Team-based primary health care for non-communicable diseases: complexities in South India

Dorothy Lall, Nora Engel, Narayanan Devadasan, Klasien Horstman, Bart Criel

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Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, have reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Health systems, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, such as India, struggle to deliver quality chronic care. A reorganization of healthcare service delivery is needed to strengthen care for chronic conditions. In this study, we evaluated the implementation of a package of tailored interventions to reorganize care, which were identified following a detailed analysis of gaps in delivering quality NCD care at the primary care level in India. Interventions included a redesign of the workflow at primary care clinics, a redistribution of tasks, the introduction of patient information records and the involvement of community health workers in the follow-up of patients with NCDs. An experimental case study design was chosen to study the implementation of the quality improvement measures. Three public primary care facilities in rural South India were selected. Qualitative methods were used to gain an in-depth understanding of the implementation process and outcomes of implementation. Observations, field notes and semi-structured interviews with staff at these facilities (n = 15) were thematically analysed to identify contextual factors that influenced implementation. Only one of the primary health centres implemented all components of the intervention by the end of 9 months. The main barriers to implementation were hierarchical arrangements that inhibited team-based care, the amount of time required for counselling and staff transfers. Team cohesion, additional staff and staff motivation seem to have facilitated implementation. This quality improvement research highlights the importance of building relational leadership to enable team-based care at primary care clinics in India. Redesigned organization of care and task redistribution is important solutions to deliver quality chronic care. However, implementing these will require capacity building of local primary care teams.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue numberSupplement_2
Pages (from-to)ii22-ii34
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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