Care Seeking and Treatment of Febrile Children with and without Danger Signs of Severe Disease in Northern Uganda: Results from Three Household Surveys (2018-2020).
Identification, stabilization, and prompt referral of children with signs of severe febrile disease (danger signs) in rural communities are crucial for preventing complications and death from severe malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. We set out to determine the treatment-seeking practices and treatment patterns for children < 5 years of age with an acute febrile illness, with or without danger signs of severe disease, in a highly malaria-endemic area of northern Uganda. Three household surveys were conducted from November through December each year in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Overall, 30% of the children in the study were reported to have had a WHO-classified danger sign including convulsions, unconsciousness/unusually sleepy, inability to feed or drink, and vomiting everything. Only half of the children in this study sought care from a health provider. However, significantly more children with danger signs of severe disease sought and received treatment and diagnostics from a health provider, compared with those without danger signs (adjusted odds ratio: 1.6, 95% confidence interval: 1.2-2.0; P < 0.01). In the total population studied, care seeking in the public sector was 26% and similar to care seeking in the private sector (24%). Community health workers were used as the first source of care by 12% of the children. Approximately 38% of the children who were reported to have danger signs of severe disease requiring prompt referral and treatment did not seek care from a health provider. Understanding and addressing barriers to accessing healthcare could contribute to better treatment seeking practices.