Severe malarial anaemia is one of the leading causes of paediatric hospital admissions in Malawi. Post-discharge malaria chemoprevention (PMC) is the intermittent administration of full treatment courses of antimalarial to children recovering from severe anaemia and findings suggest that this intervention significantly reduces readmissions and deaths in these children. Community delivery of health interventions utilizing community health workers (CHWs) has been successful in some programmes and not very positive in others. In Malawi, there is an on-going cluster randomised trial that aims to find the optimum strategy for delivery of dihydroartemesinin-piperaquine (DHP) for PMC in children with severe anaemia. Our qualitative study aimed to explore the feasibility of utilizing CHWs also known as health surveillance assistants (HSAs) to remind caregivers to administer PMC medication in the existing Malawian health system.
Between December 2016 and March 2018, 20 individual in-depth-interviews (IDIs) and 2 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 39 HSAs who had the responsibility of conducting home visits to remind caregivers of children who were prescribed PMC medication in the trial. All interviews were conducted in the local language, transcribed verbatim, and translated into English. The transcripts were uploaded to NVIVO 11 and analysed using the thematic framework analysis method.
Although intrinsic motivation was reportedly high, adherence to the required number of home visits was very poor with only 10 HSAs reporting full adherence. Positive factors for adherence were the knowledge and perception of the effectiveness of PMC and the recognition from the community as well as health system. Poor training, lack of supervision, high workload, as well as technical and structural difficulties; were reported barriers to adherence by the HSAs.
Post-discharge malaria chemoprevention with DHP is perceived as a positive approach to manage children recovering from severe anaemia by HSAs in Malawi. However, adherence to home visit reminders was very poor and the involvement of HSAs in a scale up of this intervention may pose a challenge in the existing Malawian health system.