What constitutes a palliative care need in people with serious illnesses across Africa? A mixed-methods systematic review of the concept and evidence


BACKGROUND: Clarity on what constitutes a palliative care need is essential to ensure that health systems and clinical services deliver an appropriate response within Universal Health Coverage. AIM: To synthesise primary evidence from Africa for palliative care needs among patients and families with serious illness. DESIGN: We conducted a mixed methods systematic review with sequential synthesis design. The protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019136606) and included studies were quality assessed using Mixed Method Appraisal Tool. DATA SOURCES: Six global literature databases and Three Africa-specific databases were searched up to October 2020 for terms related to palliative care, serious illnesses and Africa. Palliative care need was defined as multidimensional problems, symptoms, distress and concerns which can benefit from palliative care. RESULTS: Of 7810 papers screened, 159 papers met eligibility criteria. Palliative care needs were mostly described amongst patients with HIV/AIDS (n = 99 studies) or cancer (n = 59), from East (n = 72) and Southern (n = 89) Africa. Context-specific palliative care needs included managing pregnancy and breastfeeding, preventing infection transmission (physical); health literacy needs, worry about medical bills (psychological); isolation and stigma, overwhelmed families needing a break, struggling to pay children’s school fees and selling assets (social and practical needs); and rites associated with cultural and religious beliefs (spiritual). CONCLUSIONS: Palliative care assessment and care must reflect the context-driven specific needs of patients and families in Africa, in line with the novel framework. Health literacy is a crucial need in this context that must be met to ensure that the benefits of palliative care can be achieved at the patient-level.


Afolabi OA, Nkhoma K, Maddocks M, Harding R




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Determinants of Health
  • Determinants of Health
    • Income
    • Social support
    • Stigma/discrimination
  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population


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