Article 3: 1-Year Impact of Supervision, Performance Assessment, and Recognition Strategy (SPARS) on Prescribing and Dispensing Quality in Ugandan Health Facilities

Journal Article
  • Birna Trap
  • Moses N. Sembatya
  • Monica Imi
  • Morries Seru
  • Anita K. Wagner
  • Dennis Ross-Degnan
Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
2020; vol. 13 (48). DOI:



To strengthen appropriate medicine use (AMU) including the prescribing and dispensing quality at public sector health facilities in Uganda, the Ministry of Health introduced a multipronged approach known as the Supervision, Performance Assessment, and Recognition Strategy (SPARS). This paper assesses the impact of the first year of SPARS implementation on key AMU indicators.


District-based health workers trained as supervisors provide in-service training in medicines management complemented by indicator-based performance assessment and targeted supervision during each SPARS facility visit. From 2010 to 2013, health facilities that started the SPARS intervention were assessed during the first and last visit during a period of 12 months of implementing SPARS. This study examines 12 AMU indicators with 57 individual outcomes covering prescribing and dispensing quality. We also explored factors influencing 1-year improvement.


We found an overall increase in AMU indicators of 17 percentage points (p < 0.000) between the first and last visit during a period of 12 months of supervisions, which was significant in all levels of health care facilities and in both government and private not-for-profit faith-based sectors. Appropriate dispensing (25 percentage points, p < 0.005) improved more than appropriate prescribing (12 percentage points, p = 0.13). Specific facilities that reached an average score of over 75% across all AMU measures within the first year of supervision improved from 3 to 41% from the first visit (baseline). The greatest overall impact on AMU occurred in lower-level facilities; the level of improvement varied widely across indicators, with the greatest improvements seen for the lowest baseline measures. Supervision frequency had a significant impact on level of improvement in the first year, and private not-for-profit faith-based health facilities had notably higher increases in several dispensing and prescribing indicator scores than public sector facilities.


The multipronged SPARS approach was effective in building appropriate medicine use capacity, with statistically significant improvements in AMU overall and almost all prescribing and dispensing quality measures after 12 months of supervision. We recommend broad dissemination of the SPARS approach as an effective strategy to strengthen appropriate medicine use in low-income countries.