South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Primary health care facility infrastructure and services and the nutritional status of children 0 to 71 months old and their caregivers attending these facilities in four rural districts in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, South Africa

S Schoeman, C.M Smuts, M Faber, M Van Stuijvenberg, A Oelofse, J.A Laubscher, A.J.S Benadé, M.A Dhansay


Objective: To assess primary health care (PHC) facility infrastructure and services, and the nutritional status of 0 to 71-month-old children and their caregivers attending PHC facilities in the Eastern Cape (EC) and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provinces in South Africa. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Rural districts in the EC (OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo) and KZN (Umkhanyakude and Zululand). Subjects: PHC facilities and nurses (EC: n = 20; KZN: n = 20), and 0 to 71-month-old children and their caregivers (EC: n = 994; KZN: n = 992). Methods: Structured interviewer-administered questionnaires and anthropometric survey. Results: Of the 40 PHC facilities, 14 had been built or renovated after 1994. The PHC facilities had access to the following: safe drinking water (EC: 20%; KZN: 25%); electricity (EC: 45%; KZN: 85%); flush toilets (EC: 40%; KZN: 75%); and operational telephones (EC: 20%; KZN: 5%). According to more than 80% of the nurses, problems with basic resources and existing cultural practices influenced the quality of services. Home births were common (EC: 41%; KZN: 25%). Social grants were reported as a main source of income (EC: 33%; KZN: 28%). Few households reported that they had enough food at all times (EC: 15%; KZN: 7%). The reported prevalence of diarrhoea was high (EC: 34%; KZN: 38%). Undernutrition in 0 to younger than 6 month-olds was low; thereafter, however, stunting in children aged 6 to 59 months (EC: 22%; KZN: 24%) and 60 to 71 months (EC: 26%; KZN: 31%) was medium to high. Overweight and obese adults (EC: 49%; KZN: 42%) coexisted. Conclusion: Problems regarding infrastructure, basic resources and services adversely affected PHC service delivery and the well-being of rural people, and therefore need urgent attention.

Keywords: primary health care facilities; nutritional status; children; caregivers’ rural; South Africa

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