Where Do Caregivers Take Their Sick Children for Care? An Analysis of Care Seeking and Equity in 24 USAID Priority Countries
Original article published in Global Health: Science and Practice Vol. 8, No. 3 October 01, 2020.
Pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria are leading causes of under-5 mortality. Accelerated reductions in illness burden are needed to meet childhood Sustainable Development Goals. Understand-ing where parents take sick children for care is key to improving equitable, high-quality treatment for these childhood illnesses and catalyzing reductions in morbidity and mortality. We analyzed the most recent Demographic and Health Survey data in 24 of the United States Agency for International Development’s maternal and child health priority countries to examine levels and sources of care for children sick with 3 illness classifications: symptoms of acute respiratory infection, diarrhea, or fever. On average, across countries analyzed, one-third of children had recent experience with at least 1 of the 3 classifications. The majority (68.2%) of caregivers sought external advice or treatment for their sick children, though the level is far higher for the wealthiest (74.3%) than poorest (63.1%) families. Among those who sought out-of-home care, 51.1% used public sources and 42.5% used private-sector sources. Although sources for sick child care varied substantially by region and country, they were consistent across the 3 illness classifications. Urban and wealthier families reported more use of private sources compared with rural and poorer families. Though 35.2% of the poorest families used private sources, most of these (57.2%) were retail outlets like pharmacies and shops, while most wealthier families who sought care in the private sector went to health facilities (62.4%). Efforts to strengthen the quality of integrated management of sick child care must therefore reach both public and private facilities as well as private pharmacies, shops, and other retail outlets. Stakeholders across sectors must collaborate to reach all population groups with high-quality child health services and reduce disparities in care-seeking behaviors. Such cross-sectoral efforts will build clinical and institutional capacity and more efficiently allocate resources, ultimately resulting in stronger, more resilient health systems.
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