The dissemination and implementation of national asthma guidelines in south africa: the use of outcome mapping

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South African Family Practice

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University of Cape Town

Asthma is an important chronic inflammatory disorder with significant morbidity and mortality in South Africa. The development of national asthma guidelines by the South African Thoracic Society and National Asthma Education Programme has been one approach to try and improve the quality of care. The impact of previous guidelines has been limited and therefore it is hoped that the newly revised 2007 guidelines will have a more effective approach to dissemination, implementation and evaluation. Outcome mapping (OM) is one approach to integrated planning, monitoring and evaluation of projects that intend to contribute to change in complex systems. It has a structured, systematic and logical approach that focuses on changes in behaviour, actions or relationships in the people or organizations that the project is working with. OM has three stages - intentional design, outcome/performance monitoring and evaluation - which are described in this article and illustrated with reference to the Asthma Guideline Implementation Project (AGIP). In the intentional design stage the AGIP created a vision and mission statement to guide the project and then identified seven boundary partners. For each boundary partner the AGIP defined the project's outcome challenge and a series of progress markers to monitor achievement of the outcome. Following this the AGIP conceptualized the strategies and organizational practices that will be engaged with to realize the outcomes. In the monitoring stage the AGIP will regularly document and reflect on the progress markers, strategies and organizational practices using pre-determined structured journals. In the evaluation stage there is the opportunity to plan the evaluation of key aspects of the project in more depth. In the AGIP project the team engaged with the development of a doctoral research project to evaluate the process of implementation in private and public primary care settings in the Cape Town metropole. This article describes the methodology of Outcome Mapping and illustrates this in relation to the Asthma Guidelines Implementation Project. The methodology has the potential to be applied in many other development projects and is also congruent with action research. It is hoped that the readers will find this approach useful in their own settings.