Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Challenges to improving case management of childhood pneumonia at health facilities in resource-limited settings

Stephen M Graham, Mike English, Tabish Hazir, Penny Enarson, Trevor Duke

Effective case management is an important strategy to reduce pneumonia-related morbidity and mortality in children. Guidelines based on sound evidence are available but are used variably. This review outlines current guidelines for childhood pneumonia management in the setting where most child pneumonia deaths occur and identifies challenges for improved management in a variety of settings and different “at-risk” groups. These include appropriate choice of antibiotic, clinical overlap with other conditions, prompt and appropriate referral for inpatient care, and management of treatment failure. Management of neonates, and of HIV-infected or severely malnourished children is more complicated. The influence of co-morbidities on pneumonia outcome means that pneumonia case management must be integrated within strategies to improve overall paediatric care. The greatest potential for reducing pneumonia-related deaths in health facilities is wider implementation of the current guidelines built around a few core activities: training, antibiotics and oxygen. This requires investment in human resources and in equipment for the optimal management of hypoxaemia. It is important to provide data from a variety of epidemiological settings for formal cost-effectiveness analyses. Improvements in the quality of case management of pneumonia can be a vehicle for overall improvements in child health-care practices.

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