South African Family Practice

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Child deaths at National District Hospital, Free State: one a month is better than one a week

H Brits


Background: The United Nations set a two-thirds reduction in child mortality between 1990 and 2015 in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000. The National Department of Health (NDoH) introduced strategies to achieve these MDGs, which included new vaccines, better HIV care and training of healthcare workers. This study investigated whether the strategies implemented by the NDoH decreased child mortality (MDG 4) at National District Hospital (NDH).
Method: A retrospective file review was done on all children that died in NDH from 2008 to 2015. Data were collected from patient files and ChildPIP data forms. Deaths before and after the implementation of the strategies were compared.
Results: A total of 209 children died during the study period. The mortality rate decreased from 47 per thousand admissions and stabilised at 15 per thousand admissions for the past five years. Deaths due to acute gastroenteritis decreased from 67% of the total to less than 40%. Pneumonia as the main cause of death decreased from 44 during the 2008–2010 period to 19 during the 2011–2015 period. More than 90% of the children who died were malnourished. There was no statistically significant improvement in the malnutrition rates during the study periods (p = 0.85).
Conclusion: Child deaths decreased from one a week to one a month at NDH. Strategies to meet the MDG 4 targets, like the introduction of the Rotavirus and Pneumococcal vaccine, the scale-up of anti-retroviral treatment and Prevention of Mother to Child transmission of HIV and better Integrated Management of Childhood Illness training all contributed to the better outcome.

Keywords: child deaths, gastroenteritis, health strategies, HIV, malnutrition, Millennium Development Goal 4
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