Background: The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness Strategy (IMCI) is effective in improving management of sick children, and thus child survival. It is currently recommended that in-service IMCI case management training (ICMT) occur over 11-days; that the participant: facilitator ratio should be </=4:1 and that at least 30% of ICMT time be spent on clinical practice. In 2006-2007, approximately ten years after IMCI implementation, we conducted a multi-country exploratory questionnaire survey to document country experiences with ICMT, and to determine the acceptability of shortening duration of ICMT.
Methods: Questionnaires (QA) were sent to national IMCI focal persons in 27 purposively-selected countries. To probe further, questionnaires (QB and QC respectively) were also sent to course-directors or facilitators and IMCI trainees, selected using snowball sampling after applying pre-defined criteria, in these countries. Questionnaires gathered quantitative and qualitative data.
Results: Thirty-three QA, 163 QB, 272 QC and two summaries were returned from 24 countries. All countries continued to adapt course content to local disease burden. All countries offer shorter ICMT courses, ranging from 3-10 days (commonest being 5-8 days). The shorter ICMT courses offer fewer exercises, more homework, less individual feedback and reduced clinical practice (<30% time). Whereas changes to course content were usually evidence-based, changes to training methodology and course duration evolved as pressure to expand implementation mounted. Participants varied in their self-reported skill and perception about each course. However, the varied methodology and integrated approach to management of illnesses were commonly cited as strengths of ICMT, and the chart booklet and clinical practice sessions were identified as critical components of ICMT. Four themes emerged from the qualitative work, viz. the current 11-day course is too expensive and should be shortened; advocacy around IMCI should increase; content should be regularly updated, new content areas should be introduced cautiously and more attention should be paid to skills-building rather than knowledge accumulation.
Conclusion: Whilst the 11-day ICMT course is still recommended, as efforts intensify to increase access to quality care and meet MDG4, standardized shorter ICMT courses, that include participatory methodologies and adequate clinical practice, could be acceptable globally.