Using oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc for the management of childhood diarrhoea – Learning about what really happens at home.


Using oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc for the management of childhood diarrhoea:           Learning about what really happens at home. 

Katie Greenland and Val Curtis from the Environmental Health Group have recently worked with others to publish an article entitled: Theory-based formative research on oral rehydration salts and zinc use in Lusaka, Zambia. The study, which uses qualitative methods to explores caregiver practices in relation to the home management of diarrhoea was published in BMC Public Health. We spoke to Katie Greenland to understand more about the importance of the paper.

Why is the study important?

UntitledFormative research is increasingly recognised to be a crucial part of intervention development, yet there are few examples of formative research studies available in the literature to guide researchers and programme managers. Interventions based on theory about the drivers of behaviour are more often successful at changing behaviour, so it follows that conducting formative research that is also based on such theory will be more likely to produce useful insights for intervention development. This study provides a useful template for other investigators seeking to conduct formative research to develop an intervention that is grounded in theory.

What are the key findings of the study?

The study investigated caregivers’ practices regarding use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc in the home management of childhood diarrhoea. We found that ORS was not given early enough or for long enough during a diarrhoeal episode, and very few caregivers could prepare ORS correctly. Participants were not familiar with zinc as a treatment for diarrhoea, but it was acceptable to caregivers seeking a way to stop diarrhoea in their child. A number of factors enabling and inhibiting use of ORS and zinc to manage childhood diarrhoea in this population were also identified. This information is useful for intervention design.

What are some of the things you learned personally while conducting the study?

I had never recruited mothers at a clinic before and I was pleasantly surprised at how well this worked as it enabled us to study ORS preparation and use among a sample of mothers who had a child ill with diarrhoea at the time of the study. I was also impressed by the richness of the data  obtained by asking participants to demonstrate how they would prepare ORS – I will always consider the use of demonstrations and video in future formative work.


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