Respiratory disorders are the commonest somatic disorders in childhood in South Africa. Acute respiratory infections are the commonest reason for children to attend primary care facilities and to be admitted to hospital. Asthma affects 1 in 5 children in the country. Both the frequency of these conditions and their severity are aggravated by secondary cigarette smoke in children’s environment (‘passive smoking’). Stimulated by the recent 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health held in Cape Town, Tony Westwood wrote an article for the Cape Times highlighting what people can and must do to reduce the effects of passive smoking on babies and children. He also is the designer and wearer of a T-shirt that gives the message clearly to anyone who will read it.
The Road to Health Book is a powerful tool for promoting young children’s optimal development, empowering parents and families, and enhancing comprehensive care and continuity of care. But it is rarely put to optimum use. Failures to keep an accurate record of treatment or to respond to persistent growth faltering can have fatal consequences.
In response to these challenges, the Advocacy Committee of the School of Child and Adolescent Health has initiated a campaign to put doctors, nurses and children back on the road to health. The pledge campaign will be formally launched at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital at the Department of Paediatrics Clinical Meeting on Wednesday 15 October.
The two-pronged campaign targets both health workers and children’s caregivers. It includes a poster encouraging caregivers to ask about the Road to Health book, and a pledge by doctors and nurses to use the Road to Health book effectively.
The Road to Health book is issued at birth and provides a hand-held patient record that stays with the child’s caregiver. The book provides a means for health workers to record and monitor the child’s growth, development and clinical care including immunisations, Vitamin A supplementation, deworming, PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV), TB and HIV status, and information about the child’s illness, treatment and hospital admissions. It also contains essential health promotion messages.
Health workers should record the child’s treatment and progress every time the child visits a clinic, doctor’s rooms, or hospital. They should also use the Road to Health book to help caregivers make informed decisions so that they are better able to support their child’s health and development.
In addition, the book is designed to enhance continuity of care, but it can only facilitate effective communication between clinicians if clinic, general practitioner, hospital and other visits are well documented.