Data from: Reasons for low uptake of referrals to ear and hearing services for children in Malawi
Bright, Tess et al. (2018), Data from: Reasons for low uptake of referrals to ear and hearing services for children in Malawi, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hc8k0
Background: Early detection and appropriate intervention for children with hearing impairment is important for maximizing functioning and quality of life. The lack of ear and hearing services in low income countries is a significant challenge, however, evidence suggests that even where such services are available, and children are referred to them, uptake is low. The aim of this study was to assess uptake of and barriers to referrals to ear and hearing services for children in Thyolo District, Malawi. Methods: This was a mixed methods study. A survey was conducted with 170 caregivers of children who were referred for ear and hearing services during community-based screening camps to assess whether they had attended their referral and reasons for non-attendance. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 caregivers of children who did not take up their referral to explore in-depth the reasons for non-uptake. In addition, 15 stakeholders were interviewed. Thematic analysis of the interview data was conducted and emerging trends were analysed. Results: Referral uptake was very low with only 5 out of 150 (3%) children attending. Seven main interacting themes for non-uptake of referral were identified in the semi-structured interviews: location of the hospital, lack of transport, other indirect costs of seeking care, fear and uncertainty about the referral hospital, procedural problems within the camps, awareness and understanding of hearing loss, and lack of visibility and availability of services. Conclusion: This study has highlighted a range of interacting challenges faced by families in accessing ear and hearing services in this setting. Understanding these context specific barriers to non-uptake of ear and hearing services is important for designing appropriate interventions to increase uptake.