Improving the quality of maternal and child health service delivery in resource-poor settings: case study of project fives alive! in Ghana
Akaligaung, John Akalpa
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BACKGROUND: Quality improvement (QI) efforts in which providers from various health facilities, with support from coaches, work together to implement innovations for improving health care are rapidly spreading from high-income settings to resource-poor settings. However, limited research exists regarding the factors which drive teams to succeed or fail, spread, and sustain best practices. The purpose of this study was to understand the factors facilitating or inhibiting the performance of QI teams of maternal and child health (MCH) service delivery in resource-poor settings. METHODS: A qualitative multi-site case study was conducted in northern Ghana to determine the views and beliefs of QI teams, coaches, and beneficiaries of Project Fives Alive (PFA) about the application of QI to MCH service delivery. Using key informant interviews, document review, and group interviews, the study elicited information about: 1) the factors that affect QI team success and failure when implementing QI methods designed to improve MCH service delivery; 2) the interplay of factors that facilitate or inhibit the spread of best practices among QI teams in northern Ghana; and 3) steps being taken by stakeholders to sustain these best practices. Grounded theory processes were used to identify themes from the data. RESULTS: Testing of changes using Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles and adoption of a client-centered model to the delivery of services has helped teams to identify the felt needs of clients, resulting in perceived increased uptake of MCH services. Key contributory factors to successes were: availability and accessibility of midwives, training of QI teams, incentive packages for providers and clients, community support groups, and PFA partners. Key challenges inhibiting success were: staff turnover, inadequate supervision, cultural practices, and inadequate infrastructure. Some of the key factors that shaped successes have dissipated, threatening sustainability of QI efforts two years after PFA ended. CONCLUSION: The presence of a midwife, providing leadership for organizing team members and implementing PDSA cycles, can facilitate success. Project staff support is important, but teams and coaches need space and time to drive the QI process independently and practice QI methods in ways that foster continuity beyond donor support.