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Malar J. 2017 May 2;16(1):183. doi: 10.1186/s12936-017-1842-8.

Comparison of the capacity between public and private health facilities to manage under-five children with febrile illnesses in Uganda.

Author information

Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health, Makerere University School of Public Health, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Health Policy, Planning and Management, Makerere University School of Public Health, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Pediatrics, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, USA.
Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.
Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, UK.
Centre for Medical Parasitology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ministry of Health, Box 7272, Kampala & School of Public Health-Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.



Public health facilities are usually the first to receive interventions compared to private facilities, yet majority of health seeking care is first done with the latter. This study compared the capacity to manage acute febrile illnesses in children below 5 years in private vs public health facilities in order to design interventions to improve quality of care.


A survey was conducted within 57 geographical areas (parishes), from August to October 2014 in Mukono district, central Uganda. The survey comprised both facility and health worker assessment. Data were collected on drug stocks, availability of treatment guidelines, diagnostic equipment, and knowledge in management of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea, using a structured questionnaire.


A total of 53 public and 241 private health facilities participated in the study. While similar proportions of private and public health facilities stocked Coartem, the first-line anti-malarial drug, (98 vs 95%, p = 0.22), significantly more private than public health facilities stocked quinine (85 vs 53%, p < 0.01). Stocks of obsolete anti-malarial drugs, such as chloroquine, were reported in few public and private facilities (3.7 vs 12.5%, p = 0.06). Stocks of antibiotics-amoxycillin and gentamycin were similar in both sectors (≥90% for amoxicillin; ≥50 for gentamycin). Training in malaria was reported by 65% of public health facilities vs 56% in the private sector, p = 0.25), while, only 21% in the public facility and 12% in the private facilities, p = 0.11, reported receiving training in pneumonia. Only 55% of public facilities had microscopes. Malaria treatment guidelines were significantly lacking in the private sector, p = 0.01. Knowledge about first-line management of uncomplicated malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea was significantly better in the public facilities compared to the private ones, though still sub-optimal.


Deficiencies of equipment, supplies and training exist even in public health facilities. In order to significantly improve the capacity to handle acute febrile illness among children under five, training in proper case management, availability of supplies and diagnostics need to be addressed in both sectors.


Comparison; Diarrhoea; Malaria; Management of febrile children; Pneumonia; Private sector; Public health facilities; Uganda; Under-five children

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