Understanding the context of delays in seeking appropriate care for children with symptoms of severe malaria in Uganda.
A large proportion of children with uncomplicated malaria receive appropriate treatment late, contributing to progression of illness to severe disease. We explored contexts of caregiver delays in seeking appropriate care for children with severe malaria.
This qualitative study was conducted at the Children's Ward of Jinja Hospital, where children with severe malaria were hospitalized. A total of 22in-depth interviews were conducted with caregivers of children hospitalized with severe malaria. Issues explored were formulated based on the Partners for Applied Social Sciences (PASS) model, focusing on facilitators and barriersto caregivers'promptseeking and accessing ofappropriate care. The data were coded deductively using ATLAS.ti (version 7.5). Codes were then grouped into families based on emerging themes.
Caregivers' rating of initial symptoms as mild illness lead to delays in response. Use of home initiated interventions with presumably ineffective herbs or medicines was common, leading to further delay. When care was sought outside the home, drug shops were preferred over public health facilities for reasons of convenience. Drug shops often provided sub-optimal care, and thus contributed to delays in access to appropriate care. Public facilities were often a last resort when illness was perceived to be progressing to severe disease. Further delays occurred at health facilities due to inadequate referral systems.
Communities living in endemic areas need to be sensitized about the significance of fever, even if mild, as an indicator of malaria. Additionally, amidst ongoing efforts at bringing antimalarial treatment services closer to communities, the value of drug shops as providers ofrationalantimalarialtreatment needs to be reviewed.