Publications

    Svetlana V Doubova, Hannah H Leslie, Margaret E Kruk, Ricardo Pérez-Cuevas, and Catherine Arsenault. 2021. “Disruption in essential health services in Mexico during COVID-19: an interrupted time series analysis of health information system data.” BMJ Glob Health, 6, 9.Abstract
    INTRODUCTION: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health systems around the world. The objectives of this study are to estimate the overall effect of the pandemic on essential health service use and outcomes in Mexico, describe observed and predicted trends in services over 24 months, and to estimate the number of visits lost through December 2020. METHODS: We used health information system data for January 2019 to December 2020 from the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), which provides health services for more than half of Mexico's population-65 million people. Our analysis includes nine indicators of service use and three outcome indicators for reproductive, maternal and child health and non-communicable disease services. We used an interrupted time series design and linear generalised estimating equation models to estimate the change in service use and outcomes from April to December 2020. Estimates were expressed using average marginal effects on the risk ratio scale. RESULTS: The study found that across nine health services, an estimated 8.74 million patient visits were lost in Mexico. This included a decline of over two thirds for breast and cervical cancer screenings (79% and 68%, respectively), over half for sick child visits and female contraceptive services, approximately one-third for childhood vaccinations, diabetes, hypertension and antenatal care consultations, and a decline of 10% for deliveries performed at IMSS. In terms of patient outcomes, the proportion of patients with diabetes and hypertension with controlled conditions declined by 22% and 17%, respectively. Caesarean section rate did not change. CONCLUSION: Significant disruptions in health services show that the pandemic has strained the resilience of the Mexican health system and calls for urgent efforts to resume essential services and plan for catching up on missed preventive care even as the COVID-19 crisis continues in Mexico.
    Kojo Nimako and Margaret E Kruk. 2021. “Seizing the moment to rethink health systems.” Lancet Glob Health.Abstract
    The COVID-19 pandemic has made vivid the need for resilient, high-quality health systems and presents an opportunity to reconsider how to build such systems. Although even well resourced, well performing health systems have struggled at various points to cope with surges of COVID-19, experience suggests that establishing health system foundations based on clear aims, adequate resources, and effective constraints and incentives is crucial for consistent provision of high-quality care, and that these cannot be replaced by piecemeal quality improvement interventions. We identify four mutually reinforcing structural investments that could transform health system performance in resource-constrained countries: revamping health provider education, redesigning platforms for care delivery, instituting strategic purchasing and management strategies, and developing patient-level data systems. Countries should seize the political and moral energy provided by the COVID-19 pandemic to build health systems fit for the future.
    Catherine Arsenault, Min Kyung Kim, Amit Aryal, Adama Faye, Jean Paul Joseph, Munir Kassa, Tizta Tilahun Degfie, Talhiya Yahya, and Margaret E Kruk. 2020. “Hospital-provision of essential primary care in 56 countries: determinants and quality.” Bull World Health Organ, 98, 11, Pp. 735-746D.Abstract
    Objective: To estimate the use of hospitals for four essential primary care services offered in health centres in low- and middle-income countries and to explore differences in quality between hospitals and health centres. Methods: We extracted data from all demographic and health surveys conducted since 2010 on the type of facilities used for obtaining contraceptives, routine antenatal care and care for minor childhood diarrhoea and cough or fever. Using mixed-effects logistic regression models we assessed associations between hospital use and individual and country-level covariates. We assessed competence of care based on the receipt of essential clinical actions during visits. We also analysed three indicators of user experience from countries with available service provision assessment survey data. Findings: On average across 56 countries, public hospitals were used as the sole source of care by 16.9% of 126 012 women who obtained contraceptives, 23.1% of 418 236 women who received routine antenatal care, 19.9% of 47 677 children with diarrhoea and 18.5% of 82 082 children with fever or cough. Hospital use was more common in richer countries with higher expenditures on health per capita and among urban residents and wealthier, better-educated women. Antenatal care quality was higher in hospitals in 44 countries. In a subset of eight countries, people using hospitals tended to spend more, report more problems and be somewhat less satisfied with the care received. Conclusion: As countries work towards achieving ambitious health goals, they will need to assess care quality and user preferences to deliver effective primary care services that people want to use.
    Sanam Roder-DeWan, Kojo Nimako, Nana AY Twum-Danso, Archana Amatya, Ana Langer, and Margaret Kruk. 2020. “Health system redesign for maternal and newborn survival: rethinking care models to close the global equity gap.” BMJ Glob Health, 5, 10.Abstract
    Large disparities in maternal and neonatal mortality exist between low- and high-income countries. Mothers and babies continue to die at high rates in many countries despite substantial increases in facility birth. One reason for this may be the current design of health systems in most low-income countries where, unlike in high-income countries, a substantial proportion of births occur in primary care facilities that cannot offer definitive care for complications. We argue that the current inequity in care for childbirth is a global double standard that limits progress on maternal and newborn survival. We propose that health systems need to be redesigned to shift all deliveries to hospitals or other advanced care facilities to bring care in line with global best practice. Health system redesign will require investing in high-quality hospitals with excellent midwifery and obstetric care, boosting quality of primary care clinics for antenatal, postnatal, and newborn care, decreasing access and financial barriers, and mobilizing populations to demand high-quality care. Redesign is a structural reform that is contingent on political leadership that envisions a health system designed to deliver high-quality, respectful care to all women giving birth. Getting redesign right will require focused investments, local design and adaptation, and robust evaluation.
    Todd P Lewis, Sanam Roder-DeWan, Address Malata, Youssoupha Ndiaye, and Margaret E Kruk. 2019. “Clinical performance among recent graduates in nine low- and middle-income countries.” Trop Med Int Health, 24, 5, Pp. 620-635.Abstract
    OBJECTIVES: Recent studies have identified large and systematic deficits in clinical care in low-income countries that are likely to limit health gains. This has focused attention on effectiveness of pre-service education. One approach to assessing this is observation of clinical performance among recent graduates providing care. However, no studies have assessed performance in a standard manner across countries. We analysed clinical performance among recently graduated providers in nine low- or middle-income countries. METHODS: Service Provision Assessments from Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda were used. We constructed a Good Medical Practice Index that assesses completion of essential clinical actions using direct observations of care (range 0-1), calculated index scores by country and clinical cadre, and assessed the role of facility and clinical characteristics using regression analysis. RESULTS: Our sample consisted of 2223 clinicians with at least one observation of care. The Good Medical Practice score for the sample was 0.50 (SD = 0.20). Nurses and midwives had the highest score at 0.57 (SD = 0.20), followed by associate clinicians at 0.43 (SD = 0.18), and physicians at 0.42 (SD = 0.16). The average national performance varied from 0.63 (SD = 0.18) in Uganda to 0.39 (SD = 0.17) in Nepal, persisting after adjustment for facility and clinician characteristics. CONCLUSIONS: These results show substantial gaps in clinical performance among recently graduated clinicians, raising concerns about models of clinical education. Competency-based education should be considered to improve quality of care in LMICs. Observations of care offer important insight into the quality of clinical education.
    Jigyasa Sharma, Hannah H Leslie, Mathilda Regan, Devaki Nambiar, and Margaret E Kruk. 2018. “Can India's primary care facilities deliver? A cross-sectional assessment of the Indian public health system's capacity for basic delivery and newborn services.” BMJ Open, 8, 6, Pp. e020532.Abstract
    OBJECTIVES: To assess input and process capacity for basic delivery and newborn (intrapartum care hereafter) care in the Indian public health system and to describe differences in facility capacity between rural and urban areas and across states. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Data from the nationally representative 2012-2014 District Level Household and Facility Survey, which includes a census of community health centres (CHC) and sample of primary health centres (PHC) across 30 states and union territories in India. PARTICIPANTS: 8536 PHCs and 4810 CHCs. OUTCOME MEASURES: We developed a summative index of 33 structural and process capacity items matching the Indian Public Health Standards for PHCs as a metric of minimum facility capacity for intrapartum care. We assessed differences in performance on this index across facility type and location. RESULTS: About 30% of PHCs and 5% of CHCs reported not offering any intrapartum care. Among those offering services, volumes were low: median monthly delivery volume was 8 (IQR=13) in PHCs and 41 (IQR=73) in CHCs. Both PHCs and CHCs failed to meet the national standards for basic intrapartum care capacity. Mean facility capacity was low in PHCs in both urban (0.64) and rural (0.63) areas, while in CHCs, capacity was slightly higher in urban areas (0.77vs0.74). Gaps were most striking in availability of skilled human resources and emergency obstetric services. Poor capacity facilities were more concentrated in the more impoverished states, with 37% of districts from these states receiving scores in the lowest third of the facility capacity index (<0.70), compared with 21% of districts otherwise. CONCLUSIONS: Basic intrapartum care capacity in Indian public primary care facilities is weak in both rural and urban areas, especially lacking in the poorest states with worst health outcomes. Improving maternal and newborn health outcomes will require focused attention to quality measurement, accountability mechanisms and quality improvement. Policies to address deficits in skilled providers and emergency service availability are urgently required.
    Frederico Guanais, Svetlana V Doubova, Hannah H Leslie, Ricardo Perez-Cuevas, Ezequiel García-Elorrio, and Margaret E Kruk. 2018. “Patient-centered primary care and self-rated health in 6 Latin American and Caribbean countries: Analysis of a public opinion cross-sectional survey.” PLoS Med, 15, 10, Pp. e1002673.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: Despite the substantial attention to primary care (PC), few studies have addressed the relationship between patients' experience with PC and their health status in low-and middle-income countries. This study aimed to (1) test the association between overall patient-centered PC experience (OPCE) and self-rated health (SRH) and (2) identify specific features of patient-centered PC associated with better SRH (i.e., excellent or very good SRH) in 6 Latin American and Caribbean countries. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted a secondary analysis of a 2013 public opinion cross-sectional survey on perceptions and experiences with healthcare systems in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama; the data were nationally representative for urban populations. We analyzed 9 features of patient-centered PC. We calculated OPCE score as the arithmetic mean of the PC features. OPCE score ranged from 0 to 1, where 0 meant that the participant did not have any of the 9 patient-centered PC experiences, while 1 meant that he/she reported having all these experiences. After testing for interaction on the additive scale, we analyzed countries pooled for aim 1, with an interaction term for Mexico, and each country separately for aim 2. We used multiple Poisson regression models double-weighted by survey and inverse probability weights to deal with the survey design and missing data. The study included 6,100 participants. The percentage of participants with excellent or very good SRH ranged from 29.5% in Mexico to 52.4% in Jamaica. OPCE was associated with reporting excellent or very good SRH in all countries: adjusting for socio-demographic and health covariates, patients with an OPCE score of 1 in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Panama were more likely to report excellent or very good SRH than those with a score of 0 (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR] 1.61, 95% CI 1.37-1.90, p < 0.001); in Mexico, this association was even stronger (aPR 4.27, 95% CI 2.34-7.81, p < 0.001). The specific features of patient-centered PC associated with better SRH differed by country. The perception that PC providers solve most health problems was associated with excellent or very good SRH in Colombia (aPR 1.38, 95% CI 1.01-1.91, p = 0.046) and Jamaica (aPR 1.21, 95% CI 1.02-1.43, p = 0.030). Having a provider who knows relevant medical history was positively associated with better SRH in Mexico (aPR 1.47, 95% CI 1.03-2.12, p = 0.036) but was negatively associated with better SRH in Brazil (aPR 0.71, 95% CI 0.56-0.89, p = 0.003). Finally, easy contact with PC facility (Mexico: aPR 1.35, 95% CI 1.04-1.74, p = 0.023), coordination of care (Mexico: aPR 1.53, 95% CI 1.19-1.98, p = 0.001), and opportunity to ask questions (Brazil: aPR 1.42, 95% CI 1.11-1.83, p = 0.006) were each associated with better SRH. The main study limitation consists in the analysis being of cross-sectional data, which does not allow making causal inferences or identifying the direction of the association between the variables. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, a higher OPCE score was associated with better SRH in these 6 Latin American and Caribbean countries; associations between specific characteristics of patient-centered PC and SRH differed by country. The findings underscore the importance of high-quality, patient-centered PC as a path to improved population health.
    Margaret E Kruk, Anna D Gage, Godfrey M Mbaruku, and Hannah H Leslie. 2018. “Content of Care in 15,000 Sick Child Consultations in Nine Lower-Income Countries.” Health Serv Res, 53, 4, Pp. 2084-2098.Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: Describe content of clinical care for sick children in low-resource settings. DATA SOURCES: Nationally representative health facility surveys in Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda from 2007 to 2015. STUDY DESIGN: Clinical visits by sick children under 5 years were observed and caregivers interviewed. We describe duration and content of the care in the visit and estimate associations between increased content and caregiver knowledge and satisfaction. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The median duration of 15,444 observations was 8 minutes; providers performed 8.4 of a maximum 24 clinical actions per visit. Content of care was minimally greater for severely ill children. Each additional clinical action was associated with 2 percent higher caregiver knowledge. CONCLUSIONS: Consultations for children in nine lower-income countries are brief and limited. A greater number of clinical actions was associated with caregiver knowledge and satisfaction.
    Anna D Gage, Margaret E Kruk, Tsinuel Girma, and Ephrem T Lemango. 2018. “The know-do gap in sick child care in Ethiopia.” PLoS One, 13, 12, Pp. e0208898.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: While health care provider knowledge is a commonly used measure for process quality of care, evidence demonstrates that providers don't always perform as much as they know. We describe this know-do gap for malaria care for sick children among providers in Ethiopia and examine what may predict this gap. METHODS: We use a 2014 nationally-representative survey of Ethiopian providers that includes clinical knowledge vignettes of malaria care and observations of care provided to children in facilities. We compare knowledge and performance of assessment, treatment and counseling items and overall. We subtract performance scores from knowledge and use regression analysis to examine what facility and provider characteristics predict the gap. 512 providers that completed the malaria vignette and were observed providing care to sick children were included in the analysis. RESULTS: Vignette and observed performance were both low, with providers on average scoring 39% and 34% respectively. The know-do gap for assessment was only 1%, while the gap for treatment and counseling items was 39%. Doctors had the largest gap between knowledge and performance. Only provider type and availability of key equipment significantly predicted the know-do gap. CONCLUSIONS: While both provider knowledge and performance in sick child care are poor, there is a gap between knowledge and performance particularly with regard to treatment and counseling. Interventions to improve quality of care must address not only deficiencies in provider knowledge, but also the gap between knowledge and action.
    Omolara T Uwemedimo, Todd P Lewis, Elsie A Essien, Grace J Chan, Humphreys Nsona, Margaret E Kruk, and Hannah H Leslie. 2018. “Distribution and determinants of pneumonia diagnosis using Integrated Management of Childhood Illness guidelines: a nationally representative study in Malawi.” BMJ Glob Health, 3, 2, Pp. e000506.Abstract
    Background: Pneumonia remains the leading cause of child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy was developed to standardise care in low-income and middle-income countries for major childhood illnesses and can effectively improve healthcare worker performance. Suboptimal clinical evaluation can result in missed diagnoses and excess morbidity and mortality. We estimate the sensitivity of pneumonia diagnosis and investigate its determinants among children in Malawi. Methods: Data were obtained from the 2013-2014 Service Provision Assessment survey, a census of health facilities in Malawi that included direct observation of care and re-examination of children by trained observers. We calculated sensitivity of pneumonia diagnosis and used multilevel log-binomial regression to assess factors associated with diagnostic sensitivity. Results: 3136 clinical visits for children 2-59 months old were observed at 742 health facilities. Healthcare workers completed an average of 30% (SD 13%) of IMCI guidelines in each encounter. 573 children met the IMCI criteria for pneumonia; 118 (21%) were correctly diagnosed. Advanced practice clinicians were more likely than other providers to diagnose pneumonia correctly (adjusted relative risk 2.00, 95% CI 1.21 to 3.29). Clinical quality was strongly associated with correct diagnosis: sensitivity was 23% in providers at the 75th percentile for guideline adherence compared with 14% for those at the 25th percentile. Contextual factors, facility structural readiness, and training or supervision were not associated with sensitivity. Conclusions: Care quality for Malawian children is poor, with low guideline adherence and missed diagnosis for four of five children with pneumonia. Better sensitivity is associated with provider type and higher adherence to IMCI. Existing interventions such as training and supportive supervision are associated with higher guideline adherence, but are insufficient to meaningfully improve sensitivity. Innovative and scalable quality improvement interventions are needed to strengthen health systems and reduce avoidable child mortality.
    Anna D Gage, Hannah H Leslie, Asaf Bitton, Gregory J Jerome, Jean Paul Joseph, Roody Thermidor, and Margaret E Kruk. 2018. “Does quality influence utilization of primary health care? Evidence from Haiti.” Global Health, 14, 1, Pp. 59.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: Expanding coverage of primary healthcare services such as antenatal care and vaccinations is a global health priority; however, many Haitians do not utilize these services. One reason may be that the population avoids low quality health facilities. We examined how facility infrastructure and the quality of primary health care service delivery were associated with community utilization of primary health care services in Haiti. METHODS: We constructed two composite measures of quality for all Haitian facilities using the 2013 Service Provision Assessment survey. We geographically linked population clusters from the Demographic and Health Surveys to nearby facilities offering primary health care services. We assessed the cross-sectional association between quality and utilization of four primary care services: antenatal care, postnatal care, vaccinations and sick child care, as well as one more complex service: facility delivery. RESULTS: Facilities performed poorly on both measures of quality, scoring 0.55 and 0.58 out of 1 on infrastructure and service delivery quality respectively. In rural areas, utilization of several primary cares services (antenatal care, postnatal care, and vaccination) was associated with both infrastructure and quality of service delivery, with stronger associations for service delivery. Facility delivery was associated with infrastructure quality, and there was no association for sick child care. In urban areas, care utilization was not associated with either quality measure. CONCLUSIONS: Poor quality of care may deter utilization of beneficial primary health care services in rural areas of Haiti. Improving health service quality may offer an opportunity not only to improve health outcomes for patients, but also to expand coverage of key primary health care services.
    Hannah H Leslie, Zeye Sun, and Margaret E Kruk. 2017. “Association between infrastructure and observed quality of care in 4 healthcare services: A cross-sectional study of 4,300 facilities in 8 countries.” PLoS Med, 14, 12, Pp. e1002464.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: It is increasingly apparent that access to healthcare without adequate quality of care is insufficient to improve population health outcomes. We assess whether the most commonly measured attribute of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)-the structural inputs to care-predicts the clinical quality of care provided to patients. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Service Provision Assessments are nationally representative health facility surveys conducted by the Demographic and Health Survey Program with support from the US Agency for International Development. These surveys assess health system capacity in LMICs. We drew data from assessments conducted in 8 countries between 2007 and 2015: Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda. The surveys included an audit of facility infrastructure and direct observation of family planning, antenatal care (ANC), sick-child care, and (in 2 countries) labor and delivery. To measure structural inputs, we constructed indices that measured World Health Organization-recommended amenities, equipment, and medications in each service. For clinical quality, we used data from direct observations of care to calculate providers' adherence to evidence-based care guidelines. We assessed the correlation between these metrics and used spline models to test for the presence of a minimum input threshold associated with good clinical quality. Inclusion criteria were met by 32,531 observations of care in 4,354 facilities. Facilities demonstrated moderate levels of infrastructure, ranging from 0.63 of 1 in sick-child care to 0.75 of 1 for family planning on average. Adherence to evidence-based guidelines was low, with an average of 37% adherence in sick-child care, 46% in family planning, 60% in labor and delivery, and 61% in ANC. Correlation between infrastructure and evidence-based care was low (median 0.20, range from -0.03 for family planning in Senegal to 0.40 for ANC in Tanzania). Facilities with similar infrastructure scores delivered care of widely varying quality in each service. We did not detect a minimum level of infrastructure that was reliably associated with higher quality of care delivered in any service. These findings rely on cross-sectional data, preventing assessment of relationships between structural inputs and clinical quality over time; measurement error may attenuate the estimated associations. CONCLUSION: Inputs to care are poorly correlated with provision of evidence-based care in these 4 clinical services. Healthcare workers in well-equipped facilities often provided poor care and vice versa. While it is important to have strong infrastructure, it should not be used as a measure of quality. Insight into health system quality requires measurement of processes and outcomes of care.

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