Children with severe pneumonia who were treated by Lady Health Workers (LHWs) at home with simple, oral antibiotics have higher chances of recovery than children who are referred to a health facility.
These findings were made in a research recently conducted in Haripur District, which was discussed at the National Press Club on Thursday.
The study titled, ‘Community case management of severe pneumonia with oral amoxicillin in children aged 2-59 months in Haripur District, Pakistan: a cluster randomised trial’, was discussed at a press conference organised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The study was conducted over a period of 18 months.
The findings of the research in Haripur that was coordinated by WHO, undertaken by Save the Children (US) and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), were published on the eve of November 12, the World Pneumonia Day.
While briefing media, Dr Shamim Qazi an expert at WHO’s Department of Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health, said the study compared impact of treating severe pneumonia at home with treatment at a health facility such as a clinic or hospital. “It is found that 18% of children suffering from pneumonia had treatment failure in a health facility, while at home the failure rate was only 9%,” the study said.
“Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness, but it is among
the most solvable problems in global health,” said Dr Qazi.
“The results of this study shows that community health workers can identify and treat most children with pneumonia at home with simple antibiotics,” he added.
Dr Qazi was of the view that if the results of the research were confirmed in other settings, they could make treatment much more accessible for families and help governments make the most of limited resources, and save more children’s lives.
Treatment failure is when a child is unable to drink, has convulsions, vomits after food intake, has abnormal sleeping patterns, consistently suffers from fever after several days of treatment and needs to switch to a different antibiotic.
Dr Qazi said LHWs are trained and receive ongoing supervision and basic supplies from the Government of Pakistan.
In Haripur District, the LHWs attend about 150-200 families at home every month, providing health education to families about maternal and child health and treating common diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
They also identify symptoms for diseases like pneumonia and cholera, referring the suspected patients to the nearest health facilities.
Dr Guido Sabatinelli, WHO Representative for Pakistan, said, “If children with severe pneumonia can be effectively managed at home, this would reduce delays in starting treatment and cut costs for families and the health system.”
Health experts said every year in Pakistan 100,000 children die due to pneumonia, making it the number one killer for children under five. They were of the view that majority of children with severe pneumonia die because their parents cannot afford to take them to hospitals in the cities, or are returned due to unavailability of beds.
The antibiotic needed to treat a child with pneumonia cost less than Rs50 but it has been estimated that only 30% of the patients get the needed treatment.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2011.
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