Importance of strategic management in the implementation of private medicine retailer programmes: case studies from three districts in Kenya.
Abuya T., Amin A., Molyneux S., Akhwale W., Marsh V., Gilson L.
BACKGROUND: The home-management of malaria strategy seeks to improve prompt and effective anti-malarial drug use through the informal sector, with a potential channel being the Private Medicine Retailers (PMRs). Previous evaluations of PMR programmes focused on their impact on retailer knowledge and practices, with limited evidence about the influence of implementation processes on the impacts at scale. This paper examines how the implementation processes of three PMR programmes in Kenya, each scaled up within a district, contributed to the outcomes observed. These were a Ministry of Health programme in Kwale district; and two programmes supported by non-governmental organizations in collaboration with government in Kisii Central and Bungoma districts. METHODS: The research methods included 24 focus group discussions with clients and PMRs, 19 in-depth interviews with implementing actors, document review and a diary of events. The data were analysed using the combination of a broad policy analysis framework and more specific scaling up/diffusion of innovations frameworks. RESULTS: The Kisii programme, a case study of successful implementation, was underpinned by good relationships between district health managers and a "resource team", supported by a memorandum of understanding which enabled successful implementation. It had flexible budgetary and decision making processes which were responsive to local contexts, and took account of local socio-economic activities. In contrast, the Kwale programme, which had implementation challenges, was characterised by a complex funding process, with lengthy timelines, that was tied to the government financial management system which constrained implementation Although there was a flexible funding system in Bungoma, a perceived lack of transparency in fund management, inadequate management of inter-organisational relationships, and inability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances led to implementation difficulties. CONCLUSIONS: For effective scaling up of PMR programmes, the provision of technical support and adequate resources are vital, but not sufficient on their own. An active strategy to manage relationships between implementing actors through effective communication mechanisms is essential. Successful outcomes may be realised if a strong and transparent management system, including management of financial resources, is put in place. This study provides evidence of the value of assessing implementation processes as part of impact evaluation for public health programmes.