Document Type



Pathology (East Africa)


Objective: WHO recommends artemisinin suppository formulations as pre-referral treatment for children who are unable to take oral medication and cannot rapidly reach a facility for parenteral treatment. We investigated factors influencing caretakers’ adherence to referral advice following pre-referral treatment of their children with rectal artesunate suppositories.

Methods: The study was nested within an intervention study that involved pre-referral treatment of all children who came to a community dispenser for treatment because they were unable to take oral medications because of repeated vomiting, lethargy, convulsions or altered consciousness. All patients who did not comply with referral advice were stratified by actions taken post-referral: taking their children to a drug shop, a traditional healer, or not seeking further treatment, and added to a random selection of patients who complied with referral advice. Caretakers of the children were interviewed about their socio-economic status (SES), knowledge about malaria, referral advice given and actions they took following pre-referral treatment. Interview data for 587 caretakers were matched with symptoms of the children, the time of treatment, arrival at a health facility or other actions taken post–pre-referral treatment.

Results: The majority (93.5%) of caretakers reported being given referral advice by the community drug dispenser. The odds of adherence with this advice were three times greater for children with altered consciousness and/or convulsions than for children with other symptoms [odds ratio (OR) 3.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.32–5.17, P < 0.001]. When questioned, caretakers who remembered when (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.48–3.23, P < 0.001) and why (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.07–2.95, P = 0.026) they were advised to proceed to health facility – were more likely to follow referral advice. Cost did not influence adherence except within a catchment area of facilities that charged for services. In these areas, costs deterred adherence by four to five times for those who had previously paid for laboratory services (OR = 0.25, 95% CI: 0.09–0.67, P = 0.006) or consultation (OR 0.20, 95% CI: 0.06–0.61, P = 0.005) compared with those who had not.

Conclusion: When given referral advice, caretakers of patients with life-threatening symptoms adhere to referral advice more readily than other caretakers. Health service charges deter adherence.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Tropical Medicine & International Health

Included in

Pathology Commons