Palliative care in Ethiopia’s rural and regional health care settings: a qualitative study of enabling factors and implementation challenges
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAregay, A. F., O’Connor, M., Stow, J., Ayers, N. & Lee, S. (2023). Palliative care in Ethiopia’s rural and regional health care settings: a qualitative study of enabling factors and implementation challenges. BMC Palliative Care, 22, Article 156. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-023-01283-5
Palliative care is limited in Ethiopia, particularly in rural areas, where more than 78% of the population live. Current initiatives and research are focused on urban settings and are primarily donor dependent. This study aims to explore the status of palliative care, enabling factors and implementation challenges in Ethiopia’s rural and regional health care settings. Methods A qualitative regional case study was conducted with health professionals drawn from different health care settings, academic institutions and included health planners and practitioners. Focus groups were conducted with rural community members and face- to face- individual interviews were conducted with health professionals working in numerous roles as well as academic leaders. Results Participants indicated that despite a few leaders being aware of the inclusion of palliative care in the Ethiopia national policies and guidelines, palliative care is not, integrated into the existing health care system. Other participants responded that palliative care is not well integrated into the undergraduate and postgraduate courses except for limited content in the diploma and a few postgraduate courses. Participants described the challenges for palliative care implementation as follows: many lacked awareness about palliative care; and chronically ill patients other than those with HIV received inadequate care, limited to physical care, some pain management, and psychosocial support rather than comprehensive palliative care. In addition, some participants perceived that palliative care was not within the remit of their service, so families and patients were forced to seek alternative or informal care, including from traditional healers. Conclusions: Enablers for the improvement of palliative care access in rural and regional health care were identified, including better integration of palliative care into the national health care plan and guidelines; palliative care content in university and college courses; and use of mobile phone technology to facilitate care. And policy makers and responsible stakeholders could consider the palliative care implementation in rural and regional health care settings through a combination of home, community and facility-based models.