From research to national expansion: 20 years’ experience of community-based management of childhood pneumonia in Nepal
P Dawson, YV Pradhan, R Houston, S Karki, D Poudel, S Hodgins
Pneumonia is a leading cause of mortality of children aged under five in Nepal. Research conducted by John Snow Inc. in the 1980s determined that pneumonia case management by community-based workers decreased under-five mortality by 28%.
Female community health volunteers were selected as the national cadre to manage childhood pneumonia at community level using oral antibiotics. A technical working group composed of government officials, local experts and donor partners embarked on a process to develop a strategy to pilot the approach and expand it nationally.
High under-five mortality rates, low access to peripheral health facilities and severe constraints in human resources led Nepal’s Ministry of Health to test this innovative approach.
Community-based management of pneumonia doubled the total number of cases treated compared with districts with facility-based treatment only. Over half of the cases were treated by the female community health volunteers. The programme was phased in over 14 years and now 69% of Nepal’s under-five population has access to pneumonia treatment.
Community-based management of pneumonia provides a medium-term solution to address a leading cause of child mortality while the efforts continue to strengthen and extend the reach of facility-based care. Trained community health workers can significantly increase the number of pneumonia cases receiving correct case management in resource-constrained settings, with appropriate health systems’ support for logistics, supervision and monitoring. Community-based management of pneumonia can be scaled up and provides an effective approach to reducing child deaths in countries faced with insufficient human resources for health.