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Free Content Local fever illness classifications: implications for home management of malaria strategies

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Summary Background 

The Ugandan Ministry of Health has adopted the WHO Home Based Fever Management strategy (HBM) to improve access to antimalarial drugs for prompt (<24 h) presumptive treatment of all fevers in children under 5 years. Village volunteers will distribute pre-packed antimalarials free of charge to caretakers of febrile children 2 months to 5 years (‘Homapaks’). Objective 

To explore the local understanding and treatment practices for childhood fever illnesses and discuss implications for the HBM strategy. Methods 

Focus Group Discussions were held with child caretakers in three rural communities in Kasese district, West Uganda, and analysed for content in respect to local illness classifications and associated treatments for childhood fevers. Results 

Local understanding of fever illnesses and associated treatments was complex. Some fever illness classifications were more commonly mentioned, including ‘Fever of Mosquito’, ‘Chest Problem’, ‘the Disease’, ‘Stomach Wounds’ and ‘Jerks’, all of which could be biomedical malaria. Although caretakers refer to all these classifications as ‘fever’ treatment differed; some were seen as requiring urgent professional western treatment and others were considered severe but ‘non-western’ and would preferentially be treated with traditional remedies. Conclusions 

The HBM strategy does not address local community understanding of ‘fever’ and its influence on treatment. While HBM improves drug access, Homapaks are likely to be used for only those fevers where ‘western’ treatment is perceived appropriate, implying continued delayed and under-treatment of potential malaria. Hence, HBM strategies also need to address local perceptions of febrile illness and adapt information and training material accordingly.

Keywords: Uganda; home treatment; illness classification; malaria; paediatric fever

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Division of International Health (IHCAR), Karolinska Institutet, Sweden 2: Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University, Uganda 3: Makerere University Institute of Public Health, Uganda

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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