Post-hospital discharge mortality is high among undernourished children in many low and middle-income countries. Although a number of quantitative studies have highlighted a range of potential socio-cultural, economic and health system factors influencing paediatric post-discharge treatment-seeking and recovery, few studies have explored family and provider perspectives of the post-discharge period in-depth.
This work was part of a large, multi-country prospective cohort study, the Childhood Acute Illness and Nutrition (CHAIN) Network. We conducted a qualitative sub-study to understand the post-discharge treatment-seeking and recovery experiences of families of undernourished children aged 2–23 months admitted in a rural and urban icddr,b (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh) hospital. Methods included repeat in-depth interviews (73 interviews in total) with 29 family members of 17 purposively selected children. These data were supplemented by interviews with 33 health workers, and by observations in hospitals and homes.
Important drivers of treatment-seeking perceived to support recovery included advice provided to family members while in hospital, media campaigns on hygiene practice, availability of free treatment, and social and financial support from family members, relatives and neighbours. Key perceived challenges included low household incomes, mothers having to juggle multiple responsibilities in addition to caring for the sick child, lack of support (sometimes violence) from the child’s father, and family members’ preference for relatively accessible drug shops, physicians or healers over hospital admission.
Development of interventions that address the challenges that families face is essential to support post-discharge adherence to medical advice and recovery. Potential interventions include strengthening information giving during hospitalization on what post-discharge care is needed and why, reducing direct and indirect costs associated with hospital visits, engaging fathers and other ‘significant others’ in post-discharge advice, and building mobile phone-based support for follow-up care.