policy

Effective implementation of policies for expanding antiretroviral therapy (ART) requires a well-trained and adequately staffed workforce. Changes in national HIV workforce policies, health facility practices, and provider experiences were examined in rural Malawi and Tanzania between 2013 and 2017. In both countries, task-shifting and task-sharing policies were explicit by 2013. In facilities, the cadre mix of providers varied by site and changed over time, with a higher and growing proportion of lower cadre staff in the Malawi site. In Malawi, the introduction of lay counsellors was perceived to have eased the workload of other providers, but lay counsellors reported inadequate support. Both countries had guidance on the minimum numbers of personnel required to deliver HIV services. However, patient loads per provider increased in both settings for HIV tests and visits by ART patients and were not met with corresponding increases in provider capacity in either setting. Providers reported this as a challenge. Although increasing patient numbers bodes well for achieving universal antiretroviral therapy coverage, the quality of care may be undermined by increased workloads and insufficient provider training. Task-shifting strategies may help address workload concerns, but require careful monitoring, supervision and mentoring to ensure effective implementation.

National HIV testing policies aim to increase the proportion of people living with HIV who know their status. National HIV testing policies were reviewed for each country from 2013 to 2018, and compared with WHO guidance. Three rounds of health facility surveys were conducted to assess facility level policy implementation in Karonga (Malawi), uMkhanyakude (South Africa), and Ifakara (Tanzania). A policy "implementation" score was developed and applied to each facility by site for each round. Most HIV testing policies were explicit and aligned with WHO recommendations. Policies about service coverage, access, and quality of care were implemented in >80% of facilities per site and per round. However, linkage to care and the provision of outreach HIV testing for key populations were poorly implemented. The proportion of facilities reporting HIV test kit stock-outs in the past year reduced over the study period in all sites, but still occurred in ≥17% of facilities per site by 2017. The implementation score improved over time in Karonga and Ifakara and declined slightly in uMkhanyakude. Efforts are needed to address HIV test kit stock-outs and to improve linkage to care among people testing positive in order to reach the 90-90-90 targets.

All health care systems face problems of justice and efficiency related to setting priorities for allocating limited financial resources. Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) have emerged as policy tools to assist informed decision-making. Both, MCDA and HTA have pros and cons. This paper briefly presents the current challenges of the Colombian health system, the general features of the new health sector reform, the main characteristics of HTA in Colombia and the potential benefits and caveats of incorporating MCDA approaches into the decision-making process. Further testing and validation of HTA and MCDA solely or combined in LMICs are needed to advance these approaches into healthcare decision-making worldwide.

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals set targets for social achievements by 2015 including goals related to maternal and child health, with mixed success. Several initiatives supported these goals including assuring availability of appropriate medicines and commodities to meet health service targets. We compiled indicator data on 15 commodities related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) and analyzed them across 75 Countdown to 2015 countries from eight regions to identify problems with specific commodities and determinants of access. The determinants related to policy, regulatory environment, financing, pharmaceutical procurement and supply chain, and information systems. We also developed a dashboard for policy and systems indicators for select countries. The commodities we identified as having the fewest barriers to access had been in use longer. No country reported recent stock-outs of all the 15 commodities at the central level—countries always had some of the 15 commodities available. This analysis highlights country deficiencies in policies and systems, such as incoherent policy guidelines, problems in product registration, lack of logistics data, and central-level stock-outs that may affect access to essential RMNCH commodities.

Despite Namibia's robust medicine use systems and policies, antibiotic use indicators remain suboptimal. Recent medicine use surveys rank cotrimoxazole, amoxicillin and azithromycin (CAA) among the most used medicines. However, there is rising resistance to CAA (55.9%-96.7%). A quantitative text analysis found that policy and guidelines for antibiotic use in Namibia are not comprehensive and are skewed towards PHCs. Existing policies promote the wide use of CAA antibiotics, which may inadvertently result in their inappropriate use, enhancing resistance rates. This calls for the development of more comprehensive antibiotic guidelines and essential medicine lists in tandem with local antimicrobial resistance patterns. 

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