Middle-Ranking Health Care Workers in Africa Offer Inexpensive Method of Increasing Access to Antiretrovirals, Report Says
Middle-ranking health care workers in Africa offer an inexpensive way to increase access to antiretroviral drugs on the continent, according to a report published online by the journal Lancet on Thursday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The report defines these health workers, called "non-physician clinicians," as nurse practitioners, doctor's assistants and clinical officers who have had secondary school education and three to four years of basic health care training, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.
According to the report, which was conducted by Fitzhugh Mullan and Seble Frehywot of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, NPCs equaled or exceeded the numbers of fully trained physicians in nine African countries of the 47 investigated. NPCs could alleviate the health worker shortage in Africa by performing many of the clinical and diagnostic duties that a physician normally would perform, including examining HIV-positive people for opportunistic diseases and questioning patients about side effects associated with antiretrovirals, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.
The researchers note that it is faster and less expensive to train an NPC than a doctor, with the costs of a three-year course ranging between $3,000 and $6,000 per person. In addition, NPC training offers practical advantages because it is rooted in local health problems, the researchers said. As of June 2006, about one million people residing in African countries had access to antiretrovirals -- less than one-fourth of the estimated 4.6 million people in need of the drugs (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/13).