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Antenatal syphilis control: people, programmes, policies and politics

Keywords: Syphilis/diagnosis , Syphilis/epidemiology , Syphilis/economics , Pregnancy complications , Infectious/diagnosis , Pregnancy complications , Infectious/epidemiology , Prenatal diagnosis , Health policy , Mass screening/utlization , Decision making , Organizational , Focus groups/utlization , Data collection/methods , Process assessment (Health care)/methods , Delivery of health care , Socioeconomic factors

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Antenatal syphilis control is an integral component of reproductive health policies in most countries. In many of these countries, however, the existence of a health policy does not automatically translate into an effective health programme. We argue that neglecting to take into account the perspectives of all stakeholders when planning programmes may be the reason that functional and sustained interventions for antenatal syphilis are lacking. Stakeholders may include health policy decision-makers, programme managers, service delivery personnel (on whom implementation depends), as well as the pregnant women, families, and communities who will most benefit from the intervention. We describe how to undertake a multilevel assessment in order to identify stakeholders, identify interlinked perspectives, and analyse these perspectives within the socioeconomic, cultural and political environment within which an intervention is designed to be delivered. Using this multidisciplinary approach, we propose that the barriers to, and opportunities for, turning health policy into effective practice will be identified, and the result will be the formulation of a broad programme response to ensure implementation of the policy. Undertaking a multilevel assessment is but the first step in identifying barriers to successful programmes. Currently there is a lack of strong political support for this intervention at national and international levels. Devising strategies to address these potential barriers requires a broad range of skills and approaches some of which are outlined in this paper.


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