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Women's Access and Provider Practices for the Case Management of #Malaria during Pregnancy: Review and Meta-Analysis.

CITATION: Jenny Hill et al. Women's Access and Provider Practices for the Case Management of #Malaria during Pregnancy: Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS Medicine. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001688
Abstract / Summary: 
Editors' Summary   Background: Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite, kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and preterm births, and kills about 10,000 women and 100,000 children each year. Since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that uncomplicated malaria (an infection that causes a fever but does not involve organ damage or severe anemia) should be treated with quinine and clindamycin if it occurs during the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy and with an artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) if it occurs during the second or third trimester; ACTs should be used during the first trimester only if no other treatment is immediately available because their safety during early pregnancy has not been established. Since 2010, WHO has also recommended that clinical diagnosis of malaria should be confirmed before treatment by looking for parasites in patients' blood (parasitology).   Why Was This Study Done?: Prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria in pregnancy in regions where malaria is always present (endemic regions) is extremely important, yet little is known about women's access to the recommended interventions for malaria in pregnancy or about healthcare providers' adherence to the WHO case management guidelines. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect women's access to treatment and healthcare provider practices for case management of malaria during pregnancy. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. A qualitative study collects non-quantitative data such as reasons for refusing an intervention, whereas a qualitative study collects numerical data such as the proportion of a population receiving an intervention.   What Did the Researchers Do and Find?: The researchers identified 37 studies (mostly conducted in Africa) that provided data on the range of healthcare providers visited, antimalarials used, and the factors influencing the choice of healthcare provider and medicines among pregnant women seeking treatment for malaria and/or the type and quality of diagnostic and case management services offered to them by healthcare providers. The researchers explored the data in these studies using narrative synthesis (which summarizes the results from several qualitative studies) and content analysis (which identifies key themes within texts). Among the studies that provided relevant data, one-quarter to three-quarters of women reported malaria episodes during pregnancy. More than 85% of the women who reported a malaria episode during pregnancy sought some form of treatment. Barriers to access to WHO-recommended treatment among women included poor knowledge about drug safety, and the use of self-treatment practices such as taking herbal remedies. Factors that affected the treatment-seeking behavior of pregnant women ("determinants") included prior use of antenatal care, education, and previous experience of a miscarriage. Among healthcare providers, reliance on clinical diagnosis of malaria was consistently reported, as was poor adherence to the treatment policy. Specifically, 28% and 72% of healthcare providers followed the treatment guidelines for malaria during the first and second/third trimesters of pregnancy, respectively. Finally, the researchers report that concerns over side effects and drug safety, patient preference, drug availability, and cost drove the prescribing practices of the healthcare providers, and that the determinants of provider practices included the type (cadre) of heathcare worker, access to training, and whether they were based in a public or private facility.   What Do These Findings Mean?: These findings reveal important limitations in the implementation of the WHO policy on the treatment of malaria in pregnancy across many parts of Africa and in several other malaria endemic regions. Notably, they show that women do not uniformly seek care within the formal healthcare system and suggest that, when they do seek care, they may not be given the appropriate treatment because healthcare providers frequently fail to adhere to the WHO diagnostic and treatment guidelines. Although limited by the sparseness of data and by inconsistencies in study methodologies, these findings nevertheless highlight the need for further systematic assessments of the extent of substandard case management of malaria in pregnancy in malaria endemic countries, and the need to develop interventions to improve access to and delivery of quality case management of malaria among pregnant women.
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Selected extracts: 
In Kenya, while 83% of staff at a provincial hospital stated that they used the national guidelines, guidelines were available at only 25% of points of use, and 73% of pregnant patients received parenteral quinine
In Malawi, Kalilani-Phiri et al. found that only 40% of medical doctors and pharmacists knew the treatment guidelines for uncomplicated malaria in pregnant women, compared to 83% for severe malaria [42].
Poor knowledge of and adherence to national treatment policy guidelines among healthcare providers was a consistent finding across countries in east [42],[51] and west Africa [21],[30],[37],[38],[40],[43],[44],[46],[47], Asia [16],[17], the Middle East [18], and Latin America [20], and knowledge was particularly poor among private providers
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Jenny Hill et al. 

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