Young children treated at home for severe pneumonia by Pakistan’s network of “lady health workers” were more likely to get well than children referred to health facilities, according to a new study.
The finding by researchers from Boston University, Save the Children and the WHO could save thousands of children’s lives every year as pneumonia is the leading cause of death of young children around the world.
The researchers found that home-based treatment of severe pneumonia by a corps of trained “lady health workers” in the Haripur district of northern Pakistan, who are armed with five days’ worth of oral amoxicillin, reduces treatment delays and failures compared to standard practice: administering one dose of antibiotics and referring a child to a hospital or clinic for intravenous drugs.
Because of the lack of health care facilities in Pakistan and other developing countries, patients have turned increasingly to community health workers, known as CHWs.
“This really is the capstone in a 10-year portfolio of research by which we were trying to provide a scientific rationale for community case-management of pneumonia,” said study co-author Dr. Donald Thea, a researcher with Boston University’s Centre for Global Health and Development.
He said the study findings are “proof of principal that trained community health workers can identify and manage this very complex disease.”
While the research team led by Dr. Salim Sadruddin of Save the Children had set out to show that home-based treatment was equivalent to the current standard-of-care, they instead found that it produced better outcomes.
“If the children are getting the drugs in the community, they’re getting them quicker,” said Thea, an infectious diseases specialist.
The study has been published online today in The Lancet.