The inadequacies of the formal healthcare sector in Bangladesh has resulted in a widespread increase in informal providers as an alternative source of care providing basic and essential outpatient health services to millions of poor people in the rural areas. Close proximity to clients, availability to the community day and night, sympathetic behavior, well established relations within the community, and flexible payment methods have made the village doctors a popular source of care.
Findings from our initial studies confirmed that the village doctors (VDs) provide care of questionable quality with considerable over-prescription of drugs, including the prescription of drugs that are mostly inappropriate and potentially harmful. Regardless, the widespread existence of VDs and their significance as an integral contributor of healthcare within rural communities in Bangladesh necessitates an effective regulatory arrangement that improves and ensures a minimum standard in the quality of services provided.
FHS Phase 1
In the first phase, FHS Bangladesh established the ShasthyaSena intervention, which employed a combination of three strategies to improve healthcare services in rural Chakaria, Bangladesh. All of the 157 village doctors (VDs) practicing in the intervention areas were invited to participate in a free training in managing common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, viral fever, and various complications related to labor and delivery. A small booklet with information on what to do and what not to do for eleven common illnesses was distributed as a source of future reference. As members of the SS network, qualified village doctors were awarded crests containing the SS logo. A memorandum of understanding outlining the responsibilities and objectives of SS was signed between each joining member and the network.
The study has shown that training and branding has acceptability among village doctors although their behaviour has had no drastic changes due to the lack of financial incentives. The ShasthyaSena intervention has also resulted in a change in the attitude of the government toward informal healthcare providers.
FHS Phase 2
In Phase 2, FHS Bangladesh is pursuing branding and social franchising mechanisms and marrying them to new technologies such as telemedicine and the “health box”. This will show and guide the informal healthcare providers how to treat and manage many common illnesses through the use of computer-based diagnostic algorithms. These components together will create a brand with serious content that is attractive to village doctors and even more attractive to customers through improvements in the quality of care. The intervention will further link village doctors with formal healthcare providers for more complicated illnesses. While over-the-counter drugs can be dispensed by the village doctors themselves, dispensing prescription drugs will be guided by linking them with qualified physicians. Dispensing of medicines will be part of the profit made by village doctors and will provide them with a financial incentive. All the above activities will be ensured and supervised by the project. If acceptability and efficacy of the intervention can be shown, a stronger case can be made that shows that using informal healthcare providers will be profitable in a country that has a huge shortfall in the health workforce.
FHS Partners in Bangladesh
News and announcements from FHS Bangladesh
FHS is pleased to announce the publication of a new supplement in BMC Globalization and Health, titled Innovation in health systems in low- and middle-income countries. There is a growing interest in new technologies and innovative organizational arrangements as a means to improve a health system’s performance. However, only a small proportion of the many investments in innovations have been shown to have an impact on health system performance at scale. The papers in this series, published in Globalization and Health, analyze the factors that enable and constrain the emergence and diffusion of health system innovations. They bring alternative perspectives to this issue, based on diverse local contexts and different types of innovation. The aim is to provide a stronger basis for the formulation of strategies for managing health system change in low- and middle-income countries.
A “learning-by-doing” approach, using tools and techniques that are inclusive, participatory, and flexible, can help engagement and learning in different contexts to improve the delivery of health services.
This DC Health Systems Board event will bring together researchers and practitioners to share their experiences of engaging and working alongside service providers, beneficiaries, officials, and other local stakeholders through implementation research, and to discuss tools that can support such processes.
FHS is pleased to announce the publication of a new BMC Health Research Policy and Systems supplement , titled Engaging Stakeholders in Implementation Research: tools, approaches, and lessons learned from application.
Implementation research and the engagement of stakeholders in such research have become increasingly prominent in finding ways to design, conduct, expand and sustain effective and equitable health policies, programmes and related interventions.
The articles in this supplement examine some of the tools and approaches used to facilitate stakeholder engagement in implementation research, and describe learning from the experience of the Future Health Systems (FHS) Research Programme Consortium.
Recent FHS Bangladesh Publications
Community clinics, a flagship programme of the Government of Bangladesh, are health facilities set up to deliver primary health care, family planning and nutrition services to rural people at the grassroots level. Currently there are 13,500 community clinics (CC) in Bangladesh, aimed to cover every 6000 rural population. Despite the widespread establishment of the community clinics, challenges such as shortage of supply, provider absenteeism, lack of properly defined roles and responsibilities of human resources, poor behaviour towards patients, weak accountability and governance, and absence of active participation from community in healthcare delivery restrict efficient use of these facilities and available resources.
To complement the monitoring mechanism of community clinics, the Future Health Systems (FHS) Bangladesh team at icddr,b aimed to implement a community scorecard (CSC) to ensure community participation and provider accountability in the local health system. This FHS Research Brief presents the learnings from the three cycles of community scorecard implementation in the intervention community clinics.
Hanifi SM, Ravn H, Aaby P and Bhuiya A (2018) Where girls are less likely to be fully vaccinated than boys: Evidence from a rural area in Bangladesh, Vaccine, 36(23):3323-30, DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.04.059
Immunization is one of the most successful and effective health intervention to reduce vaccine preventable diseases for children. Recently, Bangladesh has made huge progress in immunization coverage. In this study, we compared the recent immunization coverage between boys and girls in a rural area of Bangladesh.
Huda TM, Rahman MM, Raihana S, Islam S, Tahsina T, Alam A, Agho K, Rasheed S, Hayes A, Karim MA and Rahman QS (2018) A community-based cluster randomised controlled trial in rural Bangladesh to evaluate the impact of the use of iron-folic acid supplements early in pregnancy on the risk of neonatal mortality: the Shonjibon trial, BMC Public Health, 18(1):816, DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5713-1
Iron-deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency globally. Due to the high iron requirements for pregnancy, it is highly prevalent and severe in pregnant women. There is strong evidence that maternal iron deficiency anaemia increases the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes. However, most of the evidence is from observational epidemiological studies except for a very few randomised controlled trials. IFA supplements have also been found to reduce the preterm delivery rate and neonatal mortality attributable to prematurity and birth asphyxia. These results combined indicate that IFA supplements in populations of iron-deficient pregnant women could lead to a decrease in the number of neonatal deaths mediated by reduced rates of preterm delivery. In this paper, we describe the protocol of a community-based cluster randomised controlled trial that aims to evaluate the impact of maternal antenatal IFA supplements on perinatal outcomes.
Khan NU, Rasheed S, Sharmin T, Siddique AK, Dibley M and Alam A (2018) How can mobile phones be used to improve nutrition service delivery in rural Bangladesh?, BMC Health Services Research, 18(1):530, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-018-3351-z
Nutrition has been integrated within the health services in Bangladesh as it is an important issue for health and development. High penetration of mobile phones in the community and favourable policy and political commitment of the Government of Bangladesh has created possibilities of using Information Communication Technology such as mobile phones for nutrition programs. In this paper the implementation of nutrition services with a specific focus on infant and young child feeding was explored and the potential for using mobile phones to improve the quality and coverage of nutrition services was assessed.
Waldman L, Ahmed T, Scott N, Akter S, Standing H and Rasheed S (2018) ‘We have the internet in our hands’: Bangladeshi college students’ use of ICTs for health information, Globalization and Health, 14:31, DOI: 10.1186/s12992-018-0349-6
Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which enable people to access, use and promote health information through digital technology, promise important health systems innovations which can challenge gatekeepers’ control of information, through processes of disintermediation. College students, in pursuit of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information, are particularly affected by gatekeeping as strong social and cultural norms restrict their access to information and services. This paper examines mobile phone usage for obtaining health information in Mirzapur, Bangladesh. It contrasts college students’ usage with that of the general population, asks whether students are using digital technologies for health information in innovative ways, and examines how gender affects this.