Defining barriers in caring for seriously-ill children in a resource-limited setting: An observational study of 2 children's hospitals in Haiti

Heather Chandler, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. According to the WHO 2007 country report, Haiti lags behind the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality and maintains the highest under-5 mortality rate in the Western hemisphere. 3 Overall, few studies exist that seek to better grasp barriers in caring for a seriously ill child in a resource-limited setting and only a handful propose sustainable, effective interventions. Objectives. The objectives of this study are to describe the prevalence of serious illnesses among children hospitalized at 2 children's hospitals in Port au Prince, to determine the barriers faced when caring for seriously ill children, and to report hospital outcomes of children admitted with serious illnesses. Methods. Data were gathered from 2 major children's hospitals in Port au Prince, Haiti (Grace Children's Hospital [GCH] and Hopital d l'Universite d'Etat d'Haiti [HUEH]) using a triangulated approach of focus group discussions, physician questionnaires, and retrospective chart review. 23 pediatric physicians participated in focus group discussions and completed a self-administered questionnaire evaluating healthcare provider knowledge, self-efficacy, and perceived barriers relating to the care of seriously ill children in a resource-limited setting. A sample of 240 patient charts meeting eligibility criteria was abstracted for pertinent elements including sociodemographics, documentation, treatment strategies, and outcomes. Factors associated with mortality were analyzed using χ2 test and Fisher exact test [Minitab v.15]. Results. The most common primary diagnoses at admission were gastroenteritis with moderate dehydration (35.5%), severe malnutrition (25.8%), and pneumonia (19.3%) for GCH, and severe malnutrition (32.6%), sepsis (24.7%), and severe respiratory distress (18%) for HUEH. Overall, 12.9% and 27% of seriously ill patients presented with shock to GCH and HUEH, respectively. Shortage of necessary materials and equipment represented the most commonly reported limitation (18/23 respondents). According to chart data, 9.4% of children presenting with shock did not receive a fluid bolus, and only 8% of patients presenting with altered mental status or seizures received a glucose check. 65% of patients with meningitis did not receive a lumbar puncture due to lack of materials. Hospital mortality rates did not differ by gender or by institution. Children who died were more likely to have a history of prematurity (OR 4.97 [95% CI 1.32-18.80]), an incomplete vaccination record (OR 4.05 [95% CI 1.68-9.74]), or a weight for age ≤3rd percentile (OR 6.1 [95% CI 2.49-14.93]. Case-fatality rates were significantly higher among those who presented with signs of shock compared with those who did not (23.1% vs. 10.7%, RR=2.16, p=0.03). Caregivers did not achieve shock reversal in 21% of patients and did not document shock reversal in 50% of patients. Conclusions. Many challenges face those who seek to optimize care for seriously ill children in resource-limited settings. Specifically, in Haiti, qualitative and quantitative data suggest major issues with lack of supplies, pre-hospital factors, including malnutrition as a comorbidity, and early recognition and management of shock. A tailored intervention designed to address these issues is needed in order to prospectively evaluate improvements in child mortality in a high-risk population.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Chandler, Heather, "Defining barriers in caring for seriously-ill children in a resource-limited setting: An observational study of 2 children's hospitals in Haiti" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1457534.