Equitable health services

Rural Health Care Access and Policy in Developing Countries
Strasser R; Kam S; Regalado S: Annual Review of Public Health 37, 395-412, 2016

Compared to their urban counterparts, rural and remote inhabitants experience lower life expectancy and poorer health status, and a shortage of health professionals. This article explores rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Using the conceptual framework of access to primary health care, sustainable rural health service models, rural health workforce supply, and policy implications, this article presents a review of the academic and gray literature as the basis for recommendations designed to achieve greater health equity. An alternative international standard for health professional education is recommended. Decision makers should draw upon the expertise of communities to identify community-specific health priorities and should build capacity to enable the recruitment and training of local students from under-serviced areas to deliver quality health care in rural community settings.

Effects of Response to 2014–2015 Ebola Outbreak on Deaths from Malaria, HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis, West Africa
Parpia A; Ndeffo-Mbah M; Wenzel N; Galvani A: Emerging infectious diseases 22(3) 433-41, 2016

Response to the 2014–2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa overwhelmed the healthcare systems of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, reducing access to health services for diagnosis and treatment for the major diseases that are endemic to the region: malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. To estimate the repercussions of the Ebola outbreak on the populations at risk for these diseases, the authors developed computational models for disease transmission and infection progression. They estimated that a 50% reduction in access to healthcare services during the Ebola outbreak exacerbated malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis mortality rates by additional death counts of 6,269 (2,564–12,407) in Guinea; 1,535 (522–2,8780) in Liberia; and 2,819 (844–4,844) in Sierra Leone. The authors report that the 2014–2015 Ebola outbreak was catastrophic in these countries, and its indirect impact of increasing the mortality rates of other diseases was also substantial.

Equity and achievement in access to contraceptives in East Africa between 2000 and 2010
Shah C; Griffith A; Ciera J; Zulu E; Palermo T: International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 133(1), 53-58, 2016

This paper presents trends in equity in contraceptive use and contraceptive-prevalence rates in six East African countries. In this repeated cross-sectional study, Demographic and Health Survey data from women aged 15–49 years in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda between 2000 and 2010 were analysed. Individuals were ranked according to wealth quintile, urban/rural populations stratified, and a concentration index calculated. Equity and contraceptive-prevalence rates increased in most country regions over the study period. In rural Rwanda, contraceptive-prevalence rates increased from 3.9 to 44.0. Urban Kenya showed highest equity with a concentration index of 0.02. The Pearson correlation coefficient between improvements in concentration index and contraceptive-prevalence rates was significant. The results indicate that countries seeking to increase contraceptive use should also prioritize equity in access.

Yellow fever vaccine supply: a possible solution
Monath T; Woodall J; Gubler D; Yuill T; Mackenzie J;Martins R; Reiter P; Heymann D: The Lancet 387;10028; 1599–1600, 2016

The authors note the emerging epidemic of yellow fever in Angola and spread of similar Aedes aegypti mosquito-borne viruses including dengue, chikungunya, and now Zika, albeit with differences noted. Yellow fever was first identified as a viral infection in 1900, has been reported from more than 57 countries and yellow fever outbreaks have case fatality rates as high as 75% in hospitalised cases. There has been an effective yellow fever vaccine since the late 1930s, but with outbreaks in unvaccinated populations in 1987 in urban Nigeria, despite a mass vaccination campaign. According to WHO, the current yellow fever outbreak is in more than six of Angola's 18 provinces, and there has been movement of unvaccinated travellers from Angola to neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also to further states, including Mauritania, and China. Southeast Asian countries are now considered at risk because the Aedes vector is present and the population is unvaccinated. However should yellow fever outbreaks occur elsewhere in Africa, in Latin America, or in Asia, the authors note that the current global supplies of yellow fever vaccine may be inadequate.

Assessing Coverage, Equity and Quality Gaps in Maternal and Neonatal Care in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Integrated Approach
Wilunda C; Putoto G; Dalla Riva D; Manenti F; Atzori A; Calia F; Assefa T; Turri B; Emmanuel O; Straneo M; Kisika F; Tamburlini G; Tarmbulini G: PloS one 10(6), May 2015

The authors present the base-line data of a project aimed at simultaneously addressing coverage, equity and quality issues in maternal and neonatal health care in five districts belonging to three African countries. Data were collected in cross-sectional studies with three types of tools. Coverage was assessed in three hospitals and 19 health centres (HCs) utilising emergency obstetric and newborn care needs assessment tools developed by the Averting Maternal Death and Disability program. Emergency obstetrics care (EmOC) indicators were calculated. Equity was assessed in three hospitals and 13 HCs by means of proxy wealth indices and women delivering in health facilities were compared with those in the general population to identify inequities. All the three hospitals qualified as comprehensive EmOC facilities but none of the HCs qualified for basic EmOC. None of the districts met the minimum requisites for EmOC indicators. In two out of three hospitals, there were major quality gaps which were generally greater in neonatal care, management of emergency and complicated cases and monitoring. Higher access to care was coupled by low quality and good quality by very low access. Stark inequities in utilisation of institutional delivery care were present in all districts and across all health facilities, especially at hospital level. The authors findings confirm the existence of serious issues regarding coverage, equity and quality of health care for mothers and newborns in all study districts. Gaps in one dimension hinder the potential gains in health outcomes deriving from good performances in other dimensions, thus confirm the need for a three-dimensional profiling of health care provision as a basis for data-driven planning.

People's Commission of Inquiry: Free State in Chains
Report back from the People's Commission of Inquiry into the Free State Healthcare System - 7-8 July 2015: Treatment Action Campaign, November 2015

A two-day long People’s Commission of Inquiry into the Free State Health System was held in Bloemfontein, Free State on July 7th and 8th 2015. The inquiry was organised and hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) but was set up as a public forum to enable people in the province to give testimony in front of an independent commission of inquiry through verbal and written testimony from more than 60 people representing 15 communities in the province. Civil society, activists and healthcare professionals also spoke or made submissions to the commissioners and the Free State Department of Health was also invited to testify and to make submissions. The key findings that emerged from the testimonies were that: The South African government, in particular the provincial Free State government, are failing to assume their responsibility to protect access to healthcare services, especially for the poor in the province. It reports shortages and stock outs of medication and medical supplies; broken or unavailable equipment; inadequate health workers; long waiting times for provincial emergency medical services and patient transport systems and unreliability and indignity experienced in these services. Many of the oral testimonies spoke of people having to pay out-of-pocket payments for transport to health facilities. Whistle-blowing and engagement is reported to be discouraged and at times met with intimidation. The report offers recommendations to improve access to quality services. The report indicates that the commission is committed to working together with communities, healthcare professionals, the provincial government and all other interested parties to improve conditions.

Strategies for achieving global collective action on antimicrobial resistance
Hoffman S; Caleo G; Daulaire N; Elbe S; Matsoso P; Mossialos E; Rizvi Z; Røttingen JA: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 93(12), 867-876, 2015

Global governance and market failures mean that it is not possible to ensure access to antimicrobial medicines of sustainable effectiveness. Many people work to overcome these failures, but their institutions and initiatives are insufficiently coordinated, led and financed. Options for promoting global collective action on antimicrobial access and effectiveness include building institutions, crafting incentives and mobilising interests. No single option is sufficient to tackle all the challenges associated with antimicrobial resistance. Promising institutional options include monitored milestones and an inter-agency task force. A global pooled fund could be used to craft incentives and a special representative nominated as an interest mobiliser. There are three policy components to the problem of antimicrobials – ensuring access, conservation and innovation. To address all three components, the right mix of options needs to be matched with an effective forum and may need to be supported by an international legal framework.

Ebola’s lessons for Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
Kamal-Yanni M: Global Health Check, 11 December 2015

The 2015 UHC day comes after a year of the international community being busy in producing numerous reports on learning from the Ebola crisis. Most of the learning from these documents has focused on mechanisms for effective global response to outbreaks. However, the author argues that more attention should be directed to learning from the role of local institutions in tackling the Ebola outbreak including how critically needed advances towards UHC can be achieved. Two key ingredients for effective epidemic prevention and response require particular focus: community engagement and health systems strengthening. The WHO interim panel’s report on Ebola recognised that “Risk assessment was complicated by factors such as weak health systems, poor surveillance, little early awareness of population mobility, spread of the virus in urban areas, poor public messaging, lack of community engagement, hiding of cases, and continuing unsafe (e.g. burial) practices”.

Learning from Ebola: readiness for outbreaks and emergencies
Chan M: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 2015, 93(12), 818-818A, December 2015

For almost 70 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has coordinated the norms and technical standards required to improve global health. This is the role people most often associate with WHO. However, the organisation’s constitution also calls on it to “furnish technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid” to governments, a role WHO has played on countless occasions. Despite initial delays in the western Africa Ebola outbreak response, the tide of this unprecedented health crisis has now been turned. While still requiring intense and focused action to bring new cases to zero, the outbreak is now limited to only a few cases per week. Deficiencies in capacity, expertise and approach revealed by WHO’s response to Ebola suggest that organisation-wide change is needed:WHO must ensure it can prepare for and respond to outbreaks and emergencies in a way that genuinely supports national efforts and fully integrates with international partners. WHO has begun reviewing systems and capacities throughout the organisation to streamline the way it works in outbreaks and emergencies.These changes focus on six key areas: (i) a unified WHO platform for outbreaks and emergencies with health and humanitarian consequences; (ii) a global health emergency workforce, to be effectively deployed in support of countries; (iii) core capacities at country-level under the International Health Regulations; (iv) functioning, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the International Health Regulations; (v) a framework for research and development preparedness and capacity during outbreaks or emergencies; and (vi) adequate international financing for pandemics and other health emergencies, including a 100 million United States dollars contingency fund and a pandemic emergency financing facility. No single organisation can deliver the wide range of services and systems needed for a truly global mechanism that prepares for and responds to outbreaks and emergencies. This is why WHO will continue seeking advice from our partners inside and outside the UN system to make needed change. With their collaboration and support, WHO will be well positioned to deliver what the world needs when outbreaks and emergencies occur: a timely response that rapidly contains the consequences – for economies and societies as well as for human health.

The Ideal Clinic Programme 2015/16
Steinhobel R; Massyn N; Peer N: Health Systems Trust, 2015

The Ideal Clinic programme was initiated by the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) in July 2013 in order to systematically improve Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities and the quality of care they provide. Provinces have submitted their three-year scale-up plans that indicate in which year each facility will reach Ideal Clinic status. Typically, the purpose of a health facility is to promote health and prevent illness and further complications through early detection, treatment and appropriate referral. An Ideal Clinic is defined as a clinic with good infrastructure, adequate staff, adequate medicine and supplies, good administrative processes, and sufficient adequate bulk supplies. It uses applicable clinical policies, protocols and guidelines, and it harnesses partner and stakeholder support. It also collaborates with other government departments, the private sector and non-governmental organisations to address the social determinants of health.