Nossal Institute for Global Health - Research Publications

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    Pathways to malaria persistence in remote central Vietnam: a mixed-method study of health care and the community
    Morrow, M ; Nguyen, QA ; Caruana, S ; Biggs, BA ; Doan, NH ; Nong, TT (BMC, 2009-03-23)
    BACKGROUND: There is increasing interest in underlying socio-cultural, economic, environmental and health-system influences on the persistence of malaria. Vietnam is a Mekong regional 'success story' after dramatic declines in malaria incidence following introduction of a national control program providing free bed-nets, diagnosis and treatment. Malaria has largely retreated to pockets near international borders in central Vietnam, where it remains a burden particularly among impoverished ethnic minorities. In these areas commune and village health workers are lynchpins of the program. This study in the central province of Quang Tri aimed to contribute to more effective malaria control in Vietnam by documenting the non-biological pathways to malaria persistence in two districts. METHODS: Multiple and mixed (qualitative and quantitative) methods were used. The formative stage comprised community meetings, observation of bed-net use, and focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with health managers, providers and community. Formative results were used to guide development of tools for the assessment stage, which included a provider quiz, structured surveys with 160 community members and 16 village health workers, and quality check of microscopy facilities and health records at district and commune levels. Descriptive statistics and chi-square analysis were used for quantitative data. RESULTS: The study's key findings were the inadequacy of bed-nets (only 45% of households were fully covered) and sub-optimal diagnosis and treatment at local levels. Bed-net insufficiencies were exacerbated by customary sleeping patterns and population mobility. While care at district level seemed good, about a third of patients reportedly self-discharged early and many were lost to follow-up. Commune and village data suggested that approximately half of febrile patients were treated presumptively, and 10 village health workers did not carry artesunate to treat the potentially deadly and common P. falciparum malaria. Some staff lacked diagnostic skills, time for duties, and quality microscopy equipment. A few gaps were found in community knowledge and reported behaviours. CONCLUSION: Malaria control cannot be achieved through community education alone in this region. Whilst appropriate awareness-raising is needed, it is most urgent to address weaknesses at systems level, including bed-net distribution, health provider staffing and skills, as well as equipment and supplies.
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    A community based field research project investigating anaemia amongst young children living in rural Karnataka, India: a cross sectional study
    Pasricha, S-R ; Vijaykumar, V ; Prashanth, NS ; Sudarshan, H ; Biggs, B-A ; Black, J ; Shet, A (BMC, 2009-02-17)
    BACKGROUND: Anaemia is an important problem amongst young children living in rural India. However, there has not previously been a detailed study of the biological aetiology of this anaemia, exploring the relative contributions of iron, vitamin B12, folate and Vitamin A deficiency, inflammation, genetic haemoglobinopathy, hookworm and malaria. Nor have studies related these aetiologic biological factors to household food security, standard of living and child feeding practices. Barriers to conducting such work have included perceived reluctance of village communities to permit their children to undergo venipuncture, and logistical issues. We have successfully completed a community based, cross sectional field study exploring in detail the causes of anaemia amongst young children in a rural setting. METHODS AND DESIGN: A cross sectional, community based study. We engaged in extensive community consultation and tailored our study design to the outcomes of these discussions. We utilised local women as field workers, harnessing the capacity of local health workers to assist with the study. We adopted a programmatic approach with a census rather than random sampling strategy in the village, incorporating appropriate case management for children identified to have anaemia. We developed a questionnaire based on existing standard measurement tools for standard of living, food security and nutrition. Specimen processing was conducted at the Primary Health Centre laboratory prior to transport to an urban research laboratory. DISCUSSION: Adopting this study design, we have recruited 415 of 470 potentially eligible children who were living in the selected villages. We achieved support from the community and cooperation of local health workers. Our results will improve the understanding into anaemia amongst young children in rural India. However, many further studies are required to understand the health problems of the population of rural India, and our study design and technique provide a useful demonstration of a successful strategy.
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    Improving birth dose coverage of hepatitis B vaccine
    Hipgrave, DB ; Maynard, JE ; Biggs, BA (WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, 2006-01-01)
    Administration of a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine (HepB vaccine) to neonates is recommended to prevent mother-to-infant transmission and chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Although manufacturers recommend HepB vaccine distribution and storage at 2-8 degrees C, recognition of the heat stability of hepatitis B surface antigen stimulated research into its use after storage at, or exposure to, ambient or high temperatures. Storage of HepB vaccine at ambient temperatures would enable birth dosing for neonates delivered at home in remote areas or at health posts lacking refrigeration. This article reviews the current evidence on the thermostability of HepB vaccine when stored outside the cold chain (OCC). The reports reviewed show that the vaccines studied were safe and effective whether stored cold or OCC. Field and laboratory data also verifies the retained potency of the vaccine after exposure to heat. The attachment of a highly stable variety of a vaccine vial monitor (measuring cumulative exposure to heat) on many HepB vaccines strongly supports policies allowing their storage OCC, when this will benefit birth dose coverage. We recommend that this strategy be introduced to improve birth dose coverage, especially in rural and remote areas. Concurrent monitoring and evaluation should be undertaken to affirm the safe implementation of this strategy, and assess its cost, feasibility and effect on reducing HBV infection rates. Meanwhile, release of manufacturer data verifying the potency of currently available HepB vaccines after exposure to heat will increase confidence in the use of vaccine vial monitors as a managerial tool during storage of HepB vaccine OCC.