- The strategy of engaging family and community members to help deliver drugs and administer treatment, instead of patients visiting a clinic, has been found most effective, a study have shown.
According to a study conducted in three countries of Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda, the effectiveness of Community-directed Drug Intervention (CDI) as a strategy to fight river blindness, later pairing it with treatments against malaria, tuberculosis and micronutrient deficiencies has also proven effective.
“Community-administered healthcare has proven effective and successful in combating a range of illnesses including river blindness and malaria as well as micronutrient deficiencies,” says the study conducted over two million people in three African countries.
The study indicated that community dispensing of drugs, such vitamin A supplement and insecticide-treated mosquito nets was compared with conventional delivery strategies over a period of three years.
Researchers found that the number of feverish children receiving the right anti-malarial treatment doubled, exceeding 60 per cent target set by the Roll Back Malaria campaign. The use of insecticide-treated bed-nets also doubled.
In addition, Vitamin A supplementation coverage was also significantly higher in districts using CDI compared with those that did not. But community-directed interventions for tuberculosis proved only as effective as treatment from clinics.
Samuel Wanji, a researcher at University of Buéa who conducted part of the southwest Cameroon study, says the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control, linked to WHO and with 19 health ministers on the board, has given the go-ahead to extend use of CDI for river blindness in countries that have lower, but still significant, levels of the disease.
The expanded program will investigate whether CDI works as well in places where disease infection is less intense, and is scheduled to begin before end of the year. Dispensing of other medications will be added as the program progresses.
"The study's approach is very useful for increasing access to health and will reduce the burden on health facilities," says Hans Remme of the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Disease.
WHO report added that the only drawback was shortage of drugs and other materials.
However, researchers say restrictive health department policies on who can administer medications should be altered so that other illnesses can be tackled in a similar fashion.
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