Closing the reporting gap for childhood tuberculosis in South Africa : improving hospital referrals and linkages

Du Preez, K. ; Schaaf, H. S. ; Dunbar, R. ; Swartz, A. ; Naidoo, P. ; Hesseling, A. C. (2020-03-21)

CITATION: Du Preez, K., et al. 2020. Closing the reporting gap for childhood tuberculosis in South Africa : improving hospital referrals and linkages. Public Health Action, 10(1):38-46. doi:10.5588/pha.19.0053.

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Setting: A referral hospital in Cape Town, Western Cape Province, Republic of South Africa. Objective: To measure the impact of a hospital-based referral service (intervention) to reduce initial loss to follow-up among children with tuberculosis (TB) and ensure the completeness of routine TB surveillance data. Design: A dedicated TB referral service was established in the paediatric wards at Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, in 2012. Allocated personnel provided TB education and counselling, TB referral support and weekly telephonic follow-up after hospital discharge. All children identified with TB were matched to electronic TB treatment registers (ETR.Net/EDRWeb). Multivariable logistic regression was used to compare reporting of culture-confirmed and drug-susceptible TB cases before (2007–2009) and during (2012) the intervention. Results: Successful referral with linkage to care was confirmed in 267/272 (98%) and successful reporting in 227/272 (84%) children. Children with drug-susceptible, culture-confirmed TB were significantly more likely to be reported during the intervention period than in the pre-intervention period (OR 2.52, 95%CI 1.33–4.77). The intervention effect remained consistent in multivariable analysis (adjusted OR 2.62; 95%CI 1.31–5.25) after adjusting for age, sex, human immunodeficiency virus status and the presence of TB meningitis. Conclusions: A simple hospital-based TB referral service can reduce initial loss to follow-up and improve recording and reporting of childhood TB in settings with decentralised TB services.

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