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Glob Health Action. 2012 Aug 16;5:1-11. doi: 10.3402/gha.v5i0.14385.

Towards an empowerment approach in tuberculosis treatment in Cape Town, South Africa: a qualitative analysis of programmatic change.

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Health Systems Research Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa.



Tuberculosis rates in the world remain high, especially in low- and middle-income countries. International tuberculosis (TB) policy generally recommends the use of directly observed therapy (DOT) to ensure treatment adherence.


This article examines a change in TB treatment support that occurred in 2005 in South Africa, from DOT to the enhanced TB adherence programme (ETA).


Seven key individuals representing academics, policy makers and service providers involved in the development of the ETA programme or knowledgeable about the issue were purposively sampled and interviewed, and participant observation was conducted at ETA programme steering group meetings. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the data, drawing on the Kingdon model of agenda setting. This model suggests that three independent streams - problem, policy and politics - come together at a certain point, often facilitated by policy entrepreneurs, to provide an opportunity for an issue to enter the policy agenda.


The results suggest the empowerment-oriented programme emerged through the presence of policy entrepreneurs with access to resources. Policy entrepreneurs were influenced by a number of simultaneously occurring challenges including problems within the existing programme; a perceived mismatch between patient needs and the existing TB treatment model; and the TB-HIV co-epidemic. Policy entrepreneurs saw the ART approach as a possible solution to these challenges.


The Kingdon model contributed to describing the process of policy change. Research evidence seemed to influence this change diffusely, through the interaction of policy entrepreneurs and academics.

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