Home management of childhood diarrhoea in southern Mali-Implications for the introduction of zinc treatment

Amy A. Ellis, Peter Winch, Zana Daou, Kate E. Gilroy, Eric Swedberg

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Diarrhoea remains one of the leading killers of young children. A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that a two-week course of zinc tablets once daily significantly reduces the severity and duration of diarrhoea and mortality in young children (Bhutta et al., 2000. Therapeutic effects of oral zinc in acute and persistent diarrhea in children in developing countries: Pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(6), 1516-1522). Formative research is being conducted in a number of countries to prepare for the large-scale promotion of this new treatment. In-depth and semi-structured interviews with parents, community health workers, and traditional healers were conducted to examine the household management of diarrhoea in the Sikasso region of southern Mali in preparation for the introduction of a short-course of daily zinc for childhood diarrhoea at the community level. Supporting data from a subsequent household survey are also presented. Although nearly all parents knew oral rehydration solution (ORS) could replace lost fluids, its inability to stop diarrhoea caused parents to seek antibiotics from local markets, traditional medicines or anti-malarials to cure the illness. The notion of combining multiple treatments to ensure the greatest therapeutic benefit was prevalent, and modern medicines were often administered simultaneously with traditional therapies. As parents often deem ORS insufficient and judge that an additional treatment should be combined with ORS to cure diarrhoea, the concept of joint therapy of zinc and ORS should be well accepted in the community. Mothers-in-law and fathers, who play a significant role in decisions to seek treatment for sick children, as well as traditional healers, should also be considered when designing new programs to promote zinc. Similarities with formative research conducted for a previous generation of diarrhoea control programmes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-712
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Child health
  • Diarrhoea
  • Ethnomedicine
  • Mali
  • Oral rehydration therapy
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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