Managerial capacity among district health managers and its association with district performance: A comparative descriptive study of six districts in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION:District health managers play a pivotal role in the delivery of basic health services in many countries, including Ghana, as they are responsible for converting inputs and resources such as, staff, supplies and equipment into effective services that are responsive to population needs. Weak management capacity among local health managers has been suggested as a major obstacle for responsive health service delivery. However, evidence on district health managers' competencies and its association with health system performance is scarce. AIM:To examine managerial capacity among district health managers and its association with health system performance in six districts in the Eastern Region of Ghana. METHODS:Fifty-nine district health managers' in six different performing districts in the Eastern Region of Ghana completed a self-administered questionnaire measuring their management competencies and skills. In addition, the participants provided information on their socio-demographic background; previous management experience and training; the extent of available management support systems, and the dynamics within their district health management teams. A non-parametric one-way analysis was applied to test the association between management capacity and district performance, which was measured by 17 health indicators. RESULTS:Shortcomings within different aspects of district management were identified, however there were no significant differences observed in the availability of support systems, characteristics and qualifications of district health managers across the different performing districts. Overall management capacity among district health managers were significantly higher in high performing districts compared with lower performing districts (p = 0.02). Furthermore, district health managers in better performing districts reported a higher extent of teamwork (p = 0.02), communication within their teams (p<0.01) and organizational commitment (p<0.01) compared with lower performing districts. CONCLUSION:The findings demonstrate individual and institutional capacity needs, and highlights the importance of developing management competencies and skills as well as positive team dynamics among health managers at district level.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Ineffective district health management potentially impacts on health system performance and service delivery. However, little is known about district health managing practices and time allocation in resource-constrained health systems. Therefore, a time use study was conducted in order to understand current time use practices of district health managers in Ghana.<h4>Methods</h4>All 21 district health managers working in three districts of the Eastern Region were included in the study and followed for a period of three months. Daily retrospective interviews about their time use were conducted, covering 1182 person-days of observation. Total time use of the sample population was assessed as well as time use stratified by managerial position. Differences of time use over time were also evaluated.<h4>Results</h4>District health managers used most of their working time for data management (16.6%), attending workshops (12.3%), financial management (8.7%), training of staff (7.1%), drug and supply management (5.0%), and travelling (9.6%). The study found significant variations of time use across the managerial cadres as well as high weekly variations of time use impulsed mainly by a national vertical program.<h4>Conclusions</h4>District health managers in Ghana use substantial amounts of their working time in only few activities and vertical programs greatly influence their time use. Our findings suggest that efficiency gains are possible for district health managers. However, these are unlikely to be achieved without improvements within the general health system, as inefficiencies seem to be largely caused by external factors.
Project description:<b>Background: </b>Primary health care (PHC) in Ethiopia serves as the main entry point for preventive, promotive and curative health services. The district health office is responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of all district health activities. In addition, district health offices manage service delivery facilities working on provision of PHC - primary hospitals, health centers and health posts. As the leader of the health care system tier, district health management must ensure direction, alignment and commitment within teams and organizations and make sure that achievements are consistent with the vision, values and strategy of the organization. USAID Transform: Primary Health Care provides diverse support to improve district health manager competencies including in-service trainings followed by planning and implementation of performance improvement projects and on-the-job mentoring and support.<br><br><b>Methods: </b>This study was conducted to compare district level capacity and performances between leadership, management and governance (LMG) and non-LMG districts. Project outcome monitoring data that shows the performance of districts was collected from 284 districts from January to December 2019. The study was carried out using a comparative-cross sectional study design, which assessed and compared district health office level indicators. Districts were classified into two categories: LMG and non-LMG districts. The study compared data from 94 LMG and 190 non-LMG districts. Propensity score matching was used to control the effect of differences between LMG and non-LMG districts.<br><br><b>Results: </b>Results of the independent samples t-test revealed that LMG districts scored better average performances of 61.8?±?121.45 standard deviation (SD) compared to non-LMG districts 56.89?±?110.39 SD, with t (282243)?=?-?3.407317 and p?<?0.001, two-tailed. The difference of 4.9 percentage unit in the average performance indicated a statistically significant difference between the LMG and non-LMG districts.<br><br><b>Conclusion: </b>District level leadership development program contributes to improving district capacity, structure and management practices, and quality of care.
Project description:Strengthening district-level management may be an important lever for improving key public health outcomes in low-income settings; however, previous studies have not established the statistical associations between better management and primary healthcare system performance in such settings. To explore this gap, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 36 rural districts and 226 health centers in Ethiopia, a country which has made ambitious investment in expanding access to primary care over the last decade. We employed quantitative measure of management capacity at both the district health office and health center levels and used multiple regression models, accounting for clustering of health centers within districts, to estimate the statistical association between management capacity and a key performance indicator (KPI) summary score based on antenatal care coverage, contraception use, skilled birth attendance, infant immunization, and availability of essential medications. In districts with above median district management capacity, health center management capacity was strongly associated (p < 0.05) with KPI performance. In districts with below median management capacity, health center management capacity was not associated with KPI performance. Having more staff at the district health office was also associated with better KPI performance (p < 0.05) but only in districts with above median management capacity. The results suggest that district-level management may provide an opportunity for improving health system performance in low-income country settings.
Project description:<h4>Introduction</h4>The single biggest barrier for countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to scale up the necessary health services for addressing the three health-related Millennium Development Goals and achieving Universal Health Coverage is the lack of an adequate and well-performing health workforce. This deficit needs to be addressed both by training more new health personnel and by improving the performance of the existing and future health workforce. However, efforts have mostly been focused on training new staff and less on improving the performance of the existing health workforce. The purpose of this paper is to disseminate the protocol for the PERFORM project and reflect on the key challenges encountered during the development of this methodology and how they are being overcome.<h4>Methods</h4>The overall aim of the PERFORM project is to identify ways of strengthening district management in order to address health workforce inadequacies by improving health workforce performance in SSA. The study will take place in three districts each in Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda using an action research approach. With the support of the country research teams, the district health management teams (DHMTs) will lead on planning, implementation, observation, reflection and redefinition of the activities in the study. Taking into account the national and local human resource (HR) and health systems (HS) policies and practices already in place, 'bundles' of HR/HS strategies that are feasible within the context and affordable within the districts' budget will be developed by the DHMTs to strengthen priority areas of health workforce performance. A comparative analysis of the findings from the three districts in each country will add new knowledge on the effects of these HR/HS bundles on DHMT management and workforce performance and the impact of an action research approach on improving the effectiveness of the DHMTs in implementing these interventions.<h4>Discussion</h4>Different challenges were faced during the development of the methodology. These include the changing context in the study districts, competing with other projects and duties for the time of district managers, complexity of the study design, maintaining the anonymity and confidentiality of study participants as well as how to record the processes during the study. We also discuss how these challenges are being addressed. The dissemination of this research protocol is intended to generate interest in the PERFORM project and also stimulate discussion on the use of action research in complex studies such as this on strengthening district health management to improve health workforce performance.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To evaluate the district health management fellowship training programme in the north-west of Iran. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING:The programme was introduced to build the managerial capacity of district health managers in Iran. Eighty-nine heads of units in the province's health centre, district health managers and the health deputies of the district health centres in the north-west provinces of Iran had registered for the district health management fellowship training programme in Tabriz in 2015-2016. STUDY DESIGN:This was an educational evaluation study to evaluate training courses to measure participants' reactions and learning and, to a lesser extent, application of training to their job and the organisational impact. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS:Valid and reliable questionnaires were used to assess learning techniques and views towards the fellowship, and self-assessment of health managers' knowledge and skills. Also, pretest and post-test examinations were conducted in each course and a portfolio was provided to the trainees to be completed in their work settings. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:About 63% of the participants were medical doctors and 42.3% of them had over 20 years of experience. Learning by practice (scored 18.37 out of 20) and access to publications (17.27) were the most useful methods of training in health planning and management from the participants' perspective. Moreover, meeting peers from other districts and the academic credibility of teachers were the most important features of the current programme. Based on the managers' self-assessment, they were most skilful in quality improvement, managing, planning and evaluation of the district. The results of the post-test analysis on data collected from district health managers showed the highest scores in managing the district (77 out of 100) and planning and evaluation (69) of the courses. CONCLUSION:The results of this study indicated that training courses, methods and improvement in managers' knowledge about the health system and the skills necessary to manage their organisation were acceptable.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Retention of Human Resources for Health (HRH), particularly doctors at district level is a big challenge facing the decentralized health systems in poorly resourced countries. Tanzania, with 75% of its population in rural areas, has only 26% of doctors serving in rural areas. We aimed to analyze the experiences regarding the retention of doctors at district level in Tanzania from doctors' and district health managers' perspectives.<h4>Methods</h4>A qualitative study was carried out in three districts from June to September 2013. We reviewed selected HRH documents and then conducted 15 key informant interviews with members of the District Health Management teams and medical doctors working at the district hospitals. In addition, we conducted three focus group discussions with Council Health Management Team members in the three districts. Incentive package plans, HRH establishment, and health sector development plans from the three districts were reviewed. Data analysis was performed using qualitative content analysis.<h4>Results</h4>None of the districts in this study has the number of doctors recommended. Retention of doctors in the districts faced the following challenges: unfavourable working conditions including poor working environment, lack of assurance of career progression, and a non-uniform financial incentive system across districts; unsupportive environment in the community, characterized by: difficulty in securing houses for rent, lack of opportunities to earn extra income, lack of appreciation from the community and poor social services. Health managers across districts endeavour to retain their doctors through different retention strategies, including: career development plans, minimum financial incentive packages and avenues for private practices in the district hospitals. However, managers face constrained financial resources, with many competing priorities at district level.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Retention of doctors at district level faces numerous challenges. Assurance of career growth, provision of uniform minimum financial incentives and ensuring availability of good social services and economic opportunities within the community are among important retention strategies.
Project description:Although there is widespread agreement that strong district manager decision-making improves health systems, understanding about how the design and implementation of capacity-strengthening interventions work is limited. The Ghana Health Service has adopted the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) as one intervention to support the development of management and leadership within district teams. This paper seeks to address how and why the LDP 'works' when it is introduced into a district health system in Ghana, and whether or not it supports systems thinking in district teams.We undertook a realist evaluation to investigate the outcomes, contexts, and mechanisms of the intervention. Building on two working hypotheses developed from our earlier work, we developed an explanatory case study of one rural district in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Data collection included participant observation, document review, and semi-structured interviews with district managers prior to, during, and after the intervention. Working backwards from an in-depth analysis of the context and observed short- and medium-term outcomes, we drew a causal loop diagram to explain interactions between contexts, outcomes, and mechanisms.The LDP was a valuable experience for district managers and teams were able to attain short-term outcomes because the novel approach supported teamwork, initiative-building, and improved prioritisation. However, the LDP was not institutionalised in district teams and did not lead to increased systems thinking. This was related to the context of high uncertainty within the district, and hierarchical authority of the system, which triggered the LDP's underlying goal of organisational control.Consideration of organisational context is important when trying to sustain complex interventions, as it seems to influence the gap between short- and medium-term outcomes. More explicit focus on systems thinking principles that enable district managers to better cope with their contexts may strengthen the institutionalisation of the LDP in the future.
Project description:There is limited understanding of why routine immunization (RI) coverage improves in some settings in Africa and not in others. Using a grounded theory approach, we conducted in-depth case studies to understand pathways to coverage improvement by comparing immunization programme experience in 12 districts in three countries (Ethiopia, Cameroon and Ghana). Drawing on positive deviance or assets model techniques we compared the experience of districts where diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3)/pentavalent3 (Penta3) coverage improved with districts where DTP3/Penta3 coverage remained unchanged (or steady) over the same period, focusing on basic readiness to deliver immunization services and drivers of coverage improvement. The results informed a model for immunization coverage improvement that emphasizes the dynamics of immunization systems at district level. In all districts, whether improving or steady, we found that a set of basic RI system resources were in place from 2006 to 2010 and did not observe major differences in infrastructure. We found that the differences in coverage trends were due to factors other than basic RI system capacity or service readiness. We identified six common drivers of RI coverage performance improvement-four direct drivers and two enabling drivers-that were present in well-performing districts and weaker or absent in steady coverage districts, and map the pathways from driver to improved supply, demand and coverage. Findings emphasize the critical role of implementation strategies and the need for locally skilled managers that are capable of tailoring strategies to specific settings and community needs. The case studies are unique in their focus on the positive drivers of change and the identification of pathways to coverage improvement, an approach that should be considered in future studies and routine assessments of district-level immunization system performance.
Project description:Donors, researchers and international agencies have made significant investments in collection of high-quality data on immunization costs, aiming to improve the efficiency and sustainability of services. However, improved quality and routine dissemination of costing information to local managers may not lead to enhanced programme performance. This study explored how district- and service-level managers can use costing information to enhance planning and management to increase immunization outputs and coverage. Data on the use of costing information in the planning and management of Zambia's immunization programme was obtained through individual and group semi-structured interviews with planners and managers at national, provincial and district levels. Document review revealed the organizational context within which managers operated. Qualitative results described managers' ability to use costing information to generate cost and efficiency indicators not provided by existing systems. These, in turn, would allow them to understand the relative cost of vaccines and other resources, increase awareness of resource use and management, benchmark against other facilities and districts, and modify strategies to improve performance. Managers indicated that costing information highlighted priorities for more efficient use of human resources, vaccines and outreach for immunization programming. Despite decentralization, there were limitations on managers' decision-making to improve programme efficiency in practice: major resource allocation decisions were made centrally and planning tools did not focus on vaccine costs. Unreliable budgets and disbursements also undermined managers' ability to use systems and information. Routine generation and use of immunization cost information may have limited impact on managing efficiency in many Zambian districts, but opportunities were evident for using existing capacity and systems to improve efficiency. Simpler approaches, such as improving reliability and use of routine immunization and staffing indicators, drawing on general insights from periodic costing studies, and focusing on maximizing coverage with available resources, may be more feasible in the short-term.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>As part of health system strengthening in South Africa (2012-2017) a new district health manager, taking a bottom-up approach, developed a suite of innovations to improve the processes of monthly district management team meetings, and the practices of managers and NGO partners attending them. Understanding capacity as a property of the health system rather than only of individuals, the research explored the mechanisms triggered in context to produce outputs, including the initial sensemaking by the district manager, the subsequent sensegiving and sensemaking in the team and how these homegrown innovations interacted with existing social processes and norms within the system.<h4>Methods</h4>We conducted a realist evaluation, adopting the case study design, over a two-year period (2013-2015) in the district of focus. The initial programme theory was developed from 10 senior manager interviews and a literature review. To understand the processes and mechanisms triggered in the local context and identify outputs, we conducted 15 interviews with managers in the management team and seven with non-state actors. These were supplemented by researcher notes based on time spent in the district. Thematic analysis was conducted using the Context-Mechanism-Outcome configuration alongside theoretical constructs.<h4>Results</h4>The new district manager drew on systems thinking, tacit and experiential knowledge to design bottom-up innovations. Capacity was triggered through micro-practices of sensemaking and sensegiving which included using sticks (positional authority, enforcement of policies, over-coding), intentionally providing justifications for change and setting the scene (a new agenda, distributed leadership). These micro-practices in themselves, and by managers engaging with them, triggered a generative process of buy-in and motivation which influenced managers and partners to participate in new practices within a routine meeting.<h4>Conclusion</h4>District managers are well placed to design local capacity development innovations and must draw on systems thinking, tacit and experiential knowledge to enable relevant 'bottom-up' capacity development in district health systems. By drawing on soft skills and the policy resources (hardware) of the system they can influence motivation and buy-in to improve management practices. From a systems perspective, we argue that capacity development can be conceived of as part of the daily activity of managing within routine spaces.