Journal: Social science & medicine (1982)
There has been extensive outsourcing of hospital cleaning services in the NHS in England, in part because of the potential to reduce costs. Yet some argue that this leads to lower hygiene standards and more infections, such as MRSA and, perhaps because of this, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish health services have rejected outsourcing. This study evaluates whether contracting out cleaning services in English acute hospital Trusts (legal authorities that run one or more hospitals) is associated with risks of hospital-borne MRSA infection and lower economic costs. By linking data on MRSA incidence per 100,000 hospital bed-days with surveys of cleanliness among patient and staff in 126 English acute hospital Trusts during 2010-2014, we find that outsourcing cleaning services was associated with greater incidence of MRSA, fewer cleaning staff per hospital bed, worse patient perceptions of cleanliness and staff perceptions of availability of handwashing facilities. However, outsourcing was also associated with lower economic costs (without accounting for additional costs associated with treatment of hospital acquired infections).
Although books can expose people to new people and places, whether books also have health benefits beyond other types of reading materials is not known. This study examined whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates this book reading effect. The cohort consisted of 3635 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who provided information about their reading patterns at baseline. Cox proportional hazards models were based on survival information up to 12 years after baseline. A dose-response survival advantage was found for book reading by tertile (HRT2 = 0.83, p < 0.001, HRT3 = 0.77, p < 0.001), after adjusting for relevant covariates including age, sex, race, education, comorbidities, self-rated health, wealth, marital status, and depression. Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines (tT2 = 90.6, p < 0.001; tT3 = 67.9, p < 0.001). Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage at the point of 80% survival in the unadjusted model. A survival advantage persisted after adjustment for all covariates (HR = .80, p < .01), indicating book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers. Cognition mediated the book reading-survival advantage (p = 0.04). These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.
Several studies have shown a link between psychological distress in early life and subsequent higher unemployment, but none have used sibling models to account for the unobserved family background characteristics which may explain the relationship.
While sanitation interventions have focused primarily on child health, women’s unique health risks from inadequate sanitation are gaining recognition as a priority issue. This study examines the range of sanitation-related psychosocial stressors during routine sanitation practices in Odisha, India. Between August 2013 and March 2014, we conducted in-depth interviews with 56 women in four life stages: adolescent, newly married, pregnant and established adult women in three settings: urban slums, rural villages and indigenous villages. Using a grounded theory approach, the study team transcribed, translated, coded and discussed interviews using detailed analytic memos to identify and characterize stressors at each life stage and study site. We found that sanitation practices encompassed more than defecation and urination and included carrying water, washing, bathing, menstrual management, and changing clothes. During the course of these activities, women encountered three broad types of stressors-environmental, social, and sexual-the intensity of which were modified by the woman’s life stage, living environment, and access to sanitation facilities. Environmental barriers, social factors and fears of sexual violence all contributed to sanitation-related psychosocial stress. Though women responded with small changes to sanitation practices, they were unable to significantly modify their circumstances, notably by achieving adequate privacy for sanitation-related behaviors. A better understanding of the range of causes of stress and adaptive behaviors is needed to inform context-specific, gender-sensitive sanitation interventions.
Not all eligible women use the available services under India’s Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), which provides cash incentives to encourage pregnant women to use institutional care for childbirth; limited evidence exists on demand-side factors associated with low program uptake. This study explores the views of women and ASHAs (community health workers) on the use of the JSY and institutional delivery care facilities. In-depth qualitative interviews, carried out in September-November 2013, were completed in the local language by trained interviewers with 112 participants consisting of JSY users/non-users and ASHAs in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The interaction of impeding and enabling factors on the use of institutional care for delivery was explored. We found that ASHAs' support services (e.g., arrangement of transport, escort to and support at healthcare facilities) and awareness generation of the benefits of institutional healthcare emerged as major enabling factors. The JSY cash incentive played a lesser role as an enabling factor because of higher opportunity costs in the use of healthcare facilities versus home for childbirth. Trust in the skills of traditional birth-attendants and the notion of childbirth as a ‘natural event’ that requires no healthcare were the most prevalent impeding factors. The belief that a healthcare facility would be needed only in cases of birth complications was also highly prevalent. This often resulted in waiting until the last moments of childbirth to seek institutional healthcare, leading to delay/non-availability of transportation services and inability to reach a delivery facility in time. ASHAs opined that interpersonal communication for awareness generation has a greater influence on use of institutional healthcare, and complementary cash incentives further encourage use. Improving health workers' support services focused on marginalized populations along with better public healthcare facilities are likely to promote the uptake of institutional delivery care in resource-poor settings.
Formal metrics for monitoring the quality and safety of healthcare have a valuable role, but may not, by themselves, yield full insight into the range of fallibilities in organizations. ‘Soft intelligence’ is usefully understood as the processes and behaviours associated with seeking and interpreting soft data-of the kind that evade easy capture, straightforward classification and simple quantification-to produce forms of knowledge that can provide the basis for intervention. With the aim of examining current and potential practice in relation to soft intelligence, we conducted and analysed 107 in-depth qualitative interviews with senior leaders, including managers and clinicians, involved in healthcare quality and safety in the English National Health Service. We found that participants were in little doubt about the value of softer forms of data, especially for their role in revealing troubling issues that might be obscured by conventional metrics. Their struggles lay in how to access softer data and turn them into a useful form of knowing. Some of the dominant approaches they used risked replicating the limitations of hard, quantitative data. They relied on processes of aggregation and triangulation that prioritised reliability, or on instrumental use of soft data to animate the metrics. The unpredictable, untameable, spontaneous quality of soft data could be lost in efforts to systematize their collection and interpretation to render them more tractable. A more challenging but potentially rewarding approach involved processes and behaviours aimed at disrupting taken-for-granted assumptions about quality, safety, and organizational performance. This approach, which explicitly values the seeking out and the hearing of multiple voices, is consistent with conceptual frameworks of organizational sensemaking and dialogical understandings of knowledge. Using soft intelligence this way can be challenging and discomfiting, but may offer a critical defence against the complacency that can precede crisis.
Patients are increasingly being asked for feedback about their healthcare experiences. However, healthcare staff often find it difficult to act on this feedback in order to make improvements to services. This paper draws upon notions of legitimacy and readiness to develop a conceptual framework (Patient Feedback Response Framework - PFRF) which outlines why staff may find it problematic to respond to patient feedback. A large qualitative study was conducted with 17 ward based teams between 2013 and 2014, across three hospital Trusts in the North of England. This was a process evaluation of a wider study where ward staff were encouraged to make action plans based on patient feedback. We focus on three methods here: i) examination of taped discussion between ward staff during action planning meetings ii) facilitators notes of these meetings iii) telephone interviews with staff focusing on whether action plans had been achieved six months later. Analysis employed an abductive approach. Through the development of the PFRF, we found that making changes based on patient feedback is a complex multi-tiered process and not something that ward staff can simply ‘do’. First, staff must exhibit normative legitimacy - the belief that listening to patients is a worthwhile exercise. Second, structural legitimacy has to be in place - ward teams need adequate autonomy, ownership and resource to enact change. Some ward teams are able to make improvements within their immediate control and environment. Third, for those staff who require interdepartmental co-operation or high level assistance to achieve change, organisational readiness must exist at the level of the hospital otherwise improvement will rarely be enacted. Case studies drawn from our empirical data demonstrate the above. It is only when appropriate levels of individual and organisational capacity to change exist, that patient feedback is likely to be acted upon to improve services.
The recent proliferation of strategies designed to increase the use of research in health policy (knowledge exchange) demands better application of contemporary conceptual understandings of how research shapes policy. Predictive models, or action frameworks, are needed to organise existing knowledge and enable a more systematic approach to the selection and testing of intervention strategies. Useful action frameworks need to meet four criteria: have a clearly articulated purpose; be informed by existing knowledge; provide an organising structure to build new knowledge; and be capable of guiding the development and testing of interventions. This paper describes the development of the SPIRIT Action Framework. A literature search and interviews with policy makers identified modifiable factors likely to influence the use of research in policy. An iterative process was used to combine these factors into a pragmatic tool which meets the four criteria. The SPIRIT Action Framework can guide conceptually-informed practical decisions in the selection and testing of interventions to increase the use of research in policy. The SPIRIT Action Framework hypothesises that a catalyst is required for the use of research, the response to which is determined by the capacity of the organisation to engage with research. Where there is sufficient capacity, a series of research engagement actions might occur that facilitate research use. These hypotheses are being tested in ongoing empirical work.
Concepts and findings ‘translated’ from neuroscientific research are finding their way into UK health and social policy discourse. Critical scholars have begun to analyse how policies tend to ‘misuse’ the neurosciences and, further, how these discourses produce unwarranted and individualizing effects, rooted in middle-class values and inducing guilt and anxiety. In this article, we extend such work while simultaneously departing from the normative assumptions implied in the concept of ‘misuse’. Through a documentary analysis of UK policy reports focused on the early years, adolescence and older adults, we examine how these employ neuroscientific concepts and consequently (re)define responsibility. In the documents analysed, responsibility was produced in three different but intersecting ways: through a focus on optimisation, self-governance, and vulnerability. Our work thereby adds to social scientific examinations of neuroscience in society that show how neurobiological terms and concepts can be used to construct and support a particular imaginary of citizenship and the role of the state. Neuroscience may be leveraged by policy makers in ways that (potentially) reduce the target of their intervention to the soma, but do so in order to expand the outcome of the intervention to include the enhancement of society writ large. By attending as well to more critical engagements with neuroscience in policy documents, our analysis demonstrates the importance of being mindful of the limits to the deployment of a neurobiological idiom within policy settings. Accordingly, we contribute to increased empirical specificity concerning the impacts and translation of neuroscientific knowledge in contemporary society whilst refusing to take for granted the idea that the neurosciences necessarily have a dominant role (to play).
A unique contribution of the fundamental cause theory of health disparities is its ability to account for the persistence of disparities in health and mortality, despite changes in the mechanisms that are relevant at any given time. Few studies, however, have investigated how such mechanisms are created or operate. Examining the introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for adolescents-a treatment aimed at preventing cervical and other cancers that typically emerge in mid- to late-adulthood-we empirically trace such a disparity-generating mechanism that is in the process of being latently created, testing whether socioeconomic status (SES) and racial/ethnic disparities exist for several facets of vaccination receipt: knowledge about the vaccine, receipt of a health professional recommendation to vaccinate, and initiation and completion of the three-shot vaccination series. Analyses of 2008, 2009, and 2010 United States National Immunization Survey-Teen data (n = 41,358) reveal disparities consistent with fundamental cause theory, particularly for vaccine knowledge and receipt of a health professional recommendation. While parental knowledge is a prerequisite to adolescent vaccine uptake, low SES and racial/ethnic minority parents have significantly lower odds of knowing about the vaccine. Receipt of a health professional’s recommendation to vaccinate is strongly associated with vaccine uptake, however the odds of receiving a recommendation are negatively associated with low SES and black racial/ethnic status. Our findings inform fundamental cause theory by illustrating how disparities in distinct stages of the uptake of new treatments may contribute to reproducing existing health disparities-and, in this case of adolescent HPV vaccination, may maintain future disparities in cervical cancer among adult populations.