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A systematic review of task- shifting for HIV treatment and care in Africa

, 1 , 2 , 3 , 3

Human Resources for Health

BioMed Central

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      Abstract

      BackgroundShortages of human resources for health (HRH) have severely hampered the rollout of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa. Current rollout models are hospital- and physician-intensive. Task shifting, or delegating tasks performed by physicians to staff with lower-level qualifications, is considered a means of expanding rollout in resource-poor or HRH-limited settings.MethodsWe conducted a systematic literature review. Medline, the Cochrane library, the Social Science Citation Index, and the South African National Health Research Database were searched with the following terms: task shift*, balance of care, non-physician clinicians, substitute health care worker, community care givers, primary healthcare teams, cadres, and nurs* HIV. We mined bibliographies and corresponded with authors for further results. Grey literature was searched online, and conference proceedings searched for abstracts.ResultsWe found 2960 articles, of which 84 were included in the core review. 51 reported outcomes, including research from 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The most common intervention studied was the delegation of tasks (especially initiating and monitoring HAART) from doctors to nurses and other non-physician clinicians. Five studies showed increased access to HAART through expanded clinical capacity; two concluded task shifting is cost effective; 9 showed staff equal or better quality of care; studies on non-physician clinician agreement with physician decisions was mixed, with the majority showing good agreement.ConclusionsTask shifting is an effective strategy for addressing shortages of HRH in HIV treatment and care. Task shifting offers high-quality, cost-effective care to more patients than a physician-centered model. The main challenges to implementation include adequate and sustainable training, support and pay for staff in new roles, the integration of new members into healthcare teams, and the compliance of regulatory bodies. Task shifting should be considered for careful implementation where HRH shortages threaten rollout programmes.

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      Most cited references 42

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      Task shifting in HIV/AIDS: opportunities, challenges and proposed actions for sub-Saharan Africa.

      Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a crisis in human health resources due to a critical shortage of health workers. The shortage is compounded by a high burden of infectious diseases; emigration of trained professionals; difficult working conditions and low motivation. In particular, the burden of HIV/AIDS has led to the concept of task shifting being increasingly promoted as a way of rapidly expanding human resource capacity. This refers to the delegation of medical and health service responsibilities from higher to lower cadres of health staff, in some cases non-professionals. This paper, drawing on Médecins Sans Frontières' experience of scaling-up antiretroviral treatment in three sub-Saharan African countries (Malawi, South Africa and Lesotho) and supplemented by a review of the literature, highlights the main opportunities and challenges posed by task shifting and proposes specific actions to tackle the challenges. The opportunities include: increasing access to life-saving treatment; improving the workforce skills mix and health-system efficiency; enhancing the role of the community; cost advantages and reducing attrition and international 'brain drain'. The challenges include: maintaining quality and safety; addressing professional and institutional resistance; sustaining motivation and performance and preventing deaths of health workers from HIV/AIDS. Task shifting should not undermine the primary objective of improving patient benefits and public health outcomes.
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        Clinical outcomes and CD4 cell response in children receiving antiretroviral therapy at primary health care facilities in Zambia.

        The Zambian Ministry of Health provides pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART) at primary care clinics in Lusaka, where, despite scale-up of perinatal prevention efforts, many children are already infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To report early clinical and immunologic outcomes of children enrolled in the pediatric treatment program. Open cohort assessment using routinely collected clinical and outcome data from an electronic medical record system in use at 18 government primary health facilities in Lusaka, Zambia. Care was provided primarily by nurses and clinical officers ("physician extenders" akin to physician assistants in the United States). Patients were children (<16 years of age) presenting for HIV care between May 1, 2004, and June 29, 2007. Three-drug ART (zidovudine or stavudine plus lamivudine plus nevirapine or efavirenz) for children who met national treatment criteria. Survival, weight gain, CD4 cell count, and hemoglobin response. After enrollment of 4975 children into HIV care, 2938 (59.1%) started ART. Of those initiating ART, the median age was 81 months (interquartile range, 36-125), 1531 (52.1%) were female, and 2087 (72.4%) with World Health Organization stage information were in stage III or IV. At the time of analysis, 158 children (5.4%) had withdrawn from care and 382 (13.0%) were at least 30 days late for follow-up. Of the remaining 2398 children receiving ART, 198 (8.3%) died over 3018 child-years of follow-up (mortality rate, 6.6 deaths per 100 child-years; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.7-7.5); of these deaths, 112 (56.6%) occurred within 90 days of therapy initiation (early mortality rate, 17.4/100 child-years; post-90-day mortality rate, 2.9/100 child-years). Mortality was associated with CD4 cell depletion, lower weight-for-age, younger age, and anemia in multivariate analysis. The mean CD4 cell percentage at ART initiation among the 1561 children who had at least 1 repeat measurement was 12.9% (95% CI, 12.5%-13.3%) and increased to 23.7% (95% CI, 23.1%-24.3%) at 6 months, 27.0% (95% CI, 26.3%-27.6%) at 12 months, 28.0% (95% CI, 27.2%-28.8%) at 18 months, and 28.4% (95% CI, 27.4%-29.4%) at 24 months. Care provided by clinicians such as nurses and clinical officers can result in good outcomes for HIV-infected children in primary health care settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Mortality during the first 90 days of therapy is high, pointing to a need for earlier intervention.
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          Non-physician clinicians in 47 sub-Saharan African countries.

          Many countries have health-care providers who are not trained as physicians but who take on many of the diagnostic and clinical functions of medical doctors. We identified non-physician clinicians (NPCs) in 25 of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, although their roles varied widely between countries. In nine countries, numbers of NPCs equalled or exceeded numbers of physicians. In general NPCs were trained with less cost than were physicians, and for only 3-4 years after secondary school. All NPCs did basic diagnosis and medical treatment, but some were trained in specialty activities such as caesarean section, ophthalmology, and anaesthesia. Many NPCs were recruited from rural and poor areas, and worked in these same regions. Low training costs, reduced training duration, and success in rural placements suggest that NPCs could have substantial roles in the scale-up of health workforces in sub-Saharan African countries, including for the planned expansion of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada
            [2 ]Médecins Sans Frontières, Cape Town, South Africa
            [3 ]Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa
            Contributors
            Journal
            Hum Resour Health
            Human Resources for Health
            BioMed Central
            1478-4491
            2010
            31 March 2010
            : 8
            : 8
            2873343
            1478-4491-8-8
            20356363
            10.1186/1478-4491-8-8
            Copyright ©2010 Callaghan et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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            Health & Social care

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