Original Research

Missed opportunities in child healthcare

Linda Jonker, Ethelwynn L. Stellenberg
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 6, No 1 | a537 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v6i1.537 | © 2014 Linda Jonker, Ethelwynn L. Stellenberg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 November 2013 | Published: 05 August 2014

About the author(s)

Linda Jonker, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Nursing, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Ethelwynn L. Stellenberg, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Nursing, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Background: Various policies in health, such as Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses, were introduced to enhance integrated service delivery in child healthcare. During clinical practice the researcher observed that integrated services may not be rendered.

Objectives: This article describes the experiences of mothers that utilised comprehensive child health services in the Cape Metropolitan area of South Africa. Services included treatment for diseases; preventative interventions such as immunisation; and promotive interventions, such as improvement in nutrition and promotion of breastfeeding.

Method: A qualitative, descriptive phenomenological approach was applied to explore the experiences and perceptions of mothers and/or carers utilising child healthcare services. Thirty percent of the clinics were selected purposively from the total population. A convenience purposive non-probability sampling method was applied to select 17 mothers who met the criteria and gave written consent. Interviews were conducted and recorded digitally using an interview guide. The data analysis was done using Tesch’s eight step model.

Results: Findings of the study indicated varied experiences. Not all mothers received information about the Road to Health book or card. According to the mothers, integrated child healthcare services were not practised. The consequences were missed opportunities in immunisation, provision of vitamin A, absence of growth monitoring, feeding assessment and provision of nutritional advice.

Conclusion: There is a need for simple interventions such as oral rehydration, early recognition and treatment of diseases, immunisation, growth monitoring and appropriate nutrition advice. These services were not offered diligently. Such interventions could contribute to reducing the incidence of child morbidity and mortality.


child health services; missed opportunities


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