Integration of community home-based care programmes within national primary health care revitalisation strategies in Ethiopia, Malawi, South-Africa and Zambia: a comparative assessment
Background: In 2008, the WHO facilitated the primary health care (PHC) revitalisation agenda. The purpose was to strengthen African health systems in order to address communicable and non-communicable diseases. Our aim was to assess the position of civil society-led community home based care programmes (CHBC), which serve the needs of patients with HIV, within this agenda. We examined how their roles and place in health systems evolved, and the prospects for these programmes in national policies and strategies to revitalise PHC, as new health care demands arise.
Methods: The study was conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia and used an historical, comparative research design. We used purposive sampling in the selection of countries and case studies of CHBC programmes. Qualitative methods included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, service observation and community mapping exercises. Quantitative methods included questionnaire surveys.
Results: The capacity of PHC services increased rapidly in the mid-to-late 2000s via CHBC programme facilitation of community mobilisation and participation in primary care services and the exceptional investments for HIV/AIDS. CHBC programmes diversified their services in response to the changing health and social care needs of patients on lifelong anti-retroviral therapy and there is a general trend to extend service delivery beyond HIV-infected patients. We observed similarities in the way the governments of South Africa, Malawi and Zambia are integrating CHBC programmes into PHC by making PHC facilities the focal point for management and state-paid community health workers responsible for the supervision of community-based activities. Contextual differences were found between Ethiopia, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia, whereby the policy direction of the latter two countries is to have in place structures and mechanisms that actively connect health and social welfare interventions from governmental and non-governmental actors.
Conclusions: Countries may differ in the means to integrate and co-ordinate government and civil society agencies but the net result is expanded PHC capacity. In a context of changing health care demands, CHBC programmes are a vital mechanism for the delivery of primary health and social welfare services.