Mass child health campaign reaches 40 000 children

Theuns Botha

The Mass Child Health Campaign was launched by the Western Cape Department of Health between April and June 2011 and was later extended to the end of July 2011. The Western Cape is the only province in the country that has conducted a mass Child health Campaign of this nature to date. As of mid-July, the Department has been able to screen just over 40 000 children. 

This campaign focused on early case detection of children who have missed their immunizations, who are malnourished and require deworming and the appropriate intervention. Through this proactive initiative the Department wanted to find these children rather than to wait for the child to present at the healthcare facility with a vaccine preventable illness, malnutrition or worms. The campaign ended on 31 July 2011 and the official data and report will be available after six weeks. 

Parents were informed through a mass public awareness campaign via radio and prints adverts as well as being informed by clinic staff during the period. 

The Department’s Mass Child Health Campaign targeted children aged six years and younger at crèches and day-care mothers with the objective to conduct active case finding in children, screen them for illnesses and intervene where necessary and refer for medical management. Parents were also drawn into the campaign and became actively involved in protecting their children against diseases by providing consent for their children to be immunised at the crèche. 

Health teams, consisting of nurses, community health workers, dieticians, oral hygienists and health promoters visited crèches and day care mothers across the province. Environmental Health Officers assisted in the campaign by inspecting crèches which were identified as high risk and provided the appropriate interventions and advice to providing a safe and hygienic learning environment for the children. 

In districts where clinic staff do not routinely visit these facilities due to their heavy workload, a concerted effort was made to visit as many crèches and day-care mothers as possible during the Campaign. 

The focus of the previous campaign in 2010 was Polio and Measles due to the national Measles outbreak whereas this year’s campaign focused on case finding which included early detection. Children were screened for their nutritional status and dental caries. Records were checked for the child’s immunization status, Vitamin A status, whether their deworming was up to date. The Road to Health Booklets/Cards were used as a screening tool. Teachers and principals at crèches and day care mothers were interviewed regarding outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease and reports of pneumonia.  Children who were found to be at risk were referred to their local primary health clinic for further management. 

Western Cape Health Minister, Theuns Botha, comments: “I want to thank the child health workers across the province who made this achievement possible. They are the hands and feet who put the goals and objectives in practice. It is so important to identify child illnesses at an early stage, because the earlier these illnesses are addressed, the better the child’s chance to enjoy a healthy life.  This is what we mean when we talk about opportunities for all – health services that offer all our citizens the opportunity to be an active member of their immediate community and our province.” 

The following immunisations were available for administration during the campaign: Prevenar, Rotarix, Measles, Pentaxim, Hepatitis B and Diftavax (Td vaccine). Through the screening, the following interventions were identified as being most administered: Vitamin A, Deworming and the measles vaccine. Vitamin A supplementation is an extremely cost-effective intervention that increases survival in under 5 years olds by reducing deaths from diarrhoea and measles. The screening also helped identify approximately 3000 children who were at risk of malnutrition and a large number of the children screened had oral health problems. 

The children’s nutritional status was based on the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MAUC) measurement reference table and helped to identify children with moderate acute malnutrition, severe acute malnutrition or children that were overweight. 

The campaign created an environment where all role players worked towards the same goal: the health of our children, therefore the campaign and its interventions were welcomed. Creche staff members and parents/ caregivers played an integral part in the success of the campaign in allowing healthcare workers access to the children at the crèche during the campaign. 

Parents and carers were given the extra responsibility of helping to protect the health of their children by ensuring that every child has their own Road to Health Booklet/Card. The Road to Health Card/Booklet provides essential medical information and should accompany all children when they visit a clinic/hospital. 

This campaign was directly linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 which is to reduce child mortality rates in the Western Cape. The eight international development goals (MDGs) have been ratified by the United Nations member states to achieve the agreed upon goals by 2015.

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