Manisha H Yapa, Jan-Walter De Neve, Terusha Chetty, Carina Herbst, Frank A Post, Awachana Jiamsakul, Pascal Geldsetzer, Guy Harling, Wendy Dhlomo-Mphatswe, Mosa Moshabela, Philippa Matthews, Osondu Ogbuoji, Frank Tanser, Dickman Gareta, Kobus Herbst, Deenan Pillay, Sally Wyke, and Till Bärnighausen. 2020. “The impact of continuous quality improvement on coverage of antenatal HIV care tests in rural South Africa: Results of a stepped-wedge cluster-randomised controlled implementation trial.” PLoS Med, 17, 10, Pp. e1003150.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: Evidence for the effectiveness of continuous quality improvement (CQI) in resource-poor settings is very limited. We aimed to establish the effects of CQI on quality of antenatal HIV care in primary care clinics in rural South Africa. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted a stepped-wedge cluster-randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing CQI to usual standard of antenatal care (ANC) in 7 nurse-led, public-sector primary care clinics-combined into 6 clusters-over 8 steps and 19 months. Clusters randomly switched from comparator to intervention on pre-specified dates until all had rolled over to the CQI intervention. Investigators and clusters were blinded to randomisation until 2 weeks prior to each step. The intervention was delivered by trained CQI mentors and included standard CQI tools (process maps, fishbone diagrams, run charts, Plan-Do-Study-Act [PDSA] cycles, and action learning sessions). CQI mentors worked with health workers, including nurses and HIV lay counsellors. The mentors used the standard CQI tools flexibly, tailored to local clinic needs. Health workers were the direct recipients of the intervention, whereas the ultimate beneficiaries were pregnant women attending ANC. Our 2 registered primary endpoints were viral load (VL) monitoring (which is critical for elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV [eMTCT] and the health of pregnant women living with HIV) and repeat HIV testing (which is necessary to identify and treat women who seroconvert during pregnancy). All pregnant women who attended their first antenatal visit at one of the 7 study clinics and were ≥18 years old at delivery were eligible for endpoint assessment. We performed intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses using modified Poisson generalised linear mixed effects models. We estimated effect sizes with time-step fixed effects and clinic random effects (Model 1). In separate models, we added a nested random clinic-time step interaction term (Model 2) or individual random effects (Model 3). Between 15 July 2015 and 30 January 2017, 2,160 participants with 13,212 ANC visits (intervention n = 6,877, control n = 6,335) were eligible for ITT analysis. No adverse events were reported. Median age at first booking was 25 years (interquartile range [IQR] 21 to 30), and median parity was 1 (IQR 0 to 2). HIV prevalence was 47% (95% CI 42% to 53%). In Model 1, CQI significantly increased VL monitoring (relative risk [RR] 1.38, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.57, p < 0.001) but did not improve repeat HIV testing (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.13, p = 0.958). These results remained essentially the same in both Model 2 and Model 3. Limitations of our study include that we did not establish impact beyond the duration of the relatively short study period of 19 months, and that transition steps may have been too short to achieve the full potential impact of the CQI intervention. CONCLUSIONS: We found that CQI can be effective at increasing quality of primary care in rural Africa. Policy makers should consider CQI as a routine intervention to boost quality of primary care in rural African communities. Implementation research should accompany future CQI use to elucidate mechanisms of action and to identify factors supporting long-term success. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial is registered at under registration number NCT02626351.
    Choolwe Jacobs, Charles Michelo, and Mosa Moshabela. 2018. “Implementation of a community-based intervention in the most rural and remote districts of Zambia: a process evaluation of safe motherhood action groups.” Implement Sci, 13, 1, Pp. 74.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: A community-based intervention known as Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs) was implemented to increase coverage of maternal and neonatal health (MNH) services among the poorest and most remote populations in Zambia. While the outcome evaluation demonstrated statistically significant improvement in the MNH indicators, targets for key indicators were not achieved, and reasons for this shortfall were not known. This study was aimed at understanding why the targeted key indicators for MNH services were not achieved. METHODS: A process evaluation, in accordance with the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework, was conducted in two selected rural districts of Zambia using qualitative approaches. Focus group discussions were conducted with SMAGs, volunteer community health workers, and mothers and in-depth interviews with healthcare providers. Content analysis was done. RESULTS: We found that SMAGs implemented much of the intervention as was intended, particularly in the area of women's education and referral to health facilities for skilled MNH services. The SMAGs went beyond their prescribed roles to assist women with household chores and personal problems and used their own resources to enhance the success of the intervention. Deficiencies in the intervention were reported and included poor ongoing support, inadequate supplies and lack of effective transportation such as bicycles needed for the SMAGs to facilitate their work. Factors external to the intervention, such as inadequacy of health services and skilled healthcare providers in facilities where SMAGs referred mothers and poor geographical access, may have led SMAGs to engage in the unintended role of conducting deliveries, thus compromising the outcome of the intervention. CONCLUSION: We found evidence suggesting that although SMAGs continue to play pivotal roles in contribution towards accelerated coverage of MNH services among hard-to-reach populations, they are unable to meet some of the critical sets of MNH service-targeted indicators. The complexities of the implementation mechanisms coupled with the presence of setting specific socio-cultural and geographical contextual factors could partially explain this failure. This suggests a need for innovating existing implementation strategies so as to help SMAGs and any other community health system champions to effectively respond to MNH needs of most-at-risk women and promote universal health coverage targeting hard-to-reach groups.
    Choolwe Jacobs, Charles Michelo, Mumbi Chola, Nicholas Oliphant, Hikabasa Halwiindi, Sitali Maswenyeho, Kumar Sridutt Baboo, and Mosa Moshabela. 2018. “Evaluation of a community-based intervention to improve maternal and neonatal health service coverage in the most rural and remote districts of Zambia.” PLoS One, 13, 1, Pp. e0190145.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: A community-based intervention comprising both men and women, known as Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs), was implemented in four of Zambia's poorest and most remote districts to improve coverage of selected maternal and neonatal health interventions. This paper reports on outcomes in the coverage of maternal and neonatal care interventions, including antenatal care (ANC), skilled birth attendance (SBA) and postnatal care (PNC) in the study areas. METHODOLOGY: Three serial cross-sectional surveys were conducted between 2012 and 2015 among 1,652 mothers of children 0-5 months of age using a 'before-and-after' evaluation design with multi-stage sampling, combining probability proportional to size and simple random sampling. Logistic regression and chi-square test for trend were used to assess effect size and changes in measures of coverage for ANC, SBA and PNC during the intervention. RESULTS: Mothers' mean age and educational status were non-differentially comparable at all the three-time points. The odds of attending ANC at least four times (aOR 1.63; 95% CI 1.38-1.99) and SBA (aOR 1.72; 95% CI 1.38-1.99) were at least 60% higher at endline than baseline surveillance. A two-fold and four-fold increase in the odds of mothers receiving PNC from an appropriate skilled provider (aOR 2.13; 95% CI 1.62-2.79) and a SMAG (aOR 4.87; 95% CI 3.14-7.54), respectively, were observed at endline. Receiving birth preparedness messages from a SMAG during pregnancy (aOR 1.76; 95% CI, 1.20-2.19) and receiving ANC from a skilled provider (aOR 4.01; 95% CI, 2.88-5.75) were significant predictors for SBA at delivery and PNC. CONCLUSIONS: Strengthening community-based action groups in poor and remote districts through the support of mothers by SMAGs was associated with increased coverage of maternal and newborn health interventions, measured through ANC, SBA and PNC. In remote and marginalised settings, where the need is greatest, context-specific and innovative task-sharing strategies using community health volunteers can be effective in improving coverage of maternal and neonatal services and hold promise for better maternal and child survival in poorly-resourced parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
    Jan AC Hontelez, Jacob Bor, Frank C Tanser, Deenan Pillay, Mosa Moshabela, and Till Bärnighausen. 2018. “HIV Treatment Substantially Decreases Hospitalization Rates: Evidence From Rural South Africa.” Health Aff (Millwood), 37, 6, Pp. 997-1004.Abstract
    The effect of HIV treatment on hospitalization rates for HIV-infected people has never been established. We quantified this effect in a rural South African community for the period 2009-13. We linked clinical data on HIV treatment start dates for more than 2,000 patients receiving care in the public-sector treatment program with five years of longitudinal data on self-reported hospitalizations from a community-based population cohort of more than 100,000 adults. Hospitalization rates peaked during the first year of treatment and were about five times higher, compared to hospitalization rates after four years on treatment. Earlier treatment initiation could save more than US$300,000 per 1,000 patients over the first four years of HIV treatment, freeing up scarce resources. Future studies on the cost-effectiveness of HIV treatment should include these effects.
    Choolwe Jacobs, Charles Michelo, and Mosa Moshabela. 2018. “Why do rural women in the most remote and poorest areas of Zambia predominantly attend only one antenatal care visit with a skilled provider? A qualitative inquiry.” BMC Health Serv Res, 18, 1, Pp. 409.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: While focused antenatal care (ANC) has served as an entry point in the continuum of care for both mothers and children, fewer than a third of pregnant women in the most remote and poorest communities of Zambia achieve the four ANC visits recommended by the World Health Organization. Current evidence suggests that attending ANC provided by a skilled healthcare worker at least once is common and associated with skilled birth attendance. The aim of this study was to explain why one ANC visit with a skilled provider seemed more common than four ANC visits among women in the remote and poorest districts of Zambia. METHODS: A qualitative case study design was conducted in 2012 among 84 participants in the selected remote and poorest districts of Zambia. Focus group discussions were conducted with mothers and community health volunteers, while key informant interviews were conducted with healthcare providers. Thematic analysis was conducted. RESULTS: Most women delayed starting antenatal care visits due to uncertainties about the timing for initiation of ANC and due to waiting for confirmation of the pregnancy by an elderly woman. Attendance of ANC once with a skilled provider was due to the need to assess their health status and that of their baby. In some facilities, attendance of ANC at least once was enforced by financial charges imposed on women for late ANC initiation, and/or incentives provided by nongovernmental organisations. Unavailability of services at health posts closest to these remote communities led to failure to return for subsequent ANC visits. Women's livelihoods such as nomadic lifestyles made it harder for them to initiate and make additional ANC visits. CONCLUSION: The popularity of ANC attendance once by a skilled provider among the remote and poorest women of Zambia was explained through perceived unavoidable social and economic barriers to care, and the punitive and incentive procedures implemented by health services. Maximising comprehensive care by skilled healthcare workers in the one visit a woman makes at the health facility, may lead to optimal utilisation of quality focused ANC. Enhancing community-based interventions may increase the potential to reach the vulnerable populations.
    Choolwe Jacobs, Mosa Moshabela, Sitali Maswenyeho, Nildah Lambo, and Charles Michelo. 2017. “Predictors of Antenatal Care, Skilled Birth Attendance, and Postnatal Care Utilization among the Remote and Poorest Rural Communities of Zambia: A Multilevel Analysis.” Front Public Health, 5, Pp. 11.Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: Optimal utilization of maternal health-care services is associated with reduction of mortality and morbidity for both mothers and their neonates. However, deficiencies and disparity in the use of key maternal health services within most developing countries still persist. We examined patterns and predictors associated with the utilization of specific indicators for maternal health services among mothers living in the poorest and remote district populations of Zambia. METHODS: A cross-sectional baseline household survey was conducted in May 2012. A total of 551 mothers with children between the ages 0 and 5 months were sampled from 29 catchment areas in four rural and remote districts of Zambia using the lot quality assurance sampling method. Using multilevel modeling, we accounted for individual- and community-level factors associated with utilization of maternal health-care services, with a focus on antenatal care (ANC), skilled birth attendance (SBA), and postnatal care (PNC). RESULTS: Utilization rates of focused ANC, SBA, and PNC within 48 h were 30, 37, and 28%, respectively. The mother's ability to take an HIV test and receiving test results and uptake of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria were positive predictors of focused ANC. Receiving ANC at least once from skilled personnel was a significant predictor of SBA and PNC within 48 h after delivery. Women who live in centralized rural areas were more likely to use SBA than those living in remote rural areas. CONCLUSION: Utilization of maternal health services by mothers living among the remote and poor marginalized populations of Zambia is much lower than the national averages. Finding that women that receive ANC once from a skilled attendant among the remote and poorest populations are more likely to have a SBA and PNC, suggests the importance of contact with a skilled health worker even if it is just once, in influencing use of services. Therefore, it appears that in order for women in these marginalized communities to benefit from SBA and PNC, it is important for them to have at least one ANC provided by a skilled personnel, rather than non-skilled health-care providers.
    Ken Ondenge, Jenny Renju, Oliver Bonnington, Mosa Moshabela, Joyce Wamoyi, Constance Nyamukapa, Janet Seeley, Alison Wringe, and Morten Skovdal. 2017. “'I am treated well if I adhere to my HIV medication': putting patient-provider interactions in context through insights from qualitative research in five sub-Saharan African countries.” Sex Transm Infect, 93, Suppl 3.Abstract
    OBJECTIVES: The nature of patient-provider interactions and communication is widely documented to significantly impact on patient experiences, treatment adherence and health outcomes. Yet little is known about the broader contextual factors and dynamics that shape patient-provider interactions in high HIV prevalence and limited-resource settings. Drawing on qualitative research from five sub-Saharan African countries, we seek to unpack local dynamics that serve to hinder or facilitate productive patient-provider interactions. METHODS: This qualitative study, conducted in Kisumu (Kenya), Kisesa (Tanzania), Manicaland (Zimbabwe), Karonga (Malawi) and uMkhanyakude (South Africa), draws upon 278 in-depth interviews with purposively sampled people living with HIV with different diagnosis and treatment histories, 29 family members of people who died due to HIV and 38 HIV healthcare workers. Data were collected using topic guides that explored patient testing and antiretroviral therapy treatment journeys. Thematic analysis was conducted, aided by NVivo V.8.0 software. RESULTS: Our analysis revealed an array of inter-related contextual factors and power dynamics shaping patient-provider interactions. These included (1) participants' perceptions of roles and identities of 'self' and 'other'; (2) conformity or resistance to the 'rules of HIV service engagement' and a 'patient-persona'; (3) the influence of significant others' views on service provision; and (4) resources in health services. We observed that these four factors/dynamics were located in the wider context of conceptualisations of power, autonomy and structure. CONCLUSION: Patient-provider interaction is complex, multidimensional and deeply embedded in wider social dynamics. Multiple contextual domains shape patient-provider interactions in the context of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Interventions to improve patient experiences and treatment adherence through enhanced interactions need to go beyond the existing focus on patient-provider communication strategies.