Are children with tuberculosis in Pakistan managed according to National programme policy guidelines? A study from 3 districts in Punjab
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Background: The adherence to policies of National TB Control Programme (NTP) to manage a case of tuberculosis (TB) is a fundamental step to have a successful programme in any country. Childhood TB services faces an unmet challenge of case management due to difficulty with diagnosis and relatively new policies. For control of childhood TB in Pakistan, NTP developed and piloted its guidelines in 2006-2007. The objective of this study was to compare the documented case management practices of pediatricians and its impact on the outcome before and after introducing NTP policy guidelines.
Findings: An audit of case management practices of a historical cohort study was done in children below 15 years who were put on anti-tuberculosis treatment at all nine public hospitals in three districts in province of Punjab. The study period was two years pre-intervention (2004-05) and two years post-intervention (2006-07) after implementation of new NTP policy guidelines for childhood TB. There were 920 childhood TB cases registered during four years, 189 in pre-intervention period and 731 in post-intervention period. The practices changed significantly in post-intervention period for use of tuberculin skin test (63% of pulmonary cases, 19% of extrapulmonary cases and 67% for site unknown), and for the use of chest x-ray (69% of pulmonary cases, 16% of extrapulmonary cases and 74% for site unknown). Diagnostic scores were recorded for only a minority of cases (18%). The proportion of correct drugs pre- and post-intervention remained same. There were unknown treatment outcomes in 38 out of 141 cases (27%) in pre-intervention and in 483 out of 551 cases (87%) post-intervention, all among the 692 cases without documented treatment supporter.
Conclusions: The study has shown that pediatricians have started following parts of the national policy guidelines for management of childhood TB. The documented use of diagnostic tools is increased but record keeping of case management practices remained inadequate. This seems to increase case finding substantially but the treatment outcomes were poor mainly due to unknown outcomes. Development and implementation of standardized operational tools and regular monitoring system may improve the services.