Examining the effectiveness of zinc treatment in children admitted with diarrhoea in Kenya's public hospitals: an observational comparative effectiveness study
BACKGROUND: Kenyan paediatric treatment protocols recommend the use of zinc supplement for all children with diarrhoea. However, there is limited evidence of benefit for young children aged 1-5 months and those who are well-nourished. We examine effectiveness of zinc supplementation for children admitted with diarrhoea to Kenya's public hospitals with different nutritional and age categories. This is to determine whether the current policy where zinc is prescribed for all children with diarrhoea is appropriate. METHODS: We explore the effect of zinc treatment on time to discharge for children aged 1-5 and 6-59 months and amongst those classified as either severely - moderately under-nourished or well-nourished. To overcome the challenges associated with non-random allocation of treatments and missing data in these observational data, we use propensity score methods and multiple imputation to minimize bias. RESULTS: The analysis included 1645 (1-5 months) and 11 546 (6-59 months) children respectively. The estimated sub-distribution hazard ratios for being discharged in the zinc group vs the non-zinc group were 1.25 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07, 1.46) and 1.17 (95% CI = 1.10, 1.24) in these respective age categories. Zinc treatment was associated with shorter time to discharge in both well and under-nourished children. CONCLUSION: Zinc treatment, in general, was associated with shorter time to discharge. In the absence of significant adverse effects, these data support the continued use of zinc for admissions with diarrhoea including those aged 1-5 months and in those who are well-nourished.