Objectives We aimed to describe the challenges and outcomes of implementing a national syphilis follow-up system to improve syphilis management in maternal and child health (MCH) services in Cambodia.
Design Operational study; quantitative cohort data and cross sectional qualitative data.
Setting Public health facilities at national level and in four provinces with high syphilis prevalence in Cambodia.
Participants Pregnant women screened for syphilis; MCH health care providers and managers.
Methods We conducted an operational research using syphilis screening and treatment data collected from a national follow-up system (cohort data) and reported in the health management information system (HMIS) between 2019 and 2020. We also conducted indepth interviews with 16 pregnant women and focus group discussions with 37 healthcare providers and managers. Descriptive statistics and thematic content analysis were used.
Outcome measures Syphilis testing and treatment results and perceptions regarding these services.
Results A total of 470 pregnant women who tested positive in rapid syphilis testing were recorded in the national syphilis follow-up system in 2019–2020. Of these, 71% (332 of 470) received a rapid plasma reagin (RPR) test and 95% (n=315) tested positive; 78% (246 of 315) received any syphilis treatment and only 28% (88 of 315) were treated adequately with benzathine penicillin G (BPG). Data from four provinces with high syphilis prevalence (more closely monitored) showed higher testing and treatment rates than at the national level. HMIS aggregated data reported a higher number of pregnant women screened and treated for syphilis than the follow-up system during the same period. Barriers to syphilis testing and treatment included late antenatal care, long distance to RPR testing and treatment, partners’ lack of support to reach the health facility, BPG stockout and poor adherence to oral treatment in the absence of BPG. Providers and managers reported a lack of communication across services, insufficient skills to treat infants and absence of clear guidance regarding the revised follow-up system. Study findings contributed to changes in operating procedures nationwide to facilitate access to syphilis testing and adequate treatment and a systematic follow-up of pregnant women and exposed infants.
Conclusions Study results contributed to informing improvements to syphilis management in MCH services in Cambodia.
- Infection control
- Public health
- Prenatal diagnosis
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplemental information.
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Contributors Conceived and designed the study: VO, SS, TD, RK, SH, SD, SC, ST. Conducted data collection: RT, SY, VK, CP, ST. Performed data analysis and presentation of results: RT, SY, TD, SS, VO. Wrote the manuscript: TD, VO, CP, ST, SS. All authors provided input in manuscript writing and approved the final manuscript. TD is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.
Funding This study was funded by the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD) through the Framework Agreement 4 (FA4) between the Institute of Tropical Medicine, the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS), and the National Maternal and Child Health Center (NMCHC).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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