Health officials say the government needs to ramp up its child health initiatives to have any chance of meeting its goals for 2007, especially by diagnosing and treating children in rural areas.
The Health Ministry’s all-encompassing strategy for improving the health of Cambodia’s children is called Integrated Management of Childhood Illness.
Child health in Cambodia is measured most starkly in mortality rates for infants under age 1 and children under 5. According to the Ministry of Health’s most recent study, in 2000 these figures were, respectively, 95 and 125 deaths per 1,000 live births, the highest in the region. The ministry hopes to cut the rates to 84 and 111 by 2007.
The integrated management strategy, which has been used in developing countries worldwide, includes ministry partnerships with NGOs, community education and training health workers to recognize and treat minor—but often dangerous—ailments, while knowing when to refer children to more thorough treatment.
Dr Hong Rathmony, vice director of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department, said Tuesday that since the program received funding in 2000, progress has been made, “but we would like to go faster.”
A ministry report said 381 workers are trained in the integrated strategy, spread over 11 of the nation’s 74 operational districts. An important step, Hong Rathmony said, would be making the strategy part of every health worker’s training. Currently, workers must travel to one of several training centers for an 11-day course.
Because of the relatively narrow implementation of the project and little data gathered since it began, Cambodia is relying on data from other countries for proof that it works, Hong Rathmony said.
According to an August presentation given in Manila by Dr Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Disease Control Department, Cambodia has had some success sending workers trained in the strategy into the provinces. But the program has suffered from “limited government budget,” and since the responsibility for childhood health is “not clearly assigned at peripheral level,” there is “little accountability.”