Friday, January 28, 2011

Engaging unqualified rural healthcare practitioners effectively in polio surveillance activities – experience from India

"We will eradicate polio soon. We will make this world safe for our children"

Objective: The intervention was targeted to improve Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance in Purnia district of Bihar India as part of polio eradication initiative.

Background: Poor villagers of Purnia, due to lack of public health services in rural areas, visited mostly local unqualified practitioners. The district polio surveillance field office found it challenging to receive timely AFP case reports from rural areas due to defunct public health system. Late or no reporting was common. As a result, Purnia showed poor AFP and stool collection rates among AFP cases with increasing ‘polio compatible’ cases, indicating inadequate surveillance in 2002-03. This abstract shares experiences of improving AFP surveillance through active participation of rural, grass root level practitioners.

Methods: Popular rural practitioners were mapped through tracking histories of AFP, and compatible cases, interviewing immunization teams, PHC staffs, parents of AFP cases, villagers. About 100 rural practitioners were identified across Purnia who were reported treating paralysis cases.  Once identified, they were trained on basics of AFP identification, significance and reporting. Detailed contact particulars were provided to them for timely reporting.  Training absentees were sensitized in their clinics. Prioritized practitioners were repeatedly visited, rest regularly contacted telephonically, for constant motivation. AFP posters were pasted inside their clinics. A mail box was kept outside polio field office to enable people drop AFP reports during closing hours. Small incentives were paid for AFP case reporting.

Results: In 2004, timely reporting from remote areas, improvement in AFP and stool rates with decreasing compatible cases was observed. Rural practitioners reported 2 confirmed polio cases.

Conclusion: Where public health system is weak, alternative system run by unqualified rural practitioners can be effectively utilized to improve sensitivity of AFP surveillance.

Implication: The learning of Purnia and adjoining districts was replicated across Bihar to enhance efforts of AFP surveillance and polio eradication in subsequent years.

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