A new campaign has been launched in Cambodia to identify the most effective tools available for diagnosing pneumonia, a condition that represents the country’s single-biggest killer of children under 5 years old.
Led by Malaria Consortium, an NGO, the study has also been launched in Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan, with a field evaluation currently being undertaken.
That evaluation follows an equipment-testing phase, which in Cambodia saw seven devices used by health care professionals in hospitals in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung city.
Pneumonia can be diagnosed by testing breathing rates and blood oxygen levels, but according to Malaria Consortium senior technical officer Emily Dantzer, it is often misdiagnosed as malaria, leading to avoidable deaths.
“Malnutrition, failure to immunise, and environmental factors such as indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels also increase a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia,” she said.
While pneumonia is responsible for up to 30 per cent of deaths in Cambodia of children under 5 years old, many community health workers in remote and impoverished areas lack the equipment or expertise to accurately diagnose it.
The field evaluation sees 25 health workers testing the devices on hundreds of children over a period of three months.
Researchers will focus on the ease with which health workers can use the equipment and the preferences expressed among caregivers of the children tested.