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Cases of polio in India declined after the implementation of the polio eradication programme especially in these recent years. The programme includes surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) to detect and diagnose cases of polio at early stage. Under this surveillance, over 40,000 cases of AFP are reported annually since 2007 regardless of the number of actual polio cases. Yet, not much is known about these children. We conducted a qualitative research to explore care and support for children with AFP after their diagnosis.
The research was conducted in a district of western Uttar Pradesh classified as high-risk area for polio. In-depth interviews with parents of children with polio (17), with non-polio AFP (9), healthcare providers (40), and key informants from community including international and government officers, religious leaders, community leaders, journalists, and academics (21) were performed.
Minimal medicine and attention were provided at government hospitals. Therefore, most parents preferred private-practice doctors for their children with AFP. Many were visited at homes to have stool samples collected by authorities. Some were visited repetitively following the sample collection, but had difficulty in understanding the reasons for these visits that pertained no treatment. Financial burden was a common concern among all families. Many parents expressed resentment for their children's disease, notably have been affected despite receiving multiple doses of polio vaccine. Both parents and healthcare providers lacked information and knowledge, furthermore poverty minimised the access to available healthcare services. Medicines, education, and transportation means were identified as foremost needs for children with AFP and residual paralysis.
Despite the high number of children diagnosed with AFP as part of the global polio eradication programme, we found they were not provided with sufficient medical support following their diagnosis. Improvement in the quality and sufficiency of the healthcare system together with integration of AFP surveillance with other services in these underprivileged areas may serve as a key solution.