BACKGROUND: The prevalence of gestational diabetes (GDM) in low and lower middle income countries (LLMIC) is increasing. Despite its associated short and long term complications for mothers and their newborns, there is a lack of knowledge about how to detect and manage GDM. The objective of our study was to identify the challenges that first line healthcare providers in LLMIC face in screening and management of GDM.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of key informants from 40 low and lower-middle income countries in Africa, South-Asia and Latin-America by sending out questionnaires to 182 gynecologists, endocrinologists and medical doctors. Sixty-seven respondents from 26 LLMIC provided information on the challenges they encounter. Data was thematically analyzed and revealed eight overarching themes, including guidelines; human resources; access; costs; availability of services, equipment and drugs; patient and community factors; and collaboration and communication.
RESULTS: Unavailability of guidelines combined with lack of knowledge about GDM on the part of both providers and patients poses a substantial barrier to detection and management of GDM, leading to deficiencies in screening and counseling. Limited access to regular monitoring and follow-up care as a result of distance and costs, in particular with respect to additional expenses related to specific tests and changes in diet were identified as important challenges. Services were not available at all levels nor was adequate testing equipment. Patient factors included lack of motivation and compliance with the recommended therapy. Respondents also highlighted the lack of communication and collaboration between different specialists and treatment delays as a result of patients being seen by multiple providers.
CONCLUSIONS: Providers from LLMIC face various challenges related to screening and managing GDM. Policy makers need to address these challenges by strengthening their health care system as a whole and by assuring that non-communicable diseases are better integrated into the existing packages of free or subsidized maternal health care.