Senior Lecturer Graduates with a PhD in Public Health
Public Health scientist, Dr Tivani Mashamba-Thompson, graduated with a PhD for a study titled: “Evaluating the Accessibility and Utility of HIV-Related Point of Care (POC) Diagnostics for Maternal Health in Rural South Africa”.
“Point-of-care” (POC) diagnostics is an approach to improve healthcare access.
Supervised by Professor Paul Drain and Professor Benn Sartorius, Mashamba-Thompson’s study evaluated the existing HIV and maternal health POC diagnostic services with the aim of identifying potential challenges and barriers related to the implementation of POC diagnostics services for rural and resource-limited settings.
According to Mashamba-Thompson, identifying these barriers and challenges will assist to inform planned improvements to existing POC diagnostics and implementation of new POC diagnostics.
‘My research identified potential life-saving and transformative POC tests that need to be prioritised during implementation of POC diagnostics in rural and resource-limited settings.’
She said it also showed issues related to facilitators, and the challenges and barriers related to the implementation of POC diagnostics in rural primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in South Africa.
‘Although the study shows that several POC tests were widely available, and tests for HIV and CD4 were most frequently performed, there remains a significant need for additional POC tests to improve detection and management of both communicable and non-communicable priority disease conditions.’
The study also demonstrated the impact of the HIV POC test with improved maternal outcomes as well as the association between syphilis POC diagnostics and reduced maternal mortality ratio.
The study identified a number of barriers to implementation of POC diagnostics ie. poor supply chain management, poor infrastructure and limited knowledge of POC tests amongst users.
It also identified poor quality management systems and poor compliance with standards or guidelines as major challenges to the implementation of rural PHC clinic-based POC diagnostics services for the improvement of maternal outcomes.
‘To maximise the potential of new POC tests, the above barriers and challenges need to be addressed prior to implementation,’ she said.
Based on the findings of this study, Mashamba-Thompson, proposed a framework for improving POC diagnostics training strategies for health care workers in PHC clinics. Her study has produced 10 manuscripts, seven of which are published and accessible via this link.
She said her study would be expanded to Zimbambwe, Zambia and Ghana through three PhD students, who Mashamba-Thompson is supervising.
She is currently involved in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the Department of Public Health Medicine and is supervising masters and PhD students.
She was recently invited to participate in a POC testing stakeholder workshop held by the International Diagnostics Centre (IDC) of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the African Society for Laboratory Medicine in Cape Town.
A married mother of three, she grew up in the village of Mulamula in Limpopo and spent most of her adult life in England, completing her honours degree at the University of Surrey and a postgraduate diploma at the University of Greenwhich in London.