BACKGROUND: As more countries progress towards malaria elimination, a better understanding of the most critical health system features for enabling and supporting malaria control and elimination is needed. METHODS: All available health systems data relevant for malaria control were collated from 23 online data repositories. Principal component analysis was used to create domain specific health system performance measures. Multiple regression model selection approaches were used to identify key health systems predictors of progress in malaria control in the 2000-2016 period among 105 countries. Additional analysis was performed within malaria burden groups. RESULTS: There was large heterogeneity in progress in malaria control in the 2000-2016 period. In univariate analysis, several health systems factors displayed a strong positive correlation with reductions in malaria burden between 2000 and 2016. In multivariable models, delivery of routine services and hospital capacity were strongly predictive of reductions in malaria cases, especially in high burden countries. In low-burden countries approaching elimination, primary health center density appeared negatively associated with progress while hospital capacity was positively correlated with eliminating malaria. CONCLUSIONS: The findings presented in this manuscript suggest that strengthening health systems can be an effective strategy for reducing malaria cases, especially in countries with high malaria burden. Potential returns appear particularly high in the area of service delivery.
BACKGROUND: Appropriate clinical management of malaria in children is critical for preventing progression to severe disease and for reducing the continued high burden of malaria mortality. This study aimed to assess the quality of care provided to children under 5 diagnosed with malaria across 9 sub-Saharan African countries. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We used data from the Service Provision Assessment (SPA) survey. SPAs are nationally representative facility surveys capturing quality of sick-child care, facility readiness, and provider and patient characteristics. The data set contained 24,756 direct clinical observations of outpatient sick-child visits across 9 countries, including Uganda (2007), Rwanda (2007), Namibia (2009), Kenya (2010), Malawi (2013), Senegal (2013-2017), Ethiopia (2014), Tanzania (2015), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018). We assessed the proportion of children with a malaria diagnosis who received a blood test diagnosis and an appropriate antimalarial. We used multilevel logistic regression to assess facility and provider and patient characteristics associated with these outcomes. Subgroup analyses with the 2013-2018 country surveys only were conducted for all outcomes. Children observed were on average 20.5 months old and were most commonly diagnosed with respiratory infection (47.7%), malaria (29.7%), and/or gastrointestinal infection (19.7%). Among the 7,340 children with a malaria diagnosis, 32.5% (95% CI: 30.3%-34.7%) received both a blood-test-based diagnosis and an appropriate antimalarial. The proportion of children with a blood test diagnosis and an appropriate antimalarial ranged from 3.4% to 57.1% across countries. In the more recent surveys (2013-2018), 40.7% (95% CI: 37.7%-43.6%) of children with a malaria diagnosis received both a blood test diagnosis and appropriate antimalarial. Roughly 20% of children diagnosed with malaria received no antimalarial at all, and nearly 10% received oral artemisinin monotherapy, which is not recommended because of concerns regarding parasite resistance. Receipt of a blood test diagnosis and appropriate antimalarial was positively correlated with being seen at a facility with diagnostic equipment in stock (adjusted OR 3.67; 95% CI: 2.72-4.95) and, in the 2013-2018 subsample, with being seen at a facility with Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs) in stock (adjusted OR 1.60; 95% CI:1.04-2.46). However, even if all children diagnosed with malaria were seen by a trained provider at a facility with diagnostics and medicines in stock, only a predicted 37.2% (95% CI: 34.2%-40.1%) would have received a blood test and appropriate antimalarial (44.4% for the 2013-2018 subsample). Study limitations include the lack of confirmed malaria test results for most survey years, the inability to distinguish between a diagnosis of uncomplicated or severe malaria, the absence of other relevant indicators of quality of care including dosing and examinations, and that only 9 countries were studied. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found that a majority of children diagnosed with malaria across the 9 surveyed sub-Saharan African countries did not receive recommended care. Clinical management is positively correlated with the stocking of essential commodities and is somewhat improved in more recent years, but important quality gaps remain in the countries studied. Continued reductions in malaria mortality will require a bigger push toward quality improvements in clinical care.
BACKGROUND: Delays in accessing skilled delivery services are a major contributor to high maternal mortality in resource-limited settings. In 2015, the government of The Gambia initiated a results-based financing intervention that sought to increase uptake of skilled delivery. We performed a midline evaluation to determine the impact of the intervention and explore causes of delays. METHODS: A mixed methods design was used to measure changes in uptake of skilled delivery and explore underlying reasons, with communities randomly assigned to four arms: (1) community-based intervention, (2) facility-based intervention, (3) community- and facility-based intervention, and (4) control. We obtained quantitative data from household surveys conducted at baseline (n = 1423) and midline (n = 1573). Qualitative data came from semi-structured interviews (baseline n = 20; midline n = 20) and focus group discussions (baseline n = 27; midline n = 39) with a range of stakeholders. Multivariable linear regression models were estimated using pooled data from baseline and midline. Qualitative data were recorded, transcribed, translated and thematically analyzed. RESULTS: No increase was found in uptake of skilled delivery services between baseline and midline. However, relative to the control group, significant increases in referral to health facilities for delivery were found in areas receiving the community-based intervention (beta = 0.078, p < 0.10) and areas receiving both the community-based and facility-based interventions (beta = 0.198, p < 0.05). There was also an increase in accompaniment to health facilities for delivery in areas receiving only community-based interventions (beta = 0.095, p < 0.05). Transportation to health facilities for delivery increased in areas with both interventions (beta = 0.102, p < 0.05). Qualitative data indicate that delays in the decision to seek institutional delivery usually occurred when women had limited knowledge of delivery indications. Delays in reaching a health facility typically occurred due to transportation-related challenges. Although health workers noted shortages in supplies and equipment, women reported being supported by staff and experiencing minimal delays in receiving skilled delivery care once at the facility. CONCLUSIONS: Focusing efforts on informing the decision to seek care and overcoming transportation barriers can reduce delays in care-seeking among pregnant women and facilitate efforts to increase uptake of skilled delivery services through results-based financing mechanisms.
BACKGROUND: Despite the almost universal adoption of Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of sick children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries, child mortality remains high in many settings. One possible explanation of the continued high mortality burden is lack of compliance with diagnostic and treatment protocols. We test this hypothesis in a sample of children with severe illness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). METHODS: One thousand one hundred eighty under-five clinical visits were observed across a regionally representative sample of 321 facilities in the DRC. Based on a detailed list of disease symptoms observed, patients with severe febrile disease (including malaria), severe pneumonia, and severe dehydration were identified. For all three disease categories, treatments were then compared to recommended case management following IMCI guidelines. RESULTS: Out of 1180 under-five consultations observed, 332 patients (28%) had signs of severe febrile disease, 189 patients (16%) had signs of severe pneumonia, and 19 patients (2%) had signs of severe dehydration. Overall, providers gave the IMCI-recommended treatment in 42% of cases of these three severe diseases. Less than 15% of children with severe disease were recommended to receive in-patient care either in the facility they visited or in a higher-level facility. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that adherence to IMCI protocols for severe disease remains remarkably low in the DRC. There is a critical need to identify and implement effective approaches for improving the quality of care for severely ill children in settings with high child mortality.
Performance-based financing (PBF) programs are increasingly implemented in low and middle-income countries to improve health service quality and utilization. In April 2011, a PBF pilot program was launched in Boulsa, Leo and Titao districts in Burkina Faso with the objective of increasing the provision and quality of maternal health services. We evaluate the impact of this program using facility-level administrative data from the national health management information system (HMIS). Primary outcomes were the number of antenatal care visits, the proportion of antenatal care visits that occurred during the first trimester of pregnancy, the number of institutional deliveries and the number of postnatal care visits. To assess program impact we use a difference-in-differences approach, comparing changes in health service provision post-introduction with changes in matched comparison areas. All models were estimated using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models with standard errors clustered at the facility level. On average, PBF facilities had 2.3 more antenatal care visits (95% CI [0.446-4.225]), 2.1 more deliveries (95% CI [0.034-4.069]) and 9.5 more postnatal care visits (95% CI [6.099, 12.903]) each month after the introduction of PBF. Compared to the service provision levels prior to the interventions, this implies a relative increase of 27.7 percent for ANC, of 9.2 percent for deliveries, and of 118.7 percent for postnatal care. Given the positive results observed during the pre-pilot period and the limited resources available in the health sector, the PBF program in Burkina Faso may be a low-cost, high impact intervention to improve maternal and child health.