Assessment of the adherence of community health workers to dosing and referral guidelines for the management of fever in children under 5 years: a study in Dangme West District, Ghana

Margaret A Chinbuah, Mercy Abbey, Piet A Kager, Margaret Gyapong, Justice Nonvignon, Philipina Ashitey, Jonas Akpakli, Shirley-Ann A Appiatse, David Kubi, John O Gyapong
International Health 2013, 5 (2): 148-56

BACKGROUND: Community health workers (CHW) manage simple childhood illnesses in many developing countries. Information on CHWs' referral practices is limited. As part of a large cluster-randomised trial, this study assessed CHWs' adherence to dosing and referral guidelines.

METHODS: Records of consultations of children aged 2-59 months with fever managed by CHWs were analysed. Appropriate use of drugs was defined as provision of the correct drug pack(s) for the child's age group. Symptoms requiring referral were categorised into danger signs, respiratory distress and symptoms indicating other illnesses. Multivariate logistic regression examined symptoms most likely to be noted as requiring referral and those associated with provision of a written referral.

RESULTS: Most children (11 659/12 330; 94.6%) received the appropriate drug. Only 161 of 1758 (9.2%) children who, according to the guidelines required referral were provided with a written referral. Not drinking/breastfeeding, persistent vomiting, unconsciousness/lethargy, difficultly breathing, fast breathing, bloody stool, sunken eyes and pallor were symptoms significantly associated with being identified by CHWs as needing referral or receiving a written referral.

CONCLUSIONS: CHWs' adherence to dosing guidelines was high. Adherence to referral guidelines was inadequate. More effort needs to be put into strengthening referral practices of CHWs within comparable community programmes.

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