Background: Child Health Days have been implemented since the early 2000s in a number of sub-Saharan African countries with support from UNICEF and other development partners with the aim to reduce child morbidity and mortality.
Objective: To estimate the effect of Child Health Days on preventive public health intervention coverage, and possible trade-offs of Child Health Days with facility-based health systems coverage, in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods: Data were assembled and analyzed from population-based sample surveys and administrative records and from local government sources, from six countries. Field observations (published elsewhere) provided context.
Results: Child Health Days contributed to improving measles immunization coverage by about 10 percentage points and, importantly, provided an opportunity for a second dose. Child Health Days achieved high coverage of vitamin A supplementation and deworming, and improved access to insecticide-treated nets. Reported measles cases declined to near zero by 2003-5--a result of the combined efforts of routine immunizations and supplementary immunization activities, often integrated with Child Health Days. Collectively these activities were successful in reaching and sustaining a high enough proportion of the child population to achieve herd immunity and prevent measles transmission.
Conclusions: Additional efforts and resources are needed to continue pushing coverage up, particularly for measles immunization, in rural/hard-to-reach areas, amongst younger children, and less educated/poorer groups. In countries with low routine immunization coverage, Child Health Days are still needed.