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1.  Care-Seeking and Management of Common Childhood Illnesses in Tanzania – Results from the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58789.
Malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea continue to kill millions of children in Africa despite the available and effective treatments. Correct diagnosis and prompt treatment with effective drugs at the first option consulted for child care is crucial for preventing severe disease and death from these illnesses. Using the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey data, the present study aims to assess care-seeking and management of suspected malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea at various health care facilities in Tanzania.
We analyzed data for 8176 children born within a 5 years period preceding the survey.The information was collected by interviewing 5519 women aged 15–49 years in 10,300 households selected from 475 sample points throughout Tanzania.
The most common first option for child care was PHC facilities (54.8%), followed by private pharmacies (23.4%). These were more commonly utilized in rural compared to urban areas: 61.2% versus 34.5% for PHC facilities, and 26.5% versus 17.7% for pharmacies. Women in urban areas and those with higher level of education more commonly utilized higher level hospitals and private facilities as their first option for child care. Only one in four children with fever had received a blood test during the illness with lowest proportion being reported among children solely attended at PHC facilities. Use of abandoned antimalarial drugs for the treatment of suspected malaria was also observed in public health facilities and antibiotics use for diarrhoea treatment was high (49.0%).
PHC facilities and pharmacies most commonly provided sub-optimal care. These facilities were more commonly utilized as the first option for child care in rural areas and among the poor and non-educated families. These are groups with the highest child mortality, which calls for interventions’ targeting improvement of care at these facilities to further reduce child mortality from treatable illnesses in Tanzania.
PMCID: PMC3595288  PMID: 23554926
2.  Factors associated with severe disease from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea among children in rural Tanzania – A hospital-based cross-sectional study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:219.
Mild cases of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea are readily treatable with complete recovery and with inexpensive and widely available first-line drugs. However, treatment is complicated and expensive, and mortality is higher when children present to the hospital with severe forms of these illnesses. We studied how care seeking behaviours and other factors contributed to severity of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea among children less than five years in rural Tanzania.
We interviewed consecutive care-takers of children diagnosed with malaria, pneumonia and/or diarrhea at Korogwe and Muheza district hospitals, in north-eastern Tanzania, between July 2009 and January 2010, and compared characteristics of children presenting with severe and those with non-severe disease.
A total of 293 children with severe and 190 with non-severe disease were studied. We found persistent associations between severity of disease and caretaker’s lack of formal education (OR 6.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.7-15.8) compared to those with post-primary education, middle compared to high socio-economic status (OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.2-3.2), having 4 or more children compared to having one child (OR 2.5; 95% CI 1.4-4.5), having utilized a nearer primary health care (PHC) facility for the same illness compared to having not (OR 5.2; 95% CI 3.0-9.1), and having purchased the first treatment other than paracetamol from local or drug shops compared to when the treatment was obtained from the public hospitals for the first time (OR 3.2; 95% CI 1.9-5.2). The old officially abandoned first line anti-malaria drug Sulfadoxin-pyrimethamine (SP) was found to still be in use for the treatment of malaria and was significantly associated with childrens’ presentation to the hospital with severe malaria (OR 12.5; 95% CI 1.6-108.0).
Our results indicate that caretakers with no formal education, with lower SES and with many children can be target groups for interventions in order to further reduce child mortality from treatable illnesses. Furthermore, the quality of the available drug shops and PHC facilities need to be closely monitored.
PMCID: PMC3482590  PMID: 22978351
Severe; Non-severe; Malaria; Pneumonia; Diarrhea; Dehydration
3.  Unfulfilled expectations to services offered at primary health care facilities: Experiences of caretakers of underfive children in rural Tanzania 
There is growing evidence that patients frequently bypass primary health care (PHC) facilities in favour of higher level hospitals regardless of substantial additional time and costs. Among the reasons given for bypassing are poor services (including lack of drugs and diagnostic facilities) and lack of trust in health workers. The World Health Report 2008 “PHC now more than ever” pointed to the importance of organizing health services around people’s needs and expectations as one of the four main issues of PHC reforms. There is limited documentation of user’s expectations to services offered at PHC facilities. The current study is a community extension of a hospital-based survey that showed a high bypassing frequency of PHC facilities among caretakers seeking care for their underfive children at two district hospitals. We aimed to explore caretakers’ perceptions and expectations to services offered at PHC facilities in their area with reference to their experiences seeking care at such facilities.
We conducted four community-based focus group discussions (FGD’s) with 47 caretakers of underfive children in Muheza district of Tanga region, Tanzania in October 2009.
Lack of clinical examinations and laboratory tests, combined with shortage of drugs and health workers, were common experiences. Across all the focus group discussions, unpleasant health workers’ behaviors, lack of urgency and unnecessary delays were major complaints. In some places, unauthorized fees reduced access to services.
The study revealed significant disappointments among caretakers with regard to the quality of services offered at PHC facilities in their areas, with implications for their utilization and proper functioning of the referral system. Practices regarding partial drugs administrations, skipping of injections, unofficial payments and consultations by unskilled health care providers need urgent action. There is also a need for proper accountability mechanisms to govern appropriate allocation and monitoring of health care resources and services in Tanzania.
PMCID: PMC3420314  PMID: 22697458
4.  Predicting the Clinical Outcome of Severe Falciparum Malaria in African Children: Findings From a Large Randomized Trial 
Four predictors were independently associated with an increased risk of death: acidosis, cerebral manifestations of malaria, elevated blood urea nitrogen, or signs of chronic illness. The standard base deficit was found to be the single most relevant predictor of death.
Background. Data from the largest randomized, controlled trial for the treatment of children hospitalized with severe malaria were used to identify such predictors of a poor outcome from severe malaria.
Methods. African children (<15 years) with severe malaria participated in a randomized comparison of parenteral artesunate and parenteral quinine in 9 African countries. Detailed clinical assessment was performed on admission. Parasite densities were assessed in a reference laboratory. Predictors of death were examined using a multivariate logistic regression model.
Results. Twenty indicators of disease severity were assessed, out of which 5 (base deficit, impaired consciousness, convulsions, elevated blood urea, and underlying chronic illness) were associated independently with death. Tachypnea, respiratory distress, deep breathing, shock, prostration, low pH, hyperparasitemia, severe anemia, and jaundice were statistically significant indicators of death in the univariate analysis but not in the multivariate model. Age, glucose levels, axillary temperature, parasite density, heart rate, blood pressure, and blackwater fever were not related to death in univariate models.
Conclusions. Acidosis, cerebral involvement, renal impairment, and chronic illness are key independent predictors for a poor outcome in African children with severe malaria. Mortality is markedly increased in cerebral malaria combined with acidosis.
Clinical Trial Registration. ISRCTN50258054.
PMCID: PMC3309889  PMID: 22412067
5.  Why caretakers bypass Primary Health Care facilities for child care - a case from rural Tanzania 
Research on health care utilization in low income countries suggests that patients frequently bypass PHC facilities in favour of higher-level hospitals - despite substantial additional time and financial costs. There are limited number of studies focusing on user's experiences at such facilities and reasons for bypassing them. This study aimed to identify factors associated with bypassing PHC facilities among caretakers seeking care for their underfive children and to explore experiences at such facilities among those who utilize them.
The study employed a mixed-method approach consisting of an interviewer administered questionnaires and in-depth interviews among selected care-takers seeking care for their underfive children at Korogwe and Muheza district hospitals in north-eastern Tanzania.
The questionnaire survey included 560 caretakers. Of these 30 in-depth interviews were conducted. Fifty nine percent (206/348) of caretakers had not utilized their nearer PHC facilities during the index child's sickness episode. The reasons given for bypassing PHC facilities were lack of possibilities for diagnostic facilities (42.2%), lack of drugs (15.5%), closed health facility (10.2%), poor services (9.7%) and lack of skilled health workers (3.4%). In a regression model, the frequency of bypassing a PHC facility for child care increased significantly with decreasing travel time to the district hospital, shorter duration of symptoms and low disease severity.
Findings from the in-depth interviews revealed how the lack of quality services at PHC facilities caused delays in accessing appropriate care and how the experiences of inadequate care caused users to lose trust in them.
The observation that people are willing to travel long distances to get better quality services calls for health policies that prioritize quality of care before quantity. In a situation with limited resources, utilizing available resources to improve quality of care at available facilities could be more appropriate for improving access to health care than increasing the number of facilities. This would also improve equity in health care access since the poor who can not afford travelling costs will then get access to quality services at their nearer PHC facilities.
PMCID: PMC3234197  PMID: 22094076
6.  Artesunate versus quinine in the treatment of severe falciparum malaria in African children (AQUAMAT): an open-label, randomised trial 
Lancet  2010;376(9753):1647-1657.
Severe malaria is a major cause of childhood death and often the main reason for paediatric hospital admission in sub-Saharan Africa. Quinine is still the established treatment of choice, although evidence from Asia suggests that artesunate is associated with a lower mortality. We compared parenteral treatment with either artesunate or quinine in African children with severe malaria.
This open-label, randomised trial was undertaken in 11 centres in nine African countries. Children (<15 years) with severe falciparum malaria were randomly assigned to parenteral artesunate or parenteral quinine. Randomisation was in blocks of 20, with study numbers corresponding to treatment allocations kept inside opaque sealed paper envelopes. The trial was open label at each site, and none of the investigators or trialists, apart from for the trial statistician, had access to the summaries of treatment allocations. The primary outcome measure was in-hospital mortality, analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN50258054.
5425 children were enrolled; 2712 were assigned to artesunate and 2713 to quinine. All patients were analysed for the primary outcome. 230 (8·5%) patients assigned to artesunate treatment died compared with 297 (10·9%) assigned to quinine treatment (odds ratio [OR] stratified for study site 0·75, 95% CI 0·63–0·90; relative reduction 22·5%, 95% CI 8·1–36·9; p=0·0022). Incidence of neurological sequelae did not differ significantly between groups, but the development of coma (65/1832 [3·5%] with artesunate vs 91/1768 [5·1%] with quinine; OR 0·69 95% CI 0·49–0·95; p=0·0231), convulsions (224/2712 [8·3%] vs 273/2713 [10·1%]; OR 0·80, 0·66–0·97; p=0·0199), and deterioration of the coma score (166/2712 [6·1%] vs 208/2713 [7·7%]; OR 0·78, 0·64–0·97; p=0·0245) were all significantly less frequent in artesunate recipients than in quinine recipients. Post-treatment hypoglycaemia was also less frequent in patients assigned to artesunate than in those assigned to quinine (48/2712 [1·8%] vs 75/2713 [2·8%]; OR 0·63, 0·43–0·91; p=0·0134). Artesunate was well tolerated, with no serious drug-related adverse effects.
Artesunate substantially reduces mortality in African children with severe malaria. These data, together with a meta-analysis of all trials comparing artesunate and quinine, strongly suggest that parenteral artesunate should replace quinine as the treatment of choice for severe falciparum malaria worldwide.
The Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC3033534  PMID: 21062666

Results 1-6 (6)