Serious infections account for 25% of global newborn deaths annually, most in low-resource settings where hospital-based treatment is not accessible or feasible. In Bangladesh, one-third of neonatal deaths are attributable to serious infection; in 2014, the government adopted new policy for outpatient management of danger signs indicating possible serious bacterial infections (PSBI) when referral was not possible. We conducted implementation research to understand what it takes for a district health team to implement quality outpatient PSBI management per national guidelines.
PSBI management was introduced as part of the Comprehensive Newborn Care Package in 2015. The study piloted this package through government health systems with limited partner support to inform scale-up efforts. Data collection included facility register reviews for cases seen at primary level facilities; facility readiness and provider knowledge and skills assessments; household surveys capturing caregiver knowledge of newborn danger signs and care-seeking for newborn illness; and follow-up case tracking, capturing treatment adherence and outcomes. Analysis consisted of descriptive statistics.
Over the 15-month implementation period, 1432 young infants received care, of which 649 (45%) were classified as PSBI. Estimated coverage of care-seeking increased from 22% to 42% during the implementation period. Although facility readiness and providers’ skills increased, providers’ adherence to guidelines was not optimal. Among locally managed PSBI cases, 75% completed the oral antibiotic course and 15% received the fourth day follow-up. Care-seeking remained high among private providers (95%), predominantly village health doctors (over 80%).
Facility readiness, including health care provider knowledge and skills were strengthened; future efforts should focus on improving provider adherence to guidelines. Social and behavior change strategies targeting families and communities should explore shifting care-seeking from private, possibly less-qualified providers. Strategies to improve private sector management of PSBI cases and improved linkages between private and public sector providers could be explored.