Category Archives: Scott Barnhart

I-TECH Zimbabwe Office Transitions to Local Organization

Zim-TTECH staff supports Kowoyo Clinic in Goromonzi District, Mashonaland East Province, Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Macpherson Photographers.

The International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) has transitioned another office to an autonomous entity. The Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training and Education Center for Health (Zim-TTECH) was officially launched on April 1, 2020, as a locally registered health trust. Zim-TTECH is the administrative and managing partner for the two existing I-TECH CDC/PEPFAR funded grants in Zimbabwe, each grant having a consortium of local partners:

  • ZimPAAC (Zimbabwe Partnership to Accelerate AIDS Control) is a partnership between Zim-TTECH, Africaid, Pangaea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust, and I-TECH. ZimPAAC collaborates with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) on context-appropriate health interventions to improve access to, as well as strengthen the quality of HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services. ZimPAAC provides services at 373 facilities in 17 districts.
  • ZAZIC is a partnership between Zim-TTECH, I-TECH, and two local implementing partners—Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) and Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research Project (ZiCHIRe). ZAZIC supports voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services at 38 static facilities in 13 districts.

“The transition from an I-TECH country office to a fully fledged independent local organization is exciting,” states Dr. Batsirai Makunike-Chikwinya, Zim-TTECH’s Executive Director. “Zim-TTECH is committed to continue to provide high-quality support to the MoHCC and to the health sector as a whole. Special thanks go to management and staff of both I-TECH/UW [University of Washington] and UZCHS-CTRC [University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences Clinical Trials Research Centre], who played pivotal roles during this transition.”

I-TECH has worked in Zimbabwe since 2003, collaborating with the MoHCC and other partners to improve clinical services and strengthen health systems.  “It is a pleasure to support the launch of Zim-TTECH, which is the right next step toward country ownership and, importantly, recognizes the high level of skill and professionalism of the prior I-TECH country office and now Zim-TTECH team,” remarks Dr. Scott Barnhart.

Reducing HIV through Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in Zimbabwe

Since 2013, the ZAZIC Consortium has been implementing Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) as part of a combination HIV prevention package approved by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe. Unlike other VMMC programs in the region, the ZAZIC model uses an integrated approach, blending local clinic staff supported by MOHCC with partner staff. The ZAZIC consortium supports:

  • Training using MoHCC approved curricula, health workers in the supported districts are trained on the surgical technique as well as on demand creation
  • Development and implementation of age appropriate demand creation strategies
  • Support service delivery in 13 districts from consent procedures to post-surgical care and linkage to other services
  • Comprehensive monitoring and evaluation including continuous quality improvement and operations research

From 2013-2018, ZAZIC performed over 300,000 VMMCs with a reported moderate and severe adverse event rate of 0.3%. The safety, flexibility, and pace of scale-up associated with the integrated VMMC model appears similar to vertical delivery with potential benefits of capacity building, sustainability and health system strengthening. Although more complicated than traditional approaches to program implementation, attention should be given to this country-led approach for its potential to spur positive health system changes, including building local ownership, capacity, and infrastructure for future public health programming. Over 80% of the circumcisions occur in outreach settings, an approach that ensures wide coverage and expanded services in hard-to-reach locations.

Increasing VMMC Delivery and Safety in Zimbabwe

Employing modern medical male circumcision within traditional settings may increase patient safety and further male circumcision scale up efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa. ZAZIC established a successful, culturally sensitive, partnership with the VaRemba, an ethnic group in Zimbabwe that practices traditional male circumcision. The VaRemba Camp Collaborative (VCC) was created to provide safe, standardized male circumcisions and reduce adverse events (AEs) during traditional male circumcisions. ZAZIC supported the VCC by providing key MC commodities and transport to help ensure patient safety. In 2017, the VaRemba granted permission to ZAZIC doctors to provide oversight of MC procedures and post-operative treatment for all moderate and severe AEs within the Camp setting. Of the Camp residents, 98% chose medical male circumcision.

The multi-year, iterative cycle of meetings and trust building ultimately resulted in the successful VCC, a model that may be replicable for others trying to combine modern male circumcision and traditional practice.

Achieving Targets through Performance-Based Financing in Zimbabwe

ZAZIC employs an innovative performance-based financing (PBF) system to speed progress towards ambitious voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) targets. The PBF schedule, which started at $25 USD and now varies from $6.50-$14 USD depending on the location and the circumcision team, is continually refined to set the program up for sustainable transition. The PBF is an incentive that is intended to encourage underpaid healthcare workers (HCWs) to remain in the public sector and to strengthen the public healthcare system. The majority of the incentive supports HCWs who perform VMMC alongside other routine services; a small portion supports province, district, and facility levels.

I-TECH conducted a qualitative study to assess the effect of the PBF on HCW motivation, satisfaction, and professional relationships. The study found that the PBF appreciably increased motivation among VMMC teams and helped improve facilities where VMMC services are provided. However, PBF appears to contribute to antagonism at the workplace and create divisiveness. To reduce workplace tension and improve the VMMC program, ZAZIC increased training of additional HCWs to share the PBF incentive more widely and strengthened integration of VMMC services into routine care.

Ensuring High-Quality Service Provision in Zimbabwe

Describing Adverse Events within VMMC Programs at Scale

I-TECH works diligently to review and revise procedures to identify, manage, and report adverse events (AEs). I-TECH’s previous publications on AEs reveal efforts to maintain high quality programming and emphasize patient safety alongside achievement of targets.

An evaluation published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society found that AEs were uncommon, with 0.3% of surgical and 1.2% of PrePex (a non-surgical VMMC device) clients experiencing a moderate or severe AE. However, the evaluation also found that younger clients were at greater risk of infection.

Increasing Understanding on the Timing and Type of AEs in Routine VMMC Programs at Scale

As VMMC expands in Sub-Saharan Africa, I-TECH works to ensure program quality matches efforts to increase program productivity. I-TECH ensures patient safety through patient follow-up to identify and treat AEs. The timing of routine follow-up visits in MC programs is designed to ensure patient safety by identifying, treating, and managing complications. Although routine follow-up timing may differ by country, in Zimbabwe, three follow-up visits are scheduled to ensure quality service provision and patient care: Visit 1 (Day 2); Visit 2 (Day 7); and, Visit 3 (Day 42).

I-TECH’s implementation science efforts use routine data collected from clients with AEs and has found that AEs followed distinct patterns over time. Using these findings, ZAZIC has been improving VMMC care by 1) improving counseling about MC complications following initial visits for clinicians, clients, and caregivers ; 2) distributing wound care pamphlets to clients and caregivers; and 3) emphasizing follow-up tracing for younger boys, ages 10-14, and their caregivers to provide additional targeted, post-operative counseling on AE prevention.

Increasing AE Ascertainment through Routine Quality Assurance Efforts

To further increase ascertainment of AEs, I-TECH recently conducted a quality improvement (QI) initiative to improve provider identification and reporting of AEs. ZAZIC Gold-Standard (GS) clinicians prospectively observed 100 post-MC follow-ups per site in tandem with facility-based MC providers to confirm and characterize AEs, providing mentoring in AE management when needed.

The QI data suggested that AEs may be higher and follow-up lower than reported and ZAZIC’s Quality Assurance Task Force is replicating this QA study in other sites; increasing training in AE identification, management, and documentation for clinical and data teams; and improving post-operative counseling for younger clients. Additional nurses and vehicles, especially in rural health clinics, are currently being trained and leveraged to further improve client follow-up and AE ascertainment.

Improving Data Quality

ZAZIC undertakes weekly, monthly, and quarterly data quality audits (DQA) to ensure data correctness and completeness. Intensive DQA processes were documented and availability and completeness of data collected before and after DQAs in several specific sites was assessed with the aim to determine the effect of this process on data quality. ZAZIC found that after the DQA, high record availability of over 98% was maintained and record availability increased. After the DQA, most sites improved significantly in data completeness and ZAZIC continues to emphasize data completeness to support high-quality program implementation and availability of reliable data for decision-making.

Renewed Awards Totaling $24 Million Help Usher Zimbabwe Toward HIV Epidemic Control

Dr. Batsi Makunike (L), I-TECH ZImbabwe Country Director, presents Dr. Ann Downer, I-TECH Executive Director and former PI of the Zimbabwe Care and Treatment project, with a farewell gift. The batik was made by using sadza porridge to apply the dye to the fabric.

Last Saturday, 1 December 2018, marked the 30th World AIDS Day, with a focus on urging all people to know their HIV status, as well as on ensuring access to prevention, care, and treatment services for those affected by the disease. Two programs at the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) are working in concert with local partners to help make those goals a reality in Zimbabwe.

A center in the University of Washington (UW) Department of Global Health, I-TECH has worked in Zimbabwe since 2003, starting with a $150,000 grant for an assessment of the need for HIV training in the country. Since then, work in the country has expanded to two awards totaling more than $24 million for the current year—one of which focuses on HIV testing, care, and treatment and the other on voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention.  Both projects are funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and operate through consortia comprising I-TECH and local partners.

The consortium for the VMMC award, ZAZIC, will continue to be led by Dr. Scott Barnhart, Professor in the UW Department of Global Health and School of Medicine. However, the consortium for the care and treatment award, the Zimbabwe Partnership to Accelerate AIDS Control (ZimPAAC), has undergone a change in leadership: its new Principal Investigator (PI) is Dr. Stefan Wiktor, Professor in the UW Department of Global Health. Dr. Wiktor was handed the baton by the project’s previous Principal Investigator, Dr. Ann Downer, I-TECH Executive Director and also a Professor in the department, during a ceremony in Harare in October 2018.

“We are all so grateful to Dr. Downer for the past five years; for gently, but firmly leading us through the transition from a training and mentoring grant to a high-impact service delivery grant in five provinces,” said Dr. Batsi Makunike, I-TECH Zimbabwe Country Director. “Looking ahead, we welcome Dr. Wiktor to our team and the opportunity to tap into the wealth of experience that he brings as our new PI.”

Dr. Wiktor expressed hope that, through the continued hard work of the Zimbabwe consortium, the country will achieve its national and global targets. “Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa closest to reaching the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, and ZimPAAC is a critical partner to the Ministry of Health in that effort,” said Dr. Wiktor. “I am delighted to be working with such an outstanding team of public health professionals.”

Through ZimPAAC, I-TECH provides direct service delivery and site support for care and treatment at 372 public sector health facilities to strengthen health systems and improve the quality of care and treatment services and increase enrollment, initiation and adherence.

The VMMC project has already performed 313,267 VMMCs, as of October 2018, surpassing PEPFAR targets. The new award aims to circumcise 500,000 men over five years, resulting in the prevention of approximately 100,000 new cases of HIV.

“It has been such a privilege to work in Zimbabwe, a country that has a real chance to control the AIDS epidemic—both because of generous funding from PEPFAR and, more importantly, because of the caliber of the Zimbabwean people who live and work here,” said Dr. Downer at the handover ceremony.

“Our Zimbabwe team, consisting of both Harare- and Seattle-based members, is one of the finest I’ve ever worked with,” she continued. “Dr. Wiktor inherits a highly productive consortium that is partnering with ZAZIC and the Ministry of Health to propel Zimbabwe toward a healthier future and an AIDS-free generation.”

I-TECH Haiti Country Office Becomes an Independent NGO

On June 1, 2018, the University of Washington’s International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) country office in Haiti officially became a local non-governmental organization (NGO). The office will be rebranded as the Centre Haïtien pour le Renforcement du Système de Santé (CHARESS) and will continue to implement programs to improve HIV services via a trained health workforce, robust health information systems (HIS), and clinical mentoring.

CHARESS will be responsible for maintaining, training, and deploying HIS such as iSantéPlus and the Système d’Echange d’Information de Santé d’Haïti (SEDISH), a national health information exchange, across Haiti and ensure the sites receive on-site and remote technical assistance. The team will also oversee clinical mentoring activities at 20 sites and provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) and other implementing partners in Haiti.

“I-TECH has a mission to support sustainable development,” says Scott Barnhart, MD, MPH, Professor in the Department of Global Health and an I-TECH Principal Investigator overseeing programs in Haiti. “The conversion of the I-TECH country office and launch of a fully independent NGO to take up those activities is testament to I-TECH’s commitment to fostering locally owned and led development.”

The announcement of the shift to local ownership comes after two years of strategic planning by key stakeholders and partners to successfully transition I-TECH Haiti’s country office into an independently functioning NGO. As such, CHARESS will aim to allocate more of its funding to program activities, as well as pursue local funding opportunities restricted to Haitian organizations.

“The programs that are shifting to CHARESS have already proved to have had a dramatic impact on the health care landscape in Haiti,” remarked Jean-Guy Honoré, MD, I-TECH Haiti’s Country Director. “Transitioning of the key programs, specifically our HIS work, to a local ownership will allow CHARESS to become a leader in sustainability on the global stage. We are proud of the work that we have accomplished and look forward to the future.”

For 16 years, I-TECH has helped develop strong national health systems in low- to middle-resource countries while promoting the importance of local ownership as a way to sustain those effective health systems. I-TECH will continue to be a close partner in supporting CHARESS and looks forward to continued collaboration.

Namibian Primary School Receives Platinum Certificate for VMMC Saturation

Facing Ashitenga Primary School students at the VMMC certificate ceremony are, from left to right: Levi Vries, Education Inspector for Oluno Circuit; Lusia Ndemuweda, I-TECH Demand Creation Coordination Nurse; Ashitenga Principal Edward Asser; Frieda Mupetami, a representative of Okatyali Constituency office; and Life Skills teacher Teopolina Mupetami (in red).

In Namibia, the prevalence of HIV infection among adults aged 15 to 49 is nearly 14%.[1] A key component of national efforts to prevent the spread of HIV is voluntary medical male circumcision, or VMMC, which has proved to reduce the rate of male-to-female transmission by upwards of 60%.

Since 2010, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) has supported the VMMC efforts of the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) in the Oshana and Zambezi regions. I-TECH not only supports health care worker training in the provision of VMMC, it is also engaged in critical efforts to create demand for the procedure.

A key element of these efforts is the recognition of schools and school leadership who are supportive of VMMCs. In February, Ashitenga Primary School in Oshana Region was awarded a platinum certificate by I-TECH Namibia for achieving 96% saturation of boys receiving a VMMC. Platinum is the highest honor, with bronze signifying 55-69% saturation, silver awarded for 70-79% saturation, and gold given for 80-89% saturation.

Present at the event was the Oluno Circuit Education Inspector Levi Vries. In his remarks, Mr. Vries encouraged other schools to emulate Ashitenga’s good example. He emphasized the importance of student health to attaining educational goals and urged students to spread the VMMC message to others in their families, villages, and neighborhoods.

As part of the Life Skills curriculum, older boys are instructed on HIV prevention, while the younger boys are taught personal hygiene – messages that are reinforced by I-TECH community mobilizers. Teopolina Mupetami, the Life Skills teacher at Ashitenga, encouraged Life Skills teachers at other schools in the area to support the VMMC program. Ashitenga principal Edward Asser echoed the importance of the school’s recognition; he promised to display the certificate proudly in his office.

Three of the circumcised students were interviewed by the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, which is charged with spreading the message about “the smart cut” in the government media. The boys responded that “they feel clean and protected from sexual related disease,” said Helena Ferdinand, I-TECH community mobilizer. The students prompted boys at other schools to enroll in the VMMC program and expressed their satisfaction with the service.

“The atmosphere at the handover was joyful and a lot of excitement,” said Ms. Ferdinand. “The principal indicated that they will continue to work hard to get a second platinum certificate.”

[1] UNAIDS; http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/namibia

Case Study of iSanté proposes sustainability as key success factor for health information systems in LMIC

I-TECH Haiti’s Dr. Marinho Elisma works with clinician Belhamie Ketleen on the iSanté electronic medical record system.

To mark the 10th year of the iSanté electronic medical record (EMR) system, the International Training and Education for Health (I-TECH) team in Haiti embarked on an analysis of the EMR’s implementation, the results of which were published as a case study last month in Health Policy and Planning.

The study focuses on factors of success, contributing to the industry’s understanding of what it takes to sustain and transition an EMR system in a low- and middle-income country (LMIC) like Haiti. The team found that while functionality and technical factors continue to be relevant as EMR implementations mature, other factors also become significant over time, including governance and leadership, ongoing user capacity, data quality, integration within a larger eHealth framework and financing.

The team assessed factors for success in eight categories: functionality, technical, organizational, training, political, ethical, financial, and sustainability. Seven of these were determined by the work of Fritz et al. in a review of factors contributing to EMR system success in low-resource settings.[1] However, one of the main findings was the eighth category the Haiti team added to the list of factors: sustainability.

Why sustainability is critical

When a system like iSanté is implemented at scale for so many years, the definition of success shifts from design, planning, and rollout to financing, governance, maintenance, and long-term ownership of the system by Haitian stakeholders. Transition planning, including long-term financial sustainability of the system, needs to begin at the start of any implementation.

“iSanté is a part of the legacy of the HIV information system, a model that will be used from generation to generation especially in terms of sustainable HIV/AIDS interventions,” said Nirva Duval, M&E Lead at the National AIDS Control Programme of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) in Haiti, a case study author who has been involved in the iSanté implementation since its beginning in 2005. She went on to add, “Use of iSanté data is a major asset and an opportunity to better understand issues and contribute to decision-making at all levels.”

Ultimately, the goal is for iSanté to be fully owned, managed, and maintained in Haiti and wholly integrate into clinical practice. In 2016, I-TECH, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the MSPP undertook an overhaul of iSanté, including moving all servers and the majority of software development to Haiti.

Lessons learned pave the way for integration

The rebuild, known as iSantéPlus, uses an OpenMRS platform, which is supported by a growing global community. The phased national rollout of iSantéPlus is under way and will continue during 2018. I-TECH is also supporting the creation of a new national health information exchange known as “SEDISH” (Système d’Echange d’Information de Santé d’Haïti in French).

SEDISH will ensure a seamless flow of data between the community level to sites to the national level and back, improve clinicians’ ability to see patient history from other sites, and maintain a continuity of care document for patients who move between care sites. SEDISH uses international data standards and a Master Person Index to facilitate harmonization and information sharing between the EMR and other health data systems like lab and supply chain systems, transitioning the Haiti HIS landscape from multiple disparate systems to an interconnected network. Both iSantéPlus and SEDISH will promote collaboration between MSPP and CDC- and USAID-funded partners to improve how health care providers serve individual patients and populations across these systems.

Many of the lessons learned during the implementation of iSanté were applied in the design and execution of iSantéPlus and SEDISH. “iSanté has kept Haiti on the leading edge of HIS implementation in resource-constrained countries,” said Dr. Scott Barnhart, Principal Investigator and Professor in the University of Washington’s Departments  of  Medicine and Global Health. “The changes under way will have broad global applicability — integrating across direct patient care, lab, pharmacy, as well as supply chain. We have an exciting opportunity to come together and build on our success to respond to the challenges of local ownership, financing, cost-effectiveness, and governance so that these important tools are sustainable.”

Once the team completes and assesses the results of the iSantéPlus and SEDISH pilot, the new systems will be deployed throughout Haiti. It will be critical that the MSPP, CDC, and I-TECH’s partners in Haiti come together to assess the sustainability of iSantéPlus and SEDISH and their impact on the HIS landscape in Haiti.

[1] Fritz F, Tilahun B, Dugas M. 2015. Success criteria for electronic medical record implementations in low-resource settings: a systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 22: 479–88.