First things first: effectiveness and scalability of a basic prehospital trauma care program for lay first-responders in Kampala, Uganda

PLoS One. 2009 Sep 11;4(9):e6955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006955.


Background: We previously showed that in the absence of a formal emergency system, lay people face a heavy burden of injuries in Kampala, Uganda, and we demonstrated the feasibility of a basic prehospital trauma course for lay people. This study tests the effectiveness of this course and estimates the costs and cost-effectiveness of scaling up this training.

Methods and findings: For six months, we prospectively followed 307 trainees (police, taxi drivers, and community leaders) who completed a one-day basic prehospital trauma care program in 2008. Cross-sectional surveys and fund of knowledge tests were used to measure their frequency of skill and supply use, reasons for not providing aid, perceived utility of the course and kit, confidence in using skills, and knowledge of first-aid. We then estimated the cost-effectiveness of scaling up the program. At six months, 188 (62%) of the trainees were followed up. Their knowledge retention remained high or increased. The mean correct score on a basic fund of knowledge test was 92%, up from 86% after initial training (n = 146 pairs, p = 0.0016). 97% of participants had used at least one skill from the course: most commonly haemorrhage control, recovery position and lifting/moving and 96% had used at least one first-aid item. Lack of knowledge was less of a barrier and trainees were significantly more confident in providing first-aid. Based on cost estimates from the World Health Organization, local injury data, and modelling from previous studies, the projected cost of scaling up this program was $0.12 per capita or $25-75 per life year saved. Key limitations of the study include small sample size, possible reporter bias, preliminary local validation of study instruments, and an indirect estimate of mortality reduction.

Conclusions: Lay first-responders effectively retained knowledge on prehospital trauma care and confidently used their first-aid skills and supplies for at least six months. The costs of scaling up this intervention to cover Kampala are very modest. This may be a cost-effective first step toward developing formal emergency services in Uganda other resource-constrained settings. Further research is needed in this critical area of trauma care in low-income countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Community Health Workers / economics
  • Community Health Workers / education*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Curriculum
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • First Aid / economics*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / organization & administration*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Transportation of Patients / organization & administration*
  • Uganda
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*