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Is the effect of COVID-19 on children underestimated in low- and middle- income countries?

The COVID‐19 pandemic has had a huge impact on health and society, worldwide. While most high income countries are felt to be reaching their COVID‐19 peak, most low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs), particularly sub‐Saharan countries, are anticipating an exponential growth of cases.(1) Overall it has been documented that children are less affected.(2) However, in this commentary we describe how in Kenya, a LMIC in sub‐Saharan Africa, COVID‐19 is likely to have far‐reaching direct and indirect implications on children.
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Malaria infection, disease and mortality among children and adults on the coast of Kenya

BACKGROUND: Malaria transmission has recently fallen in many parts of Africa, but systematic descriptions of infection and disease across all age groups are rare. Here, an epidemiological investigation of parasite prevalence, the incidence of fevers associated with infection, severe hospitalized disease and mortality among children older than 6 months and adults on the Kenyan coast is presented. METHODS: A prospective fever surveillance was undertaken at 6 out-patients (OPD) health-facilities between March 2018 and February 2019. Four community-based, cross sectional surveys of fever history and infection prevalence were completed among randomly selected homestead members from the same communities. Paediatric and adult malaria at Kilifi county hospital was obtained for the 12 months period. Rapid Diagnostic Tests (CareStart RDT) to detect HRP2-specific to Plasmodium falciparum was used in the community and the OPD, and microscopy in the hospital. Crude and age-specific incidence rates were computed using Poisson regression. RESULTS: Parasite prevalence gradually increased from childhood, reaching 12% by 9 years of age then declining through adolescence into adulthood. The incidence rate of RDT positivity in the OPD followed a similar trend to that of infection prevalence in the community. The incidence of hospitalized malaria from the same community was concentrated among children aged 6 months to 4 years (i.e. 64% and 70% of all hospitalized and severe malaria during the 12 months of surveillance, respectively). Only 3.7% (12/316) of deaths were directly attributable to malaria. Malaria mortality was highest among children aged 6 months-4 years at 0.57 per 1000 person-years (95% CI 0.2, 1.2). Severe malaria and death from malaria was negligible above 15 years of age. CONCLUSION: Under conditions of low transmission intensity, immunity to disease and the fatal consequences of infection appear to continue to be acquired in childhood and faster than anti-parasitic immunity. There was no evidence of an emerging significant burden of severe malaria or malaria mortality among adults. This is contrary to current modelled approaches to disease burden estimation in Africa and has important implications for the targeting of infection prevention strategies based on chemoprevention or vector control.
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Protecting children in low-income and middle-income countries from COVID-19

ABSTRACT BMJ Glob Health Ahmed, S., Mvalo, T., Akech, S., Agweyu, A., Baker, K., Bar-Zeev, N., Campbell, H., Checkley, W., Chisti, M. J., Colbourn, T., Cunningham, S., Duke, T., English, M., Falade, A. G., Fancourt, N. S., Ginsburg, A. S., Graham, H. R., Gray, D. M., Gupta, M., Hammitt, L., Hesseling, A. C., Hooli, S., […]
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Pharmacotherapy for hypertension in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: The highest burden of hypertension is found in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with a threefold greater mortality from stroke and other associated diseases. Ethnicity is known to influence the response to antihypertensives, especially in black populations living in North America and Europe. We sought to outline the impact of all commonly used pharmacological agents on both blood pressure reduction and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in SSA. METHODS: We used similar criteria to previous large meta-analyses of blood pressure agents but restricted results to populations in SSA. Quality of evidence was assessed using a risk of bias tool. Network meta-analysis with random effects was used to compare the effects across interventions and meta-regression to explore participant heterogeneity. RESULTS: Thirty-two studies of 2860 participants were identified. Most were small studies from single, urban centres. Compared with placebo, any pharmacotherapy lowered SBP/DBP by 8.51/8.04 mmHg, and calcium channel blockers (CCBs) were the most efficacious first-line agent with 18.46/11.6 mmHg reduction. Fewer studies assessing combination therapy were available, but there was a trend towards superiority for CCBs plus ACE inhibitors or diuretics compared to other combinations. No studies examined the effect of antihypertensive therapy on morbidity or mortality outcomes. CONCLUSION: Evidence broadly supports current guidelines and provides a clear rationale for promoting CCBs as first-line agents and early initiation of combination therapy. However, there is a clear requirement for more evidence to provide a nuanced understanding of stroke and other cardiovascular disease prevention amongst diverse populations on the continent. TRIAL REGISTRATION: PROSPERO, CRD42019122490. This review was registered in January 2019.
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Examining which clinicians provide admission hospital care in a high mortality setting and their adherence to guidelines: an observational study in 13 hospitals

BACKGROUND: We explored who actually provides most admission care in hospitals offering supervised experiential training to graduating clinicians in a high mortality setting where practices deviate from guideline recommendations. METHODS: We used a large observational data set from 13 Kenyan county hospitals from November 2015 through November 2018 where patients were linked to admitting clinicians. We explored guideline adherence after creating a cumulative correctness of Paediatric Admission Quality of Care (cPAQC) score on a 5-point scale (0-4) in which points represent correct, sequential progress in providing care perfectly adherent to guidelines comprising admission assessment, diagnosis and treatment. At the point where guideline adherence declined the most we dichotomised the cPAQC score and used multilevel logistic regression models to explore whether clinician and patient-level factors influence adherence. RESULTS: There were 1489 clinicians who could be linked to 53 003 patients over a period of 3 years. Patients were rarely admitted by fully qualified clinicians and predominantly by preregistration medical officer interns (MOI, 46%) and diploma level clinical officer interns (COI, 41%) with a median of 28 MOI (range 11-68) and 52 COI (range 5-160) offering care per study hospital. The cPAQC scores suggest that perfect guideline adherence is found in Read More

Exclusive breastfeeding in first-time mothers in rural Kenya: a longitudinal observational study of feeding patterns in the first six months of life

BACKGROUND: Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age is recommended by the World Health Organization as the optimal mode of infant feeding, providing adequate nutrition for the baby and protection against infectious diseases. Breastfeeding can be adversely affected by individual, cultural and socio-economic factors. The study aimed to explore barriers of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life among first-time mothers in rural Kenya. METHODS: An observational longitudinal design aimed to provide rich data on breastfeeding behaviour. Twenty pregnant first-time mothers were recruited through antenatal clinics and snowballing. Mothers were visited nine times at home from late pregnancy, at 1 week and 2 weeks post-delivery, then monthly until the baby was aged 6 months. Visits were conducted between November 2016 and April 2018. At the first visit, participants were asked about breastfeeding intentions and infant feeding education received. At each postnatal visit, direct observation of breastfeeding, a recorded semi-structured interview on feeding, mother's and baby's health was performed. Interviews were transcribed, checked, content was grouped into categories and analyzed using a qualitative descriptive approach. RESULTS: Most participants were adolescent (75%) and unmarried (65%). All 20 mothers intended to and did breastfeed, however additional fluids and semi-solids were commonly given. Only two mothers exclusively breastfed from birth up to 6 months of age. Prelacteal feeds, home remedies and traditional medicine were given by over a third of mothers in the first week of life. Concern over babies' bowel habits and persistent crying perceived as abdominal colic led to several mothers receiving advice to give gripe water and traditional remedies. Early introduction of maize porridge from 3 months of age because of perceived hunger of the child was recommended by other family members. Breastfeeding observation showed persistent problems with positioning and attachment of infants. CONCLUSIONS: Exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months was uncommon. Prioritization of capacity to detect mothers with breastfeeding problems and provide breastfeeding education and support is necessary, particularly during the antenatal and early postnatal period. It is important to engage with other women resident in the household who may offer conflicting feeding advice.
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Child Health Accountability Tracking-extending child health measurement

ABSTRACT Lancet Child Adolesc Health Strong, K., Requejo, J., Agweyu, A., McKerrow, N., Schellenberg, J., Agbere, D. A., Billah, S. M., Boschi-Pinto, C., Horiuchi, S., Lazzerini, M., Maiga, A., Munos, M., Weigel, R., Banerjee, A., Hereward, M., Diaz, T. Pages:259-261, Volume:4, Edition:2/16/2020, Date,Apr Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32059788 Notes:Strong, Kathleen|Requejo, Jennifer|Agweyu, Ambrose|McKerrow, Neil|Schellenberg, Joanna|Agbere, Diparide Abdourahmane|Billah, Sk Masum|Boschi-Pinto, […]
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Prolonged health worker strikes in Kenya- perspectives and experiences of frontline health managers and local communities in Kilifi County

BACKGROUND: While health worker strikes are experienced globally, the effects can be worst in countries with infrastructural and resource challenges, weak institutional arrangements, underdeveloped organizational ethics codes, and unaffordable alternative options for the poor. In Kenya, there have been a series of public health worker strikes in the post devolution period. We explored the perceptions and experiences of frontline health managers and community members of the 2017 prolonged health workers' strikes. METHODS: We employed an embedded research approach in one county in the Kenyan Coast. We collected in-depth qualitative data through informal observations, reflective meetings, individual and group interviews and document reviews (n = 5), and analysed the data using a thematic approach. Individual interviews were held with frontline health managers (n = 26), and group interviews with community representatives (4 health facility committee member groups, and 4 broader community representative groups). Interviews were held during and immediately after the nurses' strike. FINDINGS: In the face of major health facility and service closures and disruptions, frontline health managers enacted a range of strategies to keep key services open, but many strategies were piecemeal, inconsistent and difficult to sustain. Interviewees reported huge negative health and financial strike impacts on local communities, and especially the poor. There is limited evidence of improved health system preparedness to cope with any future strikes. CONCLUSION: Strikes cannot be seen in isolation of the prevailing policy and health systems context. The 2017 prolonged strikes highlight the underlying and longer-term frustration amongst public sector health workers in Kenya. The health system exhibited properties of complex adaptive systems that are interdependent and interactive. Reactive responses within the public system and the use of private healthcare led to limited continued activity through the strike, but were not sufficient to confer resilience to the shock of the prolonged strikes. To minimise the negative effects of strikes when they occur, careful monitoring and advanced planning is needed. Planning should aim to ensure that emergency and other essential services are maintained, threats between staff are minimized, health worker demands are reasonable, and that governments respect and honor agreements.
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Phenotype is sustained during hospital readmissions following treatment for complicated severe malnutrition among Kenyan children: A retrospective cohort study

Hospital readmission is common among children with complicated severe acute malnutrition (cSAM) but not well-characterised. Two distinct cSAM phenotypes, marasmus and kwashiorkor, exist, but their pathophysiology and whether the same phenotype persists at relapse are unclear. We aimed to test the association between cSAM phenotype at index admission and readmission following recovery. We performed secondary data analysis from a multicentre randomised trial in Kenya with 1-year active follow-up. The main outcome was cSAM phenotype upon hospital readmission. Among 1,704 HIV-negative children with cSAM discharged in the trial, 177 children contributed a total of 246 readmissions with cSAM. cSAM readmission was associated with age<12 months (p = .005), but not site, sex, season, nor cSAM phenotype. Of these, 42 children contributed 44 readmissions with cSAM that occurred after a monthly visit when SAM was confirmed absent (cSAM relapse). cSAM phenotype was sustained during cSAM relapse. The adjusted odds ratio for presenting with kwashiorkor during readmission after kwashiorkor at index admission was 39.3 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) [2.69, 1,326]; p = .01); and for presenting with marasmus during readmission after kwashiorkor at index admission was 0.02 (95% CI [0.001, 0.037]; p = .01). To validate this finding, we examined readmissions to Kilifi County Hospital, Kenya occurring at least 2 months after an admission with cSAM. Among 2,412 children with cSAM discharged alive, there were 206 readmissions with cSAM. Their phenotype at readmission was significantly influenced by their phenotype at index admission (p < .001). This is the first report describing the phenotype and rate of cSAM recurrence.
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Embracing the challenge of adolescent health in Kenya

ABSTRACT Lancet Child Adolesc Health Karianjahi, N., Mbogo, J., Wambugu, C., Tole, J., Agweyu, A. Pages:101-103, Volume:4, Edition:11/20/2019, Date,Feb Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31740409 Notes:Karianjahi, Njeri|Mbogo, Joyce|Wambugu, Christine|Tole, John|Agweyu, Ambrose|eng|Comment|England|2019/11/20 06:00|Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2020 Feb;4(2):101-103. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(19)30374-8. Epub 2019 Nov 15. ISBN: 2352-4650 (Electronic)|2352-4642 (Linking) Permanent ID: Accession Number: 31740409 Author Address: Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, P.O Box […]
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