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      What Is the Role of Informal Healthcare Providers in Developing Countries? A Systematic Review

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          Abstract

          Informal health care providers (IPs) comprise a significant component of health systems in developing nations. Yet little is known about the most basic characteristics of performance, cost, quality, utilization, and size of this sector. To address this gap we conducted a comprehensive literature review on the informal health care sector in developing countries. We searched for studies published since 2000 through electronic databases PubMed, Google Scholar, and relevant grey literature from The New York Academy of Medicine, The World Bank, The Center for Global Development, USAID, SHOPS (formerly PSP-One), The World Health Organization, DFID, Human Resources for Health Global Resource Center. In total, 334 articles were retrieved, and 122 met inclusion criteria and chosen for data abstraction. Results indicate that IPs make up a significant portion of the healthcare sector globally, with almost half of studies (48%) from Sub-Saharan Africa. Utilization estimates from 24 studies in the literature of IP for healthcare services ranged from 9% to 90% of all healthcare interactions, depending on the country, the disease in question, and methods of measurement. IPs operate in a variety of health areas, although baseline information on quality is notably incomplete and poor quality of care is generally assumed. There was a wide variation in how quality of care is measured. The review found that IPs reported inadequate drug provision, poor adherence to clinical national guidelines, and that there were gaps in knowledge and provider practice; however, studies also found that the formal sector also reported poor provider practices. Reasons for using IPs included convenience, affordability, and social and cultural effects. Recommendations from the literature amount to a call for more engagement with the IP sector. IPs are a large component of nearly all developing country health systems. Research and policies of engagement are needed.

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          An intervention involving traditional birth attendants and perinatal and maternal mortality in Pakistan.

          There are approximately 4 million neonatal deaths and half a million maternal deaths worldwide each year. There is limited evidence from clinical trials to guide the development of effective maternity services in developing countries. We performed a cluster-randomized, controlled trial involving seven subdistricts (talukas) of a rural district in Pakistan. In three talukas randomly assigned to the intervention group, traditional birth attendants were trained and issued disposable delivery kits; Lady Health Workers linked traditional birth attendants with established services and documented processes and outcomes; and obstetrical teams provided outreach clinics for antenatal care. Women in the four control talukas received usual care. The primary outcome measures were perinatal and maternal mortality. Of the estimated number of eligible women in the seven talukas, 10,114 (84.3 percent) were recruited in the three intervention talukas, and 9443 (78.7 percent) in the four control talukas. In the intervention group, 9184 women (90.8 percent) received antenatal care by trained traditional birth attendants, 1634 women (16.2 percent) were seen antenatally at least once by the obstetrical teams, and 8172 safe-delivery kits were used. As compared with the control talukas, the intervention talukas had a cluster-adjusted odds ratio for perinatal death of 0.70 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.59 to 0.82) and for maternal mortality of 0.74 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.45 to 1.23). Training traditional birth attendants and integrating them into an improved health care system were achievable and effective in reducing perinatal mortality. This model could result in large improvements in perinatal and maternal health in developing countries. Copyright 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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            Drug shop regulation and malaria treatment in Tanzania--why do shops break the rules, and does it matter?

            Regulatory infringements are extremely common in low-income countries, especially with respect to retail pharmaceutical sales. There have been few practical suggestions on public policy responses other than stricter regulatory enforcement, which governments are often unable, or unwilling, to do. This paper explores the challenges of regulating retail drug sellers, and potential solutions, through a case study of malaria treatment in rural Tanzania where small drug shops are a common source of medicine. Infringement of health-related regulation was extremely common. Most stores lacked valid permits, and illegal stocking of prescription-only medicines and unpackaged tablets was the norm. Most stocked unregistered drugs, and no serving staff met the qualification requirements. Infringements are likely to have reflected infrequent regulatory inspections, a failure of regulatory authorities to implement sanctions, successful concealment of regulatory violations, and the tacit permission of local regulatory staff. Eliminating regulatory infringements is unlikely to be feasible, and could be undesirable if access to essential medicines is reduced. Alternatives include bringing official drug regulation closer into line with locally legitimate practices; greater use of positive incentives for providers; and consumer involvement. Such a change in approach has the potential to provide a firmer platform for public-private collaboration to improve shop-based treatment.
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              Private and public health care in rural areas of Uganda

              Background In many low and middle income countries, the private sector is increasingly becoming an important source of health care, filling gaps where no or little public health care is available. However, knowledge on the private sector providers is limited The objective of this study was to determine the type and number of different types of health care providers, and the quality, cost and utilization of care delivered by those providers in rural Uganda. Methods The study was carried out in three rural districts. Methods included (1) mapping of health care providers; (2) a household survey to determine morbidity and health care utilization; (3) a health facility survey to assess quality of care; (4) focus group discussions to get qualitative information on providers and provider choice; and (5) key informant interviews to further explore service characteristics. Results 95.7% of all 445 facilities surveyed were private while 4.3% were public. Traditional practitioners and general merchandise shops that sold medicines comprised 77.1% of all providers. They had limited infrastructure and skills but were often located in the villages and therefore easily accessible. Among the formal providers there were 4 times as many private for profit providers than public, 76 versus 18. However, most of the private units were one-person drug shops. In the household survey, 2580 persons were interviewed. 1097 (42%) had experienced illness during the preceding month. Care was sought in 54.1% of the cases. 35.6% were given self-treatment and in 10.3% no action was taken. Of the episodes for which people sought care at a health care facility, 37.0% visited a public health care provider, 39.7% a for profit provider, 11.8% a private not for profit provider, and 10.6% a traditional practitioner. Private for profit facilities were the most popular for ambulatory health care, while public facilities were preferred for more serious conditions and for hospitalization. Traditional practitioners were many but saw relatively few patients. They were mostly used for social problems and limited medical specific conditions. Conclusions Private providers play a major role in health care delivery in rural Uganda; reaching a wide client base. Traditional practitioners are many but have as much a social as a medical function in the community. The significance of the private health care sector points to the need to establish a policy that addresses quality and affordability issues and creates a strong regulatory environment for private practice in sub-Saharan Africa.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2013
                6 February 2013
                : 8
                : 2
                : e54978
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Global Health Sciences, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Metta Fund, Corte Madera, California, United States of America
                [3 ]Absolute Return for Kids US, New York, New York, United States of America
                Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientifics, Spain
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: MS MI HL DM. Performed the experiments: MS MI HL DM. Analyzed the data: MS MI HL DM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: MS MI HL DM. Wrote the paper: MS MI HL DM.

                Article
                PONE-D-12-20258
                10.1371/journal.pone.0054978
                3566158
                23405101
                266f8b03-a922-4cb9-8eab-c06e27cffee1
                Copyright @ 2013

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                History
                : 28 June 2012
                : 22 December 2012
                Page count
                Pages: 12
                Funding
                Results for Development provided funds to complete this systematic review. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Medicine
                Clinical Research Design
                Systematic Reviews
                Global Health
                Non-Clinical Medicine
                Health Care Providers
                Health Care Quality
                Health Services Research
                Public Health
                Behavioral and Social Aspects of Health
                Socioeconomic Aspects of Health
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Sociology
                Culture
                Cross Culture (Sociology)

                Uncategorized
                Uncategorized

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