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S Afr Med J. 2004 Mar;94(3):198-202.

Saving children--an audit system to assess under-5 health care.

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North West Department of Health, Central Region, Mafikeng.



To develop and pilot an audit system usable by medical officers in peripheral hospitals for deaths of children under 5 years to: (i) identify and classify all causes of deaths; and (ii) to identify substandard care and missed opportunities for intervention and to classify these as modifiable factors.


The four public sector hospitals in Mafikeng health region in North West province.


An action research methodology was used. The system for classifying under-5 deaths was based on the International Classification of Diseases 10 (ICD-10), but modified for practical application in peripheral hospitals. Each death was analysed at a mortality meeting and factors related to the family, administration or actions or omissions by health care workers that could have contributed to the death were recorded. These factors were later grouped and categorised. During the last month of the pilot participating health care workers evaluated the audit system and completed a semi-structured questionnaire.


1 November 2000-31 October 2001.


Two hundred and thirty-nine under-5 deaths occurred and were discussed during 61 mortality meetings. A workable system to identify and classify causes of deaths and modifiable factors occurring within the health system was developed and tested. A simple, user-friendly one-page data sheet encompassing the whole audit was developed. Overall the health care workers were positive about the mortality meetings and were confident that the classification systems developed could be applied in other peripheral hospitals.


The audit system (called the Under-5 Health Care Problem Identification Programme (U5PIP)), was piloted under normal service conditions and is usable and acceptable for peripheral hospitals.

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