Caregivers’ experiences in accessing health care services for their school-going children in low resource communities of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Aloro, Bukola Gbotemi.
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Background: Accessing quality health care services is critical to addressing the different health challenges school-going children especially those in the low resource communities are prone to. The school-based health care services provided through the integrated school health policy (ISHP) have been expanded since 2012 to meet the various health needs of school-going children. However, caregivers still encounter certain challenges in their effort to access health care services for their school-going children. This study therefore explored caregivers’ experiences in accessing health care services for their school-going children. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 17 caregivers of school-going children in three low resource communities of KwaZulu-Natal province. Four of the participants were caregivers’ of children who were treated onsite (in school), nine of the participants were caregivers of children who were referred for further treatment and have accessed health care services and the remaining four participants were caregivers of children who are yet to access health care services. Results: The study shows that the school health programme enhances access to quality health care services for school-going children in low resource communities. Access is enhanced by the provision of school-based health services such as screening the children for various health conditions, immunization and treatment for minor ailments and referral of children in need of more comprehensive health care services to the appropriate health care sites. Despite the fact that the school-based health care services enhance access to health care for school-going children, the study reveals that certain factors constitute barriers to access. Factors such as caregivers’ low health literacy, inadequate communication, financial constraints, distance and transportation to the referral sites, still impedes access. Inadequate health information dissemination system and transportation to the referral sites are the major issues of concern. The long waiting time due to long queues and the unwelcoming attitudes of some of the health professionals at the health facilities also constitute major barriers to access. Conclusion: Although ISHP has expanded its coverage and the range of services provided, the study suggests that effort should be made to implement interventions that will adequately address these barriers to access. Especially, in the areas of communicating with caregivers, providing financial support for transportation, improving the attitude of the clinic staff and providing follow-up services for children that are referred for further screening and treatment from school.