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A Cohort Study of Morbidity, Mortality and Health Seeking Behavior following Rural Health Center Visits by Children under 12 in Southwestern Uganda
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    Background

    Children discharged from hospitals in developing countries are at high risk of morbidity and mortality. However, few data describe these outcomes among children seen and discharged from rural outpatient centers.

    Objective

    The objective of this exploratory study was to identify predictors of immediate and follow-up morbidity and mortality among children visiting a rural health center in Uganda.

    Methods

    Subjects 0–12 years of age seeking care with a caregiver were consecutively enrolled from a single rural health center in Southwestern Uganda. Baseline variables were collected by research nurses and outcomes of referral, admission or death were recorded (immediate events). Death, hospital admission and health seeking occurring during the 30 days following the clinic visit were also determined (follow-up events). Univariate logistic regression was performed to identify baseline variables associated with immediate outcome and follow-up outcomes.

    Results

    Over the four-month recruitment period 717 subjects were enrolled. There were 85 (11.9%) immediate events (10.1% were admitted, 2.2% were referred, none died). Forty-seven (7.8%) events occurred within 30 days after the visit (7.3% sought care from a health provider, 1.5% were admitted and 0.5% died). Variables associated with immediate events included living more than 30 minutes from the health center, age older than 5 years, having received an antimalarial prior to the visit, having seen a community health worker prior to the visit, elevated respiratory rate or temperature, and depressed weight-for-age z score or decreased oxygen saturation. These variables were not associated with follow-up events.

    Conclusions

    Sick-child visits at a rural health center in South Western Uganda were associated with rates of mortality and subsequent admission of less than 2% in the period following the sick child visits. Other types of health seeking behavior occurred in approximately 7% of subjects during this same period. Several variables were associated with immediate events but there were no reliable predictors of follow-up events, possibly due to low statistical power.