Quality of treatment for febrile illness among children at outpatient facilities in sub-Saharan Africa

Zurovac D, Rowe AK
Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2006;100

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For the prompt and effective management of malaria cases (a key strategy for reducing the enormous burden of the disease), healthworkers must prescribe antimalarial drugs according to evidence-based guidelines. In sub-Saharan Africa, the guidelines for use in outpatient settings generally recommend that febrile illness in children should be suspected to be malaria and be treated with an antimalarial drug. The quality of treatment offered to febrile children at outpatient facilities in this region has now been investigated in a literature review. The results of five methodologically comparable studies were also used to explore the determinants of malaria-treatment practices. The quality of treatment prescribed to febrile children was found to have been generally sub-optimal, with low levels of adherence to national guidelines, the frequent selection of non-recommended antimalarials, and the use of incorrect dosages. Several factors might be to responsible for these shortcomings. Although interventions such as the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy can lead to improvements, a better understanding of the practices of the healthworkers responsible for treating febrile children will be needed before treatment is made much better. The failure to provide treatment of good quality will become an increasingly important problem as antimalarial policies involving drugs with more complex dosing regimens, such as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT), are implemented. If the malaria burden in Africa is to be greatly reduced, the deployment of ACT must be accompanied by interventions to ensure the correct treatment of children at the point of care. Some interventions, such as IMCI, can improve the treatment of not only malaria but also other potentially life-threatening illnesses.