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Caregiver knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding childhood diarrhea and dehydration in Kingston, Jamaica

Keywords: Diarrhea , oral rehydration , patient education , infant health , knowledge , attitudes , practices

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Objective. To study the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of caregivers in Kingston, Jamaica, regarding childhood diarrhea and dehydration in order to determine if limited caregiver knowledge about the prevention and treatment of diarrhea and dehydration puts children at increased risk of presenting at the hospital for these concerns. Methods. The study was an observational case-control study conducted between February 1997 and May 1997 at Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston. Convenience sampling was used and data were collected by face-to-face interviews with two groups of caregivers of children under 5 years of age. One group (n = 117) presented with children with acute gastroenteritis, and the other group (n = 98) presented with acute concerns unrelated to gastroenteritis. While 197 of the 215 caregivers interviewed were the mother of a child, there were also 9 guardians, 5 fathers, and 4 grandmothers in the sample. Results. The mean caregiver age, level of education, and socioeconomic status were similar for the two groups. The caregivers in the gastroenteritis group were more likely to present with younger children and to have less convenient access to running water or a refrigerator. Children of caregivers who had never heard of oral rehydration therapy were at increased risk of presenting with gastroenteritis and dehydration (odds ratio [OR], 4.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-11.7), as were children of caregivers with low knowledge scores about the prevention and treatment of diarrhea and dehydration (OR, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.6-8.8). Another independent risk factor was a caregiver's poor sense of self-reliance in managing a child's diarrhea (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.1-4.9). Conclusions. These findings highlight a need to enhance educational efforts that will empower caregivers to protect their children from diarrhea-associated morbidity and mortality.


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