Feasibility of introducing an onsite test for syphilis in the package of antenatal care at the rural primary health care level in Burkina Faso
Background: Syphilis transmission remains a global problem with an estimated 12 million people infected each year. Ninety percent of syphilis cases occur in low income countries. Syphilis is a serious source of adverse pregnancy outcomes for both mother and infant. Ideally, syphilis screening should be provided as part of a package of maternal and newborn health-care services. This thesis reports on a pilot intervention study to develop, implement and evaluate a point of care test for syphilis in antenatal care services in rural Burkina Faso. Methods: This study used a pre post intervention mixed methods quasi-experimental design with a group of health facilities offering ANC services (primary health centers in rural area) as the sampling units. This study was conducted in three phases, which consisted of a situational analysis using qualitative methods (Phase 1), selecting an appropriate test through evaluating 4 candidate tests and the participatory design and implementation of an intervention that included onsite training, provision of supplies and medicines, quality control and supervision (Phase 2), and an evaluation combining review of record tools, interviews, time motion study and estimating incremental costs (Phase 3). The conceptual framework draws on multilevel assessment (MLA), policy triangle framework, MRC framework for designing complex interventions and the Normalization Process Model (NPM). Methods included document review, seventy five interviews were conducted with health providers, district managers, facility managers, traditional healers, pregnant women, community health workers, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) managers in phase I and fourteen in phase III, non-participant observation, time-motion study, incremental cost analysis, and sensitivity, specificity and ease of use analysis of four candidate point-of care tests. Data were collected between 2012 and 2014. Qualitative data were analyzed through thematic analysis supported by Nvivo software. Quantitative data were analyzed through descriptive statistics such as frequency, mean and median supported by SPSS. Findings: Phase I identified barriers to implementation and uptake of syphilis testing at health provider and community levels. The most important barriers at provider level included fragmentation of services, poor communication between health workers and clients, failure to prescribe syphilis test, and low awareness of syphilis burden. Cost of testing, distance to laboratory and lack of knowledge about syphilis were identified as barriers at community level. Phase II: Alere DetermineTM Syphilis was the most sensitive of the four point-of-care tests evaluated. The components of the intervention were successfully implemented in the selected health facilities. Overall, phase III showed that it is feasible and acceptable to introduce a point of care test for syphilis in antenatal care services at primary health care level using the available staff. The intervention was reported as acceptable, but of 812 pregnant women who came for their first visit 39% were screened during the study period. Rural facilities had higher coverage (66.8%) than the urban ones (25.6%). Quality control found no discordance between the rapid test and TPHA results. The average cost of ANC per unscreened pregnant woman was 3.11 USD (±0.14) vs 5.06 USD (±0.16) per screened woman. The main cost driver was the material costs notably the test itself. The test’s cost is comparable to HIV test costs, but funder support for integrating this additional test is less readily available than for HIV tests. Conclusions: The findings suggested that an intervention that introduces point of care test for syphilis at antenatal care services is feasible, acceptable, and of comparable costs to HIV screening in pregnancy. Nonetheless, instructions and supervision need to be clearer to achieve optimal levels of screening and quality control, and barriers identified by health workers need to be overcome. The point-of care test for syphilis is likely to be acceptable by health workers as a routine service and incorporated as a normal practice in Burkina Faso context.