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Open Access Research article

Task shifting to non-physician clinicians for integrated management of hypertension and diabetes in rural Cameroon: a programme assessment at two years

Niklaus D Labhardt12*, Jean-Richard Balo3, Mama Ndam4, Jean-Jacques Grimm5 and Engelbert Manga4

Author Affiliations

1 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland

2 University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

3 Health District of Mbankomo, Ministry of Public Health of Cameroon, Mbankomo, Cameroon

4 Health District of Mfou, Ministry of Public Health of Cameroon, Mfou, Cameroon

5 Unit of Endocrinology, Diabetology, Metabolism and Nutrition, Hôpital du Jura, Porrentruy, Switzerland

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:339  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-339

Published: 14 December 2010

Abstract

Background

The burden of non-communicable chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, increases in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the majority of the rural population does still not have access to adequate care. The objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness of integrating care for hypertension and type 2 diabetes by task shifting to non-physician clinician (NPC) facilities in eight rural health districts in Cameroon.

Methods

Of the 75 NPC facilities in the area, 69 (87%) received basic equipment and training in hypertension and diabetes care. Effectiveness was assessed after two years on status of equipment, knowledge among trained NPCs, number of newly detected patients, retention of patients under care, treatment cost to patients and changes in blood pressure (BP) and fasting plasma glucose (FPG) among treated patients.

Results

Two years into the programme, of 54 facilities (78%) available for re-assessment, all possessed a functional sphygmomanometer and stethoscope (65% at baseline); 96% stocked antihypertensive drugs (27% at baseline); 70% possessed a functional glucose meter and 72% stocked oral anti-diabetics (15% and 12% at baseline). NPCs' performance on multiple-choice questions of the knowledge-test was significantly improved. During a period of two years, trained NPCs initiated treatment for 796 patients with hypertension and/or diabetes. The retention of treated patients at one year was 18.1%. Hypertensive and diabetic patients paid a median monthly amount of 1.4 and 0.7 Euro respectively for their medication. Among hypertensive patients with ≥ 2 documented visits (n = 493), systolic BP decreased by 22.8 mmHg (95% CI: -20.6 to -24.9; p < 0.0001) and diastolic BP by 12.4 mmHg (-10.9 to -13.9; p < 0.0001). Among diabetic patients (n = 79) FPG decreased by 3.4 mmol/l (-2.3 to -4.5; p < 0.001).

Conclusions

The integration of hypertension and diabetes into primary health care of NPC facilities in rural Cameroon was feasible in terms of equipment and training, accessible in terms of treatment cost and showed promising BP- and FPG-trends. However, low case-detection rates per NPC and a very high attrition among patients enrolled into care, limited the effectiveness of the programme.