Zulu DW, Silumbwe A, Maritim P, Zulu JM
BMC Health Serv Res 22 (1) 732 [2022-06-02; online 2022-06-02]
Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent globally, killing about 1.5 million people annually, yet 3 million cases are missed every year. The World Health Organization recommends systematic screening of suspected active TB patients among those visiting the healthcare facilities. While many countries have scaled-up systematic screening of TB, there has been limited assessment of the extent of its integration into the health system. This study sought to explore factors that shape the integration of systematic screening of TB in outpatient departments of primary healthcare facilities in Kitwe district, Zambia. This was a qualitative case study with health providers including district managers, TB focal point persons and laboratory personnel working in six purposively selected primary healthcare facilities. Data was collected through key informant (n = 8) and in-depth (n = 15) interviews. Data analysis was conducted using QDA Miner software and guided by Atun's Integration framework. The facilitators to integration of systematic screening for TB into out patient departments of primary health facilities included the perceived high burden TB, compatibility of the systematic screening for TB program with healthcare workers training and working schedules, stakeholder knowledge of each others interest and values, regular performance management and integrated outreach of TB screening services. Constraining factors to integration of systematic screening for TB into outpatient departments included complexity of screening for TB in children, unbalanced incentivization mechanisms, ownership and legitimacy of the TB screening program, negative health worker attitudes, social cultural misconceptions of TB and societal stigma as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Systematic screening of TB is not fully integrated into the primary healthcare facilities in Zambia to capture all those suspected with active TB that make contact with the health system. Finding the missing TB cases will, therefore, require contextual adaptation of the systematic screening for TB program to local needs and capacities as well as strengthening the health system.