Factors influencing community-facility linkage for case management of possible serious bacterial infection (PSBI) among young infants in Kenya

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Despite evidence showing the feasibility and acceptability of implementing the World Health Organization’s guidelines on managing possible serious bacterial infections (PSBI) in Kenya, the initial implementation revealed sub-optimal community-facility referrals and follow-up of PSBI cases. This study explores facilitators and barriers of community-facility linkages in implementing PSBI guidelines in Busia and Migori counties, Kenya. We used an exploratory qualitative study design drawing on endline evaluation data from the ‘COVID-19: Mitigating Neonatal Mortality’ project collected between June and July 2022. Data include case narratives with caregivers of SYIs 0-59 days old (18), focus group discussions with community health volunteers (CHVs) (6), and in-depth interviews with facility-based providers (18). Data were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis framework. Between August 2021 and July 2022, CHVs assessed 10 187 newborns, with 1176 (12%) identified with PSBI danger signs and referred to the nearest facility, of which 820 (70%) accepted referral. Analysis revealed several factors facilitating community-facility linkage for PSBI treatment, including CHVs’ relationship with community members and facilities, availability of a CHV desk and tools, use of mobile app, training, and supportive supervision. However, challenges such as health system-related factors (inadequate providers, stockout of essential commodities and supplies, and lack of transport/ambulance), and individual-related factors (caregivers’ refusal to take referrals) hindered community-facility linkage. Addressing common barriers and fostering positive relationships between community health workers and facilities can enhance acceptance and access of PSBI services at the community level. Combining community health workers’ efforts with a mobile digital strategy can improve the efficiency of the identification, referral, and tracking of PSBI cases in the community and facilitate linkage with primary healthcare facilities.