Socially, Culturally and Spiritually Sensitive Public Health Palliative Care Models in the Lower-income Countries: An Integrative Literature Review

Publication Name

Indian Journal of Palliative Care


The demand for palliative care (PC) is ever-increasing globally. The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the need for PC. In the lower-income countries (LICs), where PC need is highest, PC, the most humane, appropriate and realistic approach to care for patients and families affected by life-limiting illness, is minimal or non-existent. Recognising the disparity between high, middle and LICs, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended public health strategies for PC within the socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual contexts of individual countries. This review aimed to: (i) identify PC models in the LICs utilising public health strategies and (ii) characterise how social, cultural and spiritual components were integrated into these models. This is an integrative literature review. Thirty-seven articles were included from a search of four electronic databases – Medline, Embase, Global Health and CINAHL. Literature, both empirical and theoretical literature, published in English from January 2000 to May 2021 that mentioned PC models/services/programmes integrating public health strategies in the LICs were included in the study. A number of LICs utilised public health strategies to deliver PC. One-third of the selected articles highlighted the importance of integrating sociocultural and spiritual components into PC. Two main themes – WHO‑recommended public health framework and sociocultural and spiritual support in PC and five subthemes – (i) suitable policies; (ii) availability and accessibility of essential drugs; (iii) PC education for health professionals, policymakers and the public; (iv) implementation of PC at all levels of healthcare and (v) sociocultural and spiritual components, were derived. Despite embracing the public health approach, many LICs encountered several challenges in integrating all four strategies successfully.

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