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Operational adaptations of the trachoma pre-validation surveillance strategy employed in Ghana: a qualitative assessment of successes and challenges

  • Senyonjo, Laura1, 2
  • Aboe, Agatha3
  • Bailey, Robin2
  • Agyemang, David3
  • Marfo, Benjamin4
  • Wanye, Seth4
  • Schmidt, Elena1
  • Addy, James4
  • Blanchet, Karl5
  • 1 Research team, Sightsavers, Haywards Heath, UK , Haywards Heath (United Kingdom)
  • 2 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Clinical Research Department, London, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 3 Sightsavers Ghana office, Accra, Ghana , Accra (Ghana)
  • 4 Ghana Health Service, Accra, Ghana , Accra (Ghana)
  • 5 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Department of Global health and Development, London, UK , London (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Aug 27, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s40249-019-0585-x
Springer Nature


BackgroundIn 2009 Ghana began to design a trachoma pre-validation surveillance plan, based on then-current WHO recommendations. The plan aimed to identify active trachoma resurgence and identify and manage trichiasis cases, through both active and passive surveillance approaches. This paper outlines and reviews the adaptations made by Ghana between 2011 and 2016. The assessment will provide a learning opportunity for a number of countries as they progress towards elimination status.MethodsA mixed methods approach was taken, comprising in-depth interviews and documents review. Between January and April 2016, 20 in-depth interviews were conducted with persons involved in the operationalisation of the trachoma surveillance system from across all levels of the health system. A three-tier thematic coding framework was developed using a primarily inductive approach but also allowed for a more iterative approach, which drew on aspects of grounded theory.ResultsDuring the operationalisation of the Ghana surveillance plan there were a number of adaptations (as compared to the WHO recommendations), these included:(i) Inclusion of surveillance of active trachoma in the passive surveillance approach, as compared to trichiasis alone. Issues with case identification, challenges in implementation coverage and a non-specific reporting structure hampered effectiveness;(ii) Random selection and increase in number of sites selected for the active surveillance component. This likely lacked the spatiotemporal power to be able to identify recrudescence in a timely manner;(iii) Targeted trichiasis door-to-door case searches, led by ophthalmic nurses. An effective methodology to identify trichiasis cases but resource intensive;(iv) A buddy system between ophthalmic nurses to support technical skills in an elimination setting where it is difficult to attain diagnostic and surgical skills, due to a lack of cases. The strategy did not take into account the loss of proficiency within experienced personnel.ConclusionsGhana developed a comprehensive surveillance system that exceeded the WHO recommendations but issues with sensitivity and specificity likely led to an inefficient use of resources. Improved targeted surveillance strategies for identification of recrudescence and trichiasis case searches, need to be evaluated. Strategies must address the contextual changes that arise because of transmission decline, such as loss of surgical skills.

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