Background: We report the preliminary findings from a continuing cluster randomised evaluation of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy in Bangladesh.
Methods: 20 first-level outpatient facilities in the Matlab sub-district and their catchment areas were randomised to either IMCI or standard care. Surveys were done in households and in health facilities at baseline and were repeated about 2 years after implementation. Data on use of health facilities were recorded. IMCI implementation included health worker training, health systems support, and community level activities guided by formative research.
Findings: 94% of health workers in the intervention facilities were trained in IMCI. Health systems supports were generally available, but implementation of the community activities was slow. The mean index of correct treatment for sick children was 54 in IMCI facilities compared with 9 in comparison facilities (range 0-100). Use of the IMCI facilities increased from 0.6 visits per child per year at baseline to 1.9 visits per child per year about 21 months after IMCI introduction. 19% of sick children in the IMCI area were taken to a health worker compared with 9% in the non-IMCI area.
Interpretation: 2 years into the assessment, the results show improvements in the quality of care in health facilities, increases in use of facilities, and gains in the proportion of sick children taken to an appropriate health care provider. These findings are being used to strengthen child health care nationwide. They suggest that low levels of use of health facilities could be improved by investing in quality of care and health systems support.