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Wrong treatments of diarrhoea, pneumonia claiming kids’ lives

Wednesday, 18 February 2015 | PNS | New Delhi

The Government may have been spending crores every year to curb child mortality across the States, but a study published in an international journal has noted that a large number of kids die from diarrhoea and pneumonia in rural India due to wrong treatments provided by medical practitioners.

The researchers came to this disturbing conclusion following a sample study in Bihar where interviews with para-medic staff revealed they had poor level of knowledge about diseases and performed even worse in practice, said the study published online in the latest issue of journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia accounted for 24 per cent of deaths among children one-to-four-year-old, with approximately two million deaths worldwide in 2011. India tops the global list with 318 deaths per 1,000 children under five years of age due to the twin diseases, as per a report.

However, few health care providers in rural India know the correct treatments for the killer diseases  and even when they do, they rarely prescribe them properly, said lead author of the study, Manoj Mohanan, professor at Duke University in the US.

The study was conducted in Bihar involving 340 health care providers who were tested for their diagnosis and treatment methods.  “Eighty per cent in our study had no medical degree. But much of India’s rural population receives care from such untrained providers, and very few studies have been able to rigorously measure the gap between what providers know and what they do in practice,” Mohanan added.

For example, for diarrhoea, 72 per cent of providers reported they would prescribe oral rehydration salts — a life-saving, low-cost and readily available intervention — but only 17 per cent actually did so. Those who did prescribe ORS also added other unnecessary or harmful drugs.

“Our evidence on the gap between knowledge and practice suggests that training alone will be insufficient. We need to understand what incentives cause providers to diverge from proper diagnosis and treatment,” Mohanan added.

Unnecessary antibiotics and harmful drugs are causing much damage among children in rural India, the study said, attributing it to poor levels of medical training and knowledge among healthcare providers.

“Our results show that in order to reduce child mortality, we need new strategies to improve diagnosis and treatment of these key childhood illnesses,” it said. In Bihar, where the study was conducted, infant mortality rate is 42 per 1,000 live births, according to the report.

 
 
 

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