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Qualitative analysis of the health system effects of a community-based malaria elimination program in Rwanda

Authors Abejirinde IO, Ingabire CM, van Vugt M, Mutesa L, van den Borne B, Busari JO

Received 26 November 2017

Accepted for publication 6 March 2018

Published 17 May 2018 Volume 2018:9 Pages 63—75


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas Unnasch

Ibukun-Oluwa Omolade Abejirinde,1 Chantal Marie Ingabire,2 Michele van Vugt,3 Leon Mutesa,4 Bart van den Borne,2 Jamiu O Busari5,6

1Athena Institute for Research on Innovation and Communication in Health and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 2Department of Health Promotion, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands; 3Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 4College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda; 5Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, the Netherlands; 6Zuyderland Medical Centre, Heerlen, the Netherlands

Purpose: To identify the health system-strengthening role of a community-based malaria elimination program in Ruhuha, Rwanda, and the ways by which health system effects may have been achieved.
Materials and methods: Qualitative data were collected through 14 semi-structured in-depth interviews and five focus group discussions with various stakeholders. These data were supported by analysis of project documents.
Results: Use of a transdisciplinary approach allowed the program to influence several crosscutting issues spanning four broad areas – social collaboration; capacity building; structural alignment; and knowledge translation. Health system effects were identified mostly at the micro (i.e., district) level, with limited impact on strengthening national and subnational policies. Although systems thinking was not explicitly applied, the project had positive spillover effects on the health system. These include expanding the informal health workforce and introducing innovative approaches aligned to the national malaria strategy for vector control. Findings also show that the elimination program contributed to an increased understanding of the transmission dynamics of malaria in Ruhuha.
Conclusion: The community-based malaria elimination program in Ruhuha successfully created a stable foundation for community mobilization toward malaria control, and explored innovative ways for long-term financing for malaria elimination. The transdisciplinary nature of the project, use of horizontal facilitation techniques for community engagement, and the sociocultural context in which the program was implemented are possible mechanisms by which systems strengthening was achieved. The knowledge gained from this assessment can be used to improve future community-focused interventions for malaria control, and develop a sustainable strategy for community engagement in health care.

Keywords: community-based participatory research, vertical programs, transdisciplinary research, LMIC

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