Publications by authors named "Anke Rohwer"

35 Publications

What are the effects of teaching Evidence-Based Health Care (EBHC) at different levels of health professions education? An updated overview of systematic reviews.

PLoS One 2021 22;16(7):e0254191. Epub 2021 Jul 22.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: Evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) knowledge and skills are recognised as core competencies of healthcare professionals worldwide, and teaching EBHC has been widely recommended as an integral part of their training. The objective of this overview of systematic reviews (SR) was to update evidence and assess the effects of various approaches for teaching evidence-based health care (EBHC) at undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical education (ME) level on changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour.

Methods And Findings: This is an update of an overview that was published in 2014. The process followed standard procedures specified for the previous version of the overview, with a modified search. Searches were conducted in Epistemonikos for SRs published from 1 January 2013 to 27 October 2020 with no language restrictions. We checked additional sources for ongoing and unpublished SRs. Eligibility criteria included: SRs which evaluated educational interventions for teaching EBHC compared to no intervention or a different strategy were eligible. Two reviewers independently selected SRs, extracted data and evaluated quality using standardised instrument (AMSTAR2). The effects of strategies to teach EBHC were synthesized using a narrative approach. Previously published version of this overview included 16 SR, while the updated search identified six additional SRs. We therefore included a total of 22 SRs (with a total of 141 primary studies) in this updated overview. The SRs evaluated different educational interventions of varying duration, frequency, and format to teach various components of EBHC at different levels of ME (UG, PG, mixed). Most SRs assessed a range of EBHC related outcomes using a variety of assessment tools. Two SRs included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) only, while 20 reviews included RCTs and various types of non-RCTs. Diversity of study designs and teaching activities as well as aggregated findings at the SR level prevented comparisons of the effects of different techniques. In general, knowledge was improved across all ME levels for interventions compared to no intervention or pre-test scores. Skills improved in UGs, but less so in PGs and were less consistent in mixed populations. There were positive changes in behaviour among UGs and PGs, but not in mixed populations, with no consistent improvement in attitudes in any of the studied groups. One SR showed improved patient outcomes (based on non-randomised studies). Main limitations included: poor quality and reporting of SRs, heterogeneity of interventions and outcome measures, and short-term follow up.

Conclusions: Teaching EBHC consistently improved EBHC knowledge and skills at all levels of ME and behaviour in UGs and PGs, but with no consistent improvement in attitudes towards EBHC, and little evidence of the long term influence on processes of care and patient outcomes. EBHC teaching and learning should be interactive, multifaceted, integrated into clinical practice, and should include assessments.

Study Registration: The protocol for the original overview was developed and approved by Stellenbosch University Research Ethics Committee S12/10/262.

Update Of The Overview: Young T, Rohwer A, Volmink J, Clarke M. What are the effects of teaching evidence-based health care (EBHC)? Overview of systematic reviews. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e86706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086706.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0254191PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8297776PMC
July 2021

ffects of integrated models of care for diabetes and hypertension in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

BMJ Open 2021 07 12;11(7):e043705. Epub 2021 Jul 12.

Institute for Evidence in Medicine (for Cochrane Germany Foundation), Medical Center & Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.

Objectives: To assess the effects of integrated models of care for people with multimorbidity including at least diabetes or hypertension in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) on health and process outcomes.

Design: Systematic review.

Data Sources: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, LILACS, Africa-Wide, CINAHL and Web of Science up to 12 December 2019.

Eligibility Criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs, controlled before-and-after studies and interrupted time series (ITS) studies of people with diabetes and/or hypertension plus any other disease, in LMICs; assessing the effects of integrated care.

Data Extraction And Synthesis: Two authors independently screened retrieved records; extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We conducted meta-analysis where possible and assessed certainty of evidence using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation.

Results: Of 7568 records, we included five studies-two ITS studies and three cluster RCTs. Studies were conducted in South Africa (n=3), Uganda/Kenya (n=1) and India (n=1). Integrated models of care compared with usual care may make little or no difference to mortality (very low certainty), the number of people achieving blood pressure (BP) or diabetes control (very low certainty) and access to care (very low certainty); may increase the number of people who achieve both HIV and BP/diabetes control (very low certainty); and may have a very small effect on achieving HIV control (very low certainty). Interventions to promote integrated delivery of care compared with usual care may make little or no difference to mortality (very low certainty), depression (very low certainty) and quality of life (very low certainty); and may have little or no effect on glycated haemoglobin (low certainty), systolic BP (low certainty) and total cholesterol levels (low certainty).

Conclusions: Current evidence on the effects of integrated care on health outcomes is very uncertain. Programmes and policies on integrated care must consider context-specific factors related to health systems and populations.

Prospero Registration Number: CRD42018099314.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-043705DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8276295PMC
July 2021

Integrated knowledge translation to advance noncommunicable disease policy and practice in South Africa: application of the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, and Sustainment (EPIS) framework.

Health Res Policy Syst 2021 May 17;19(1):82. Epub 2021 May 17.

Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: In response to the "know-do" gap, several initiatives have been implemented to enhance evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM). These include individual training, organizational culture change management, and legislative changes. The importance of relationships and stakeholder engagement in EIDM has led to an evolution of models and approaches including integrated knowledge translation (IKT). IKT has emerged as a key strategy for ensuring that engagement is equitable, demand-driven, and responsive. As a result, the African-German Collaboration for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+) incorporated an IKT approach to influence noncommunicable diseases (NCD) policy and practice. We documented the phased process of developing, implementing, and monitoring the IKT approach in South Africa; and explored the appropriateness of using the exploration, preparation, implementation, and sustainment (EPIS) framework for this purpose.

Methods: We mapped the South Africa IKT approach onto the EPIS framework using a framework analysis approach. Notes of team meetings, stakeholder matrices, and engagement strategies were analysed and purposefully plotted against the four phases of the framework in order to populate the different constructs. We discussed and finalized the analysis in a series of online iterations until consensus was reached.

Results: The mapping exercise revealed an IKT approach that was much more iterative, dynamic, and engaging than initially thought. Several constructs (phase-agnostic) remained important and stable across EPIS phases: stable and supportive funding; committed and competent leadership; skilled and dedicated IKT champions; diverse and established personal networks; a conducive and enabling policy environment; and boundary-spanning intermediaries. Constructs such as "innovations" constantly evolved and adapted to the changing inner and outer contexts (phase-specific).

Conclusions: Using the EPIS framework to interrogate, reflect on, and document our IKT experiences proved extremely relevant and useful. Phase-agnostic constructs proved critical to ensure resilience and agility of NCD deliberations and policies in the face of highly dynamic and changing local contexts, particularly in view of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Bridging IKT with a framework from implementation science helps to reflect on this process and can guide the development and planning of similar interventions and strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12961-021-00733-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8127442PMC
May 2021

Self-management interventions for adolescents living with HIV: a systematic review.

BMC Infect Dis 2021 May 7;21(1):431. Epub 2021 May 7.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: Self-management interventions aim to enable people living with chronic conditions to increase control over their condition in order to achieve optimal health and may be pertinent for young people with chronic illnesses such as HIV. Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of self-management interventions for improving health-related outcomes of adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) and identify the components that are most effective, particularly in low-resource settings with a high HIV burden.

Methods: We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cluster RCTs, non-randomised controlled trials (non-RCTs) and controlled before-after (CBA) studies. We did a comprehensive search up to 1 August 2019. Two authors independently screened titles, abstracts and full texts, extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. We synthesised results in a meta-analysis where studies were sufficiently homogenous. In case of substantial heterogeneity, we synthesised results narratively. We assessed the certainty of evidence using GRADE and presented our findings as summaries in tabulated form.

Results: We included 14 studies, comprising 12 RCTs and two non-RCTs. Most studies were conducted in the United States, one in Thailand and four in Africa. Interventions were diverse, addressing a variety of self-management domains and including a combination of individual, group, face-to-face, cell phone or information communication technology mediated approaches. Delivery agents varied from trained counsellors to healthcare workers and peers. Self-management interventions compared to usual care for ALHIV made little to no difference to most health-related outcomes, but the evidence is very uncertain. Self-management interventions may increase adherence and decrease HIV viral load, but the evidence is very uncertain. We could not identify any particular components of interventions that were more effective for improving certain outcomes.

Conclusion: Existing evidence on the effectiveness of self-management interventions for improving health-related outcomes of ALHIV is very uncertain. Self-management interventions for ALHIV should take into account the individual, social and health system contexts. Intervention components need to be aligned to the desired outcomes.

Systematic Review Registration: PROSPERO CRD42019126313.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-021-06072-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8105944PMC
May 2021

Enhancing Public Health Systematic Reviews With Diagram Visualization.

Am J Public Health 2021 06;111(6):1029-1034

Anke Rohwer is with the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Melissa Taylor and Paul Garner are with the Department of Clinical Sciences, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK. Rebecca Ryan is with the Centre for Health Communication and Participation, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Sandy Oliver is with the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre, Social Research Institute, University College London, London, UK, and the Africa Centre for Evidence, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306225DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8101596PMC
June 2021

A mega-aggregation framework synthesis of the barriers and facilitators to linkage, adherence to ART and retention in care among people living with HIV.

Syst Rev 2021 02 11;10(1):54. Epub 2021 Feb 11.

Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care, Division Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: People living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) struggle with the challenges of living with a chronic disease and integrating antiretroviral treatment (ART) and care into their daily lives. The aims of this study were as follows: (1) to undertake the first mega-aggregation of qualitative evidence syntheses using the methods of framework synthesis and (2) make sense of existing qualitative evidence syntheses that explore the barriers and facilitators of adherence to antiretroviral treatment, linkage to care and retention in care for PLHIV to identify research gaps.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search and did all screening, data extraction and critical appraisal independently and in duplicate. We used the Kaufman HIV Behaviour Change model (Kaufman et al., 2014) as a framework to synthesise the findings using the mega-aggregative framework synthesis approach, which consists of 8 steps: (1) identify a clearly defined review question and objectives, (2) identify a theoretical framework or model, (3) decide on criteria for considering reviews for inclusion, (4) conduct searching and screening, (5) conduct quality appraisal of the included studies, (6) data extraction and categorisation, (7) present and synthesise the findings, and (8) transparent reporting. We evaluated systematic reviews up to July 2018 and assessed methodological quality, across reviews, using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist for Systematic Reviews.

Results: We included 33 systematic reviews from low, middle- and high-income countries, which reported on 1,111,964 PLHIV. The methodological quality of included reviews varied considerably. We identified 544 unique third-order concepts from the included systematic reviews, which were reclassified into 45 fourth-order themes within the individual, interpersonal, community, institutional and structural levels of the Kaufman HIV Behaviour Change model. We found that the main influencers of linkage, adherence and retention behaviours were psychosocial and personal characteristics-perceptions of ART, desires, fears, experiences of HIV and ART, coping strategies and mental health issues-interwoven with other factors on the interpersonal, community, institutional and structural level. Using this approach, we found interdependence between factors influencing ART linkage, retention and adherence and identified the need for qualitative evidence that explores, in greater depth, the complex relationships between structural factors and adherence, sociodemographic factors such as community violence and retention, and the experiences of growing up with HIV in low- and middle-income countries-specifically in children, youth, women and key populations.

Conclusions: This is the first mega-aggregation framework synthesis, or synthesis of qualitative evidence syntheses using the methods of framework synthesis at the overview level. We found the novel method to be a transparent and efficient method for assessing the quality and making sense of existing qualitative systematic reviews.

Systematic Review Registration: The protocol of this overview was registered on PROSPERO ( CRD42017078155 ) on 17 December 2017.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13643-021-01582-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7875685PMC
February 2021

Mixed method evaluation of the CEBHA+ integrated knowledge translation approach: a protocol.

Health Res Policy Syst 2021 Jan 18;19(1). Epub 2021 Jan 18.

Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology, LMU Munich, Elisabeth-Winterhalter-Weg 6, 81377, Munich, Germany.

Background: The Collaboration for Evidence-based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+) is a research consortium concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases. CEBHA+ seeks to engage policymakers and practitioners throughout the research process in order to build lasting relationships, enhance evidence uptake, and create long-term capacity among partner institutions in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda in collaboration with two German universities. This integrated knowledge translation (IKT) approach includes the formal development, implementation and evaluation of country specific IKT strategies.

Methods: We have conceptualised the CEBHA+ IKT approach as a complex intervention in a complex system. We will employ a comparative case study (CCS) design and mixed methods to facilitate an in-depth evaluation. We will use quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews, quarterly updates, and a policy document analysis to capture the process and outcomes of IKT across the African CEBHA+ partner sites. We will conduct an early stage (early 2020) and a late-stage evaluation (early 2022), triangulate the data collected with various methods at each site and subsequently compare our findings across the five sites.

Discussion: Evaluating a complex intervention such as the CEBHA+ IKT approach is complicated, even more so when undertaken across five diverse countries. Despite conceptual, methodological and practical challenges, our comparative case study addresses important evidence gaps: While involving decision-makers in the research process is gaining traction worldwide, we still know very little regarding (i) whether this approach really makes a difference to evidence uptake, (ii) the mechanisms that make IKT successful, and (iii) relevant differences across socio-cultural contexts. The evaluation described here is intended to provide relevant insights on all of these aspects, notably in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to contribute to the science of IKT overall.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12961-020-00675-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7813167PMC
January 2021

Evidence synthesis workshops: moving from face-to-face to online learning.

BMJ Evid Based Med 2020 Aug 6. Epub 2020 Aug 6.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

Postgraduate training is moving from face-to-face workshops or courses to online learning to help increase access to knowledge, expertise and skills, and save the cost of face-to-face training. However, moving from face-to-face to online learning for many of us academics is intimidating, and appears even more difficult without the help of a team of technologists. In this paper, we describe our approach, our experiences and the lessons we learnt from converting a Primer in Systematic Reviews face-to-face workshop to a 6-week online course designed for healthcare professionals in Africa. We learnt that the team needs a balance of skills and experience, including technical know-how and content knowledge; that the learning strategies needed to achieve the learning objectives must match the content delivery. The online approach should result in both building knowledge and developing skills, and include interactive and participatory approaches. Finally, the design and delivery needs to keep in mind the limited and expensive internet access in some resource-poor settings in Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111394DOI Listing
August 2020

Interventions for preventing postpartum constipation.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020 08 5;8:CD011625. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: Postpartum constipation, with symptoms, such as pain or discomfort, straining, and hard stool, is a common condition affecting mothers. Haemorrhoids, pain at the episiotomy site, effects of pregnancy hormones, and haematinics used in pregnancy can increase the risk of postpartum constipation. Eating a high-fibre diet and increasing fluid intake are usually encouraged. Although laxatives are commonly used in relieving constipation, the effectiveness and safety of available interventions for preventing postpartum constipation should be ascertained. This is an update of a review first published in 2015.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of interventions for preventing postpartum constipation.

Search Methods: We searched Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth's Trials Register, and two trials registers ClinicalTrials.gov, the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (7 October 2019), and screened reference lists of retrieved trials.

Selection Criteria: We considered all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing any intervention for preventing postpartum constipation versus another intervention, placebo, or no intervention in postpartum women. Interventions could include pharmacological (e.g. laxatives) and non-pharmacological interventions (e.g. acupuncture, educational and behavioural interventions). Quasi-randomised trials and cluster-RCTs were eligible for inclusion; none were identified. Trials using a cross-over design were not eligible.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently screened the results of the search to select potentially relevant trials, extracted data, assessed risk of bias, and the certainty of the evidence, using the GRADE approach. We did not pool results in a meta-analysis, but reported them per study.

Main Results: We included five trials (1208 postpartum mothers); three RCTs and two quasi-RCTs. Four trials compared a laxative with placebo; one compared a laxative plus a bulking agent versus the same laxative alone, in women who underwent surgical repair of third degree perineal tears. Trials were poorly reported, and four of the five trials were published over 40 years ago. We judged the risk of bias to be unclear for most domains. Overall, we found a high risk of selection and attrition bias. Laxative versus placebo We included four trials in this comparison. Two of the trials examined the effects of laxatives that are no longer used; one has been found to have carcinogenic properties (Danthron), and the other is not recommended for lactating women (Bisoxatin acetate); therefore, we did not include their results in our main findings. None of the trials included in this comparison assessed our primary outcomes: pain or straining on defecation, incidence of postpartum constipation, or quality of life; or many of our secondary outcomes. A laxative (senna) may increase the number of women having their first bowel movement within 24 hours after delivery (risk ratio (RR) 2.90, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.24 to 3.75; 1 trial, 471 women; low-certainty evidence); may have little or no effect on the number of women having their first bowel movement on day one after delivery (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.22; 1 trial, 471 women; very low-certainty evidence); may reduce the number of women having their first bowel movement on day two (RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.45; 1 trial, 471 women; low-certainty evidence); and day three (RR 0.05, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.89; 1 trial, 471 women; low-certainty evidence); and may have little or no effect on the number of women having their first bowel movement on day four after delivery (RR 0.22, 95% CI 0.03 to 1.87; 1 trial, 471 women; very low-certainty evidence), but some of the evidence is very uncertain. Adverse effects were poorly reported. Low-certainty evidence suggests that the laxative (senna) may increase the number of women experiencing abdominal cramps (RR 4.23, 95% CI 1.75 to 10.19; 1 trial, 471 women). Very low-certainty evidence suggests that laxatives taken by the mother may have little or no effect on loose stools in the baby (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.16 to 2.41; 1 trial, 281 babies); or diarrhoea (RR 2.46, 95% CI 0.23 to 26.82; 1 trial, 281 babies). Laxative plus bulking agent versus laxative only Very low-certainty evidence from one trial (147 women) suggests no evidence of a difference between these two groups of women who underwent surgical repair of third degree perineal tears; only median and range data were reported. The trial also reported no evidence of a difference in the incidence of postpartum constipation (data not reported), but did not report on quality of life. Time to first bowel movement was reported as a median (range); very low-certainty evidence suggests little or no difference between the two groups. A laxative plus bulking agent may increase the number of women having any episode of faecal incontinence during the first 10 days postpartum (RR 1.81, 95% CI 1.01 to 3.23; 1 trial, 147 women; very low-certainty evidence). The trial did not report on adverse effects of the intervention on babies, or many of our secondary outcomes.

Authors' Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to make general conclusions about the effectiveness and safety of laxatives for preventing postpartum constipation. The evidence in this review was assessed as low to very low-certainty evidence, with downgrading decisions based on limitations in study design, indirectness and imprecision. We did not identify any trials assessing educational or behavioural interventions. We identified four trials that examined laxatives versus placebo, and one that examined laxatives versus laxatives plus stool bulking agents. Further, rigorous trials are needed to assess the effectiveness and safety of laxatives during the postpartum period for preventing constipation. Trials should assess educational and behavioural interventions, and positions that enhance defecation. They should report on the primary outcomes from this review: pain or straining on defecation, incidence of postpartum constipation, quality of life, time to first bowel movement after delivery, and adverse effects caused by the intervention, such as: nausea or vomiting, pain, and flatus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011625.pub3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8094226PMC
August 2020

Strategies for optimising antenatal corticosteroid administration for women with anticipated preterm birth.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020 05 26;5:CD013633. Epub 2020 May 26.

Effective Care Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand/Fort Hare, East London, South Africa; Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa; and, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana.

Background: Preterm birth is a serious and common pregnancy complication. The burden is particularly high in low- and middle-income countries where available care is often inadequate to ensure preterm newborn survival. Administration of antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) is recommended as the standard care for the management of women at risk of imminent preterm birth but its coverage varies globally. Efforts to improve preterm newborn survival have largely been focused on optimising the coverage of ACS use. However, the benefits and harms of such strategies are unclear.

Objectives: To determine the relative benefits and risks of individual patient protocols, health service policies, educational interventions or other strategies which aim to optimise the use of ACS for anticipated preterm birth.

Search Methods: We searched Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth's Trials Register, ClinicalTrials.gov, the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (26 September 2019), and reference lists of retrieved studies.

Selection Criteria: We planned to include randomised controlled trials (RCTs), randomised at individual or cluster level, and quasi-randomised trials that assessed strategies to optimise (either by increasing or restricting) the administration of ACS compared with usual care amongst women at risk of preterm birth. Our primary outcomes were perinatal death and a composite outcome of offspring mortality and early or late neurodevelopmental morbidity.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion. All three review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We used narrative synthesis to analyse results, as we were unable to pool data from the included studies. We assessed the certainty of evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main Results: We included three cluster-RCTs, all assessing the effects of a multifaceted strategy aiming to promote the use of ACS among women at risk of preterm birth. We did not identify any trials assessing strategies to restrict the use of ACS versus usual care. Two of the included trials assessed use of ACS in high-resource hospital settings. The third trial, the Antenatal Corticosteroid Trial (ACT) was a multi-site trial conducted in rural and semi-urban settings of six low- and middle-income countries in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South America. In two trials, promoting the use of ACS resulted in increased use of ACS, whereas one trial did not find a difference in the rate of ACS administration compared to usual care. Whilst we included three studies, we were unable to pool the data in meta-analysis due to outcomes not being reported across all studies, or outcome results being reported in different ways. The main source of data in this review is from the ACT trial. We assessed the ACT trial as high risk for performance and selective reporting bias. In the protocol for this review, we planned to report all settings and subgroup by low-middle versus high-income countries; these planned analyses were not possible in this version of the review, although adding further studies in future updates may allow us to carry out planned subgroup analyses. The ACT trial was conducted in low-resource settings and reported data on appropriate ACS treatment and inappropriate ACS treatment. Although a strategy of promoting the administration of ACS compared to routine care may increase appropriate ACS treatment (RR 4.34, 95%CI 3.59 to 5.25; 1 study; n = 4389; low-certainty evidence), it may also increase inappropriate ACS treatment (RR 9.11 95%CI 8.04 to 10.33, 1 study, n = 89,237; low-certainty evidence). In low-resource settings, a strategy of promoting the administration of ACS probably increases population level perinatal death by 3 per 1000 infants (risk ratio (RR) 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04 to 1.19; 1 study; n = 100,705; moderate-certainty evidence); stillbirth by 2 per 1000 infants (RR 1.11, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.21; 1 study; n = 100,705; moderate-certainty evidence); and neonatal death before 28 days by 2 per 1000 infants (RR 1.12, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.23; 1 study; n = 100,705; moderate-certainty evidence); may increase the risk for 'suspected' maternal infection or inflammation (RR 1.49, 95% CI 1.32 to 1.68; 1 study; n = 99,742; low-certainty evidence); and make little or no difference to the risk of maternal mortality (RR 1.11, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.92; 1 study; n = 99,742; low-certainty evidence) compared to routine care. Included trials did not report on the composite outcomes offspring mortality, early neurodevelopmental morbidity or late neurodevelopmental morbidity; and offspring mortality or severe neonatal morbidity.

Authors' Conclusions: In low-resource settings, a strategy of actively promoting the use of ACS in women at risk of preterm birth may increase ACS use in the target population, but may also carry a substantial risk of unnecessary exposure of ACS to women in whom ACS is not indicated. At the population level, these effects are probably associated with increased risks of stillbirth, perinatal death, neonatal death before 28 days, and maternal infection. The findings of this review support a more conservative approach to clinical protocols and clinical decision-making particularly in low-resource settings, along the lines of the World Health Organization's ACS 2015 recommendations, which take into account both the established clinical efficacy of ACS when used in the correct situation and context, and the possibility of important adverse effects when certain conditions are not met. Given the unanticipated results of the ACT trial, further research on strategies to optimise the use of ACS in low-resource settings is justified.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD013633DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387231PMC
May 2020

Advancing research integrity: a programme to embed good practice in Africa.

Pan Afr Med J 2019 13;33:298. Epub 2019 Aug 13.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

In Africa, training programmes as well as institutional policies on research integrity are lacking. Institutions have a responsibility to oversee research integrity through various efforts, including policies and training. We developed, implemented and evaluated an institutional approach to promote research integrity at African institutions, comprising a workshop for researchers ("bottom-up") and discussions with senior faculty on institutional policies ("top-down"). During the first day, we facilitated a workshop to introduce research integrity and promote best practices with regards to authorship, plagiarism, redundant publication and conflicts of interest. We used a variety of interactive teaching approaches to facilitate learning, including individual and group activities, small group discussions and case-based learning. We met with senior faculty on the following day to provide feedback and insights from the workshop, review current institutional policies and provide examples of what other research groups are doing. We evaluated the process. Participants actively engaged in discussions, recognised the importance of the topic and acknowledged that poor practices occurred at their institution. Discussions with senior researchers resulted in the establishment of a working group tasked with developing a publication policy for the institution. Our approach kick-started conversations on research integrity at institutions. There is a need for continued discussions, integrated training programmes and implementation of institutional policies and guidelines to promote good practices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.11604/pamj.2019.33.298.17008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6815471PMC
November 2019

Interventions to reduce ambient particulate matter air pollution and their effect on health.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2019 05 20;5:CD010919. Epub 2019 May 20.

Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, Pettenkofer School of Public Health, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Marchioninistr. 15, Munich, Bavaria, Germany.

Background: Ambient air pollution is associated with a large burden of disease in both high-income countries (HICs) and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To date, no systematic review has assessed the effectiveness of interventions aiming to reduce ambient air pollution.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of interventions to reduce ambient particulate matter air pollution in reducing pollutant concentrations and improving associated health outcomes.

Search Methods: We searched a range of electronic databases with diverse focuses, including health and biomedical research (CENTRAL, Cochrane Public Health Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO), multidisciplinary research (Scopus, Science Citation Index), social sciences (Social Science Citation Index), urban planning and environment (Greenfile), and LMICs (Global Health Library regional indexes, WHOLIS). Additionally, we searched grey literature databases, multiple online trial registries, references of included studies and the contents of relevant journals in an attempt to identify unpublished and ongoing studies, and studies not identified by our search strategy. The final search date for all databases was 31 August 2016.

Selection Criteria: Eligible for inclusion were randomized and cluster randomized controlled trials, as well as several non-randomized study designs, including controlled interrupted time-series studies (cITS-EPOC), interrupted time-series studies adhering to EPOC standards (ITS-EPOC), interrupted time-series studies not adhering to EPOC standards (ITS), controlled before-after studies adhering to EPOC standards (CBA-EPOC), and controlled before-after studies not adhering to EPOC standards (CBA); these were classified as main studies. Additionally, we included uncontrolled before-after studies (UBA) as supporting studies. We included studies that evaluated interventions to reduce ambient air pollution from industrial, residential, vehicular and multiple sources, with respect to their effect on mortality, morbidity and several air pollutant concentrations. We did not restrict studies based on the population, setting or comparison.

Data Collection And Analysis: After a calibration exercise among the author team, two authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We conducted data extraction, risk of bias assessment and evidence synthesis only for main studies; we mapped supporting studies with regard to the types of intervention and setting. To assess risk of bias, we used the Graphic Appraisal Tool for Epidemiological studies (GATE) for correlation studies, as modified and employed by the Centre for Public Health Excellence at the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). For each intervention category, i.e. those targeting industrial, residential, vehicular and multiple sources, we synthesized evidence narratively, as well as graphically using harvest plots.

Main Results: We included 42 main studies assessing 38 unique interventions. These were heterogeneous with respect to setting; interventions were implemented in countries across the world, but most (79%) were implemented in HICs, with the remaining scattered across LMICs. Most interventions (76%) were implemented in urban or community settings.We identified a heterogeneous mix of interventions, including those aiming to address industrial (n = 5), residential (n = 7), vehicular (n = 22), and multiple sources (n = 4). Some specific interventions, such as low emission zones and stove exchanges, were assessed by several studies, whereas others, such as a wood burning ban, were only assessed by a single study.Most studies assessing health and air quality outcomes used routine monitoring data. Studies assessing health outcomes mostly investigated effects in the general population, while few studies assessed specific subgroups such as infants, children and the elderly. No identified studies assessed unintended or adverse effects.The judgements regarding the risk of bias of studies were mixed. Regarding health outcomes, we appraised eight studies (47%) as having no substantial risk of bias concerns, five studies (29%) as having some risk of bias concerns, and four studies (24%) as having serious risk of bias concerns. Regarding air quality outcomes, we judged 11 studies (31%) as having no substantial risk of bias concerns, 16 studies (46%) as having some risk of bias concerns, and eight studies (23%) as having serious risk of bias concerns.The evidence base, comprising non-randomized studies only, was of low or very low certainty for all intervention categories and primary outcomes. The narrative and graphical synthesis showed that evidence for effectiveness was mixed across the four intervention categories. For interventions targeting industrial, residential and multiple sources, a similar pattern emerged for both health and air quality outcomes, with essentially all studies observing either no clear association in either direction or a significant association favouring the intervention. The evidence base for interventions targeting vehicular sources was more heterogeneous, as a small number of studies did observe a significant association favouring the control. Overall, however, the evidence suggests that the assessed interventions do not worsen air quality or health.

Authors' Conclusions: Given the heterogeneity across interventions, outcomes, and methods, it was difficult to derive overall conclusions regarding the effectiveness of interventions in terms of improved air quality or health. Most included studies observed either no significant association in either direction or an association favouring the intervention, with little evidence that the assessed interventions might be harmful. The evidence base highlights the challenges related to establishing a causal relationship between specific air pollution interventions and outcomes. In light of these challenges, the results on effectiveness should be interpreted with caution; it is important to emphasize that lack of evidence of an association is not equivalent to evidence of no association.We identified limited evidence for several world regions, notably Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Southeast Asia; decision-makers should prioritize the development and implementation of interventions in these settings. In the future, as new policies are introduced, decision-makers should consider a built-in evaluation component, which could facilitate more systematic and comprehensive evaluations. These could assess effectiveness, but also aspects of feasibility, fidelity and acceptability.The production of higher quality and more uniform evidence would be helpful in informing decisions. Researchers should strive to sufficiently account for confounding, assess the impact of methodological decisions through the conduct and communication of sensitivity analyses, and improve the reporting of methods, and other aspects of the study, most importantly the description of the intervention and the context in which it is implemented.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010919.pub2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6526394PMC
May 2019

Correction to: Integrated models of care for diabetes and hypertension in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs): Protocol for a systematic review.

Syst Rev 2019 Jan 31;8(1):36. Epub 2019 Jan 31.

Institute for Evidence in Medicine (for Cochrane Germany Foundation), Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Breisacher Strasse 153, 79110, Freiburg, Germany.

AbstractFollowing publication of the original article [1], the author reported that their family name was misspelled.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13643-019-0943-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6354368PMC
January 2019

Being HIV positive and staying on antiretroviral therapy in Africa: A qualitative systematic review and theoretical model.

PLoS One 2019 10;14(1):e0210408. Epub 2019 Jan 10.

Centre for Evidence Synthesis in Global Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Background: Adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and long-term uninterrupted engagement in HIV care is difficult for HIV-positive people, and randomized trials of specific techniques to promote adherence often show small or negligible effects. Understanding what influences decision-making in HIV-positive people in Africa may help researchers and policy makers in the development of broader, more effective interventions and policies.

Methods: We used thematic synthesis and a grounded theory approach to generate a detailed narrative and theoretical model reflecting life with HIV in Africa, and how this influences ART adherence and engagement decisions. We included qualitative primary studies that explored perspectives, perceptions and experiences of HIV-positive people, caregivers and healthcare service providers. We searched databases from 1 January 2013 to 9 December 2016, screened all studies, and selected those for inclusion using purposeful sampling methods. Included studies were coded with Atlas.ti, and we assessed methodological quality across five domains.

Results: We included 59 studies from Africa in the synthesis. Nine themes emerged which we grouped under three main headings. First, people who are HIV-positive live in a complicated world where they must navigate the challenges presented by poverty, competing priorities, unpredictable life events, social identity, gender norms, stigma, and medical pluralism-these influences can make initiating and maintaining ART difficult. Second, the health system is generally seen as punishing and uninviting and this can drive HIV-positive people out of care. Third, long-term engagement and adherence requires adaptation and incorporation of ART into daily life, a process which is facilitated by: inherent self-efficacy, social responsibilities, previous HIV-related illnesses and emotional, practical or financial support. These factors together can lead to a "tipping point", a point in time when patients choose to either engage or disengage from care. HIV-positive people may cycle in and out of these care states in response to fluctuations in influences over time.

Conclusion: This analysis provides a practical theory, arising from thematic synthesis of research, to help understand the dynamics of adherence to ART and engagement in HIV care. This can contribute to the design of service delivery approaches, and informed thinking and action on the part of policy makers, providers, and society: to understand what it is to be HIV-positive in Africa and how attitudes and the health service need to shift to help those with HIV lead 'normal' lives.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210408PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6328200PMC
October 2019

Integrated models of care for diabetes and hypertension in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) : Protocol for a systematic review.

Syst Rev 2018 11 20;7(1):203. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

Institute for Evidence in Medicine (for Cochrane Germany Foundation), Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Breisacher Strasse 153, 79110, Freiburg, Germany.

Background: In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is growing against an existing burden of other diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Integrated models of care can help address the rising burden of multi-morbidity. Although integration of care can occur at various levels and has been defined in numerous ways, our aim is to assess the effects of integration of service delivery at primary healthcare level in LMICs.

Methods: We will consider randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cluster RCTs, non-randomised trials, controlled before-after studies and interrupted time series that examine integrated models of care among people with multi-morbidities, of which diabetes or hypertension is one, living in LMICs. We will compare fully integrated models of care to stand-alone care, partially integrated models of care to stand-alone care and fully integrated models to partially integrated models of care. Primary outcomes include all-cause mortality, disease-specific morbidity, HbA1c, systolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Secondary outcomes include access to care, retention in care, adherence, continuity of care, quality of care and cost of care. We will conduct a comprehensive search in the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Control Trials, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information, CINAHL and Web of Science. In addition, we will search trial registries, relevant conference abstracts and check references lists of included studies. Selection of studies, data extraction and assessment of risk of bias will be performed independently by two review authors. We will resolve discrepancies through discussion with a third author. We will contact study authors in case of missing data. If included studies are sufficiently homogenous, we will pool results in a meta-analysis. Clinical heterogeneity related to the population, intervention, outcomes and context will be documented in table format and explored through subgroup analysis. We will assess χand I tests for statistical heterogeneity. We will use GRADE to make judgements about the certainty of evidence and present findings in a summary of findings table.

Discussion: In light of limited evidence on the provision of comprehensive care for diabetes and hypertension, and its comorbidity in LMCIs, we believe that the findings of this systematic review will provide a synthesis of evidence on effective models of integrated care for diabetes and hypertension and their comorbidities at primary healthcare level. This will enable policy-makers to device policies and programs that are evidence informed.

Systematic Review Registration: PROSPERO CRD42018099314 .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13643-018-0865-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6247752PMC
November 2018

Plagiarism in research: a survey of African medical journals.

BMJ Open 2018 11 8;8(11):e024777. Epub 2018 Nov 8.

Department of Clinical Sciences, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK.

Objectives: To examine whether regional biomedical journals in Africa had policies on plagiarism and procedures to detect it; and to measure the extent of plagiarism in their original research articles and reviews.

Design: Cross sectional survey.

Setting And Participants: We selected journals with an editor-in-chief in Africa, a publisher based in a low or middle income country and with author guidelines in English, and systematically searched the African Journals Online database. From each of the 100 journals identified, we randomly selected five original research articles or reviews published in 2016.

Outcomes: For included journals, we examined the presence of plagiarism policies and whether they referred to text matching software. We submitted articles to Turnitin and measured the extent of plagiarism (copying of someone else's work) or redundancy (copying of one's own work) against a set of criteria we had developed and piloted.

Results: Of the 100 journals, 26 had a policy on plagiarism and 16 referred to text matching software. Of 495 articles, 313 (63%; 95% CI 58 to 68) had evidence of plagiarism: 17% (83) had at least four linked copied or more than six individual copied sentences; 19% (96) had three to six copied sentences; and the remainder had one or two copied sentences. Plagiarism was more common in the introduction and discussion, and uncommon in the results.

Conclusion: Plagiarism is common in biomedical research articles and reviews published in Africa. While wholesale plagiarism was uncommon, moderate text plagiarism was extensive. This could rapidly be eliminated if journal editors implemented screening strategies, including text matching software.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024777DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6231593PMC
November 2018

Integration of care for hypertension and diabetes: a scoping review assessing the evidence from systematic reviews and evaluating reporting.

BMC Health Serv Res 2018 06 20;18(1):481. Epub 2018 Jun 20.

Centre of Evidence Based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Francie van Zijl Drive, Tygerberg, Cape Town, 7505, South Africa.

Background: With the rise in pre-mature mortality rate from non-communicable disease (NCD), there is a need for evidence-based interventions. We evaluated existing systematic reviews on effectiveness of integration of healthcare services, in particular with focus on delivery of care designed to improve health and process outcomes in people with multi-morbidity, where at least one of the conditions was diabetes or hypertension.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and Health Evidence to November 8, 2016 and consulted experts. One review author screened titles, abstracts and two review authors independently screened short listed full-texts and selected reviews for inclusion. We considered systematic reviews evaluating integration of care, compared to usual care, for people with multi-morbidity. One review author extracted data and another author verified it. Two review authors independently evaluated risk of bias using ROBIS and AMSTAR. Inter-rater reliability was analysed for ROBIS and AMSTAR using Cohen's kappa and percent agreement. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) checklist was used to assess reporting.

Results: We identified five systematic reviews on integration of care. Four reviews focused on comorbid diabetes and depression and two covered hypertension and comorbidities of cardiovascular disease, depression, or diabetes. Interventions were poorly described. The health outcomes evaluated included risk of all-cause mortality, measures of depression, cholesterol levels, HbA1c levels, effect of depression on HbA1c levels, symptom improvement, systolic blood pressure, and hypertension control. Process outcomes included access and utilisation of healthcare services, costs, and quality of care. Overall, three reviews had a low and medium risk of bias according to ROBIS and AMSTAR respectively, while two reviews had high risk of bias as judged by both ROBIS and AMSTAR. Findings have demonstrated that collaborative care in general resulted in better health and process outcomes when compared to usual care for both depression and diabetes and hypertension and diabetes.

Conclusions: Several knowledge gaps were identified on integration of care for comorbidities with diabetes and/or hypertension: limited research on this topic for hypertension, limited reviews that included primary studies based in low-middle income countries, and limited reviews on collaborative care for communicable and NCDs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3290-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6011271PMC
June 2018

Authorship, plagiarism and conflict of interest: views and practices from low/middle-income country health researchers.

BMJ Open 2017 Nov 22;7(11):e018467. Epub 2017 Nov 22.

Department of Clinical Sciences, Centre for Evidence Synthesis in Global Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK.

Objectives: To document low/middle-income country (LMIC) health researchers' views about authorship, redundant publication, plagiarism and conflicts of interest and how common poor practice was in their institutions.

Design: We developed a questionnaire based on scenarios about authorship, redundant publication, plagiarism and conflicts of interest. We asked participants whether the described practices were acceptable and whether these behaviours were common at their institutions. We conducted in-depth interviews with respondents who agreed to be interviewed.

Participants: We invited 607 corresponding authors of Cochrane reviews working in LMICs. From the 583 emails delivered, we obtained 199 responses (34%). We carried out in-depth interviews with 15 respondents.

Results: Seventy-seven per cent reported that guest authorship occurred at their institution, 60% reported text recycling. For plagiarism, 12% of respondents reported that this occurred 'occasionally', and 24% 'rarely'. Forty per cent indicated that their colleagues had not declared conflicts of interest in the past. Respondents generally recognised poor practice in scenarios but reported that they occurred at their institutions. Themes identified from in-depth interviews were (1) authorship rules are simple in theory, but not consistently applied; (2) academic status and power underpin behaviours; (3) institutions and culture fuel bad practices and (4) researchers are uncertain about what conflict of interests means and how this may influence research.

Conclusions: LMIC researchers report that guest authorship is widely accepted and common. While respondents report that plagiarism and undeclared conflicts of interest are unacceptable in practice, they appear common. Determinants of poor practice relate to academic status and power, fuelled by institutional norms and culture.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018467DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5719292PMC
November 2017

Towards a taxonomy of logic models in systematic reviews and health technology assessments: A priori, staged, and iterative approaches.

Res Synth Methods 2018 Mar 25;9(1):13-24. Epub 2017 Jul 25.

Institute of Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology, Pettenkofer School of Public Health, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377, Munich, Germany.

The complexity associated with how interventions result-or fail to result-in outcomes and how context matters is increasingly recognised. Logic models provide an important tool for handling complexity, with contrasting uses in programme evaluation and evidence synthesis. To reconcile these, we developed an approach that combines the strengths of both traditions, propose a taxonomy of logic models, and provide guidance on how to choose between approaches and types of logic models in systematic reviews and health technology assessments (HTA). The taxonomy distinguishes 3 approaches (a priori, staged, and iterative) and 2 types (systems-based and process-orientated) of logic models. An a priori logic model is specified at the start of the systematic review/HTA and remains unchanged. With a staged logic model, the reviewer prespecifies several points, at which major data inputs require a subsequent version. An iterative logic model is continuously modified throughout the systematic review/HTA process. System-based logic models describe the system, in which the interaction between participants, intervention, and context takes place; process-orientated models display the causal pathways leading from the intervention to multiple outcomes. The proposed taxonomy of logic models offers an improved understanding of the advantages and limitations of logic models across the spectrum from a priori to fully iterative approaches. Choice of logic model should be informed by scope of evidence synthesis, presence/absence of clearly defined population, intervention, comparison, outcome (PICO) elements, and feasibility considerations. Applications across distinct interventions and methodological approaches will deliver good practice case studies and offer further insights on the choice and implementation of logic modelling approaches.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jrsm.1254DOI Listing
March 2018

Evaluating evidence-based health care teaching and learning in the undergraduate human nutrition; occupational therapy; physiotherapy; and speech, language and hearing therapy programs at a sub-Saharan African academic institution.

PLoS One 2017 16;12(2):e0172199. Epub 2017 Feb 16.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: It is important that all undergraduate healthcare students are equipped with evidence-based health care (EBHC) knowledge and skills to encourage evidence-informed decision-making after graduation. We assessed EBHC teaching and learning in undergraduate human nutrition (HN); occupational therapy (OT); physiotherapy (PT); and speech, language and hearing therapy (SPLH) programs at a sub-Saharan African university.

Methods: We used methodological triangulation to obtain a comprehensive understanding of EBHC teaching and learning: (1) through a document review of module guides, we identified learning outcomes related to pre-specified EBHC competencies; we conducted (2) focus group discussions and interviews of lecturers to obtain their perspectives on EBHC and on EBHC teaching and learning; and we (3) invited final year students (2013) and 2012 graduates to complete an online survey on EBHC attitudes, self-perceived EBHC competence, and their experience of EBHC teaching and learning.

Results: We reviewed all module outlines (n = 89) from HN, PT and SLHT. The OT curriculum was being revised at that time and could not be included. Six lecturers each from HN and OT, and five lecturers each from PT and SLHT participated in the focus groups. Thirty percent (53/176) of invited students responded to the survey. EBHC competencies were addressed to varying degrees in the four programs, although EBHC teaching and learning mostly occurred implicitly. Learning outcomes referring to EBHC focused on enabling competencies (e.g., critical thinking, biostatistics, epidemiology) and were concentrated in theoretical modules. Key competencies (e.g., asking questions, searching databases, critical appraisal) were rarely addressed explicitly. Students felt that EBHC learning should be integrated throughout the four year study period to allow for repetition, consolidation and application of knowledge and skills. Lecturers highlighted several challenges to teaching and practising EBHC, including lack of evidence relevant to the African context and lack of time within curricula.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172199PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313131PMC
August 2017

Series: Clinical Epidemiology in South Africa. Paper 3: Logic models help make sense of complexity in systematic reviews and health technology assessments.

J Clin Epidemiol 2017 Mar 3;83:37-47. Epub 2016 Aug 3.

Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377 Munich, Germany.

Objective: To describe the development and application of logic model templates for systematic reviews and health technology assessments (HTAs) of complex interventions.

Study Design And Setting: This study demonstrates the development of a method to conceptualize complexity and make underlying assumptions transparent. Examples from systematic reviews with specific relevance to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) illustrate its usefulness.

Results: Two distinct templates are presented: the system-based logic model, describing the system in which the interaction between participants, intervention, and context takes place; and the process-orientated logic model, which displays the processes and causal pathways that lead from the intervention to multiple outcomes.

Conclusion: Logic models can help authors of systematic reviews and HTAs to explicitly address and make sense of complexity, adding value by achieving a better understanding of the interactions between the intervention, its implementation, and its multiple outcomes among a given population and context. They thus have the potential to help build systematic review capacity-in SSA and other LMICs-at an individual level, by equipping authors with a tool that facilitates the review process; and at a system-level, by improving communication between producers and potential users of research evidence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2016.06.012DOI Listing
March 2017

An approach for setting evidence-based and stakeholder-informed research priorities in low- and middle-income countries.

Bull World Health Organ 2016 Apr 12;94(4):297-305. Epub 2015 Feb 12.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa .

To derive evidence-based and stakeholder-informed research priorities for implementation in African settings, the international research consortium Collaboration for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+) developed and applied a pragmatic approach. First, an online survey and face-to-face consultation between CEBHA+ partners and policy-makers generated priority research areas. Second, evidence maps for these priority research areas identified gaps and related priority research questions. Finally, study protocols were developed for inclusion within a grant proposal. Policy and practice representatives were involved throughout the process. Tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension and road traffic injuries were selected as priority research areas. Evidence maps covered screening and models of care for diabetes and hypertension, population-level prevention of diabetes and hypertension and their risk factors, and prevention and management of road traffic injuries. Analysis of these maps yielded three priority research questions on hypertension and diabetes and one on road traffic injuries. The four resulting study protocols employ a broad range of primary and secondary research methods; a fifth promotes an integrated methodological approach across all research activities. The CEBHA+ approach, in particular evidence mapping, helped to formulate research questions and study protocols that would be owned by African partners, fill gaps in the evidence base, address policy and practice needs and be feasible given the existing research infrastructure and expertise. The consortium believes that the continuous involvement of decision-makers throughout the research process is an important means of ensuring that studies are relevant to the African context and that findings are rapidly implemented.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.15.162966DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794302PMC
April 2016

Effectiveness of interventions to reduce exposure to lead through consumer products and drinking water: A systematic review.

Environ Res 2016 May 15;147:525-36. Epub 2016 Mar 15.

Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University of Munich, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377 Munich, Germany.

Objectives: The objective of this systematic review is to assess the effectiveness of regulatory, environmental and educational interventions for reducing blood lead levels (BLLs) and associated health outcomes in children, pregnant women and the general population.

Methods: Searches were run in MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Global Health Library up until August 2015. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they assessed the impact of regulatory, environmental or educational interventions, stand-alone or in combination, on BLLs among children, pregnant women or the general population through randomized controlled trials (RCT), controlled before-after (CBA), interrupted time series (ITS), uncontrolled before-after (UBA) or repeated cross-sectional studies. Studies assessing the impact of interventions to reduce exposure to lead in paint or household dust as well as studies concerned exclusively with environmental concentrations of lead were not included. As documented in a detailed protocol, screening, data extraction and quality appraisal were largely undertaken according to Cochrane standards. Harvest plots were used to graphically summarize evidence of effectiveness.

Results: The searches yielded 6466 unique records, of which five met our eligibility criteria; two additional eligible studies were identified by experts. We did not find any studies regarding the effectiveness of regulatory, educational or environmental interventions targeting exposure to lead in consumer products. Evidence regarding the effectiveness of interventions in reducing BLLs from exposures through drinking water is limited in both quantity and quality. Stand-alone targeted educational interventions showed no statistically significant reductions in children's BLL (two RCT) when compared to general educational interventions. Likewise, instructing women to reduce or eliminate lead-contaminated drinking water showed no effect on BLL (one RCT). Stand-alone environmental interventions appeared more promising in reducing BLL (three UBA). Combining educational and environmental interventions and targeting multiple settings may be effective in reducing BLL, as suggested by one uncontrolled before-after study. No studies examining the effectiveness of regulatory interventions were found.

Conclusions: The limited quantity and quality of the evidence measuring BLL and associated health outcomes points to an urgent need for more robust research into the effectiveness of interventions to reduce lead exposure from consumer products and drinking water, especially for regulatory interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2016.03.004DOI Listing
May 2016

Interventions for preventing postpartum constipation.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Sep 18(9):CD011625. Epub 2015 Sep 18.

Division of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa.

Background: Postpartum constipation, with symptoms such as pain or discomfort, straining, and hard stool, is a common condition affecting mothers. Haemorrhoids, pain at the episiotomy site, effects of pregnancy hormones and haematinics used in pregnancy can increase the risk of postpartum constipation. Eating a high-fibre diet and increasing fluid intake is usually encouraged, although laxatives are commonly used in relieving constipation. The effectiveness and safety of available interventions for preventing postpartum constipation needs to be ascertained.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of interventions for preventing postpartum constipation.

Search Methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 April 2015), Stellenbosch University database, ProQuest Dissertation and Theses database, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), ClinicalTrials.gov (30 April 2015) and reference lists of included studies.

Selection Criteria: All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing any intervention for preventing postpartum constipation versus another intervention, placebo or no intervention. Interventions could include pharmacological (e.g. laxatives) and non-pharmacological interventions (e.g. acupuncture, educational and behavioural interventions).We included quasi-randomised trials. Cluster-RCTs were eligible for inclusion but none were identified. Studies using a cross-over design were not eligible for inclusion in this review.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently screened the results of the search to select potentially relevant studies, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Results were pooled in a meta-analysis only where there was no substantial statistical heterogeneity.

Main Results: We included five trials (1208 postpartum mothers); four compared a laxative with placebo and one compared a laxative alone versus the same laxative plus a bulking agent in women who underwent surgical repair of third degree perineal tears. Trials were poorly reported and risk of bias was unclear for most domains. Overall, there was a high risk of selection and attrition bias. Laxative versus placeboNone of the four trials included in this comparison assessed any of our pre-specified primary outcomes (pain or straining on defecation, incidence of postpartum constipation or changes in quality of life).All four trials reported time to first bowel movement (not pre-specified in our protocol). In one trial, more women in the laxative group had their first bowel movement less than 24 hours after delivery compared to women in the placebo group (risk ratio (RR) 2.90, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.24 to 3.75, 471 women). Individual trials also reported inconsistent results for days one, two and three after delivery. Pooled results of two trials showed that fewer women in the laxative group were having their first bowel movement at day four compared with controls (average RR 0.36, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.61, 671 women).Regarding secondary outcomes, no trials reported on stool consistency using the Bristol stool form scale orrelief of abdominal pain/discomfort . One trial reported the number of women having loose or watery stools and there were more women who experienced this in the laxative group compared to the placebo group (RR 26.96, 95% CI 3.81 to 191.03, 106 women). One trial found no clear difference in the number of enemas between groups (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.38 to 1.05, 244 women). One trial reported more women having more than two bowel movements per day in the laxative compared to the placebo group (RR 26.02, 95% CI 1.59 to 426.73, 106 women). Adverse effects were poorly reported; two trials reported the number of women having abdominal cramps, but their results could not be pooled in a meta-analysis due to substantial statistical heterogeneity. In one trial, more women in the laxative group had abdominal cramps compared to the placebo group (RR 4.23, 95% CI 1.75 to 10.19, 471 women), while the other trial showed no difference between groups (RR 0.25, 95% CI 0.03 to 2.20, 200 women). With regards to adverse effects of the intervention on the baby , one trial found no difference in the incidence of loose stools (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.16 to 2.41, 281 women) or diarrhoea (RR 2.46, 95% CI 0.23 to 26.82, 281 women) between the two groups. Laxative versus laxative plus bulking agentOnly one trial was included in this comparison and reported on pain or straining on defecation in women who underwent surgical repair of third degree perineal tears; there was no reported difference between groups (median (range) data only). No difference was reported in the incidence of postpartum constipation (data not reported) and the outcome changes in quality of life was not mentioned.Time to first bowel movement was reported as a median (range) with no difference between the two groups. In terms of adverse effects , women in the laxative plus stool-bulking group were reported to be at a greater risk of faecal incontinence during the immediate postpartum period (median (range) data only). However the number of women having any episode of faecal incontinence during first 10 days postpartum was reported with no clear difference between the two groups (14/77 (18.2%) versus 23/70 (32.9%), RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.99, 147 women). The trial did not report on adverse effects of the intervention on the babies.The trial reported none of the following pre-specified secondary outcomes: stool consistency using Bristol stool form scale , use of alternative products , laxative agents , enemas , relief of abdominal pain/discomfort and stool frequency .

Authors' Conclusions: We did not identify any trials assessing educational or behavioural interventions. We identified four trials that examined laxatives versus placebo and one that examined laxatives versus laxatives plus stool bulking agents. Results from trials were inconsistent and there is insufficient evidence to make general conclusions about the effectiveness and safety of laxatives.Further rigorous trials are needed to assess the effectiveness and safety of laxatives during the postpartum period for preventing constipation. Trials assessing educational and behavioural interventions and positions that enhance defecation are also needed. Future trials should report on the following important outcomes: pain or straining on defecation; incidence of postpartum constipation, quality of life, time to first bowel movement after delivery, and adverse effects caused by the intervention such as: nausea or vomiting, pain and flatus.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492314PMC
September 2015

Treatments for breast abscesses in breastfeeding women.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Aug 17(8):CD010490. Epub 2015 Aug 17.

Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Francie van Zijl Drive, Parow, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

Background: The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, and the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuing breastfeeding to age two. However, many women stop breastfeeding due to lactational breast abscesses. A breast abscess is a localised accumulation of infected fluid in breast tissue. Abscesses are commonly treated with antibiotics, incision and drainage (I&D) or ultrasound-guided needle aspiration, but there is no consensus on the optimal treatment.

Objectives: To assess the effects of different treatments for the management of breast abscesses in breastfeeding women.

Search Methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trial Register (27 February 2015). In addition we searched African Journals Online (27 February 2015), Google Scholar (27 February 2015), ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Databases (27 February 2015) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) search portal (27 February 2015). We also checked reference lists of retrieved studies and contacted experts in the field as well as relevant pharmaceutical companies.

Selection Criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating any intervention for treating lactational breast abscesses compared with any other intervention. Studies published in abstract form, quasi-RCTs and cluster-RCTs were not eligible for inclusion.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. Data were checked for accuracy.

Main Results: We included six studies. Overall, trials had an unclear risk of bias for most domains due to poor reporting. Two studies did not stratify data for lactational and non-lactational breast abscesses, and these studies do not contribute to the results. This review is based on data from four studies involving 325 women. Needle aspiration (with and without ultrasound guidance) versus incision and drainage (I&D) Mean time (days) to complete resolution of breast abscess (three studies) - there was substantial heterogeneity among these data (Tau(2) = 47.63, I(2) = 97%) and a clear difference between subgroups (with or without ultrasound guidance; Chi(2) = 56.88, I(2) = 98.2%, P = < 0.00001). We did not pool these data in a meta-analysis. Two studies excluded women who had treatment failure when they calculated the mean time to complete resolution. One study found that the time to complete resolution of breast abscess favoured needle aspiration over I&D (mean difference (MD) -6.07; 95% confidence interval (CI) -7.81 to -4.33; n = 36), but excluded 9/22 (41%) women in the needle aspiration group due to treatment failure. Another study reported faster resolution in the needle aspiration group (MD -17.80; 95% CI -21.27 to -14.33; n = 64) but excluded 6/35 (17%) women in the needle aspiration group due to treatment failure. A third study also reported that needle aspiration was associated with a shorter time to complete resolution of breast abscess (MD -16.00; 95%CI -18.73 to -13.27; n = 60); however, the authors did not indicate the number of women who were lost to follow-up for either group, and it is unclear how many women contributed to this result. Considering the limitations of the available data, we do not consider the results to be informative. Continuation of breastfeeding, after treatment (success): results favoured the needle aspiration group, but we did not pool data from the two studies because of substantial unexplained heterogeneity (I(2) = 97%). One study reported that women in the needle aspiration group were more likely to continue breastfeeding (risk ratio (RR) 2.89; 95% CI 1.64 to 5.08; n = 60), whereas the other study found no clear difference (RR 1.09; 95% CI 0.97 to 1.22 n = 70). Treatment failure was more common among women treated with needle aspiration compared to those who underwent I&D (RR 16.12; 95% CI 2.21 to 117.73; two studies, n = 115, low quality evidence). In one study, treatment with needle aspiration failed in 9/22 women who subsequently underwent I&D to treat their breast abscess. In another study, treatment with needle aspiration failed in 6/35 women, who subsequently underwent I&D. All abscesses in the I&D group were successfully treated.The included studies provided limited data for the review's secondary outcomes. No data were reported for adverse events. One study (60 women) reported that women in the needle aspiration group were more satisfied with their treatment than women who received I&D to treat their breast abscesses. Incision and drainage (I&D) with or without antibioticsOne study (150 women) compared the value of adding a broad-spectrum cephalosporin (single dose or a course of treatment) to women who underwent I&D for breast abscesses.The mean time to resolution of breast abscess was reported as being similar in all groups (although women with infection were excluded). Mean time to resolution for women who received a course of antibiotics was reported as 7.3 days, 6.9 days for women who received a single dose of antibiotics and 7.4 days for women who did not receive antibiotics. Standard deviations, P values and CIs were not reported and prevented further analysis. No data were reported for any continuation of breastfeeding after treatment (success). For treatment failure, there was no clear difference between the groups of women who received antibiotics (either a single dose or a course of antibiotics) and those who did not (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.36 to 2.76).Included studies rarely reported this review's secondary outcomes (including adverse events). For post-operative complications/morbidity, there was no difference in the risk of wound infections between the antibiotics and no antibiotics groups (RR 0.58; 95% CI 0.29 to 1.17), irrespective of whether women received a single dose or a course of antibiotics.

Authors' Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to determine whether needle aspiration is a more effective option to I&D for lactational breast abscesses, or whether an antibiotic should be routinely added to women undergoing I&D for lactational breast abscesses. We graded the evidence for the primary outcome of treatment failure as low quality, with downgrading based on including small studies with few events and unclear risk of bias.
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August 2015

Patience, persistence and pragmatism: experiences and lessons learnt from the implementation of clinically integrated teaching and learning of evidence-based health care - a qualitative study.

PLoS One 2015 25;10(6):e0131121. Epub 2015 Jun 25.

All Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Background: Clinically integrated teaching and learning are regarded as the best options for improving evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) knowledge, skills and attitudes. To inform implementation of such strategies, we assessed experiences and opinions on lessons learnt of those involved in such programmes.

Methods And Findings: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 EBHC programme coordinators from around the world, selected through purposive sampling. Following data transcription, a multidisciplinary group of investigators carried out analysis and data interpretation, using thematic content analysis. Successful implementation of clinically integrated teaching and learning of EBHC takes much time. Student learning needs to start in pre-clinical years with consolidation, application and assessment following in clinical years. Learning is supported through partnerships between various types of staff including the core EBHC team, clinical lecturers and clinicians working in the clinical setting. While full integration of EBHC learning into all clinical rotations is considered necessary, this was not always achieved. Critical success factors were pragmatism and readiness to use opportunities for engagement and including EBHC learning in the curriculum; patience; and a critical mass of the right teachers who have EBHC knowledge and skills and are confident in facilitating learning. Role modelling of EBHC within the clinical setting emerged as an important facilitator. The institutional context exerts an important influence; with faculty buy-in, endorsement by institutional leaders, and an EBHC-friendly culture, together with a supportive community of practice, all acting as key enablers. The most common challenges identified were lack of teaching time within the clinical curriculum, misconceptions about EBHC, resistance of staff, lack of confidence of tutors, lack of time, and negative role modelling.

Conclusions: Implementing clinically integrated EBHC curricula requires institutional support, a critical mass of the right teachers and role models in the clinical setting combined with patience, persistence and pragmatism on the part of teachers.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482262PMC
May 2016

Intermittent preventive antimalarial treatment for children with anaemia.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Jan 13;1:CD010767. Epub 2015 Jan 13.

Ifakara Health Institute, P O BOX 2481, Dodoma, Tanzania.

Background: Anaemia is a global public health problem. Children under five years of age living in developing countries (mostly Africa and South-East Asia) are highly affected. Although the causes for anaemia are multifactorial, malaria has been linked to anaemia in children living in malaria-endemic areas. Administering intermittent preventive antimalarial treatment (IPT) to children might reduce anaemia, since it could protect children from new Plasmodium parasite infection (the parasites that cause malaria) and allow their haemoglobin levels to recover.

Objectives: To assess the effect of IPT for children with anaemia living in malaria-endemic areas.

Search Methods: We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Specialized Register, Cochrane Central of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), published in The Cochrane Library; MEDLINE; EMBASE; and LILACS. We also searched the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trial Registry Platform and metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) for ongoing trials up to 4 December 2014.

Selection Criteria: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effect of IPT on children with anaemia.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We analysed data by conducting meta-analyses, stratifying data according to whether participants received iron supplements or not. We used GRADE to assess the quality of evidence.

Main Results: Six trials with 3847 participants met our inclusion criteria. Trials were conducted in areas of low malaria endemicity (three trials), and moderate to high endemicity (three trials). Four trials were in areas of seasonal malaria transmission. Iron was given to all children in two trials, and evaluated in a factorial design in a further two trials.IPT for children with anaemia probably has little or no effect on the proportion anaemic at 12 weeks follow-up (four trials, 2237 participants, (moderate quality evidence).IPT in anaemic children probably increases the mean change in haemoglobin levels from baseline to follow-up at 12 weeks on average by 0.32 g/dL (MD 0.32, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.45; four trials, 1672 participants, moderate quality evidence); and may improve haemoglobin levels at 12 weeks (MD 0.35, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.64; four trials, 1672 participants, low quality evidence). For both of these outcomes, subgroup analysis did not demonstrate a difference between children receiving iron and those that did not.IPT for children with anaemia probably has little or no effect on mortality or hospital admissions at six months (three trials, 3160 participants moderate quality evidence). Subgroup analysis did not show a difference between those children receiving iron supplements and those that did not.

Authors' Conclusions: Trials did show a small effect on average haemoglobin levels but this did not appear to translate into an effect on mortality and hospital admissions. Three of the six trials were conducted in low endemicity areas where transmission is low and thus any protective effect is likely to be modest.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4447115PMC
January 2015

Methods used and lessons learnt in conducting document reviews of medical and allied health curricula - a key step in curriculum evaluation.

BMC Med Educ 2014 Nov 2;14:236. Epub 2014 Nov 2.

Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Francie van Zijl drive, 7500 Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: This paper describes the process, our experience and the lessons learnt in doing document reviews of health science curricula. Since we could not find relevant literature to guide us on how to approach these reviews, we feel that sharing our experience would benefit researchers embarking on similar projects.

Methods: We followed a rigorous, transparent, pre-specified approach that included the preparation of a protocol, a pre-piloted data extraction form and coding schedule. Data were extracted, analysed and synthesised. Quality checks were included at all stages of the process.

Results: The main lessons we learnt related to time and project management, continuous quality assurance, selecting the software that meets the needs of the project, involving experts as needed and disseminating the findings to relevant stakeholders.

Conclusion: A complete curriculum evaluation comprises, apart from a document review, interviews with students and lecturers to assess the learnt and taught curricula respectively. Rigorous methods must be used to ensure an objective assessment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6920-14-236DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289170PMC
November 2014

Interventions for treating postpartum constipation.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014 Sep 23(9):CD010273. Epub 2014 Sep 23.

Division of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa.

Background: Constipation is a functional bowel disorder that can reduce quality of life in the puerperium period. The diagnosis of postpartum constipation is both subjective and objective. It is characterised by symptoms such as pain or discomfort, straining, hard lumpy stools and a sense of incomplete bowel evacuation. Haemorrhoids, pain at the episiotomy site, effects of pregnancy hormones and hematinics used in pregnancy can increase the risk of postpartum constipation. Although a high fibre diet and increased fluid intake is encouraged to assist defecation in the puerperium, pain-relieving drugs and laxatives are common drugs of choice to alleviate constipation. However, the effectiveness and safety of laxatives on the nursing mother need to be ascertained.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for treating postpartum constipation.

Search Methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (28 March 2014), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials, the US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register (ClinicalTrials.gov), the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR), the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry platform (ICTRP), the ProQuest database, Stellenbosch University database and Google Scholar (28 March 2014). We also searched the reference lists of potentially relevant studies identified by the search, reviewed articles for relevant trials and contacted experts to identify any additional published or unpublished trials (10 April 2014).

Selection Criteria: All randomised controlled trials comparing any intervention for the treatment of postpartum constipation to another intervention, placebo or no intervention.Interventions could include laxatives, surgery, as well as educational and behavioural interventions.

Data Collection And Analysis: Two review authors independently screened the results of the search to select potentially relevant studies using pre-designed eligibility inclusion criteria. Discrepancies were resolved through discussion. We did not identify any studies for inclusion.

Main Results: We did not identify any studies that met our inclusion criteria. We excluded nine studies.

Authors' Conclusions: We could not make explicit conclusions on interventions for treating postpartum constipation because we found no studies for inclusion in this review. Rigorous and well-conducted large randomised controlled trials aimed at treating postpartum women diagnosed with constipation would be beneficial. These trials should also address the criteria for administering the intervention (time and stage of a diagnosis of postpartum constipation), and the safety and effectiveness of such interventions.
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September 2014

A protocol for a systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions to reduce exposure to lead through consumer products and drinking water.

Syst Rev 2014 Apr 15;3:36. Epub 2014 Apr 15.

Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University of Munich, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377 Munich, Germany.

Background: The toxic heavy metal lead continues to be a leading environmental risk factor, with the number of attributable deaths having doubled between 1990 and 2010. Although major sources of lead exposure, in particular lead in petrol, have been significantly reduced in recent decades, lead is still used in a wide range of processes and objects, with developing countries disproportionally affected. The objective of this systematic review is to assess the effectiveness of regulatory, environmental and educational interventions for reducing blood lead levels and associated health outcomes in children, pregnant women and the general population.

Methods/design: The databases MEDLINE, Embase and the Global Health Library (GHL) will be searched using a sensitive search strategy. Studies in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian or Afrikaans will be screened according to predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. We will consider randomized and non-randomized studies accepted by the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organization of Care (EPOC) Group, as well as additional non-randomized studies. Screening of titles and abstracts will be performed by one author. Full texts of potentially relevant studies will be independently assessed for eligibility by two authors. A single author will extract data, with a second reviewer checking the extraction form. Risk of bias will be assessed by two researchers using the Graphical Appraisal Tool for Epidemiological studies, as modified by the Centre for Public Health at the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Any inconsistencies in the assessment of eligibility, data extraction or quality appraisal will be resolved through discussion. Where two or more studies report the primary outcome blood lead levels within the same population group, intervention category and source of lead exposure, data will be pooled using random effects meta-analysis. In parallel, harvest plots as a graphical method of evidence synthesis will be used to present findings for blood lead levels and secondary outcomes.

Discussion: This systematic review will fill an important evidence gap with respect to the effectiveness of interventions to reduce lead in consumer products and drinking water in the context of new WHO guidelines for the prevention and management of lead poisoning. It will also contribute to setting a future research agenda.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/2046-4053-3-36DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049510PMC
April 2014
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