Professor Dejan Zurovac

Research Area: Global Health
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health
Keywords: malaria, health systems, case-management, adherence and mHealth

Dejan is an epidemiologist within Malaria Public Health Department at KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. Since 1997 he has been working in several African countries as medical doctor, health programme manager and researcher evaluating translation of malaria case-management policies into practice. His current research interest involves measuring operational effectiveness of the national malaria case-management policy at public health facilities in Kenya as well as evaluating impact of innovative interventions using mobile health interventions to improve routine malaria health service delivery. Specifically, Dejan is interested in looking at effects of SMS based interventions to improve health workers adherence to guidelines, patients’ adherence to medications and availability of commodities. The work is done in close collaboration with Kenyan MoH’s Division of Malaria Control (DOMC) resulting in improved capacities within the DOMC to perform monitoring and evaluation, surveillance, and operational research. Dejan is also affiliated to Center of Global Health and Development at Boston University and is member of several national and international advisory and technical working groups on malaria case management, surveillance, monitoring and evaluation and operational research.

Name Department Institution Country
Dr Alex Rowe Centers for Disease Control United States
Professor David Hamer Zambia Center for Applied Health Research & Development Zambia
Dr Bruce Larson Boston University United States
Jon Simon Boston University School of Public Health United States
Dr Catherine Goodman London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine United Kingdom
Professor Don de Savigny Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute Switzerland
Professor Caroline Jones Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Kilifi Kenya
George Jagoe Medicines for Malaria Venture Switzerland
Dr Irene Masanja Ifakara Health Institute Tanzania
Dr Andrew Nyandigisi Ministry of Health Kenya
Dr Dorothy Memusi Ministry of Health Kenya
Dr Ahmed Omar Ministry of Health Kenya
Toda M, Njeru I, Zurovac D, Kareko D, O-Tipo S, Mwau M, Morita K. 2017. Understanding mSOS: A qualitative study examining the implementation of a text-messaging outbreak alert system in rural Kenya. PLoS One, 12 (6), pp. e0179408. | Show Abstract | Read more

Outbreaks of epidemic diseases pose serious public health risks. To overcome the hurdles of sub-optimal disease surveillance reporting from the health facilities to relevant authorities, the Ministry of Health in Kenya piloted mSOS (mobile SMS-based disease outbreak alert system) in 2013-2014. In this paper, we report the results of the qualitative study, which examined factors that influence the performances of mSOS implementation. In-depth interviews were conducted with 11 disease surveillance coordinators and 32 in-charges of rural health facilities that took part in the mSOS intervention. Drawing from the framework analysis, dominant themes that emerged from the interviews are presented. All participants voiced their excitement in using mSOS. The results showed that the technology was well accepted, easy to use, and both health workers and managers unanimously recommended the scale-up of the system despite challenges encountered in the implementation processes. The most challenging components were the context in which mSOS was implemented, including the lack of strong existing structure for continuous support supervision, feedback and response action related to disease surveillance. The study revealed broader health systems issues that should be addressed prior to and during the intervention scale-up.

Jones C, Talisuna AO, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2018. "We were being treated like the Queen": understanding trial factors influencing high paediatric malaria treatment adherence in western Kenya. Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 8. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Adherence to anti-malarial medication is highly variable but frequently suboptimal. Numerous interventions with a variety of methodological approaches have been implemented to address the problem. A recently conducted, randomized, controlled trial in western Kenya evaluated the effects of short message service (SMS) reminders on paediatric adherence to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and found over 97% adherence rates in both intervention and control arms. The current study was undertaken to explore participants' experiences in the trial and identify the factors contributing to the high adherence rates. METHODS: In July 2016, 5 months after the trial completion, focus group discussions (FGDs) were undertaken with caregivers of children who had been treated in the intervention (n = 2) or control (n = 2) arms and who, post-trial, had received malaria treatment from the same facilities. The FGDs explored similarities and differences in perceptions and experiences of the care they received during and after the trial. RESULTS: Intervention-arm participants reported that SMS messages were effective dosing reminders. Participants from both arms reported that trial instructions to keep empty AL packs for verification during a home visit by a health worker affected their dosing and adherence practices. Differences between trial and post-trial treatment experiences included: administration of the first AL dose by health workers with demonstration of dispersible tablets dilution; advice on what to do if a child vomited; clear instructions on timing of dosing with efforts made to ensure understanding; and, information that dose completion was necessary with explanation provided. Participants reported that after the trial AL was not available at facilities, constraining their ability to adhere to recommended malaria treatment. They emphasized receiving respectful and personal treatment from trial health workers contributing to perceptions of high quality care and enhanced readiness to adhere to dosing instructions. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the complex range of factors that influence AL adherence. The results suggest that in addition to standardized definitions and measurement of adherence, and the influence of enrolment procedures, AL adherence trials need to take account of how intervention impact can be influenced by differences in the quality of care received under trial and routine conditions.

Njoroge M, Zurovac D, Ogara EAA, Chuma J, Kirigia D. 2017. Assessing the feasibility of eHealth and mHealth: a systematic review and analysis of initiatives implemented in Kenya. BMC Res Notes, 10 (1), pp. 90. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The growth of Information and Communication Technology in Kenya has facilitated implementation of a large number of eHealth projects in a bid to cost-effectively address health and health system challenges. This systematic review aims to provide a situational analysis of eHealth initiatives being implemented in Kenya, including an assessment of the areas of focus and geographic distribution of the health projects. The search strategy involved peer and non-peer reviewed sources of relevant information relating to projects under implementation in Kenya. The projects were examined based on strategic area of implementation, health purpose and focus, geographic location, evaluation status and thematic area. RESULTS: A total of 114 citations comprising 69 eHealth projects fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The eHealth projects included 47 mHealth projects, 9 health information system projects, 8 eLearning projects and 5 telemedicine projects. In terms of projects geographical distribution, 24 were executed in Nairobi whilst 15 were designed to have a national coverage but only 3 were scaled up. In terms of health focus, 19 projects were mainly on primary care, 17 on HIV/AIDS and 11 on maternal and child health (MNCH). Only 8 projects were rigorously evaluated under randomized control trials. CONCLUSION: This review discovered that there is a myriad of eHealth projects being implemented in Kenya, mainly in the mHealth strategic area and focusing mostly on primary care and HIV/AIDs. Based on our analysis, most of the projects were rarely evaluated. In addition, few projects are implemented in marginalised areas and least urbanized counties with more health care needs, notwithstanding the fact that adoption of information and communication technology should aim to improve health equity (i.e. improve access to health care particularly in remote parts of the country in order to reduce geographical inequities) and contribute to overall health systems strengthening.

Talisuna AO, Oburu A, Githinji S, Malinga J, Amboko B, Bejon P, Jones C, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2017. Efficacy of text-message reminders on paediatric malaria treatment adherence and their post-treatment return to health facilities in Kenya: a randomized controlled trial. Malar J, 16 (1), pp. 46. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Short Message Service (SMS) reminders have been suggested as a potential intervention for improving adherence to medications and health facility attendance. METHODS: An open-label, randomized, controlled trial to test the efficacy of automated SMS reminders in improving adherence to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and post-treatment attendance in comparison with standard care was conducted at four health facilities in western Kenya. Children below five years of age with uncomplicated malaria were randomized to intervention (SMS reminders) or control groups. Within each study group they were further randomized to three categories, which determined the timing of home visits to measure adherence to complete AL course and to individual AL doses. A sub-set of caregivers was advised to return to the facility on day 3 and all were advised to return after 28 days. The primary outcomes were adherence to medication and return on day 3. The primary analysis was by intention-to-treat. RESULTS: Between 9 June, 2014 and 26 February, 2016, 1677 children were enrolled. Of 562 children visited at home on day 3, all AL doses were completed for 97.6% (282/289) of children in the control and 97.8% (267/273) in the intervention group (OR = 1.10; 95% CI = 0.37-3.33; p = 0.860). When correct timing in taking each dose was considered a criteria for adherence, 72.3% (209/289) were adherent in the control and 69.2% (189/273) in the intervention group (OR = 0.82; 95% CI = 0.56-1.19; p = 0.302). Sending SMS reminders significantly increased odds of children returning to the facility on day 3 (81.4 vs 74.0%; OR = 1.55; 95% CI = 1.15-2.08; p = 0.004) and on day 28 (63.4 vs 52.5%; OR = 1.58; 95% CI = 1.30-1.92; p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: In this efficacy trial, SMS reminders increased post-treatment return to the health facility, but had no effect on AL adherence which was high in both control and intervention groups. Further effectiveness studies under the real world conditions are needed to determine the optimum role of SMS reminders. Trial registration ISRCTN39512726.

Toda M, Njeru I, Zurovac D, O-Tipo S, Kareko D, Mwau M, Morita K. 2016. Effectiveness of a Mobile Short-Message-Service-Based Disease Outbreak Alert System in Kenya. Emerg Infect Dis, 22 (4), pp. 711-715. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a randomized, controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a text-messaging system used for notification of disease outbreaks in Kenya. Health facilities that used the system had more timely notifications than those that did not (19.2% vs. 2.6%), indicating that technology can enhance disease surveillance in resource-limited settings.

Zurovac D, Guintran J-O, Donald W, Naket E, Malinga J, Taleo G. 2015. Health systems readiness and management of febrile outpatients under low malaria transmission in Vanuatu. Malar J, 14 (1), pp. 489. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Vanuatu, an archipelago country in Western Pacific harbouring low Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malaria transmission, has been implementing a malaria case management policy, recommending parasitological testing of patients with fever and anti-malarial treatment for test-positive only patients. A health facility survey to evaluate the health systems readiness to implement the policy and the quality of outpatient management for patients with fever was undertaken. METHODS: A cross-sectional, cluster sample survey, using a range of quality-of-care methods, included all health centres and hospitals in Vanuatu. The main outcome measures were coverage of health facilities and health workers with commodities and support interventions, adherence to test and treatment recommendations, and factors influencing malaria testing. RESULTS: The survey was undertaken in 2014 during the low malaria season and included 41 health facilities, 67 health workers and 226 outpatient consultations for patients with fever. All facilities had capacity for parasitological diagnosis, 95.1 % stocked artemether-lumefantrine and 63.6 % primaquine. The coverage of health workers with support interventions ranged from 50 to 70 %. Health workers' knowledge was high only regarding treatment policy for uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria (83.4 %). History taking and clinical examination practices were sub-optimal. Some 35.0 % (95 % CI 23.4-48.6) of patients with fever were tested for malaria, of which all results were negative and only one patient received anti-malarial treatment. Testing was significantly higher for patients age 5 years and older (OR = 2.33; 95 % CI 1.48-5.02), seen by less qualified health workers (OR = 2.73; 95 % CI 1.48-5.02), health workers who received malaria case management training (OR = 2.39; 95 % CI 1.28-4.47) and patients with increased temperature (OR = 2.56; 95 % CI 1.17-5.57), main complaint of fever (OR = 5.82; 95 % CI 1.26-26.87) and without runny nose (OR = 3.75; 95 % CI 1.36-10.34). Antibiotic use was very high (77.4 %) with sub-optimal dispensing and counselling practices. CONCLUSIONS: Health facility and health worker readiness to implement policy is higher for falciparum than vivax malaria. Clinical and malaria testing practices are sub-optimal, however adherence to test negative results is nearly universal. Use of antibiotics is irrational. Quantitative and qualitative improvements of ongoing interventions are needed to re-inforce clinical practices in this area characterized by difficult access, human resource shortages but aspiring towards malaria elimination.

Githinji S, Jones C, Malinga J, Snow RW, Talisuna A, Zurovac D. 2015. Development of a text-messaging intervention to improve treatment adherence and post-treatment review of children with uncomplicated malaria in western Kenya. Malar J, 14 (1), pp. 320. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Patients' low adherence to artemisinin-based combination therapy has been reported in areas of Kenya bordering the Lake Victoria region, where the burden of malaria remains high. A randomized controlled trial is underway to determine the efficacy of short message service (SMS) text reminders on adherence to artemether-lumefantrine and post-treatment review of children under the age of five. This paper reports on the iterative process of intervention and delivery system development. METHODS: An intervention development workshop involving the research team and other stakeholders was held to determine the content of the text messages. Three focus group discussions were conducted to test caregivers' understanding of the messages developed during the workshop. The tested messages were refined and incorporated into an automated SMS distribution system and piloted with 20 caregivers drawn from facilities neighbouring the study sites. The automated SMS distribution system was repeatedly refined following the pilot and implemented at the start of the trial. RESULTS: The content of SMS messages underwent major revisions following the focus group discussions. Technical terms and abbreviations were replaced with simplified general terms. Message sign-off was modified to reflect the name of health facility, removing references to health workers. Day 3 post-treatment review visit reminder was modified to state the purpose of the visit while wording 'day 28' was added to the last post-treatment review visit reminder to help the caregiver recall the appointment date. The unscheduled visit prompt was modified to reflect flexibility and practicality of taking the child back to the facility if unwell. Reception of SMS reminders during the pilot was low with only 169/240 (70%) of scheduled messages delivered to the caregivers. The automated distribution system underwent major refinement and repeated testing following the pilot until effective delivery of all scheduled messages was achieved and sustained over a period of 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: Text message interventions should be carefully developed, tested and refined before implementation to ensure they are written in the most appropriate way for their target population. SMS distribution systems should be rigorously tested to ensure efficient delivery of the messages before they are deployed.

Githinji S, Kigen S, Memusi D, Nyandigisi A, Wamari A, Muturi A, Jagoe G, Ziegler R, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2014. Using mobile phone text messaging for malaria surveillance in rural Kenya. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 107. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Effective surveillance systems are required to track malaria testing and treatment practices. A 26-week study "SMS for Life" was piloted in five rural districts of Kenya to examine whether SMS reported surveillance data could ensure real-time visibility of accurate data and their use by district managers to impact on malaria case-management. METHODS: Health workers from 87 public health facilities used their personal mobile phones to send a weekly structured SMS text message reporting the counts of four basic surveillance data elements to a web-based system accessed by district managers. Longitudinal monitoring of SMS reported data through the web-based system and two rounds of cross-sectional health facility surveys were done to validate accuracy of data. RESULTS: Mean response rates were 96% with 87% of facilities reporting on time. Fifty-eight per cent of surveillance data parameters were accurately reported. Overall mean testing rates were 37% with minor weekly variations ranging from 32 to 45%. Overall test positivity rate was 24% (weekly range: 17-37%). Ratio of anti-malarial treatments to test positive cases was 1.7:1 (weekly range: 1.3:1-2.2:1). District specific trends showed fluctuating patterns in testing rates without notable improvement over time but the ratio of anti-malarial treatments to test positive cases improved over short periods of time in three out of five districts. CONCLUSIONS: The study demonstrated the feasibility of using simple mobile phone text messages to transmit timely surveillance data from peripheral health facilities to higher levels. However, accuracy of data reported was suboptimal. Future work should focus on improving quality of SMS reported surveillance data.

Irimu GW, Greene A, Gathara D, Kihara H, Maina C, Mbori-Ngacha D, Zurovac D, Migiro S, English M. 2014. Factors influencing performance of health workers in the management of seriously sick children at a Kenyan tertiary hospital - Participatory action research BMC Health Services Research, 14 | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: Implementation of World Health Organization case management guidelines for serious childhood illnesses remains a challenge in hospitals in low-income countries. Facilitators of and barriers to implementation of locally adapted clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have not been explored. Methods. This ethnographic study based on the theory of participatory action research (PAR) was conducted in Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya's largest teaching hospital. The primary intervention consisted of dissemination of locally adapted CPGs. The PRECEDE-PROCEED health education model was used as the conceptual framework to guide and examine further reinforcement activities to improve the uptake of the CPGs. Activities focussed on introduction of routine clinical audits and tailored educational sessions. Data were collected by a participant observer who also facilitated the PAR over an eighteen-month period. Naturalistic inquiry was utilized to obtain information from all hospital staff encountered while theoretical sampling allowed in-depth exploration of emerging issues. Data were analysed using interpretive description. Results: Relevance of the CPGs to routine work and emergence of a champion of change facilitated uptake of best-practices. Mobilization of basic resources was relatively easily undertaken while activities that required real intellectual and professional engagement of the senior staff were a challenge. Accomplishments of the PAR were largely with the passive rather than active involvement of the hospital management. Barriers to implementation of best-practices included i) mismatch between the hospital's vision and reality, ii) poor communication, iii) lack of objective mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating quality of clinical care, iv) limited capacity for planning strategic change, v) limited management skills to introduce and manage change, vi) hierarchical relationships, and vii) inadequate adaptation of the interventions to the local context. Conclusions: Educational interventions, often regarded as 'quick-fixes' to improve care in low-income countries, may be necessary but are unlikely to be sufficient to deliver improved services. We propose that an understanding of organizational issues that influence the behaviour of individual health professionals should guide and inform the implementation of best-practices. © 2014 Irimu et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Irimu GW, Greene A, Gathara D, Kihara H, Maina C, Mbori-Ngacha D, Zurovac D, Migiro S, English M. 2014. Factors influencing performance of health workers in the management of seriously sick children at a Kenyan tertiary hospital--participatory action research. BMC Health Serv Res, 14 (1), pp. 59. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Implementation of World Health Organization case management guidelines for serious childhood illnesses remains a challenge in hospitals in low-income countries. Facilitators of and barriers to implementation of locally adapted clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have not been explored. METHODS: This ethnographic study based on the theory of participatory action research (PAR) was conducted in Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya's largest teaching hospital. The primary intervention consisted of dissemination of locally adapted CPGs. The PRECEDE-PROCEED health education model was used as the conceptual framework to guide and examine further reinforcement activities to improve the uptake of the CPGs. Activities focussed on introduction of routine clinical audits and tailored educational sessions. Data were collected by a participant observer who also facilitated the PAR over an eighteen-month period. Naturalistic inquiry was utilized to obtain information from all hospital staff encountered while theoretical sampling allowed in-depth exploration of emerging issues. Data were analysed using interpretive description. RESULTS: Relevance of the CPGs to routine work and emergence of a champion of change facilitated uptake of best-practices. Mobilization of basic resources was relatively easily undertaken while activities that required real intellectual and professional engagement of the senior staff were a challenge. Accomplishments of the PAR were largely with the passive rather than active involvement of the hospital management. Barriers to implementation of best-practices included i) mismatch between the hospital's vision and reality, ii) poor communication, iii) lack of objective mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating quality of clinical care, iv) limited capacity for planning strategic change, v) limited management skills to introduce and manage change, vi) hierarchical relationships, and vii) inadequate adaptation of the interventions to the local context. CONCLUSIONS: Educational interventions, often regarded as 'quick-fixes' to improve care in low-income countries, may be necessary but are unlikely to be sufficient to deliver improved services. We propose that an understanding of organizational issues that influence the behaviour of individual health professionals should guide and inform the implementation of best-practices.

Otieno G, Githinji S, Jones C, Snow RW, Talisuna A, Zurovac D. 2014. The feasibility, patterns of use and acceptability of using mobile phone text-messaging to improve treatment adherence and post-treatment review of children with uncomplicated malaria in western Kenya. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 44. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Trials evaluating the impact of mobile phone text-messaging to support management of acute diseases, such as malaria, are urgently needed in Africa. There has been however a concern about the feasibility of interventions that rely on access to mobile phones among caregivers in rural areas. To assess the feasibility and inform development of an intervention to improve adherence to malaria medications and post-treatment review, mobile phone network, access, ownership and use among caregivers in western Kenya was assessed. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey based on outpatient exit interviews was undertaken among caregivers of children with malaria at four trial facilities. The main outcomes were proportions of caregivers that have mobile signal at home; have access to mobile phones; are able to read; and use text-messaging. Willingness to receive text-message reminders was also explored. Descriptive analyses were performed. RESULTS: Of 400 interviewed caregivers, the majority were female (93.5%), mothers of the sick children (87.8%) and able to read (97.3%). Only 1.7% of caregivers were without any education. Nearly all (99.8%) reported access to a mobile signal at home. 93.0% (site range: 89-98%) had access to a mobile phone within their household while 73.8% (site range: 66-78%) possessed a personal phone. Among caregivers with mobile phone access, 93.6% (site range: 85-99%) used the phone to receive text-messages. Despite only 19% having electricity at home nearly all (99.7%) caregivers reported that they would be able to have permanent phone access to receive text-messages in the next 28 days. Willingness to receive text-message reminders was nearly universal (99.7%) with 41.7% of caregivers preferring texts in English, 32.3% in Kiswahili and 26.1% in Dholuo. CONCLUSIONS: Despite concerns that the feasibility of text-messaging interventions targeting caregivers may be compromised in rural high malaria risk areas in Kenya, very favourable conditions were found with respect to mobile network, access and ownership of phones, use of text-messaging and minimum literacy levels required for successful intervention delivery. Moreover, there was a high willingness of caregivers to receive text-message reminders. Impact evaluations of carefully tailored text-messaging interventions targeting caregivers of children with malaria are timely and justified.

Zurovac D, Githinji S, Memusi D, Kigen S, Machini B, Muturi A, Otieno G, Snow RW, Nyandigisi A. 2014. Major improvements in the quality of malaria case-management under the "test and treat" policy in Kenya. PLoS One, 9 (3), pp. e92782. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Monitoring implementation of the "test and treat" case-management policy for malaria is an important component of all malaria control programmes in Africa. Unfortunately, routine information systems are commonly deficient to provide necessary information. Using health facility surveys we monitored health systems readiness and malaria case-management practices prior to and following implementation of the 2010 "test and treat" policy in Kenya. METHODS/FINDINGS: Between 2010 and 2013 six national, cross-sectional, health facility surveys were undertaken. The number of facilities assessed ranged between 172 and 176, health workers interviewed between 216 and 237 and outpatient consultations for febrile patients evaluated between 1,208 and 2,408 across six surveys. Comparing baseline and the last survey results, all readiness indicators showed significant (p<0.005) improvements: availability of parasitological diagnosis (55.2% to 90.7%); RDT availability (7.5% to 69.8%); total artemether-lumefantrine (AL) stock-out (27.2% to 7.0%); stock-out of one or more AL packs (59.5% to 21.6%); training coverage (0 to 50.2%); guidelines access (0 to 58.1%) and supervision (17.9% to 30.8%). Testing increased by 34.0% (23.9% to 57.9%; p<0.001) while testing and treatment according to test result increased by 34.2% (15.7% to 49.9%; p<0.001). Treatment adherence for test positive patients improved from 83.3% to 90.3% (p = 0.138) and for test negative patients from 47.9% to 83.4% (p<0.001). Significant testing and treatment improvements were observed in children and adults. There was no difference in practices with respect to the type and result of malaria test (RDT vs microscopy). Of eight dosing, dispensing and counseling tasks, improvements were observed for four tasks. Overall AL use for febrile patients decreased from 63.5% to 35.6% (p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Major improvements in the implementation of "test and treat" policy were observed in Kenya. Some gaps towards universal targets still remained. Other countries facing similar needs and challenges may consider health facility surveys to monitor malaria case-management.

Irimu GW, Greene A, Gathara D, Kihara H, Maina C, Mbori-Ngacha D, Zurovac D, Santau M, Todd J, English M. 2014. Explaining the uptake of paediatric guidelines in a Kenyan tertiary hospital--mixed methods research. BMC Health Serv Res, 14 (1), pp. 119. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Evidence-based standards for management of the seriously sick child have existed for decades, yet their translation in clinical practice is a challenge. The context and organization of institutions are known determinants of successful translation, however, research using adequate methodologies to explain the dynamic nature of these determinants in the quality-of-care improvement process is rarely performed. METHODS: We conducted mixed methods research in a tertiary hospital in a low-income country to explore the uptake of locally adapted paediatric guidelines. The quantitative component was an uncontrolled before and after intervention study that included an exploration of the intervention dose-effect relationship. The qualitative component was an ethnographic research based on the theoretical perspective of participatory action research. Interpretive integration was employed to derive meta-inferences that provided a more complete picture of the overall study results that reflect the complexity and the multifaceted ontology of the phenomenon studied. RESULTS: The improvement in health workers' performance in relation to the intensity of the intervention was not linear and was characterized by improved and occasionally declining performance. Possible root causes of this performance variability included challenges in keeping knowledge and clinical skills updated, inadequate commitment of the staff to continued improvement, limited exposure to positive professional role models, poor teamwork, failure to maintain professional integrity and mal-adaptation to institutional pressures. CONCLUSION: Implementation of best-practices is a complex process that is largely unpredictable, attributed to the complexity of contextual factors operating predominantly at professional and organizational levels. There is no simple solution to implementation of best-practices. Tackling root causes of inadequate knowledge translation in this tertiary care setting will require long-term planning, with emphasis on promotion of professional ethics and values and establishing an organizational framework that enhances positive aspects of professionalism. This study has significant implications for the quality of training in medical institutions and the development of hospital leadership.

Zurovac D, Otieno G, Kigen S, Mbithi AM, Muturi A, Snow RW, Nyandigisi A. 2013. Ownership and use of mobile phones among health workers, caregivers of sick children and adult patients in Kenya: cross-sectional national survey. Global Health, 9 (1), pp. 20. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The rapid growth in mobile phone penetration and use of Short Message Service (SMS) has been seen as a potential solution to improve medical and public health practice in Africa. Several studies have shown effectiveness of SMS interventions to improve health workers' practices, patients' adherence to medications and availability of health facility commodities. To inform policy makers about the feasibility of facility-based SMS interventions, the coverage data on mobile phone ownership and SMS use among health workers and patients are needed. METHODS: In 2012, a national, cross-sectional, cluster sample survey was undertaken at 172 public health facilities in Kenya. Outpatient health workers and caregivers of sick children and adult patients were interviewed. The main outcomes were personal ownership of mobile phones and use of SMS among phone owners. The predictors analysis examined factors influencing phone ownership and SMS use. RESULTS: The analysis included 219 health workers and 1,177 patients' respondents (767 caregivers and 410 adult patients). All health workers possessed personal mobile phones and 98.6% used SMS. Among patients' respondents, 61.2% owned phones and 71.4% of phone owners used SMS. The phone ownership and SMS use was similar between caregivers of sick children and adult patients. The respondents who were male, more educated, literate and living in urban area were significantly more likely to own the phone and use SMS. The youngest respondents were less likely to own phones, however when the phones were owned, younger age groups were more likely to use SMS. Respondents living in wealthier areas were more likely to own phones; however when phones are owned no significant association between the poverty and SMS use was observed. CONCLUSIONS: Mobile phone ownership and SMS use is ubiquitous among Kenyan health workers in the public sector. Among patients they serve the coverage in phone ownership and SMS use is lower and disparities exist with respect to gender, age, education, literacy, urbanization and poverty. Some of the disparities on SMS use can be addressed through the modalities of mHealth interventions and enhanced implementation processes while further growth in mobile phone penetration is needed to reduce the ownership gap.

Githinji S, Kigen S, Memusi D, Nyandigisi A, Mbithi AM, Wamari A, Muturi AN, Jagoe G, Barrington J, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2013. Reducing stock-outs of life saving malaria commodities using mobile phone text-messaging: SMS for life study in Kenya. PLoS One, 8 (1), pp. e54066. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Health facility stock-outs of life saving malaria medicines are common across Africa. Innovative ways of addressing this problem are urgently required. We evaluated whether SMS based reporting of stocks of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) can result in reduction of stock-outs at peripheral facilities in Kenya. METHODS/FINDINGS: All 87 public health facilities in five Kenyan districts were included in a 26 week project. Weekly facility stock counts of four AL packs and RDTs were sent via structured incentivized SMS communication process from health workers' personal mobile phones to a web-based system accessed by district managers. The mean health facility response rate was 97% with a mean formatting error rate of 3%. Accuracy of stock count reports was 79% while accuracy of stock-out reports was 93%. District managers accessed the system 1,037 times at an average of eight times per week. The system was accessed in 82% of the study weeks. Comparing weeks 1 and 26, stock-out of one or more AL packs declined by 38 percentage-points. Total AL stock-out declined by 5 percentage-points and was eliminated by the end of the project. Stock-out declines of individual AL packs ranged from 14 to 32 percentage-points while decline in RDT stock-outs was 24 percentage-points. District managers responded to 44% of AL and 73% of RDT stock-out signals by redistributing commodities between facilities. In comparison with national trends, stock-out declines in study areas were greater, sharper and more sustained. CONCLUSIONS: Use of simple SMS technology ensured high reporting rates of reasonably accurate, real-time facility stock data that were used by district managers to undertake corrective actions to reduce stock-outs. Future work on stock monitoring via SMS should focus on assessing response rates without use of incentives and demonstrating effectiveness of such interventions on a larger scale.

Sudoi RK, Githinji S, Nyandigisi A, Muturi A, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2012. The magnitude and trend of artemether-lumefantrine stock-outs at public health facilities in Kenya. Malar J, 11 (1), pp. 37. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Health facility stock-outs of artemether-lumefantrine (AL), the common first-line therapy for uncomplicated malaria across Africa, adversely affect effective malaria case-management. They have been previously reported on various scales in time and space, however the magnitude of the problem and trends over time are less clear. Here, 2010-2011 data are reported from public facilities in Kenya where alarming stock-outs were revealed in 2008. METHODS: Data were collected between January 2010 and June 2011 as part of 18 monthly cross-sectional surveys undertaken at nationally representative samples of public health facilities. The primary monitoring indicator was total stock-out of all four weight-specific AL packs. The secondary indicators were stock-outs of at least one AL pack and individual stock-outs for each AL pack. Monthly proportions and summary means of the proportions over the monitoring period were measured for each indicator. Stock-out trends were assessed using linear regression. RESULTS: The number of surveyed facilities across 18 time points ranged between 162 and 176 facilities. The stock-out means of the proportion of health facilities were 11.6% for total AL stock-out, 40.6% for stock-out of at least one AL pack, and between 20.5% and 27.4% for stock-outs of individual AL packs. Monthly decrease of the total AL stock-out was 0.005% (95% CI: -0.5 to +0.5; p = 0.983). Monthly decrease in the stock-out of at least one AL pack was 0.7% (95% CI: -1.5 to +0.3; p = 0.058) while stock-outs of individual AL packs decreased monthly between 0.2% for AL 24-pack and 0.7% for AL six-pack without statistical significance for any of the weight-specific packs. CONCLUSIONS: Despite lower levels of AL stock-outs compared to the reports in 2008, the stock-outs at Kenyan facilities during 2010-2011 are still substantial and of particular worry for the most detrimental:- simultaneous absence of any AL pack. Only minor decrease was observed in the stock-outs of individual AL packs. Recently launched interventions to eliminate AL stock-outs in Kenya are fully justified.

Zurovac D, Talisuna AO, Snow RW. 2012. Mobile phone text messaging: tool for malaria control in Africa. PLoS Med, 9 (2), pp. e1001176. | Read more

Abdelgader TM, Ibrahim AM, Elmardi KA, Githinji S, Zurovac D, Snow RW, Noor AM. 2012. Progress towards implementation of ACT malaria case-management in public health facilities in the Republic of Sudan: a cluster-sample survey. BMC Public Health, 12 (1), pp. 11. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Effective malaria case-management based on artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and parasitological diagnosis is a major pillar within the 2007-2012 National Malaria Strategic Plan in the Sudan. Three years after the launch of the strategy a health facility survey was undertaken to evaluate case-management practices and readiness of the health facilities and health workers to implement a new malaria case-management strategy. METHODS: A cross-sectional, cluster sample survey was undertaken at public health facilities in 15 states of Sudan. Data were collected using quality-of-care assessment methods. The main outcomes were the proportions of facilities with ACTs and malaria diagnostics; proportions of health workers exposed to malaria related health systems support activities; and composite and individual indicators of case-management practices for febrile outpatients stratified by age, availability of ACTs and diagnostics, use of malaria diagnostics, and test result. RESULTS: We evaluated 244 facilities, 294 health workers and 1,643 consultations for febrile outpatients (425 < 5 years and 1,218 ≥ 5 years). Health facility and health worker readiness was variable: chloroquine was available at only 5% of facilities, 73% stocked recommended artesunate and sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (AS+SP), 51% had the capacity to perform parasitological diagnosis, 53% of health workers had received in-service training on ACTs, 24% were trained in the use of malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests, and 19% had received a supervisory visit including malaria case-management. At all health facilities 46% of febrile patients were parasitologically tested and 35% of patients were both, tested and treated according to test result. At facilities where AS+SP and malaria diagnostics were available 66% of febrile patients were tested and 51% were both, tested and treated according to test result. Among test positive patients 64% were treated with AS+SP but 24% were treated with artemether monotherapy. Among test negative patients only 17% of patients were treated for malaria. The majority of ACT dispensing and counseling practices were suboptimal. CONCLUSIONS: Five years following change of the policy from chloroquine to ACTs and 3 years before the end of the new malaria strategic plan chloroquine was successfully phased out from public facilities in Sudan, however, an important gap remained in the availability of ACTs, diagnostic capacities and coverage with malaria case-management activities. The national scale-up of diagnostics, using the findings of this survey as well as future qualitative research, should present an opportunity not only to expand existing testing capacities but also to implement effective support interventions to bridge the health systems gaps and support corrective case-management measures, including the discontinuation of artemether monotherapy treatment.

Zurovac D, Larson BA, Sudoi RK, Snow RW. 2012. Costs and cost-effectiveness of a mobile phone text-message reminder programmes to improve health workers' adherence to malaria guidelines in Kenya. PLoS One, 7 (12), pp. e52045. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Simple interventions for improving health workers' adherence to malaria case-management guidelines are urgently required across Africa. A recent trial in Kenya showed that text-message reminders sent to health workers' mobile phones improved management of pediatric outpatients by 25 percentage points. In this paper we examine costs and cost-effectiveness of this intervention. METHODS/FINDINGS: We evaluate costs and cost-effectiveness in 2010 USD under three implementation scenarios: (1) as implemented under study conditions in study areas; (2) if the intervention was routinely implemented by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the same areas; and (3) if the intervention was scaled up nationally. Under study conditions, intervention costs were 19,342 USD, of which 45% were for developing and pretesting text-messages, 12% for developing text-message distribution system, 29% for collecting health workers' phone numbers, and 13% were costs of sending text-messages and monitoring of the system. If the intervention was implemented in the same areas by the MoH, the costs would be 28% lower (13,920 USD) due to lower costs of collecting health workers' numbers. The cost of national scale-up would be 97,350 USD, and the majority of these costs (66%) would be for sending text-messages. The cost per additional child correctly managed was 0.50 USD under study conditions, 0.36 USD if implemented by the MoH in the same area, and estimated at only 0.03 USD if implemented nationally. Even if the effect size was only 5% or the cost on the national scale was 400% higher than estimated, the cost per additional child correctly managed would be only 0.16 USD. CONCLUSIONS: A simple text-messaging intervention improving health worker adherence to malaria guidelines is effective and inexpensive. Further research is justified to optimize delivery of the intervention and expand targets beyond children and malaria disease.

Jones COH, Wasunna B, Sudoi R, Githinji S, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2012. "Even if you know everything you can forget": health worker perceptions of mobile phone text-messaging to improve malaria case-management in Kenya. PLoS One, 7 (6), pp. e38636. | Show Abstract | Read more

This paper presents the results of a qualitative study to investigate the perceptions and experiences of health workers involved in a a cluster-randomized controlled trial of a novel intervention to improve health worker malaria case-management in 107 government health facilities in Kenya. The intervention involved sending text-messages about paediatric outpatient malaria case-management accompanied by "motivating" quotes to health workers' mobile phones. Ten malaria messages were developed reflecting recommendations from the Kenyan national guidelines. Two messages were delivered per day for 5 working days and the process was repeated for 26 weeks (May to October 2009). The accompanying quotes were unique to each message. The intervention was delivered to 119 health workers and there were significant improvements in correct artemether-lumefantrine (AL) management both immediately after the intervention (November 2009) and 6 months later (May 2010). In-depth interviews with 24 health workers were undertaken to investigate the possible drivers of this change. The results suggest high acceptance of all components of the intervention, with the active delivery of information in an on the job setting, the ready availability of new and stored text messages and the perception of being kept 'up to date' as important factors influencing practice. Applying the construct of stages of change we infer that in this intervention the SMS messages were operating primarily at the action and maintenance stages of behaviour change achieving their effect by creating an enabling environment and providing a prompt to action for the implementation of case management practices that had already been accepted as the clinical norm by the health workers. Future trials testing the effectiveness of SMS reminders in creating an enabling environment for the establishment of new norms in clinical practice as well as in providing a prompt to action for the implementation of the new case-management guidelines are justified.

Irimu GW, Gathara D, Zurovac D, Kihara H, Maina C, Mwangi J, Mbori-Ngacha D, Todd J, Greene A, English M. 2012. Performance of health workers in the management of seriously sick children at a Kenyan tertiary hospital: before and after a training intervention. PLoS One, 7 (7), pp. e39964. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Implementation of WHO case management guidelines for serious common childhood illnesses remains a challenge in hospitals in low-income countries. The impact of locally adapted clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) on the quality-of-care of patients in tertiary hospitals has rarely been evaluated. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted, in Kenyatta National Hospital, an uncontrolled before and after study with an attempt to explore intervention dose-effect relationships, as CPGs were disseminated and training was progressively implemented. The emergency triage, assessment and treatment plus admission care (ETAT+) training and locally adapted CPGs targeted common, serious childhood illnesses. We compared performance in the pre-intervention (2005) and post-intervention periods (2009) using quality indicators for three diseases: pneumonia, dehydration and severe malnutrition. The indicators spanned four domains in the continuum of care namely assessment, classification, treatment, and follow-up care in the initial 48 hours of admission. In the pre-intervention period patients' care was largely inconsistent with the guidelines, with nine of the 15 key indicators having performance of below 10%. The intervention produced a marked improvement in guideline adherence with an absolute effect size of over 20% observed in seven of the 15 key indicators; three of which had an effect size of over 50%. However, for all the five indicators that required sustained team effort performance continued to be poor, at less than 10%, in the post-intervention period. Data from the five-year period (2005-09) suggest some dose dependency though the adoption rate of the best-practices varied across diseases and over time. CONCLUSION: Active dissemination of locally adapted clinical guidelines for common serious childhood illnesses can achieve a significant impact on documented clinical practices, particularly for tasks that rely on competence of individual clinicians. However, more attention must be given to broader implementation strategies that also target institutional and organisational aspects of service delivery to further enhance quality-of-care.

Lawford H, Zurovac D, O'Reilly L, Hoibak S, Cowley A, Munga S, Vulule J, Juma E, Snow RW, Allan R. 2011. Adherence to prescribed artemisinin-based combination therapy in Garissa and Bunyala districts, Kenya. Malar J, 10 (1), pp. 281. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Following the development of resistance to anti-malarial mono-therapies, malaria endemic countries in Africa now use artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) as recommended first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria. Patients' adherence to ACT is an important factor to ensure treatment efficacy, as well as to reduce the likelihood of parasite resistance to these drugs. This study reports adherence to a specific ACT, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), under conditions of routine clinical practice in Kenya. METHOD: The study was undertaken in Garissa and Bunyala districts among outpatients of five government health facilities. Patients treated with AL were visited at home four days after having been prescribed the drug. Respondents (patients ≥ 15 years and caregivers of patients < 15 years) were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire, AL blister packs were physically inspected and the adherence status of patients was then recorded. Multivariate logistic regression modelling was used to determine predictors of adherence. RESULTS: Of the 918 patients included in the study, 588 (64.1%) were 'probably adherent', 291 (31.7%) were 'definitely non-adherent' and 39 (4.2%) were 'probably non-adherent'. Six factors were found to be significant predictors of adherence: patient knowledge of the ACT dosing regimen (odds ratio (OR) = 1.76; 95% CI = 1.32-2.35), patient age (OR = 1.65; 95% CI = 1.02-1.85), respondent age (OR = 1.37; 95% CI = 1.10-2.48), whether a respondent had seen AL before (OR = 1.46; 95% CI = 1.08-1.98), whether a patient had reported dislikes to AL (OR = 0.62 95% CI = 0.47-0.82) and whether a respondent had waited more than 24 hours to seek treatment (OR = 0.73; 95% CI = 0.54-0.99). CONCLUSION: Overall, adherence to AL was found to be low in both Garissa and Bunyala districts, with patient knowledge of the AL dosing regimen found to be the strongest predictor of adherence. Interventions aimed at increasing community awareness of the AL dosing regimen, use of child friendly formulations and improving health workers' prescribing practices are likely to ensure higher adherence to AL and eventual treatment success.

Zurovac D, Sudoi RK, Akhwale WS, Ndiritu M, Hamer DH, Rowe AK, Snow RW. 2011. The effect of mobile phone text-message reminders on Kenyan health workers' adherence to malaria treatment guidelines: a cluster randomised trial. Lancet, 378 (9793), pp. 795-803. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Health workers' malaria case-management practices often differ from national guidelines. We assessed whether text-message reminders sent to health workers' mobile phones could improve and maintain their adherence to treatment guidelines for outpatient paediatric malaria in Kenya. METHODS: From March 6, 2009, to May 31, 2010, we did a cluster-randomised controlled trial at 107 rural health facilities in 11 districts in coastal and western Kenya. With a computer-generated sequence, health facilities were randomly allocated to either the intervention group, in which all health workers received text messages on their personal mobile phones on malaria case-management for 6 months, or the control group, in which health workers did not receive any text messages. Health workers were not masked to the intervention, although patients were unaware of whether they were in an intervention or control facility. The primary outcome was correct management with artemether-lumefantrine, defined as a dichotomous composite indicator of treatment, dispensing, and counselling tasks concordant with Kenyan national guidelines. The primary analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN72328636. FINDINGS: 119 health workers received the intervention. Case-management practices were assessed for 2269 children who needed treatment (1157 in the intervention group and 1112 in the control group). Intention-to-treat analysis showed that correct artemether-lumefantrine management improved by 23·7 percentage-points (95% CI 7·6-40·0; p=0·004) immediately after intervention and by 24·5 percentage-points (8·1-41·0; p=0·003) 6 months later. INTERPRETATION: In resource-limited settings, malaria control programmes should consider use of text messaging to improve health workers' case-management practices. FUNDING: The Wellcome Trust.

Mudhune SA, Okiro EA, Noor AM, Zurovac D, Juma E, Ochola SA, Snow RW. 2011. The clinical burden of malaria in Nairobi: a historical review and contemporary audit. Malar J, 10 (1), pp. 138. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Widespread urbanization over the next 20 years has the potential to drastically change the risk of malaria within Africa. The burden of the disease, its management, risk factors and appropriateness of targeted intervention across varied urban environments in Africa remain largely undefined. This paper presents a combined historical and contemporary review of the clinical burden of malaria within one of Africa's largest urban settlements, Nairobi, Kenya. METHODS: A review of historical reported malaria case burdens since 1911 within Nairobi was undertaken using archived government and city council reports. Contemporary information on out-patient case burdens due to malaria were assembled from the National Health Management and Information System (HMIS). Finally, an audit of 22 randomly selected health facilities within Nairobi was undertaken covering 12 months 2009-2010. The audit included interviews with health workers, and a checklist of commodities and guidelines necessary to diagnose, treat and record malaria. RESULTS: From the 1930's through to the mid-1960's malaria incidence declined coincidental with rapid population growth. During this period malaria notification and prevention were a priority for the city council. From 2001-2008 reporting systems for malaria were inadequate to define the extent or distribution of malaria risk within Nairobi. A more detailed facility review suggests, however that malaria remains a common diagnosis (11% of all paediatric diagnoses made) and where laboratories (n = 15) exist slide positivity rates are on average 15%. Information on the quality of diagnosis, slide reading and whether those reported as positive were imported infections was not established. The facilities and health workers included in this study were not universally prepared to treat malaria according to national guidelines or identify foci of risks due to shortages of national first-line drugs, inadequate record keeping and a view among some health workers (17%) that slide negative patients could still have malaria. CONCLUSION: Combined with historical evidence there is a strong suggestion that very low risks of locally acquired malaria exist today within Nairobi's city limits and this requires further investigation. To be prepared for effective prevention and case-management of malaria among a diverse, mobile population in Nairobi requires a major paradigm shift and investment in improved quality of malaria diagnosis and case management, health system strengthening and case reporting.

Cited:

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Zurovac D, Sudoi RK, Akhwale WS, Ndiritu M, Hamer DH, Rowe AK, Snow RW. 2011. The effect of mobile phone text-message reminders on Kenyan health workers' adherence to malaria treatment guidelines: A cluster randomised trial The Lancet, 378 (9793), pp. 795-803. | Show Abstract | Read more

Health workers' malaria case-management practices often differ from national guidelines. We assessed whether text-message reminders sent to health workers' mobile phones could improve and maintain their adherence to treatment guidelines for outpatient paediatric malaria in Kenya. From March 6, 2009, to May 31, 2010, we did a cluster-randomised controlled trial at 107 rural health facilities in 11 districts in coastal and western Kenya. With a computer-generated sequence, health facilities were randomly allocated to either the intervention group, in which all health workers received text messages on their personal mobile phones on malaria case-management for 6 months, or the control group, in which health workers did not receive any text messages. Health workers were not masked to the intervention, although patients were unaware of whether they were in an intervention or control facility. The primary outcome was correct management with artemether-lumefantrine, defined as a dichotomous composite indicator of treatment, dispensing, and counselling tasks concordant with Kenyan national guidelines. The primary analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN72328636. 119 health workers received the intervention. Case-management practices were assessed for 2269 children who needed treatment (1157 in the intervention group and 1112 in the control group). Intention-to-treat analysis showed that correct artemether-lumefantrine management improved by 23·7 percentage-points (95 CI 7·6-40·0; p=0·004) immediately after intervention and by 24·5 percentage-points (8·1-41·0; p=0·003) 6 months later. In resource-limited settings, malaria control programmes should consider use of text messaging to improve health workers' case-management practices. The Wellcome Trust. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Nyandigisi A, Memusi D, Mbithi A, Ang'wa N, Shieshia M, Muturi A, Sudoi R, Githinji S, Juma E, Zurovac D. 2011. Malaria case-management following change of policy to universal parasitological diagnosis and targeted artemisinin-based combination therapy in Kenya. PLoS One, 6 (9), pp. e24781. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The change of malaria case-management policy in Kenya to recommend universal parasitological diagnosis and targeted treatment with artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is supported with activities aiming by 2013 at universal coverage and adherence to the recommendations. We evaluated changes in health systems and case-management indicators between the baseline survey undertaken before implementation of the policy and the follow-up survey following the first year of the implementation activities. METHODS/FINDINGS: National, cross-sectional surveys using quality-of-care methods were undertaken at public facilities. Baseline and follow-up surveys respectively included 174 and 176 facilities, 224 and 237 health workers, and 2,405 and 1,456 febrile patients. Health systems indicators showed variable changes between surveys: AL stock-out (27% to 21%; p = 0.152); availability of diagnostics (55% to 58%; p = 0.600); training on the new policy (0 to 22%; p = 0.001); exposure to supervision (18% to 13%; p = 0.156) and access to guidelines (0 to 6%; p = 0.001). At all facilities, there was an increase among patients tested for malaria (24% vs 31%; p = 0.090) and those who were both tested and treated according to test result (16% to 22%; p = 0.048). At facilities with AL and malaria diagnostics, testing increased from 43% to 50% (p = 0.196) while patients who were both, tested and treated according to test result, increased from 28% to 36% (p = 0.114). Treatment adherence improved for test positive patients from 83% to 90% (p = 0.150) and for test negative patients from 47% to 56% (p = 0.227). No association was found between testing and exposure to training, supervision and guidelines, however, testing was significantly associated with facility ownership, type of testing, and patients' caseload, age and clinical presentation. CONCLUSIONS: Most of the case-management indicators have shown some improvement trends; however differences were smaller than expected, rarely statistically significant and still leaving a substantial gap towards optimistic targets. The quantitative and qualitative improvement of interventions will ultimately determine the success of the new policy.

Juma E, Zurovac D. 2011. Changes in health workers' malaria diagnosis and treatment practices in Kenya. Malar J, 10 (1), pp. 1. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Change of Kenyan treatment policy for uncomplicated malaria from sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) was accompanied by revised recommendations promoting presumptive malaria diagnosis in young children and, wherever possible, parasitological diagnosis and adherence to test results in older children and adults. Three years after the policy implementation, health workers' adherence to malaria diagnosis and treatment recommendations was evaluated. METHODS: A national cross-sectional, cluster sample survey was undertaken at public health facilities. Data were collected using quality-of-care assessment methods. Analysis was restricted to facilities with AL in stock. Main outcomes were diagnosis and treatment practices for febrile outpatients stratified by age, availability of diagnostics, use of malaria diagnostic tests, and test result. RESULTS: The analysis included 1,096 febrile patients (567 aged <5 years and 529 aged ≥5 years) at 88 facilities with malaria diagnostics, and 880 febrile patients (407 aged <5 years and 473 aged ≥5 years) at 71 facilities without malaria diagnostic capacity. At all facilities, 19.8% of young children and 28.7% of patients aged ≥5 years were tested, while at facilities with diagnostics, 33.5% and 53.7% were respectively tested in each age group. Overall, AL was prescribed for 63.6% of children aged <5 years and for 65.0% of patients aged ≥5 years, while amodiaquine or sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine monotherapies were prescribed for only 2.0% of children and 3.9% of older children and adults. In children aged <5 years, AL was prescribed for 74.7% of test positive, 40.4% of test negative and 60.7% of patients without test performed. In patients aged ≥5 years, AL was prescribed for 86.7% of test positive, 32.8% of test negative and 58.0% of patients without test performed. At least one anti-malarial treatment was prescribed for 56.6% of children and 50.4% of patients aged ≥5 years with a negative test result. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, malaria testing rates were low and, despite different age-specific recommendations, only moderate differences in testing rates between the two age groups were observed at facilities with available diagnostics. In both age groups, AL use prevailed, and prior ineffective anti-malarial treatments were nearly non-existent. The large majority of test positive patients were treated with recommended AL; however, anti-malarial treatments for test negative patients were widespread, with AL being the dominant choice. Recent change of diagnostic policy to universal testing in Kenya is an opportunity to improve upon the quality of malaria case management. This will be, however, dependent upon the delivery of a comprehensive case management package including large scale deployment of diagnostics, good quality of training, post-training follow-up, structured supervisory visits, and more intense monitoring.

Wasunna B, Zurovac D, Bruce J, Jones C, Webster J, Snow RW. 2010. Health worker performance in the management of paediatric fevers following in-service training and exposure to job aids in Kenya. Malar J, 9 (1), pp. 261. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Improving the way artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is provided to patients attending clinics is critical to maximize the benefit of this new medicine. In 2007, a new initiative was launched in one part of Kenya to improve malaria case-management through enhanced in-service training and provision of job aids. METHODS: An evaluation of the intervention using pre- and post-intervention cross sectional health facility surveys was conducted in Bondo district. The surveys included: audit of government health facilities, health worker structured interviews and exit interviews with caretakers of sick children below five years of age. The outcome indicators were the proportions of febrile children who had AL prescribed, AL dispensed, and four different dispensing and counseling tasks performed. RESULTS: At baseline 33 government health facilities, 48 health workers and 386 febrile child consultations were evaluated. At follow-up the same health facilities were surveyed and 36 health workers and 390 febrile child consultations evaluated. The findings show: 1) no health facility or health worker was exposed to all components of the intervention; 2) the proportion of health workers who received the enhanced in-service training was 67%; 3) the proportion of febrile children with uncomplicated malaria treated with the first-line anti-malarial drug, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), at health facilities where AL was in stock increased from 76.9% (95%CI: 69.4, 83.1) to 87.6% (95% CI: 82.5, 91.5); 4) there were modest but non-significant improvements in dispensing and counseling practices; and 5) when the analyses were restricted to health workers who received the enhanced in-service training and/or had received new guidelines and job aids, no significant improvements in reported case-management tasks were observed compared to baseline. CONCLUSION: In-service training and provision of job aids alone may not be adequate to improve the prescribing, dispensing and counseling tasks necessary to change malaria case-management practices and the inclusion of supervision and post-training follow-up should be considered in future clinical practice change initiatives.

Skarbinski J, Ouma PO, Causer LM, Kariuki SK, Barnwell JW, Alaii JA, de Oliveira AM, Zurovac D, Larson BA, Snow RW et al. 2009. Effect of malaria rapid diagnostic tests on the management of uncomplicated malaria with artemether-lumefantrine in Kenya: a cluster randomized trial. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 80 (6), pp. 919-926. | Show Abstract

Shortly after Kenya introduced artemether-lumefantrine (AL) for first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria, we conducted a pre-post cluster randomized controlled trial to assess the effect of providing malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) on recommended treatment (patients with malaria prescribed AL) and overtreatment (patients without malaria prescribed AL) in outpatients >/= 5 years old. Sixty health facilities were randomized to receive either RDTs plus training, guidelines, and supervision (TGS) or TGS alone. Of 1,540 patients included in the analysis, 7% had uncomplicated malaria. The provision of RDTs coupled with TGS emphasizing AL use only after laboratory confirmation of malaria reduced recommended treatment by 63%-points (P = 0.04), because diagnostic test use did not change (-2%-points), but health workers significantly reduced presumptive treatment with AL for patients with a clinical diagnosis of malaria who did not undergo testing (-36%-points; P = 0.03). Health workers generally adhered to RDT results when prescribing AL: 88% of RDT-positive and 9% of RDT-negative patients were treated with AL, respectively. Overtreatment was low in both arms and was not significantly reduced by the provision of RDTs (-12%-points, P = 0.30). RDTs could potentially improve malaria case management, but we urgently need to develop more effective strategies for implementing guidelines before large scale implementation.

Kangwana BB, Njogu J, Wasunna B, Kedenge SV, Memusi DN, Goodman CA, Zurovac D, Snow RW. 2009. Malaria drug shortages in Kenya: a major failure to provide access to effective treatment. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 80 (5), pp. 737-738. | Show Abstract

A key bench mark of successful therapeutic policy implementation, and thus effectiveness, is that the recommended drugs are available at the point of care. Two years after artemether-lumefathrine (AL) was introduced for the management of uncomplicated malaria in Kenya, we carried out a cross-sectional survey to investigate AL availability in government facilities in seven malaria-endemic districts. One of four of the surveyed facilities had none of the four AL weight-specific treatment packs in stock; three of four facilities were out of stock of at least one weight-specific AL pack, leading health workers to prescribe a range of inappropriate alternatives. The shortage was in large part caused by a delayed procurement process. National ministries of health and the international community must address the current shortcomings facing antimalarial drug supply to the public sector.

Nankabirwa J, Zurovac D, Njogu JN, Rwakimari JB, Counihan H, Snow RW, Tibenderana JK. 2009. Malaria misdiagnosis in Uganda--implications for policy change. Malar J, 8 (1), pp. 66. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In Uganda, like in many other countries traditionally viewed as harbouring very high malaria transmission, the norm has been to recommend that febrile episodes are diagnosed as malaria. In this study, the policy implications of such recommendations are revisited. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken at outpatient departments of all health facilities in four Ugandan districts. The routine diagnostic practices were assessed for all patients during exit interviews and a research slide was obtained for later reading. Primary outcome measures were the accuracy of national recommendations and routine malaria diagnosis in comparison with the study definition of malaria (any parasitaemia on expert slide examination in patient with fever) stratified by age and intensity of malaria transmission. Secondary outcome measures were the use, interpretation and accuracy of routine malaria microscopy. RESULTS: 1,763 consultations undertaken by 233 health workers at 188 facilities were evaluated. The prevalence of malaria was 24.2% and ranged between 13.9% in patients >or=5 years in medium-to-high transmission areas to 50.5% for children <5 years in very high transmission areas. Overall, the sensitivity and negative predictive value (NPV) of routine malaria diagnosis were high (89.7% and 91.6% respectively) while the specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) were low (35.6% and 30.8% respectively). However, malaria was under-diagnosed in 39.9% of children less than five years of age in the very high transmission area. At 48 facilities with functional microscopy, the use of malaria slide examination was low (34.5%) without significant differences between age groups, or between patients for whom microscopy is recommended or not. 96.2% of patients with a routine positive slide result were treated for malaria but also 47.6% with a negative result. CONCLUSION: Current recommendations and associated clinical practices result in massive malaria over-diagnosis across all age groups and transmission areas in Uganda. Yet, under-diagnosis is also common in children <5 years. The potential benefits of malaria microscopy are not realized. To address malaria misdiagnosis, Uganda's policy shift from presumptive to parasitological diagnosis should encompass introduction of malaria rapid diagnostic tests and substantial strengthening of malaria microscopy.

Zurovac D, Tibenderana JK, Nankabirwa J, Ssekitooleko J, Njogu JN, Rwakimari JB, Meek S, Talisuna A, Snow RW. 2008. Malaria case-management under artemether-lumefantrine treatment policy in Uganda. Malar J, 7 (1), pp. 181. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Case-management with artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is one of the key strategies to control malaria in many African countries. Yet, the reports on translation of AL implementation activities into clinical practice are scarce. Here the quality of AL case-management is reported from Uganda; approximately one year after AL replaced combination of chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (CQ+SP) as recommended first line treatment for uncomplicated malaria. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey, using a range of quality of care assessment tools, was undertaken at all government and private-not-for-profit facilities in four Ugandan districts. Main outcome measures were AL prescribing, dispensing and counseling practices in comparison with national guidelines, and factors influencing health workers decision to 1) treat for malaria, and 2) prescribe AL. RESULTS: 195 facilities, 232 health workers and 1,763 outpatient consultations were evaluated. Of 1,200 patients who needed treatment with AL according to guidelines, AL was prescribed for 60%, CQ+SP for 14%, quinine for 4%, CQ for 3%, other antimalarials for 3%, and 16% of patients had no antimalarial drug prescribed. AL was prescribed in the correct dose for 95% of patients. Only three out of seven AL counseling and dispensing tasks were performed for more than 50% of patients. Patients were more likely to be treated for malaria if they presented with main complaint of fever (OR = 5.22; 95% CI: 3.61-7.54) and if they were seen by supervised health workers (OR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.06-2.50); however less likely if they were treated by more qualified health workers (OR = 0.61; 95% CI: 0.40-0.93) and presented with skin problem (OR = 0.29; 95% CI: 0.15-0.55). AL was more likely prescribed if the appropriate weight-specific AL pack was in stock (OR = 6.15; 95% CI: 3.43-11.05) and when CQ was absent (OR = 2.16; 95% CI: 1.09-4.28). Routine AL implementation activities were not associated with better performance. CONCLUSION: Although the use of AL was predominant over non-recommended therapies, the quality of AL case-management at the point of care is not yet optimal. There is an urgent need for innovative quality improvement interventions, which should be rigorously tested. Adequate availability of ACTs at the point of care will, however, ultimately determine the success of any performance interventions and ACT policy transitions.

Zurovac D, Njogu J, Akhwale W, Hamer DH, Larson BA, Snow RW. 2008. Effects of revised diagnostic recommendations on malaria treatment practices across age groups in Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 13 (6), pp. 784-787. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: The recent change of treatment policy for uncomplicated malaria from sulfadoxine-pyrime-thamine to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) in Kenya was accompanied by revised malaria diagnosis recommendations promoting presumptive antimalarial treatment in young children and parasitological diagnosis in patients 5 years and older. We evaluated the impact of these age-specific recommendations on routine malaria treatment practices 4-6 months after AL treatment was implemented. METHODS: Cross-sectional, cluster sample survey using quality-of-care assessment methods in all government facilities in four Kenyan districts. Analysis was restricted to the 64 facilities with malaria diagnostics and AL available on the survey day. Main outcome measures were antimalarial treatment practices for febrile patients stratified by age, use of malaria diagnostic tests, and test result. RESULTS: Treatment practices for 706 febrile patients (401 young children and 305 patients > or =5 years) were evaluated. 43.0% of patients > or =5 years and 25.9% of children underwent parasitological malaria testing (87% by microscopy). AL was prescribed for 79.7% of patients > or =5 years with positive test results, for 9.7% with negative results and for 10.9% without a test. 84.6% of children with positive tests, 19.2% with negative tests, and 21.6% without tests were treated with AL. At least one antimalarial drug was prescribed for 75.0% of children and for 61.3% of patients > or =5 years with a negative test result. CONCLUSIONS: Despite different recommendations for patients below and above 5 years of age, malaria diagnosis and treatment practices were similar in the two age groups. Parasitological diagnosis was under-used in older children and adults, and young children were still tested. Use of AL was low overall and alternative antimalarials were commonly prescribed; but AL prescribing largely followed the results of malaria tests. Malaria diagnosis recommendations differing between age groups appear complex to implement; further strengthening of diagnosis and treatment practices under AL policy is required.

Zurovac D, Larson BA, Skarbinski J, Slutsker L, Snow RW, Hamel MJ. 2008. Modeling the financial and clinical implications of malaria rapid diagnostic tests in the case-management of older children and adults in Kenya. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 78 (6), pp. 884-891. | Show Abstract

Using data on clinical practices for outpatients 5 years and older, test accuracy, and malaria prevalence, we model financial and clinical implications of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) under the new artemether-lumefantrine (AL) treatment policy in one high and one low malaria prevalence district in Kenya. In the high transmission district, RDTs as actually used would improve malaria treatment (61% less over-treatment but 8% more under-treatment) and lower costs (21% less). Nonetheless, the majority of patients with malaria would not be correctly treated with AL. In the low transmission district, especially because the treatment policy was new and AL was not widely used, RDTs as actually used would yield a minor reduction in under-treatment errors (36% less but the base is small) with 41% higher costs. In both districts, adherence to revised clinical practices with RDTs has the potential to further decrease treatment errors with acceptable costs.

Njogu J, Akhwale W, Hamer DH, Zurovac D. 2008. Health facility and health worker readiness to deliver new national treatment policy for malaria in Kenya. East Afr Med J, 85 (5), pp. 213-221. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate health facility and health worker readiness to deliver new artemether-lumefantrine (AL) treatment policy for uncomplicated malaria in Kenya. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Health facilities in four sentinel districts in Kenya. PARTICIPANTS: All government facilities in study districts (n = 211) and all health workers performing outpatient consultations (n = 654). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Availability of antimalarial drugs on the survey day, stock-outs in past six months, presence of AL wall charts, health worker's exposure to in-service training on AL and access to new national malaria guidelines. RESULTS: The availability of any tablets of AL, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine was nearly universal on the survey day. However, only 61% of facilities stocked all four weight-specific packs of AL. In the past six months, 67% of facilities had stock-out of at least one AL tablet pack and 15% were out of stock for all four packs at the same time. Duration of stock-out was substantial for all AL packs (median range: 27-39% of time). During the same period, the stock-outs of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine were rare. Only 19% of facilities had all AL wall charts displayed, AL in-service training was provided to 47% of health workers and 59% had access to the new guidelines. CONCLUSION: Health facility and health worker readiness to implement AL policy is not yet optimal. Continuous supply of all four AL pack sizes and removal of not recommended antimalarials is needed. Further coordinated efforts through the routine programmatic activities are necessary to improve delivery of AL at the point of care.

Wasunna B, Zurovac D, Goodman CA, Snow RW. 2008. Why don't health workers prescribe ACT? A qualitative study of factors affecting the prescription of artemether-lumefantrine. Malar J, 7 (1), pp. 29. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Kenya recently changed its antimalarial drug policy to a specific artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), artemether-lumefantrine (AL). New national guidelines on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention were developed and disseminated to health workers together with in-service training. METHODS: Between January and March 2007, 36 in-depth interviews were conducted in five rural districts with health workers who attended in-service training and were non-adherent to the new guidelines. A further 20 interviews were undertaken with training facilitators and members of District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) to explore reasons underlying health workers' non-adherence. RESULTS: Health workers generally perceived AL as being tolerable and efficacious as compared to amodiaquine and sulphadoxine-pyremethamine. However, a number of key reasons for non-adherence were identified. Insufficient supply of AL was a major issue and hence fears of stock outs and concern about AL costs was an impediment to AL prescription. Training messages that contradicted the recommended guidelines also led to health worker non-adherence, compounded by a lack of follow-up supervision. In addition, the availability of non-recommended antimalarials such as amodiaquine caused prescription confusion. Some health workers and DHMT members maintained that shortage of staff had resulted in increased patient caseload affecting the delivery of the desirable quality of care and adherence to guidelines. CONCLUSION: The introduction of free efficacious ACTs in the public health sector in Kenya and other countries has major potential public health benefits for Africa. These may not be realized if provider prescription practices do not conform to the recommended treatment guidelines. It is essential that high quality training, drug supply and supervision work synergistically to ensure appropriate case management.

Zurovac D, Njogu J, Akhwale W, Hamer DH, Snow RW. 2008. Translation of artemether-lumefantrine treatment policy into paediatric clinical practice: an early experience from Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 13 (1), pp. 99-107. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To describe the quality of outpatient paediatric malaria case-management approximately 4-6 months after artemether-lumefantrine (AL) replaced sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as the nationally recommended first-line therapy in Kenya. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey at all government facilities in four Kenyan districts. Main outcome measures were health facility and health worker readiness to implement AL policy; quality of antimalarial prescribing, counselling and drug dispensing in comparison with national guidelines; and factors influencing AL prescribing for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in under-fives. RESULTS: We evaluated 193 facilities, 227 health workers and 1533 sick-child consultations. Health facility and health worker readiness was variable: 89% of facilities stocked AL, 55% of health workers had access to guidelines, 46% received in-service training on AL and only 1% of facilities had AL wall charts. Of 940 children who needed AL treatment, AL was prescribed for 26%, amodiaquine for 39%, SP for 4%, various other antimalarials for 8% and 23% of children left the facility without any antimalarial prescribed. When AL was prescribed, 92% of children were prescribed correct weight-specific dose. AL dispensing and counselling tasks were variably performed. Higher health worker's cadre, in-service training including AL use, positive malaria test, main complaint of fever and high temperature were associated with better prescribing. CONCLUSIONS: Changes in clinical practices at the point of care might take longer than anticipated. Delivery of successful interventions and their scaling up to increase coverage are important during this process; however, this should be accompanied by rigorous research evaluations, corrective actions on existing interventions and testing cost-effectiveness of novel interventions capable of improving and maintaining health worker performance and health systems to deliver artemisinin-based combination therapy in Africa.

Amin AA, Zurovac D, Kangwana BB, Greenfield J, Otieno DN, Akhwale WS, Snow RW. 2007. The challenges of changing national malaria drug policy to artemisinin-based combinations in Kenya. Malar J, 6 (1), pp. 72. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Sulphadoxine/sulphalene-pyrimethamine (SP) was adopted in Kenya as first line therapeutic for uncomplicated malaria in 1998. By the second half of 2003, there was convincing evidence that SP was failing and had to be replaced. Despite several descriptive investigations of policy change and implementation when countries moved from chloroquine to SP, the different constraints of moving to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) in Africa are less well documented. METHODS: A narrative description of the process of anti-malarial drug policy change, financing and implementation in Kenya is assembled from discussions with stakeholders, reports, newspaper articles, minutes of meetings and email correspondence between actors in the policy change process. The narrative has been structured to capture the timing of events, the difficulties and hurdles faced and the resolutions reached to the final implementation of a new treatment policy. RESULTS: Following a recognition that SP was failing there was a rapid technical appraisal of available data and replacement options resulting in a decision to adopt artemether-lumefantrine (AL) as the recommended first-line therapy in Kenya, announced in April 2004. Funding requirements were approved by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and over 60 million US$ were agreed in principle in July 2004 to procure AL and implement the policy change. AL arrived in Kenya in May 2006, distribution to health facilities began in July 2006 coincidental with cascade in-service training in the revised national guidelines. Both training and drug distribution were almost complete by the end of 2006. The article examines why it took over 32 months from announcing a drug policy change to completing early implementation. Reasons included: lack of clarity on sustainable financing of an expensive therapeutic for a common disease, a delay in release of funding, a lack of comparative efficacy data between AL and amodiaquine-based alternatives, a poor dialogue with pharmaceutical companies with a national interest in antimalarial drug supply versus the single sourcing of AL and complex drug ordering, tendering and procurement procedures. CONCLUSION: Decisions to abandon failing monotherapy in favour of ACT for the treatment of malaria can be achieved relatively quickly. Future policy changes in Africa should be carefully prepared for a myriad of financial, political and legislative issues that might limit the rapid translation of drug policy change into action.

Hamer DH, Ndhlovu M, Zurovac D, Fox M, Yeboah-Antwi K, Chanda P, Sipilinyambe N, Simon JL, Snow RW. 2007. Improved diagnostic testing and malaria treatment practices in Zambia. JAMA, 297 (20), pp. 2227-2231. | Show Abstract | Read more

CONTEXT: Improving the accuracy of malaria diagnosis with rapid antigen-detection diagnostic tests (RDTs) has been proposed as an approach for reducing overtreatment of malaria in the current era of widespread implementation of artemisinin-based combination therapy in sub-Saharan Africa. OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between use of microscopy and RDT and the prescription of antimalarials. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Cross-sectional, cluster sample survey, carried out between March and May 2006, of all outpatients treated during 1 working day at government and mission health facilities in 4 sentinel districts in Zambia. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Proportions of patients undergoing malaria diagnostic procedures and receiving antimalarial treatment. RESULTS: Seventeen percent of the 104 health facilities surveyed had functional microscopy, 63% had RDTs available, and 73% had 1 or more diagnostics available. Of patients with fever (suspected malaria), 27.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 13.1%-42.5%) treated in health facilities with malaria diagnostics were tested and 44.6% had positive test results. Of patients with negative blood smear results, 58.4% (95% CI, 36.7%-80.2%) were prescribed an antimalaria drug, as were 35.5% (95% CI, 16.0%-55.0%) of those with a negative RDT result. Of patients with fever who did not have diagnostic tests done, 65.9% were also prescribed antimalarials. In facilities with artemether-lumefantrine in stock, this antimalarial was prescribed to a large proportion of febrile patients with a positive diagnostic test result (blood smear, 75.0% [95% CI, 51.7%-98.3%]; RDT, 70.4% [95% CI, 39.3%-100.0%]), but also to some of those with a negative diagnostic test result (blood smear, 30.4% [95% CI, 8.0%-52. 9%]; RDT, 26.7% [95% CI, 5.7%-47.7%]). CONCLUSIONS: Despite efforts to expand the provision of malaria diagnostics in Zambia, they continue to be underused and patients with negative test results frequently receive antimalarials. Provision of new tools to reduce inappropriate use of new expensive antimalarial treatments must be accompanied by a major change in clinical treatment of patients presenting with fever but lacking evidence of malaria infection.

Zurovac D, Ndhlovu M, Sipilanyambe N, Chanda P, Hamer DH, Simon JL, Snow RW. 2007. Paediatric malaria case-management with artemether-lumefantrine in Zambia: a repeat cross-sectional study. Malar J, 6 (1), pp. 31. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Zambia was the first African country to change national antimalarial treatment policy to artemisinin-based combination therapy--artemether-lumefantrine. An evaluation during the early implementation phase revealed low readiness of health facilities and health workers to deliver artemether-lumefantrine, and worryingly suboptimal treatment practices. Improvements in the case-management of uncomplicated malaria two years after the initial evaluation and three years after the change of policy in Zambia are reported. METHODS: Data collected during the health facility surveys undertaken in 2004 and 2006 at all outpatient departments of government and mission facilities in four Zambian districts were analysed. The surveys were cross-sectional, using a range of quality of care assessment methods. The main outcome measures were changes in health facility and health worker readiness to deliver artemether-lumefantrine, and changes in case-management practices for children below five years of age presenting with uncomplicated malaria as defined by national guidelines. RESULTS: In 2004, 94 health facilities, 103 health workers and 944 consultations for children with uncomplicated malaria were evaluated. In 2006, 104 facilities, 135 health workers and 1125 consultations were evaluated using the same criteria of selection. Health facility and health worker readiness improved from 2004 to 2006: availability of artemether-lumefantrine from 51% (48/94) to 60% (62/104), presence of artemether-lumefantrine dosage wall charts from 20% (19/94) to 75% (78/104), possession of guidelines from 58% (60/103) to 92% (124/135), and provision of in-service training from 25% (26/103) to 41% (55/135). The proportions of children with uncomplicated malaria treated with artemether-lumefantrine also increased from 2004 to 2006: from 1% (6/527) to 27% (149/552) in children weighing 5 to 9 kg, and from 11% (42/394) to 42% (231/547) in children weighing 10 kg or more. In both weight groups and both years, 22% (441/2020) of children with uncomplicated malaria were not prescribed any antimalarial drug. CONCLUSION: Although significant improvements in malaria case-management have occurred over two years in Zambia, the quality of treatment provided at the point of care is not yet optimal. Strengthening weak health systems and improving the delivery of effective interventions should remain high priority in all countries implementing new treatment policies for malaria.

Larson BA, Amin AA, Noor AM, Zurovac D, Snow RW. 2006. The cost of uncomplicated childhood fevers to Kenyan households: implications for reaching international access targets. BMC Public Health, 6 (1), pp. 314. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Fever is the clinical hallmark of malaria disease. The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) movement promotes prompt, effective treatment of childhood fevers as a key component to achieving its optimistic mortality reduction goals by 2010. A neglected concern is how communities will access these new medicines promptly and the costs to poor households when they are located in rural areas distant to health services. METHODS: We assemble data developed between 2001 and 2002 in Kenya to describe treatment choices made by rural households to treat a child's fever and the related costs to households. Using a cost-of-illness approach, we estimate the expected cost of a childhood fever to Kenyan households in 2002. We develop two scenarios to explore how expected costs to households would change if more children were treated at a health care facility with an effective antimalarial within 48 hours of fever onset. RESULTS: 30% of uncomplicated fevers were managed at home with modern medicines, 38% were taken to a health care facility (HCF), and 32% were managed at home without the use of modern medicines. Direct household cash expenditures were estimated at $0.44 per fever, while the total expected cost to households (cash and time) of an uncomplicated childhood fever is estimated to be $1.91. An estimated mean of 1.42 days of caretaker time devoted to each fever accounts for the majority of household costs of managing fevers. The aggregate cost to Kenyan households of managing uncomplicated childhood fevers was at least $96 million in 2002, equivalent to 1.00% of the Kenyan GDP. Fewer than 8% of all fevers were treated with an antimalarial drug within 24 hours of fever onset, while 17.5% were treated within 48 hours at a HCF. To achieve an increase from 17.5% to 33% of fevers treated with an antimalarial drug within 48 hours at a HCF (Scenario 1), children already being taken to a HCF would need to be taken earlier. Under this scenario, direct cash expenditures would not change, and total household costs would fall slightly to $1.86 because caretakers also save time with prompt treatment if the child has malaria. CONCLUSION: The management of uncomplicated childhood fevers imposes substantial costs on Kenyan households. Achieving substantial improvements in the numbers of fevers treated within 48 hours at a HCF with an effective antimalarial drug (Scenario 1) will not impose additional costs on households. Achieving additional improvements in fevers treated promptly at a HCF (Scenario 2) will impose additional costs on some households roughly equal to average cash expenses for transportation to a HCF. Additional financing mechanisms that further reduce the costs of accessing care at a HCF and/or that make artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) accessible for home management need to be developed and evaluated as a top priority.

Checchi F, Cox J, Balkan S, Tamrat A, Priotto G, Alberti KP, Guthmann J-P. 2006. Malaria epidemics and interventions, Kenya, Burundi, southern Sudan, and Ethiopia, 1999-2004. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (10), pp. 1477-1485. | Show Abstract | Read more

Quantitative data on the onset and evolution of malaria epidemics are scarce. We review case studies from recent African Plasmodium falciparum epidemics (Kisii and Gucha Districts, Kenya, 1999; Kayanza Province, Burundi, 2000-2001; Aweil East, southern Sudan, 2003; Gutten and Damot Gale, Ethiopia, 2003-2004). We highlight possible epidemic risk factors and review delays in epidemic detection and response (up to 20 weeks), essentially due to poor case reporting and analysis or low use of public facilities. Epidemics lasted 15-36 weeks, and patients' age profiles suggested departures from classical notions of epidemic malaria everywhere but Burundi. Although emergency interventions were mounted to expand inpatient and outpatient treatment access, we believe their effects were lessened because of delays, insufficient evaluation of disease burden, lack of evidence on how to increase treatment coverage in emergencies, and use of ineffective drugs.

Zurovac D, Rowe AK. 2006. Quality of treatment for febrile illness among children at outpatient facilities in sub-Saharan Africa (vol 100, pg 283, 2006) ANNALS OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND PARASITOLOGY, 100 (7), pp. 642-642.

Zurovac D, Larson BA, Akhwale W, Snow RW. 2006. The financial and clinical implications of adult malaria diagnosis using microscopy in Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 11 (8), pp. 1185-1194. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: A recent observational study undertaken at 17 health facilities with microscopy in Kenya revealed that potential benefits of malaria microscopy are not realized because of irrational clinical practices and the low accuracy of routine microscopy. Using these data, we modelled financial and clinical implications of revised clinical practices and improved accuracy of malaria microscopy among adult outpatients under the artemether-lumefantrine (AL) treatment policy for uncomplicated malaria in Kenya. METHODS: The cost of AL, antibiotics and malaria microscopy and the expected number of malaria diagnosis errors were estimated per 1,000 adult outpatients presenting at a facility with microscopy under three scenarios: (1) current clinical practice and accuracy of microscopy (option A), (2) revised clinical practice with current accuracy of microscopy (option B) and (3) revised clinical practice with improved accuracy of microscopy (option C). Revised clinical practice was defined as performing a blood slide for all febrile adults and prescribing antimalarial treatment only for positive results. Improved accuracy of routine microscopy was defined as 90% sensitivity and specificity. In the sensitivity analysis, the implications of changes in the cost of drugs and malaria microscopy and changes in background malaria prevalence were examined for each option. RESULTS: The costs of AL, antibiotics and malaria microscopy decreased from 2,154 dollars under option A to 1,254 dollars under option B and 892 dollars under option C. Of the cost savings from option C, 72% was from changes in clinical practice, while 28% was from improvements in the accuracy of microscopy. Compared with 638 malaria overdiagnosis errors per 1,000 adults under option A, 375 and 548 fewer overdiagnosis errors were estimated, respectively, under options B and C. At the same time, the number of missed malaria diagnoses remained generally low under all options. Sensitivity analysis showed that both options B and C are robust to a wide range of assumptions on the costs of drugs, costs of blood slides and malaria prevalence. CONCLUSIONS: Even with the imperfect microscopy conditions at Kenyan facilities, implementation of revised clinical practice (option B) would substantially reduce the costs and errors from malaria overdiagnosis. Additional interventions to improve the accuracy of microscopy (option C) can achieve further benefits; however, improved microscopy in the absence of revised clinical practice is unlikely to generate significant cost savings. Revision of guidelines to state explicitly age-specific indications for the use and interpretation of malaria microscopy is urgently needed. Further prospective studies are required to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of interventions to improve clinical practice and the accuracy of malaria microscopy.

Zurovac D, Rowe AK. 2006. Quality of treatment for febrile illness among children at outpatient facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. Ann Trop Med Parasitol, 100 (4), pp. 283-296. | Show Abstract | Read more

For the prompt and effective management of malaria cases (a key strategy for reducing the enormous burden of the disease), healthworkers must prescribe antimalarial drugs according to evidence-based guidelines. In sub-Saharan Africa, the guidelines for use in outpatient settings generally recommend that febrile illness in children should be suspected to be malaria and be treated with an antimalarial drug. The quality of treatment offered to febrile children at outpatient facilities in this region has now been investigated in a literature review. The results of five methodologically comparable studies were also used to explore the determinants of malaria-treatment practices. The quality of treatment prescribed to febrile children was found to have been generally sub-optimal, with low levels of adherence to national guidelines, the frequent selection of non-recommended antimalarials, and the use of incorrect dosages. Several factors might be to responsible for these shortcomings. Although interventions such as the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy can lead to improvements, a better understanding of the practices of the healthworkers responsible for treating febrile children will be needed before treatment is made much better. The failure to provide treatment of good quality will become an increasingly important problem as antimalarial policies involving drugs with more complex dosing regimens, such as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT), are implemented. If the malaria burden in Africa is to be greatly reduced, the deployment of ACT must be accompanied by interventions to ensure the correct treatment of children at the point of care. Some interventions, such as IMCI, can improve the treatment of not only malaria but also other potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Zurovac D, Midia B, Ochola SA, English M, Snow RW. 2006. Microscopy and outpatient malaria case management among older children and adults in Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 11 (4), pp. 432-440. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the accuracy of routine malaria microscopy, and appropriate use and interpretation of malaria slides under operational conditions in Kenya. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey, using a range of quality of care assessment tools, at government facilities with malaria microscopy in two Kenyan districts of different intensity of malaria transmission. All patients older than 5 years presenting to outpatient departments were enrolled. Two expert microscopists assessed the accuracy of the routine malaria slide results. RESULTS: We analysed 359 consultations performed by 31 clinicians at 17 facilities. Clinical assessment was suboptimal. Blood slide microscopy was performed for 72.7% of patients, who represented 78.5% of febrile patients and 51.3% of afebrile patients. About 95.5% of patients with a positive malaria microscopy result and 79.3% of patients with a negative result received antimalarial treatment. Sulphadoxine-pyremethamine monotherapy was more commonly prescribed for patients with a negative test result (60.7%) than for patients with a positive result (32.4%). Conversely, amodiaquine or quinine were prescribed for only 14.7% of patients with a negative malaria microscopy result compared to 57.7% of patients with a positive result. The prevalence of confirmed malaria was low in both high (10.0%) and low-(16.3%) transmission settings. Combining data from both settings, the sensitivity of routine microscopy was 68.6%; its specificity, 61.5%; its positive predictive value, 21.6% and its negative predictive value, 92.7%. CONCLUSIONS: The potential benefits of microscopy are currently not realised because of the poor quality of routine testing and irrational clinical practices. Ambiguous clinical guidelines permitting treatment of older children and adults with a negative blood slide also undermine rational use of antimalarial drugs.

Noor AM, Omumbo JA, Amin AA, Zurovac D, Snow RW. 2006. Wealth, mother's education and physical access as determinants of retail sector net use in rural Kenya. Malar J, 5 pp. 5. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN) provide real hope for the reduction of the malaria burden across Africa. Understanding factors that determine access to ITN is crucial to debates surrounding the optimal delivery systems. The influence of homestead wealth on use of nets purchased from the retail sector is well documented, however, the competing influence of mother's education and physical access to net providers is less well understood. METHODS: Between December 2004 and January 2005, a random sample of 72 rural communities was selected across four Kenyan districts. Demographic, assets, education and net use data were collected at homestead, mother and child (aged < 5 years) levels. An assets-based wealth index was developed using principal components analysis, travel time to net sources was modelled using geographic information systems, and factors influencing the use of retail sector nets explored using a multivariable logistic regression model. RESULTS: Homestead heads and guardians of 3,755 children < 5 years of age were interviewed. Approximately 15% (562) of children slept under a net the night before the interview; 58% (327) of the nets used were purchased from the retail sector. Homestead wealth (adjusted OR = 10.17, 95% CI = 5.45-18.98), travel time to nearest market centres (adjusted OR = 0.51, 95% CI = 0.37-0.72) and mother's education (adjusted OR = 2.92, 95% CI = 1.93-4.41) were significantly associated with use of retail sector nets by children aged less than 5 years. CONCLUSION: Approaches to promoting access to nets through the retail sector disadvantage poor and remote communities where mothers are less well educated.

Zurovac D, Ndhlovu M, Rowe AK, Hamer DH, Thea DM, Snow RW. 2005. Treatment of paediatric malaria during a period of drug transition to artemether-lumefantrine in Zambia: cross sectional study. BMJ, 331 (7519), pp. 734. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate treatment practices for uncomplicated malaria after the policy change from chloroquine to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and to artemether-lumefantrine in Zambia. DESIGN: Cross sectional survey. SETTING: Outpatient departments of all government and mission facilities in four districts in Zambia. PARTICIPANTS: 944 children with uncomplicated malaria seen by 103 health workers at 94 health facilities. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Antimalarial prescriptions in accordance with national guidelines and influence of factors on health workers' decision to prescribe artemether-lumefantrine. RESULTS: Artemether-lumefantrine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and chloroquine were available, respectively, at 48 (51%), 94 (100%), and 71 (76%) of the 94 facilities. Of 944 children with uncomplicated malaria, only one child (0.1%) received chloroquine. Among children weighing less than 10 kg, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine was commonly prescribed in accordance with guidelines (439/550, 79.8%). Among the children weighing 10 kg or more, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine was commonly prescribed (266/394, 68%), whereas recommended artemether-lumefantrine was prescribed for only 42/394 (11%) children. Among children weighing 10 kg or more seen at facilities where artemether-lumefantrine was available, the same pattern was observed: artemether-lumefantrine was prescribed for only 42/192 (22%) children and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine remained the drug of choice (103/192, 54%). Programmatic activities such as in-service training and provision of job aids did not seem to influence the prescribing of artemether with lumefantrine. CONCLUSION: Although the use of chloroquine for uncomplicated malaria was successfully discontinued in Zambia, the change of drug policy towards artemether-lumefantrine does not necessarily translate into adequate use of this drug at the point of care.

Zurovac D, Ochola SA, Midia B, Snow RW. 2005. The quality of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine prescriptions, counselling and drug-dispensing practices, for children in Kenya. Ann Trop Med Parasitol, 99 (3), pp. 321-324. | Read more

Zurovac D, Midia B, Snow R. 2005. Effects of microscopy on outpatient malaria case management in Kenya [MIM-DZ-8658] ACTA TROPICA, 95 pp. S269-S269.

Zurovac D, Rowe AK, Ochola SA, Noor AM, Midia B, English M, Snow RW. 2004. Predictors of the quality of health worker treatment practices for uncomplicated malaria at government health facilities in Kenya. Int J Epidemiol, 33 (5), pp. 1080-1091. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: When replacing failing drugs for malaria with more effective drugs, an important step towards reducing the malaria burden is that health workers (HW) prescribe drugs according to evidence-based guidelines. Past studies have shown that HW commonly do not follow guidelines, yet few studies have explored with appropriate methods why such practices occur. METHODS: We analysed data from a survey of government health facilities in four Kenyan districts in which HW consultations were observed, caretakers and HW were interviewed, and health facility assessments were performed. The analysis was limited to children 2-59 months old with uncomplicated malaria. Treatment was defined as recommended (antimalarial recommended by national guidelines), a minor error (effective, but non-recommended antimalarial), or inappropriate (no effective antimalarial). RESULTS: We evaluated 1006 consultations performed by 135 HW at 81 facilities: 567 children received recommended treatment, 314 had minor errors, and 125 received inappropriate treatment (weighted percentages: 56.9%, 30.4%, and 12.7%). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that programmatic interventions such as in-service malaria training, provision of guidelines and wall charts, and more frequent supervision were significantly associated with better treatment quality. However, neither in-service training nor possession of the guideline document showed an effect by itself. More qualified HW made more errors: both major and minor errors (but generally more minor errors) when second-line drugs were in stock, and more major errors when second-line drugs were not in stock. Child factors such as age and a main complaint of fever were also associated with treatment quality. CONCLUSIONS: Our results support the use of several programmatic strategies that can redress HW deficiencies in malaria treatment. Targeted cost-effectiveness trials would help refine these strategies and provide more precise guidance on affordable and effective ways to strengthen and maintain HW practices.

Gething PW, Noor AM, Zurovac D, Atkinson PM, Hay SI, Nixon MS, Snow RW. 2004. Empirical modelling of government health service use by children with fevers in Kenya. Acta Trop, 91 (3), pp. 227-237. | Show Abstract | Read more

An understanding of spatial patterns of health facility use allows a more informed approach to the modelling of catchment populations. In the absence of patient use data, an intuitive and commonly used approach to the delineation of facility catchment areas is Thiessen polygons. This study presents a series of methods by which the validity of these assumptions can be tested directly and hence the suitability of a Thiessen polygon catchment model explicitly assessed. These methods are applied to paediatric out-patient origin data from a sample of 81 government health facilities in four districts of Kenya. A geographical information system was used to predict the location of the catchment boundary along a transect between each pair of neighbouring facilities based on patient choice patterns. The mean location of boundaries between facilities of different type was found to be significantly displaced from the Thiessen boundary towards the lower-order facility. The affect of distance on within-catchment utilization rate was assessed by using exclusion buffers to remove the effect of neighbouring facilities. Utilization rate was found to exhibit a slight but steady decrease with distance up to 6 km from a facility. The accuracy of the future modelling of unsampled facility catchments can be increased by the incorporation of these trends.

Noor AM, Zurovac D, Hay SI, Ochola SA, Snow RW. 2003. Defining equity in physical access to clinical services using geographical information systems as part of malaria planning and monitoring in Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 8 (10), pp. 917-926. | Show Abstract | Read more

Distance is a crucial feature of health service use and yet its application and utility to health care planning have not been well explored, particularly in the light of large-scale international and national efforts such as Roll Back Malaria. We have developed a high-resolution map of population-to-service access in four districts of Kenya. Theoretical physical access, based upon national targets, developed as part of the Kenyan health sector reform agenda, was compared with actual health service usage data among 1668 paediatric patients attending 81 sampled government health facilities. Actual and theoretical use were highly correlated. Patients in the larger districts of Kwale and Makueni, where access to government health facilities was relatively poor, travelled greater mean distances than those in Greater Kisii and Bondo. More than 60% of the patients in the four districts attended health facilities within a 5-km range. Interpolated physical access surfaces across districts highlighted areas of poor access and large differences between urban and rural settings. Users from rural communities travelled greater distances to health facilities than those in urban communities. The implications of planning and monitoring equitable delivery of clinical services at national and international levels are discussed.

Githinji S, Kigen S, Memusi D, Nyandigisi A, Mbithi AM, Wamari A, Muturi AN, Jagoe G, Barrington J, Snow RW, Zurovac D. 2013. Reducing stock-outs of life saving malaria commodities using mobile phone text-messaging: SMS for life study in Kenya. PLoS One, 8 (1), pp. e54066. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Health facility stock-outs of life saving malaria medicines are common across Africa. Innovative ways of addressing this problem are urgently required. We evaluated whether SMS based reporting of stocks of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) can result in reduction of stock-outs at peripheral facilities in Kenya. METHODS/FINDINGS: All 87 public health facilities in five Kenyan districts were included in a 26 week project. Weekly facility stock counts of four AL packs and RDTs were sent via structured incentivized SMS communication process from health workers' personal mobile phones to a web-based system accessed by district managers. The mean health facility response rate was 97% with a mean formatting error rate of 3%. Accuracy of stock count reports was 79% while accuracy of stock-out reports was 93%. District managers accessed the system 1,037 times at an average of eight times per week. The system was accessed in 82% of the study weeks. Comparing weeks 1 and 26, stock-out of one or more AL packs declined by 38 percentage-points. Total AL stock-out declined by 5 percentage-points and was eliminated by the end of the project. Stock-out declines of individual AL packs ranged from 14 to 32 percentage-points while decline in RDT stock-outs was 24 percentage-points. District managers responded to 44% of AL and 73% of RDT stock-out signals by redistributing commodities between facilities. In comparison with national trends, stock-out declines in study areas were greater, sharper and more sustained. CONCLUSIONS: Use of simple SMS technology ensured high reporting rates of reasonably accurate, real-time facility stock data that were used by district managers to undertake corrective actions to reduce stock-outs. Future work on stock monitoring via SMS should focus on assessing response rates without use of incentives and demonstrating effectiveness of such interventions on a larger scale.

Zurovac D, Talisuna AO, Snow RW. 2012. Mobile phone text messaging: tool for malaria control in Africa. PLoS Med, 9 (2), pp. e1001176. | Read more

Zurovac D, Larson BA, Sudoi RK, Snow RW. 2012. Costs and cost-effectiveness of a mobile phone text-message reminder programmes to improve health workers' adherence to malaria guidelines in Kenya. PLoS One, 7 (12), pp. e52045. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Simple interventions for improving health workers' adherence to malaria case-management guidelines are urgently required across Africa. A recent trial in Kenya showed that text-message reminders sent to health workers' mobile phones improved management of pediatric outpatients by 25 percentage points. In this paper we examine costs and cost-effectiveness of this intervention. METHODS/FINDINGS: We evaluate costs and cost-effectiveness in 2010 USD under three implementation scenarios: (1) as implemented under study conditions in study areas; (2) if the intervention was routinely implemented by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the same areas; and (3) if the intervention was scaled up nationally. Under study conditions, intervention costs were 19,342 USD, of which 45% were for developing and pretesting text-messages, 12% for developing text-message distribution system, 29% for collecting health workers' phone numbers, and 13% were costs of sending text-messages and monitoring of the system. If the intervention was implemented in the same areas by the MoH, the costs would be 28% lower (13,920 USD) due to lower costs of collecting health workers' numbers. The cost of national scale-up would be 97,350 USD, and the majority of these costs (66%) would be for sending text-messages. The cost per additional child correctly managed was 0.50 USD under study conditions, 0.36 USD if implemented by the MoH in the same area, and estimated at only 0.03 USD if implemented nationally. Even if the effect size was only 5% or the cost on the national scale was 400% higher than estimated, the cost per additional child correctly managed would be only 0.16 USD. CONCLUSIONS: A simple text-messaging intervention improving health worker adherence to malaria guidelines is effective and inexpensive. Further research is justified to optimize delivery of the intervention and expand targets beyond children and malaria disease.

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Zurovac D, Sudoi RK, Akhwale WS, Ndiritu M, Hamer DH, Rowe AK, Snow RW. 2011. The effect of mobile phone text-message reminders on Kenyan health workers' adherence to malaria treatment guidelines: A cluster randomised trial The Lancet, 378 (9793), pp. 795-803. | Show Abstract | Read more

Health workers' malaria case-management practices often differ from national guidelines. We assessed whether text-message reminders sent to health workers' mobile phones could improve and maintain their adherence to treatment guidelines for outpatient paediatric malaria in Kenya. From March 6, 2009, to May 31, 2010, we did a cluster-randomised controlled trial at 107 rural health facilities in 11 districts in coastal and western Kenya. With a computer-generated sequence, health facilities were randomly allocated to either the intervention group, in which all health workers received text messages on their personal mobile phones on malaria case-management for 6 months, or the control group, in which health workers did not receive any text messages. Health workers were not masked to the intervention, although patients were unaware of whether they were in an intervention or control facility. The primary outcome was correct management with artemether-lumefantrine, defined as a dichotomous composite indicator of treatment, dispensing, and counselling tasks concordant with Kenyan national guidelines. The primary analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN72328636. 119 health workers received the intervention. Case-management practices were assessed for 2269 children who needed treatment (1157 in the intervention group and 1112 in the control group). Intention-to-treat analysis showed that correct artemether-lumefantrine management improved by 23·7 percentage-points (95 CI 7·6-40·0; p=0·004) immediately after intervention and by 24·5 percentage-points (8·1-41·0; p=0·003) 6 months later. In resource-limited settings, malaria control programmes should consider use of text messaging to improve health workers' case-management practices. The Wellcome Trust. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Nyandigisi A, Memusi D, Mbithi A, Ang'wa N, Shieshia M, Muturi A, Sudoi R, Githinji S, Juma E, Zurovac D. 2011. Malaria case-management following change of policy to universal parasitological diagnosis and targeted artemisinin-based combination therapy in Kenya. PLoS One, 6 (9), pp. e24781. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The change of malaria case-management policy in Kenya to recommend universal parasitological diagnosis and targeted treatment with artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is supported with activities aiming by 2013 at universal coverage and adherence to the recommendations. We evaluated changes in health systems and case-management indicators between the baseline survey undertaken before implementation of the policy and the follow-up survey following the first year of the implementation activities. METHODS/FINDINGS: National, cross-sectional surveys using quality-of-care methods were undertaken at public facilities. Baseline and follow-up surveys respectively included 174 and 176 facilities, 224 and 237 health workers, and 2,405 and 1,456 febrile patients. Health systems indicators showed variable changes between surveys: AL stock-out (27% to 21%; p = 0.152); availability of diagnostics (55% to 58%; p = 0.600); training on the new policy (0 to 22%; p = 0.001); exposure to supervision (18% to 13%; p = 0.156) and access to guidelines (0 to 6%; p = 0.001). At all facilities, there was an increase among patients tested for malaria (24% vs 31%; p = 0.090) and those who were both tested and treated according to test result (16% to 22%; p = 0.048). At facilities with AL and malaria diagnostics, testing increased from 43% to 50% (p = 0.196) while patients who were both, tested and treated according to test result, increased from 28% to 36% (p = 0.114). Treatment adherence improved for test positive patients from 83% to 90% (p = 0.150) and for test negative patients from 47% to 56% (p = 0.227). No association was found between testing and exposure to training, supervision and guidelines, however, testing was significantly associated with facility ownership, type of testing, and patients' caseload, age and clinical presentation. CONCLUSIONS: Most of the case-management indicators have shown some improvement trends; however differences were smaller than expected, rarely statistically significant and still leaving a substantial gap towards optimistic targets. The quantitative and qualitative improvement of interventions will ultimately determine the success of the new policy.

Skarbinski J, Ouma PO, Causer LM, Kariuki SK, Barnwell JW, Alaii JA, de Oliveira AM, Zurovac D, Larson BA, Snow RW et al. 2009. Effect of malaria rapid diagnostic tests on the management of uncomplicated malaria with artemether-lumefantrine in Kenya: a cluster randomized trial. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 80 (6), pp. 919-926. | Show Abstract

Shortly after Kenya introduced artemether-lumefantrine (AL) for first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria, we conducted a pre-post cluster randomized controlled trial to assess the effect of providing malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) on recommended treatment (patients with malaria prescribed AL) and overtreatment (patients without malaria prescribed AL) in outpatients >/= 5 years old. Sixty health facilities were randomized to receive either RDTs plus training, guidelines, and supervision (TGS) or TGS alone. Of 1,540 patients included in the analysis, 7% had uncomplicated malaria. The provision of RDTs coupled with TGS emphasizing AL use only after laboratory confirmation of malaria reduced recommended treatment by 63%-points (P = 0.04), because diagnostic test use did not change (-2%-points), but health workers significantly reduced presumptive treatment with AL for patients with a clinical diagnosis of malaria who did not undergo testing (-36%-points; P = 0.03). Health workers generally adhered to RDT results when prescribing AL: 88% of RDT-positive and 9% of RDT-negative patients were treated with AL, respectively. Overtreatment was low in both arms and was not significantly reduced by the provision of RDTs (-12%-points, P = 0.30). RDTs could potentially improve malaria case management, but we urgently need to develop more effective strategies for implementing guidelines before large scale implementation.

Nankabirwa J, Zurovac D, Njogu JN, Rwakimari JB, Counihan H, Snow RW, Tibenderana JK. 2009. Malaria misdiagnosis in Uganda--implications for policy change. Malar J, 8 (1), pp. 66. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In Uganda, like in many other countries traditionally viewed as harbouring very high malaria transmission, the norm has been to recommend that febrile episodes are diagnosed as malaria. In this study, the policy implications of such recommendations are revisited. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken at outpatient departments of all health facilities in four Ugandan districts. The routine diagnostic practices were assessed for all patients during exit interviews and a research slide was obtained for later reading. Primary outcome measures were the accuracy of national recommendations and routine malaria diagnosis in comparison with the study definition of malaria (any parasitaemia on expert slide examination in patient with fever) stratified by age and intensity of malaria transmission. Secondary outcome measures were the use, interpretation and accuracy of routine malaria microscopy. RESULTS: 1,763 consultations undertaken by 233 health workers at 188 facilities were evaluated. The prevalence of malaria was 24.2% and ranged between 13.9% in patients >or=5 years in medium-to-high transmission areas to 50.5% for children <5 years in very high transmission areas. Overall, the sensitivity and negative predictive value (NPV) of routine malaria diagnosis were high (89.7% and 91.6% respectively) while the specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) were low (35.6% and 30.8% respectively). However, malaria was under-diagnosed in 39.9% of children less than five years of age in the very high transmission area. At 48 facilities with functional microscopy, the use of malaria slide examination was low (34.5%) without significant differences between age groups, or between patients for whom microscopy is recommended or not. 96.2% of patients with a routine positive slide result were treated for malaria but also 47.6% with a negative result. CONCLUSION: Current recommendations and associated clinical practices result in massive malaria over-diagnosis across all age groups and transmission areas in Uganda. Yet, under-diagnosis is also common in children <5 years. The potential benefits of malaria microscopy are not realized. To address malaria misdiagnosis, Uganda's policy shift from presumptive to parasitological diagnosis should encompass introduction of malaria rapid diagnostic tests and substantial strengthening of malaria microscopy.

Zurovac D, Tibenderana JK, Nankabirwa J, Ssekitooleko J, Njogu JN, Rwakimari JB, Meek S, Talisuna A, Snow RW. 2008. Malaria case-management under artemether-lumefantrine treatment policy in Uganda. Malar J, 7 (1), pp. 181. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Case-management with artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is one of the key strategies to control malaria in many African countries. Yet, the reports on translation of AL implementation activities into clinical practice are scarce. Here the quality of AL case-management is reported from Uganda; approximately one year after AL replaced combination of chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (CQ+SP) as recommended first line treatment for uncomplicated malaria. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey, using a range of quality of care assessment tools, was undertaken at all government and private-not-for-profit facilities in four Ugandan districts. Main outcome measures were AL prescribing, dispensing and counseling practices in comparison with national guidelines, and factors influencing health workers decision to 1) treat for malaria, and 2) prescribe AL. RESULTS: 195 facilities, 232 health workers and 1,763 outpatient consultations were evaluated. Of 1,200 patients who needed treatment with AL according to guidelines, AL was prescribed for 60%, CQ+SP for 14%, quinine for 4%, CQ for 3%, other antimalarials for 3%, and 16% of patients had no antimalarial drug prescribed. AL was prescribed in the correct dose for 95% of patients. Only three out of seven AL counseling and dispensing tasks were performed for more than 50% of patients. Patients were more likely to be treated for malaria if they presented with main complaint of fever (OR = 5.22; 95% CI: 3.61-7.54) and if they were seen by supervised health workers (OR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.06-2.50); however less likely if they were treated by more qualified health workers (OR = 0.61; 95% CI: 0.40-0.93) and presented with skin problem (OR = 0.29; 95% CI: 0.15-0.55). AL was more likely prescribed if the appropriate weight-specific AL pack was in stock (OR = 6.15; 95% CI: 3.43-11.05) and when CQ was absent (OR = 2.16; 95% CI: 1.09-4.28). Routine AL implementation activities were not associated with better performance. CONCLUSION: Although the use of AL was predominant over non-recommended therapies, the quality of AL case-management at the point of care is not yet optimal. There is an urgent need for innovative quality improvement interventions, which should be rigorously tested. Adequate availability of ACTs at the point of care will, however, ultimately determine the success of any performance interventions and ACT policy transitions.

Zurovac D, Njogu J, Akhwale W, Hamer DH, Snow RW. 2008. Translation of artemether-lumefantrine treatment policy into paediatric clinical practice: an early experience from Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 13 (1), pp. 99-107. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To describe the quality of outpatient paediatric malaria case-management approximately 4-6 months after artemether-lumefantrine (AL) replaced sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as the nationally recommended first-line therapy in Kenya. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey at all government facilities in four Kenyan districts. Main outcome measures were health facility and health worker readiness to implement AL policy; quality of antimalarial prescribing, counselling and drug dispensing in comparison with national guidelines; and factors influencing AL prescribing for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in under-fives. RESULTS: We evaluated 193 facilities, 227 health workers and 1533 sick-child consultations. Health facility and health worker readiness was variable: 89% of facilities stocked AL, 55% of health workers had access to guidelines, 46% received in-service training on AL and only 1% of facilities had AL wall charts. Of 940 children who needed AL treatment, AL was prescribed for 26%, amodiaquine for 39%, SP for 4%, various other antimalarials for 8% and 23% of children left the facility without any antimalarial prescribed. When AL was prescribed, 92% of children were prescribed correct weight-specific dose. AL dispensing and counselling tasks were variably performed. Higher health worker's cadre, in-service training including AL use, positive malaria test, main complaint of fever and high temperature were associated with better prescribing. CONCLUSIONS: Changes in clinical practices at the point of care might take longer than anticipated. Delivery of successful interventions and their scaling up to increase coverage are important during this process; however, this should be accompanied by rigorous research evaluations, corrective actions on existing interventions and testing cost-effectiveness of novel interventions capable of improving and maintaining health worker performance and health systems to deliver artemisinin-based combination therapy in Africa.

Hamer DH, Ndhlovu M, Zurovac D, Fox M, Yeboah-Antwi K, Chanda P, Sipilinyambe N, Simon JL, Snow RW. 2007. Improved diagnostic testing and malaria treatment practices in Zambia. JAMA, 297 (20), pp. 2227-2231. | Show Abstract | Read more

CONTEXT: Improving the accuracy of malaria diagnosis with rapid antigen-detection diagnostic tests (RDTs) has been proposed as an approach for reducing overtreatment of malaria in the current era of widespread implementation of artemisinin-based combination therapy in sub-Saharan Africa. OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between use of microscopy and RDT and the prescription of antimalarials. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Cross-sectional, cluster sample survey, carried out between March and May 2006, of all outpatients treated during 1 working day at government and mission health facilities in 4 sentinel districts in Zambia. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Proportions of patients undergoing malaria diagnostic procedures and receiving antimalarial treatment. RESULTS: Seventeen percent of the 104 health facilities surveyed had functional microscopy, 63% had RDTs available, and 73% had 1 or more diagnostics available. Of patients with fever (suspected malaria), 27.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 13.1%-42.5%) treated in health facilities with malaria diagnostics were tested and 44.6% had positive test results. Of patients with negative blood smear results, 58.4% (95% CI, 36.7%-80.2%) were prescribed an antimalaria drug, as were 35.5% (95% CI, 16.0%-55.0%) of those with a negative RDT result. Of patients with fever who did not have diagnostic tests done, 65.9% were also prescribed antimalarials. In facilities with artemether-lumefantrine in stock, this antimalarial was prescribed to a large proportion of febrile patients with a positive diagnostic test result (blood smear, 75.0% [95% CI, 51.7%-98.3%]; RDT, 70.4% [95% CI, 39.3%-100.0%]), but also to some of those with a negative diagnostic test result (blood smear, 30.4% [95% CI, 8.0%-52. 9%]; RDT, 26.7% [95% CI, 5.7%-47.7%]). CONCLUSIONS: Despite efforts to expand the provision of malaria diagnostics in Zambia, they continue to be underused and patients with negative test results frequently receive antimalarials. Provision of new tools to reduce inappropriate use of new expensive antimalarial treatments must be accompanied by a major change in clinical treatment of patients presenting with fever but lacking evidence of malaria infection.

Zurovac D, Midia B, Ochola SA, English M, Snow RW. 2006. Microscopy and outpatient malaria case management among older children and adults in Kenya. Trop Med Int Health, 11 (4), pp. 432-440. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the accuracy of routine malaria microscopy, and appropriate use and interpretation of malaria slides under operational conditions in Kenya. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey, using a range of quality of care assessment tools, at government facilities with malaria microscopy in two Kenyan districts of different intensity of malaria transmission. All patients older than 5 years presenting to outpatient departments were enrolled. Two expert microscopists assessed the accuracy of the routine malaria slide results. RESULTS: We analysed 359 consultations performed by 31 clinicians at 17 facilities. Clinical assessment was suboptimal. Blood slide microscopy was performed for 72.7% of patients, who represented 78.5% of febrile patients and 51.3% of afebrile patients. About 95.5% of patients with a positive malaria microscopy result and 79.3% of patients with a negative result received antimalarial treatment. Sulphadoxine-pyremethamine monotherapy was more commonly prescribed for patients with a negative test result (60.7%) than for patients with a positive result (32.4%). Conversely, amodiaquine or quinine were prescribed for only 14.7% of patients with a negative malaria microscopy result compared to 57.7% of patients with a positive result. The prevalence of confirmed malaria was low in both high (10.0%) and low-(16.3%) transmission settings. Combining data from both settings, the sensitivity of routine microscopy was 68.6%; its specificity, 61.5%; its positive predictive value, 21.6% and its negative predictive value, 92.7%. CONCLUSIONS: The potential benefits of microscopy are currently not realised because of the poor quality of routine testing and irrational clinical practices. Ambiguous clinical guidelines permitting treatment of older children and adults with a negative blood slide also undermine rational use of antimalarial drugs.

Zurovac D, Ndhlovu M, Rowe AK, Hamer DH, Thea DM, Snow RW. 2005. Treatment of paediatric malaria during a period of drug transition to artemether-lumefantrine in Zambia: cross sectional study. BMJ, 331 (7519), pp. 734. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate treatment practices for uncomplicated malaria after the policy change from chloroquine to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and to artemether-lumefantrine in Zambia. DESIGN: Cross sectional survey. SETTING: Outpatient departments of all government and mission facilities in four districts in Zambia. PARTICIPANTS: 944 children with uncomplicated malaria seen by 103 health workers at 94 health facilities. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Antimalarial prescriptions in accordance with national guidelines and influence of factors on health workers' decision to prescribe artemether-lumefantrine. RESULTS: Artemether-lumefantrine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and chloroquine were available, respectively, at 48 (51%), 94 (100%), and 71 (76%) of the 94 facilities. Of 944 children with uncomplicated malaria, only one child (0.1%) received chloroquine. Among children weighing less than 10 kg, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine was commonly prescribed in accordance with guidelines (439/550, 79.8%). Among the children weighing 10 kg or more, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine was commonly prescribed (266/394, 68%), whereas recommended artemether-lumefantrine was prescribed for only 42/394 (11%) children. Among children weighing 10 kg or more seen at facilities where artemether-lumefantrine was available, the same pattern was observed: artemether-lumefantrine was prescribed for only 42/192 (22%) children and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine remained the drug of choice (103/192, 54%). Programmatic activities such as in-service training and provision of job aids did not seem to influence the prescribing of artemether with lumefantrine. CONCLUSION: Although the use of chloroquine for uncomplicated malaria was successfully discontinued in Zambia, the change of drug policy towards artemether-lumefantrine does not necessarily translate into adequate use of this drug at the point of care.

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