Analysis of hospital records in four African countries, 1975-1990, with emphasis on infectious diseases

P L Petit, J K van Ginneken
Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1995, 98 (4): 217-27
Detailed standardized annual reports are analysed for 17 rural hospitals in four African countries, with admission figures of 1.2 million patients (excluding deliveries) and more than 67,000 deaths over a period of 16 years. The countries involved are Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. Figures on admission, causes of death and clinical case fatality rates are presented per country and per 4-year calendar period for the most important infectious diseases. The number of admissions increased substantially in 3 of the 4 countries (50-77%) between 1976 and 1990, but admission rates (per 1,000 population per year) by much less (6-25%), indicating that a large part of the increase in the volume of services was due to population growth. The number of infectious disease admissions in Ghana, however, decreased by 12% and even more in terms of admission rates (by 42%). About 75% of all admissions in children below 15 years of age were due to infections and infection related diseases; for adults this figure was 31%. Malaria is the single most important infectious disease both in terms of admissions and as a cause of death; it has increased substantially in three of the four countries. Bacterial infections, in particular pneumonia, gastroenteritis, meningitis and tuberculosis, are also important diseases in terms of admissions and deaths. On the whole they have remained at more or less the same level in 1975-1990 in terms of both admissions and deaths. Immunizable diseases and measles, once important as causes of admissions and deaths, have declined in all countries. Case fatality rates vary substantially by type of disease. They are very high for tetanus (36.7-68.8%) and meningitis (14.7-43%), and low for malaria (0.6-4.6%). However, they vary considerably in the four countries included in the study and are usually lower in children than in adults. A need for detailed studies with good "standardized" hospital records is emphasized. Representative data are needed from all hospitals in a given catchment area, with defined diagnoses for diseases and details regarding age and sex. This kind of information is highly desirable for planning and operation of curative and preventive medical care in developing countries.

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