Burkina Faso, the prevalence of asymptomatic malaria infection in children under 5 years of age was estimated at 38.2% in 24 of its 70 health districts. Those at most risk for asymptomatic malaria infection included the following:[v]

  • older children (48–59 vs < 6 months: OR: 6.79 [5.62, 8.22])
  • children from very poor households (Richest vs poorest: OR: 0.85 [0.74–0.96])
  • households located more than 5 km from a health facility (< 5 km vs ? 5 km: OR: 1.14 [1.04–1.25])
  • localities with inadequate number of nurses (< 3 vs ? 3: 0.72 [0.62, 0.82]
  • rural areas (OR: 1.67 [1.39–2.01])

Nine districts reported significantly higher risks (Batié, Boromo, Dano, Diébougou, Gaoua, Ouahigouya, Ouargaye, Sapouy and Toma. The researchers concluded that, “Such national spatial analysis should help to prioritize areas for increased malaria control activities.”

A study in Ghana found that, “children and pregnant women had higher prevalence of submicroscopic gametocytes (39.5% and 29.7%, respectively) compared to adults
(17.4%).”[vi]

An additional concern is emerging in terms of sharing of malaria parasite species between humans and primates, especially as urbanization and deforestation push these two populations into closer contact. For example Mapua and colleagues working in Central Africa Republic, “found the human malaria parasite P. ovale wallikeri in both asymptomatic humans and western lowland gorillas in Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas. Molecular analysis revealed that the genotype of the P. ovale wallikeri DNA found in a gorilla was genetically identical to that of a human isolate within the mt cytb and mt cox 1 genes, indicating potential human–ape transmission.”[vii] They noted similar sharing of parasites in the region between humans and chimpanzees.

Detecting and Responding to Asymptomatic Cases

WHO’s Framework for Malaria Elimination[viii] recognizes the important role of case detection and subsequent treatment as well as broader community level preventive responses around detected cases. In the context of elimination WHO notes that case detection “requires use of a diagnostic test to identify asymptomatic malaria infections.” WHO stresses that a case is a case, regardless of whether it is symptomatic or asymptomatic, as long as the diagnostic process confirms presence of malaria infection.

It is important to monitor Plasmodium parasitemia in areas where malaria transmission has declined and efforts to achieve malaria elimination are underway, such as Zambia, where 3,863 household members were tested.[ix] Only 2.6% were positive by either microscopy, RDT, or PCR. Of these, 48 (47%) had subpatent parasitemia, and 85% of those with subpatent parasitemia were asymptomatic. “Compared with individuals without parasitemia, individuals with subpatent parasitemia were significantly more likely to be aged 5–25 years.” The authors suggested that their findings pointed to the need for active or reactive case detection to identify asymptomatic individuals and thus better target individuals with subpatent parasitemia with appropriate malaria interventions.

WHO explains that active case detection (ACD) takes place in areas of limited or under-utilization of health care services.4 It may start with initial screening for symptoms, followed by appropriate parasitological laboratory confirmation. In low-transmission settings or as part of a focus investigation, “ACD may consist of testing of a defined population group without prior symptom screening (population-wide or mass testing) in order to identify asymptomatic infections.” Elimination cannot be achieved until even asymptomatic infections have stopped. The challenge is the expense of community-wide screening.

Reactive Case Detection (RCD), according to WHO, takes place in settings low transmission intensity where the few “occurring malaria cases are highly aggregated.”4 When a case is identified, usually through identification of an actual infected patient at a local clinic, the community where the patient comes from is visited and a “net is cast around the index case” where household members and neighbors within a selected radius are tested. In this process asymptomatic cases are also identified.

Our existing diagnostic tools may be inadequate. McCreesh and colleagues reported on subpatent malaria in Namibia that, “fever history and standard RDTs are not useful to address this burden. Achievement of malaria elimination may require active case detection using more sensitive point-of-care diagnostics or presumptive treatment and targeted to high-risk groups.” This includes loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) using dried blood spots, which they tested.[x] Likewise from experience in a Zambian study, Kobayashi and co-researchers suggest, “more sensitive diagnostic tests or focal drug administration may be necessary to target individuals with subpatent parasitemia to achieve malaria elimination.”[xi]

Responses to detecting asymptomatic cases start at the individual level with prompt treatment of those found through RCD to be infected. Then focused preventive interventions such as distribution of insecticide treated bednets can be provided to those in the cluster or village. Follow-up would be needed for such ‘hot spots.’ 

On a broader basis we have Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) as practiced in Sahelian countries where during the peak transmission (rainy) season intermittent preventive treatment is given to children monthly by community health workers and volunteers. Of course, many of these children would be asymptomatic carriers and SMC could benefit the reduction of parasites in circulation. At present SMC focuses on pre-school aged children, but Thera and co-researchers stress the importance of reaching school aged children who are also often asymptomatic carriers.[xii]

Another intervention being tested for mass drug administration (MDA) use providing the community with ivermectin, a drug that has been highly effective in controlling filarial diseases and also found to kill mosquitoes who take a blood meal from a person who has recently taken it.[xiii] This strategy is still being tested, but again MDA means all community members, especially those with asymptomatic infection, would be reached.

A major question requires further research. To what extent do asymptomatic, submicroscopic and subpatent parasitemia contribute to continued malaria transmission? Another question is how can we address malaria infection in other primates? We know that scientists recommend targeting of malaria elimination interventions based on mapping of these infections.5 We therefore need to study the actual transmission potential of this phenomenon.


[i] Björkman A, Shakely D, Ali AS, Morris U, Mkali H, Abbas AK, Al-Mafazy A-W, Haji KA, Mcha J, Omar R, Cook J, Elfving K, Petzold M, Sachs MC, Aydin-Schmidt B, Drakeley V, Msellem M and Mårtensson A. From high to low malaria transmission in Zanzibar—challenges and opportunities to achieve elimination. BMC Medicine (2019) 17:14, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1243-z

[ii] Global Malaria Programme. Universal access to malaria diagnostic testing – An operational manual. World Health Organization. November 2011 (rev. February 2013). https://www.who.int/malaria/publications/atoz/9789241502092/en/

[iii] Global Malaria Programme. World malaria report 2018. World Health Organization. 19 November 2018. https://www.who.int/malaria/publications/world-malaria-report-2018/en/

[iv] Peprah S, Tenge C, Genga IO, Mumia M, Were PA, Kuremu RT, Wekes WN,  Sumba PO, Kinyera T, Otim T, Legason ID, Biddle J, Reynolds SJ, Talisuna AO, Biggar1 RJ, Bhatia K, Goedert JJ, Pfeiffer RM, Mbulaiteye SM. A Cross-Sectional Population Study of Geographic, Age-Specific, and Household Risk Factors for Asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum Malaria Infection in Western Kenya. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Volume 100, Issue 1, Jan 2019, p.54-65. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.18-0481.

[v] Ouédraogo M, Samadoulougou S, Rouamba T, Hien H, Sawadogo JEM Tinto H, Alegana VA, Speybroeck N and Kirakoya?Samadoulougou F. Spatial distribution and determinants of asymptomatic malaria risk among children under 5 years in 24 districts in Burkina Faso. Malaria Journal 2018; 17:460 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-018-2606-9

[vi] Lamptey H, Ofori MF, Kusi KA, Adu B, Owusu-Yeboa E, Kyei-Baafour E, Arku AT, Bosomprah S, Alifrangis M, Quakyi IA. The prevalence of submicroscopic Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte carriage and multiplicity of infection in children, pregnant women and adults in a low malaria transmission area in Southern Ghana. Malar J. 2018 Sep 17;17(1):331. doi: 10.1186/s12936-018-2479-y.

[vii] Mapua MI, Hans-Peter Fuehrer HP, Petrželková KJ, Todd A, Noedl H, Qablan MA, and Modrý D. Plasmodium ovale wallikeri in Western Lowland Gorillas and Humans Central African Republic. Emerging Infectious Disease journal. Volume 24, Number 8—August 2018. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/24/8/18-0010_article

[viii] Global Malaria Programme. A framework for malaria elimination. ISBN 978-92-4-151198-8. World Health Organization 2017, http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/atoz/9789241511988/en/

[ix] Kobayashi T, Kanyangarara M, Laban NM, Phiri M, Hamapumbu H, Searle KM, Stevenson JC, Thuma PE, Moss WJ and the Southern Africa International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research. Characteristics of Subpatent Malaria in a Pre-Elimination Setting in Southern Zambia. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 10 December 2018, DOI: https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.18-0399

[x] McCreesh P, Mumbengegwi D, Roberts K, Tambo M, Smith J, Whittemore B, Kelly G, Moe C, Murphy M, Chisenga M, Greenhouse B, Ntuku H, Kleinschmidt I, Sturrock H, Uusiku P, Gosling R, Bennett A, Hsiang MS. Subpatent malaria in a low transmission African setting: a cross-sectional study using rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) from Zambezi region, Namibia. Malar J. 2018 Dec 19;17(1):480. doi: 10.1186/s12936-018-2626-5.

[xi] Kobayashi T, Kanyangarara M, Laban NM, Phiri M, Hamapumbu H, Searle KM, Stevenson JC, Thuma PE, Moss WJ, For The Southern Africa International Centers Of Excellence For Malaria Research.Characteristics of Subpatent Malaria in a Pre-Elimination Setting in Southern Zambia. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2018 Dec 10. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.18-0399. [Epub ahead of print]

[xii] Thera MA, Konea AK, Tangaraa B, Diarraa E, Niarea A, Dembeleb A, Sissokoa MS, Doumboa OK. School-aged children based seasonal malaria chemoprevention using artesunate-amodiaquine in Mali. Parasite Epidemiology and Control 3 (2018) 96–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.parepi.2018.02.001

[xiii] Smit MR, Ochomo EO, Aljayyoussi G, Kwambai TK, Abong’o BO, Chen T, Bousema T, Slater HC, Waterhouse D, Bayoh NM, Gimnig JE, Samuels AM, Desai MR, Phillips-Howard PA, Kariuki SK, Wang D, Ward SA, ter Kuile FO. Safety and mosquitocidal efficacy of high-dose ivermectin when co-administered with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine. www.thelancet.com/infection Published online March 27, 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30163-4

Supporting PHC through Performance Based Financing (PBF) in Rwanda

Background

Management Sciences for Health notes[1] that, “PBF is a powerful means for increasing the quantity and quality of health services by providing incentives to health providers to improve performance. A PBF program typically includes performance?based grants or contracts. Health clinics and their staff are rewarded for reaching or exceeding health indicators.” MSH cautioned that, “while PBF is expected to reduce unit costs in the long?term by increasing productivity, unit costs may actually increase in the short term when services have previously been underfunded???as salaries rise to appropriate levels, missing equipment and supplies are purchased, and facilities are upgraded.” In the long term they explained that PBF had a, “crucial impact on revenues received at health centers, motivated access to quality services for the people served, and allowed the Government of Rwanda to actively manage its investments in pursing national health goals.”

Performance Based Financing applies to health workers from CHWs to facility staff and beyond.

Between 2001 and the mid-2000s Rwanda introduced and began scaling up PBF. The focus of health care shifted from inputs to outputs to outcomes.  “Performance improvements that have been documented in Rwanda after the introduction of performance incentives for primary health care and HIV/AIDS service products have been impressive.”[2] In two pilot districts health care consultations per capita more than doubled. Institutional deliveries tripled. Child immunization, maternal immunization and contraceptive prevalence rates also increased.

There is national policy and political support for PBF as it fits into government desired for accountability. Financial support comes from government and specific programs within the Ministry of Health such as malaria elimination and TB control who have invested in specific performance indicators. Donors such as USAID, World Bank, and Global Fund, play a major role in providing the technical and financial support that pays for performance.

Community Level

PBF in Rwanda operates at all levels of the health system, but of interest to PHC are the front-line health centers and the local cooperatives and community health workers (CHWs). CHW support came about in 2008 as a strategy to sustain the CHWs system. PBF in Rwanda is based on two kinds of contracts, contracts on the performance of the health unit and contracts on the performance of individual health workers.

The PBF procedures manual[3] explains that, “Community PBF (C-PBF) is implemented at the village level through the trained community health workers (CHW) operational within each community. Health posts are located at the cell level and due to their private or faith-based organizations affiliation they are not integrated into the PBF system. Health Center PBF is implemented at the sector’s level health center while district and provincial hospitals are implementing the district hospital PBF model (recently linked with accreditation).”

Under the USAID MCHIP Project, Jhpiego conducted a malaria program implementation assessment in Rwanda that examined the health systems building blocks including financing. The report noted that, “Cooperatives have been set up for CHW; there are usually about 120 people (depending on the number of CHWs in the catchment area of the health center) per cooperative with a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and three advisors.[4] Cooperatives can engage in many different types of income-generating activities, based on the agreement among the members, and the executive committee makes final decisions and determines how income will be disbursed among members.”

The aspect of PBF contracting is undertaken with the CHW Cooperative. “Through the PBF, CHW cooperatives can earn ~250USD per quarter from the government. The total amount is based on the completeness of CHW reports and their performance on 20 set indicators. These indicators include elements such as timeliness and completeness of reports, number of pregnant women receiving consultation in the first trimester, number of women accepting family planning (new and continuing clients), and infant growth monitoring.”

Rwanda has also introduced a quality of services element known as Pay-4-Performance, and entities such as health centers and CHW cooperatives are also given a quality score arising from supervisory processes. The quality component has helped “cooperatives linked to the PBF address issues of attrition and motivation. The division of supervision among cell leaders also reduces the work burden for facility-based supervisors.” Practical service delivery problems such as stock-outs of commodities are less likely to occur at the community level when PBF is in place. The challenge moving forward may be the stress created by adding more responsibilities to the duties of the CHWs.

The MCHIP report concluded that, “PBF has set up a system of accountability so that not only is funding spent appropriately, but results are also expected and rewarded. PBF addresses the challenges of motivation that so often plague health care workers and managers in other countries who do not see rewards for working hard and doing a good job. The fact that the system of emphasis on quality services in sufficient quantities radiates from the national to the district to the community level (i.e., districts reporting to the President’s office, and CHWs reporting on indicators to health center supervisors) ensures that a culture of rewarding good performance is developing.” A systems challenge is dependence on donor support in terms of both continuity and donor focus, as many donors focus on particular interventions (malaria, family planning), leaving gaps among the service indicators.


[1] Management Sciences for Health. The Health Impact of Performance-Based Financing in Rwanda. Published: 2010?12?23 http://blog.msh.org/2010/12/23/the-health-impact-of-performance-based-financing-in-rwanda/

[2] Louis Rusa, (National PBF Coordinator-Ministry of Health Rwanda), and Gyuri Fritsche, (Health Care Financing Specialist-Management Sciences for Health). Rwanda: Performance-Based Financing in Health. Sourcebook: Second Edition. http://www.ccoms-imsuerj.org.br/capfts/2011/uploads/4-3RwandaPBF.pdf

[3] Ministry of Health, Rwanda. Performance Based Financing Procedures Manual for Health Facilities (Hospitals and Health Centers). April 2018.

[4] Maternal and Child Health Intergrated Program (USAID, Jhpiego). Analysis of the Status of Prevention and Control of Malaria in Rwanda: Best Practices and Challenges to Program Implementation. November 2013.

Community Participation for Primary Health Care in Burkina Faso

The history of community intervention in Burkina Faso dates back to immediately after the declaration of Alma Ata in 1978. The first community health experiments were carried out in 1979 with the support various development partners with an aim of reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality difficult to access health districts where village birth attendants where been trained, equipped and supervised. Today as a matter of policy, Burkina Faso aims at improving the quality of health services and increasing access to health services through community-based health workers (CBOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and associations implements community intervention strategies. with the full participation of communities.[1]

Community Based Health Agent discusses community health needs with village leaders

Burkina Faso’s draft strategic plan for community health states that, “Community Health is a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary collaborative enterprise that uses public health science and some social science approaches to engage and work with communities. Its purpose is to optimize the health and quality of life of all people who live, work in a given community. It is based on community needs, understanding and community priorities for health.”1 Community participation is seen as central to achieving universal health care.

The Ministry of Health1 notes that there has been community participation as part of cost recovery (Bamako Initiative). Communities are part of the management committees set up at the level of the first-level health facilities so that the populations thus participate in the management of health facilities, through these committees. “In recent years, there has been renewed interest in community health with a strong mobilization of civil society through NGOs and associations. Community components are integrated into many health programs. This new dynamic has led to significant progress and positive results in the areas of the fight against HIV, tuberculosis, reproductive health (family planning, health of young people and adolescents), malaria, malnutrition, vaccination, etc.”

The Ministry reports that, “Indeed, the community actors have contributed to the achievement of the results obtained through the implementation of community-based health services, which however remain to be rethought not only in its vision but also to be in phase with that of the universal health coverage. For a better involvement of these actors in the achievement of the health objectives, the main challenges remain their motivation, the reinforcement of their capacities and the collaboration with the agents of health.”1 Systematic evaluation of such results remains to be done.

Community Based Health Agents review their service data each month

While there have not been systematic assessments of these participatory processes in community health, researchers did take a close look at the levels and types of community participation attained in water and sanitation projects in Burkina Faso. The following lessons have implications for involving Burkina Faso communities on PHC:[2]

  • Users and Neighborhood groups have a lower level of participation than city and government stakeholders
  • It is possible that the social structures and traditions in Burkina Faso do not encourage a more participative approach
  • Further study of power structures in Burkina Faso may determine why participation is lower than expected
  • There is a significant decrease in participation levels during the design and selection steps of planning as opposed to the earlier stages of problem identification and definiing objectives, and the later stages of option selection and action planning – a question of planning styles dominated by experts

These issues raise questions about the social and cultural aspects of the planning process and about leadership and governance. It would seem that ‘experts’ also need education about how to work with communities.  There are also concerns about the level of community education employed to help community members and CBOs make informed choices. The authors raise another important question concerning expectations that communities will take ownership in the running of projects when in fact these Users have only been asked about their problems and then been informed about a solution.

In another sector the World Food Program developed a diagnostic and planning approach based using community participation and conducted training and practical exercises on “Community-Based Participatory Planning.” The exercise brought many community actors together to identify food security issues such as land degradation, lack of economic activities for residents in the non-agricultural season and floods that block access to health and other services. participators discussions identified community resources to address these issues and demonstrate resilience.[3]

A recent Global Fund grant to Burkina Faso was entitled, “Strengthening health systems and scaling-up of integrated community case management interventions.”[4] Community-based organizations (CBOs) involved in control of the three diseases commonly addressed through integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) – malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. The program was also expected to strengthen the community workforce be ensuring adequate numbers of functional CHWs. The project received a high level of regular reporting by CBOs (100%), but less than ideal from individual CHWs (83%). This was in spite of the fact that they achieved recruitment targets for ‘functional’ CHWs. Interestingly the biggest problem for the CHWs was the extremely low availability of essential supplies with which they could work (13%). The grant demonstrated the challenges of involving CHWs in more focused activities as opposed to a broader community agenda. Reorganization of the CHW program in the last few years has created a standardized curriculum so that there are two CHWs per village who respond to a variety of community needs ranging from reproductive health to disease control. The problem of adequate supplies and materials to do their work continues, though.

The Village Market provides a good opportunity for community education

While Burkina Faso has established the basic participatory structures in the form of committees and community agents, the Ministry of Health is concerned that Community participation is low.1 Lessons from other sectors show possible reasons and solutions and inter-sectoral collaboration, one of the hallmarks of PHC should be used to address the challenges. the MOH of course has its own ideas (listed below) about the root causes of this problem and having identified the following, it should be encouraged to continue efforts to strengthen the roll of the community in PHC:

  • lack of social capital (capacities of communities to work together effectively, to identify problems, to prioritize and take charge of them)
  • weak involvement of communities in the whole process of implementation.
  • greater focus on community diagnosis of needs, assets, and priorities, to develop appropriate intervention strategies, planning, implementation, evaluation
  • lack of capacity (skills, human resources, material and time) of community implementation actors,
  • lack of accountability of the stakeholders responsible for the implementation of community-based initiatives (CBIs)
  • lack of a multi-sectoral approach in the resolution of health problems

Insufficient strategies to combat social exclusion and to take into account specific groups also constitute a barrier to community participation

Partners worry that there is difficulty sustaining CBIs and demotivation of actors (CHWs, facilitators), which can allow morbidity and mortality to remain high in the community. Clearly, investment in strengthening community participation will go a long way in saving lives and promoting health.


[1] Ministere De La Sante. Draft Strategie Nationale De Sante Communautaire Au Burkina Faso 2019-2023. September 2018

[2] McConville J, Kain J, Kvarnstrom E, et al. (2014) “Participation in sanitation planning in Burkina Faso: theory and practice”. Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, vol. 4(2), pp. 304-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/washdev.2014.125

[3] Ouedraogo, Celestine (2016). Promoting Community-Led Resilience and Development Solutions in Burkina Faso. World Food Program. https://www.wfp.org/stories/promoting-community-led-resilience-and-development-solutions-in-burkina-faso

[4] Global Fund (2017). Burkina Faso BFA-S-PADS Grand Performance Report. https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/portfolio/country/grant/?k=d8f34742-0d57-410c-b5ba-39615edc5785&grant=BFA-S-PADS

Community Data Systems for Primary Health Care in Rwanda

In Rwanda CHWs are male and female resident volunteers elected by members of the village and are accountable of the village they serve. They should have a Primary 6 education minimum. The system guarantees that CHWs are more accessible, acceptable by clients in their communities and less expensive. Each village has a team of three CHWs. Technical supervision is done by the Health Center staff and administrative supervision by the in-charge of social affairs (cell, sector, district). CHWs receive financial compensation through Performance Based Financing (PBF) based on a set of performance indicators from monthly reports. It is this reporting process from village onwards that is explored in this case study. Services include HIV support, integrated community case management of childhood illnesses, family planning and nutrition.

The structure of the health system is based on 4 Provincial hospitals that receive referrals from 35 district hospitals. Within these districts are 465 health centers whose catchment areas contain 2,148 cells and 14,837 villages. With a goal of 3 CHWs per village (1 female & 1 male pair in charge of iCCM and 1 Female in charge of Maternal Health), Rwanda has trained 44,511 CHWs. All CHWs are organized into cooperatives. Each health center oversees one CHW cooperative (which is the basis of performance-based funding as we discuss in Module 6).

Maternal Health CHW keeps track of pregnant women

The current system has evolved since 1995, when it was completely paper-based. The Community Health Information Systems, that is the M&E system for community interventions, is carried out through different national data collection and reporting tools ultimately managed by web-based interface[1]. Tools include national standard paper-based source document (registers), paper-based monthly summary form, DHIS-2 and the système d’information sanitaire des communautés/CHW information system (SISCOM), and Rapid SMS

Initially, separate systems existed to gather data on the country’s 45,000 community health workers, HIV services, human resources, and other special programs—these data streams were separate and though the systems were web-based, none of the databases could interact. The Rwandan health system was collecting immense amounts of data, and spending considerable time and money doing so, but it was unable to effectively use that information for strategic planning or immediate action. As reported by staff of the maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), since the successful launch of the Rwanda-HMIS[2], many new reporting modules have been integrated into the DHIS 2 platform which include weekly and monthly reporting of community-based health insurance indicators and the CHW information system.

The following community services are tracked: Treatment of sick children (iCCM), Community Based Nutrition Program (CBNP), Malaria Treatment Adults (HBM), RDTs carried out, Family Planning, Home based Follow up of pregnant women, mothers and newborns, Nutritional monitoring, Under-5 vaccination, Maternal and Newborn Death Surveillance, Drugs and supplies, IEC activities, and user payments. These are summarized into a CHW monthly report form and ultimately into the web-based SISCOM monthly summary form. The web-based R-HMIS data tools are accessible to health staff with passwords.[3]

The data flow system moves as follows:

  — Electronic – MOH

­­­  ^ Electronic – District Hospital

  ^ Electronic – Health Center

  ^ Paper-based – Cell Coordinator

  ^ Paper-based – CHW

The coordinator of CHW cooperative submits the monthly summary form to Health Center data manager who enters aggregated data into DHIS- 2/SISCOM. The data entry screen of DHIS-2-HMIS/SISCOM can be accessed at the health center.

According to MCSP, Rapid SMS text-messaging tool is used by the CHW assigned to maternal health to track pregnant women and track the first 1000 days of life up to 5 years. Examples of information submitted include 1) Woman’s pregnancy and delivery, 2) Children under five identified with danger sign, 3) Tracking referrals (track alert sent and responses) and 4) Maternal and under five deaths. Rapid SMS data are accessed at District Hospital and used at the primary level health facilities to respond to maternal and child health emergencies. Rapid SMS sends automated, actionable responses to CHWs when reported events indicate risk, or when antenatal care visits or deliveries are due. Health facilities are notified to prepare for an anticipated delivery and/or to provide ambulance transport.

DHIS/SISCOM from the CHW also report on drug and supply management. Primary level health facilities support community health workers within the catchment area to ensure they have timely and adequate supplies.

At the local administration level (village, cell, sector, district) CHWs data are used for planning, setting and monitoring health related performance contracts. At the Central level (RBC/MOH and development partners), these data inform policies, establish strategies, manage the supply chain management, aid in research, and perform PBF

MSCP explains that feedback mechanisms and data quality are promoted through quarterly community sub-technical working group meeting, Quarterly and annual analysis of community data, and biannual integrated supervision including community Data Quality Assurance (DQA). Quarterly analysis of Community Health data informs decisions by the Management Team. The biannual DQA of community data compares paper vs. electronic sources. Monthly meetings at Health Center level review reported data and link data to quality of service provision. Mentorship included community DQA

There are monthly CHWs meetings with cell coordinator to review reported data. This also aids in Community Performance-Based Financing. Incentives are given to CHW cooperatives in exchange of their performance based on two categories of indicators.  First, quarterly payment for reporting is based on the timely submission of quality data reports related to 29 indicators including –

  • Report Quality:  Timeliness, Accuracy and Completeness of Report
  • Cooperative   Quality: Legal status, Presence of President, Bank account, etc.

Secondly, Pay-for-indicators are additional payment for improvement in five targeted areas (Nutrition, ANC, SBA, FP referrals and FP new users, LTPM). The average quarterly payment is $900 per cooperative for a 100% quality score.

MCSP notes as an example of success that all CHWs are using standard data collection tools (registers, flipcharts and summary forms). All CHWs are equipped with a mobile phone regularly loaded with airtime for Rapid SMS, communication with HC and other CHWs. The DHIS-2/SISCOM functional countrywide. A strong feedback and coordination mechanism is in place and functional. The PBF includes the CHW reporting rate. MCSP reports that the remaining challenges include turnover of trained CHWs, High workload for CHWs, inadequate response rate on alerts sent through Rapid SMS, disaggregation of data (e.g. FP not disaggregated by method), disparities in CHWs activity as per instructions for Rapid SMS, and sub-optimal use of data. Continued mentoring through CHW meetings addresses community level gaps.

CHWs keep records when providing integrated Community Case Management

[1] Jean de Dieu Gatete, Jovite Sinzahera, USAID Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), Rwanda. Integrating community data into the health information system in Rwanda. Institutionalizing Community Health Conference, Johannesburg. 27-20 March 2017. www.mcsprogram.org

[2] US Agency for International Development (USAID). THE RWANDAN HEALTH MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM: Improving Collection and Management of Health Service Data to Support Informed Decision Making. the Integrated Health Systems Strengthening Project. https://www.msh.org/sites/msh.org/files/ihssp_techbr2_final_webv.pdf

[3] Rwanda Integrated Health Management Information System. https://hmis.moh.gov.rw/

The Essential Health Service Package in Nigeria

When examining the service delivery building block of a health system we much ask what, how and where?  “What” addresses the package of services, “How” describes the mechanisms and personnel who do the delivery, and “Where” considers making services accessible in or very near the community. These are the issues explored in this case study on Nigeria. As USAID notes, “An Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS) can be defined as the package of services that the government is providing or is aspiring to provide to its citizens in an equitable manner. Essential packages are often expected to achieve multiple goals: improved efficiency, equity, political empowerment, accountability, and altogether more effective care.”[i]

Although Nigeria has held Primary Health Care as the official foundation of its national health policy since 1986, it took nearly 30 years to give legal backing to a standard service package with the legislative passage and presidential signing of the National Health Bill in 2014. The law says that “all citizens shall be entitled to a basic minimum package of health services…” defined as “the set of health services as may be prescribed from time to time by the Minister after consultation with the National Council on Health” (National Health Bill, 2014 (SB. 215)).1

Up until that time one could infer the existence of an essential medicines list for primary care through the “Standing Orders” service provision algorithms.[ii] These algorithms guide front line health staff known as community health extension workers (CHEWs) in providing quality and accurate treatment and prevention for common illnesses. The Standing Orders also form the basis for training for CHEWs. For each area, “there is a set of actions including health education, further investigation, treatment, and follow-up necessary for good client’s care.”

As an example of essential medicines, the section of an algorithm for fever management below indicates that Artemisinin-Based Combination Treatment (ACT) malaria medicines and Long-Lasting Insecticide-Treated Nets (LLINS) for malaria prevention should be part of the basic package found at the front line.

USAID describes the official service delivery system in Nigeria as organized in three tiers. Tertiary facilities operated by the Federal Ministry of Health are the highest level of health care and serve as referral centers for patients. State Ministries of Health manage secondary facilities, which provide some specialized health services. Local Government Area (LGA) PHC Departments manage primary facilities, which provide the most basic entry point to the health care system-health centers, clinics, and dispensaries. It is at the LGA level in frontline PHC clinics where the CHEWs mentioned above function and deliver the basic package. Volunteer CHW programs exist and are often run by NGOs and are poorly coordinated, although efforts in recent years have aimed at standardizing their training and activities.

In reality, Nigerians at the community level face a mosaic of health service delivery mechanisms ranging from LGA clinics and dispensaries, patent medicine shops, private clinics often run by nurses and licensed to physicians living in the city, and a range of indigenous practitioners (herbalists, bone setters) and faith healers (based in all major religious groups).[iii]

CHEW providing Essential Services

The USAID report on Nigeria’s essential services shows major challenges in health equity.1

  • Coverage is low for reproductive health, maternal health, and immunization varies widely and is strongly associated with wealth, education level, and rural versus urban place of residence.
  • On some measures, health services coverage among populations with urban residence is more than double the coverage among populations with rural residence.
  • Only about 30% of women in the poorest households receive at least one antenatal care visit, compared to over 90 percent of woman in the wealthiest households, with service coverage steeply increasing along with wealth.
  • Coverage of most key preventive and curative health services is relatively low with large disparities in geopolitical zones, between rural and urban zones, and with regard to socioeconomic status; the poorest fifth of the population are much less likely to receive medical services than their counterparts in the wealthiest 20 percent of the population.

USAID’s Health Financing and Governance Project,1 helped group the Essential Package of Care into three “service delivery modes”:

  • family-oriented, community-based services that can be delivered on a daily basis by trained community health, nutrition or sanitation promoters with periodic supervision from skilled health staff;
  • population- oriented, schedulable services that require health workers with basic skills (e.g. auxiliary nurses/midwives and other paramedical staff) and that can be delivered either by outreach or in health facilities in a scheduled way; and
  • individually oriented clinical services that require health workers with advanced skills (such as registered nurses, midwives or physicians) available on a permanent basis.

These modes come along with recommended actions which could be interventions like safe water for the family or drugs like antibiotics for child pneumonia. Therefore, at present the package focuses more on essential interventions (than essential medicines) for groups such as adolescents, pregnant women, women in childbirth, and infants and children among other populations to be reached with of RMNCH services (reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health). In conclusion, Nigeria has articulated its PHC service delivery in terms of what, how and where, but has some ways to go in articulating a clear essential package across the life span and ensuring equitable access to and provision of these services across the country and among all income groups.


[i] Wright, Jenna (2016), ESSENTIAL PACKAGE OF HEALTH SERVICES COUNTRY SNAPSHOT: NIGERIA. United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Health Finance and Governance Project (Abt Associates). https://www.hfgproject.org/essential-package-of-health-services-country-snapshot-nigeria/

[ii] National Primary Health Care Development Agency (2015) NATIONAL STANDING ORDERS FOR COMMUNITY HEALTH OFFICERS/COMMUNITY HEALTH EXTENSION WORKERS, Revised By CHPRBN IN COLLABORATION WITH NPHCDA. Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja.

[iii] Brieger WR. PHC: in search of a system that works. Africa Health 1987; 10: 30 31,26.

Community Health Officers Extend Primary Health Care in Ghana

In the 1990s the Navrongo research center started the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) initiative 3 pilot districts. The CHPS Initiative has now become the national strategy for implementing community-based service delivery by reorienting and relocating primary health care from sub-district health centers to convenient community locations.[1] CHPS is even seen as crucial to Ghana’s broader poverty reduction agenda and policy.

CHPS Compound, Upper East region
CHPS Compound, Western region

The CHPS Operational Policy notes that, CHPS was designed to operate at the third tier of the district health system that encompassed a district hospital, sub-district health centers and community-based services by addressing the needs of zones of 3000-4,500 residents “where primary health care services will be provided to the population by a resident Community Health Officer (CHO) assisted by the Community structures and volunteer systems. The deployment of all elements necessary for the CHO to provide house-to house service shall make that zone a fully functional CHPS zone within the sub-district,” thus creating CHPS compounds. It is the CHO who represents the human resource innovation in the Ghana system

A CHO engages each Community within the zone in micro planning of health activities termed “community decision making systems,” building on the following key elements: Community (as social capital); Households and individuals (as target); Planning with the community (community participation); and Service delivery with the community (client focused).

Community health nurses (CHN) trained in the nation’s various schools of nursing would be designated a CHO once they were posted to a CHPS compound. The CHPS compound, often a building donated by the community or a philanthropist served as a health post and accommodation for the CHO. There could be two CHOs and a trained midwife, since CHNs are not trained to conduct delivery. The CHOs are expected to deliver a package of essential primary health care and promotion services at the community level that revolves around home visiting. The idea is to take services to the clients.

While the curriculum of a CHN addresses some basic issues of the CHPS program, CHNs do not exit school as ready-made CHOs. Those who opt to become CHOs must receive orientation from the regions and districts where they work in a CSPS. Depth and quality of orientation varies. CHOs could be assisted by community health volunteers who are supervised by a community health committee.

Sacks et al. report that CHNs obtain a Certificate in Community Health Nursing as part of pre-service training after completing a 2-year curriculum post-secondary school.[2] After 3-5 years of service, CHNs can enroll for higher education to become a midwife or public health nurse (PHN). Sacks and colleagues found that CHN/CHO satisfaction was often determined by professional isolation and lack of basic resources and materials to perform their jobs.

By 2002, 95 out of 110 districts had launched the CHPS program, though not every potential zone was covered. The rapid national expansion of the CHPS program may have contributed to some of the CHNs’ frustrations, as the time was not taken to recruit and train health workers from the target communities who would have spoken the same language. Facilities were not upgraded prior to the increase of health workers and communities were not prepared to provide free housing to CHNs, as originally planned, say Sacks and co-researchers. Although the original goal was for CHPS to achieve complete national coverage by 2015 through the establishment of 6,000 CHPS zones, challenges led to completion of only 3,000 CHPS zones by then.  Now, more than 20 years after the initial trial, Ghana is re-launching the CHPS policy to elevate PHC as a priority and to expand the CHPS model to parts of the country that are not yet covered.[3]

The three broad areas of work by the CHO include basic primary health care issues such as promotion and prevention, management of minor or common ailment and their referrals and case detection, mobilization and referrals. Ghana Web reports that,[4] CHPS compounds cover all 8 essential PHC services and aim at helping ensure improved access to primary health care in these communities. For proper functioning of the various CHPS compounds, there is very strong community participation in the implementation.

The article reports that, “Where there is strong community participation, traditional leaders and community members provide resources, both financial and non-financial incentives, to support implementation of the program. A CHO is expected to work in partnership with the community, households and district assemblies to ensure that, citizens are able to access services and health information as and when they need them whereas the communities are expected to also exert some levels of answerability to health providers.”

The Upper West Region serves as an example of CHPS and CHOs implementation as reported by the Ghana News Agency.[5] There are 308 functional CPHS zones out of 361 planned which cover 62% of the population. The region had 364 CHOs in the 308 functioning zones and 305 active community committees, with 1,669 volunteers. Unfortunately, only 155 of the functioning CHPS zones were fully equipped to standard. A relaunch of CHPS will focus on performance guidelines, systems strengthening and quality of services


[1] Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS): The Operational Policy, Ghana Health Service, Policy Document No.20, May 2005.

[2] Emma Sacks, Soumya Alva, Sophia Magalona and Linda Vesel. Examining domains of community health nurse satisfaction and motivation: results from a mixed-methods baseline evaluation in rural Ghana. Sacks et al. Human Resources for Health (2015) 13:81, DOI 10.1186/s12960-015-0082-7

[3] John Koku Awoonor-Williams, Elisabeth Tadiri, and Hannah Ratcliffe . Translating research into practice to ensure community engagement for successful primary health care service delivery: The case of CHPS in Ghana. https://improvingphc.org/translating-research-practice-ensure-community-engagement-successful-primary-health-care-service-delivery-case-chps-ghana

[4] Gabriel Frimpong. The Community-Based Health Planning and Service (CHPS) concept in Ghana, Ghana Web. Tuesday, 24 April 2018. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/The-Community-Based-Health-Planning-and-Service-CHPS-concept-in-Ghana-646058

[5] Prosper K. Kuorsoh, Upper West Region has 62 per cent CHPS coverage. Ghana News Agency. Thursday 9th August, 2018. http://www.ghananewsagency.org/health/upper-west-region-has-62-per-cent-chps-coverage-136932

Burkina Faso Ensures Essential Medicines Reach the Front Line

Meike Schleiff of the Department of International Health, The JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health has explored how Burkina Faso manages to get essential medicines, including those for malaria, to the front line health services. She explains that the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined essential medicines to be, “those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population. They are selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness.”(WHO, 2018) These medicines should be available as part of health systems functioning to all persons at appropriate amounts, affordable costs, quality standards and sufficient information assured to consumers. Every country develops an essential drug list,

In Burkina Faso, approval of modern medicines (specialty and generic), traditional pharmacopoeial drugs, medical consumables and medical biology reagents is assigned to the Drug Regulatory Directorate (DRP).

Essential Medicines in Burkina Faso are purchased and distributed primarily through the Centrale d’Achats des Médicaments Essentiels (CAMEG), or Central Purchasing of Essential Drugs system.(CAMEG, 2018) This CAMEG system operates with two agencies in Ouagadougou, and then has seven additional agencies in other zones of the country (see map). From the zonal agencies, the CAMEG supplies 67 District Dispatching Depots (DRDs), and also supplies University Hospital Centers, regional hospitals, and additional services provided by the Ministry of Health. For the private sector, the CAMEG manages supplies for NGOs, faith-based organizations, medical laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and the Global Fund for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.(CAMEG, 2018)

Before the CAMEG was created, access to essential medicines and supplies was very difficult, particularly for rural and other hard to reach populations. This was due to geographical access as well as high prices for specialty drugs, limited availability of generic drugs, and prohibitive regulations against the introduction of generic medicines. In response to this situation, the CAMEG was created under a presidential decree in 1992 and commenced activities in 1994. In 1997, an evaluation was carried out to determine the impact of the CAMEG and decide whether to continue the activities through a long-term structure; the results of this evaluation proposed establishing a legally and financially autonomous non-profit entity to carry forward the work of the CAMEG.(CAMEG, 2018) Today, the CAMEG manages the selection of drug suppliers for the country, ensures compliance with WHO and national regulations on price and quality, and facilitates distribution and storage of drugs across the country. A full product list of the drugs managed by the CAMEG can be found on their website (www.cameg.com).

Medicines Reach Front-Line Health Facility

Community Level

The availability of essential generic medicines at health and social welfare centres in Burkina Faso is 74.5%, compared with an average of 40% across the African region and less than 60% globally.(World Health, 2016, Ministry of Health, 2010) For hospitals, rates are slightly lower with 61% of generics available and regional hospital centers and 39% at university hospital centers (Saouadogo and Compaore, 2010), but only 1.2% of branded medicines; this situation results in patients who are referred to hospitals from lower level facilities often being forced to purchase medicines from more expensive private pharmacies in order to receive the necessary care at higher levels of the health system.(Vervoort, 2012)

While immense progress has been made in ensuring affordability and accessibility of essential medicines in Burkina Faso, mark-ups at different points along the supply chain still result in prohibitively high prices at final points of sale; patients still pay for 37% of the cost of essential medicines and remain the single greatest healthcare cost for households in Burkina and a burden for the majority of the population who still live on less than $1.25 per day.(Vervoort, 2012)

References

CAMEG 2018. Centrale d’Achats des Médicaments Essentiels. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Ministry of Health 2010. Measuring the Price, Availability, Financial Accessibility, and Price Composition of Medicines in Burkina Faso. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso.

Saouadogo, H. and Compaore, M. (2010) ‘Essential Medicines Access Survey in Public Hospitals in Burkina Faso’, 4(6), pp. 373-380.

Vervoort, K. 2012. Ensuring the Availability of Essential Medicines in Burkina Faso: A Shared Responsibility.

WHO 2018. Essential Medicines. Geneva, Switzerland.

World Health, O. (2016) Burkina Faso: Country Cooperation Strategy. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/136973/ccsbrief_bfa_en.pdf (Accessed: May).