Journal Article

Feasibility and effect of integrating tuberculosis screening and detection in postnatal care services: An operations research study

Background
Tuberculosis still remains a major cause of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality. Integrating tuberculosis screening and detection into postnatal care services ensures prompt and appropriate treatment for affected mothers and their babies. This study therefore examined the feasibility and effect of screening and referral for tuberculosis within postnatal care settings from the perspective of providers.

Methods
This operations research study used a pre- and post-intervention design without a comparison group. The study was implemented between March 2009 and August 2010 in five health facilities located in low-income areas of Nairobi, Kenya, which were suspected to have relatively high prevalence of both tuberculosis and HIV. Descriptive statistics and significance tests were employed to determine changes in the indicators of interest between baseline and endline.

Results
Among the 12,604 postnatal care clients screened, 14 tuberculosis cases were diagnosed. The proportion of clients screened for at least one cardinal sign of tuberculosis rose from 4% to 66%, and 21% of clients were screened for all six tracer signs and symptoms. A comparison of 10 quality of postnatal care and tuberculosis screening components at baseline and endline showed a highly significant effect on all 10 components.

Conclusions
The findings demonstrate that using postnatal care services as a platform for tuberculosis screening and detection is acceptable and feasible. In addition, linking clients identified through screening to further treatment significantly improved. However, the actual number of cases detected was low. A policy debate on whether to link tuberculosis screening with reproductive health services is recommended before full scale-up of this intervention.