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The time is now: missed opportunities to address patient needs in community clinics in Cape Town, South Africa

SUMMARY OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prevalence and correlates of missed opportunities for addressing reproductive and mental health needs during patients’ visits to primary healthcare facilities. METHODS: We selected a random sample of participants from 14 of the 49 clinics in Cape Town’s public health sector using stratified, cluster random sampling (n = 2618). Participants were screened to identify those at risk for unsafe sexual behaviour and a mental disorder (specifically substance use, depression, anxiety, and suicide). Information pertaining to whether or not respondents were asked about these issues during clinic visits during the previous year was elicited. The rates and correlates of missed opportunities for providing reproductive and mental health interventions were calculated. RESULTS: The criteria of a strict definition of a missed opportunity for reproductive or mental health care information were fulfilled by 25% of the sample, while 46% met criteria for a looser definition. After adjusting for the effects of other variables in the model, men and Coloured respondents were more likely to have satisfied the definition of a missed opportunity for an intervention, while having completed high school and having children increased the likelihood of receiving an intervention. CONCLUSION: Consultations with primary healthcare providers in which these issues are not discussed may represent missed opportunities. Persons presenting for routine care can be counselled, screened and, if required, treated. Interventions are needed at the patient, provider, and community levels to increase the opportunities to provide reproductive and mental health care to patients during routine visits.

Authors: Sorsdahl K; Flisher AJ; Ward C; Mertens J; Bresick G; Sterling S; Weisner C

Trop Med Int Health. 2010 Oct;15(10):1218-26.

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