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Glob Health Action. 2017;10(1):1290317. doi: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1290317.

Barriers to initiating tuberculosis treatment in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review focused on children and youth.

Author information

a School of Nursing , Duke University , Durham , NC , USA.
b Duke Global Health Institute.
c Department of Science and Society , Duke University , Durham , NC , USA.
d School of Medicine , Duke University , Durham , NC , USA.



Tuberculosis (TB) is the deadliest infectious disease globally, with 10.4 million people infected and more than 1.8 million deaths in 2015. TB is a preventable, treatable, and curable disease, yet there are numerous barriers to initiating treatment. These barriers to treatment are exacerbated in low-resource settings and may be compounded by factors related to childhood.


Timely initiation of tuberculosis (TB) treatment is critical to reducing disease transmission and improving patient outcomes. The aim of this paper is to describe patient- and system-level barriers to TB treatment initiation specifically for children and youth in sub-Saharan Africa through systematic review of the literature.


This review was conducted in October 2015 in accordance with preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Six databases were searched to identify studies where primary or secondary objectives were related to barriers to TB treatment initiation and which included children or youth 0-24 years of age.


A total of 1490 manuscripts met screening criteria; 152 met criteria for full-text review and 47 for analysis. Patient-level barriers included limited knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding TB, and economic burdens. System-level barriers included centralization of services, health system delays, and geographical access to healthcare. Of the 47 studies included, 7 evaluated cost, 19 health-seeking behaviors, and 29 health system infrastructure. Only 4 studies primarily assessed pediatric cohorts yet all 47 studies were inclusive of children.


Recognizing and removing barriers to treatment initiation for pediatric TB in sub-Saharan Africa are critical. Both patient- and system-level barriers must be better researched in order to improve patient outcomes.


Access; delay; global health; health systems; pediatrics

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