Author(s): Collins S
BACKGROUND: Acute malnutrition is an underlying factor in almost 50% of the 10 to 11 million children under 5 years of age who die each year of preventable causes. Inpatient treatment for severe acute malnutrition is associated with high opportunity and economic costs for affected families and health service providers. Community-based therapeutic care attempts to address these problems and to maximize population-level impact through improving coverage, access, and cost-effectiveness of treatment.
THE COMMUNITY-BASED THERAPEUTIC CARE MODEL: Community-based therapeutic care programs provide effective care to the majority of acutely malnourished people as outpatients, using techniques of community mobilization to engage the affected population and maximize coverage and compliance. People with severe acute malnutrition without medical complications are treated in an outpatient therapeutic program with ready-to-use therapeutic food and routine medication. Those suffering from severe acute malnutrition with medical complications are treated in an inpatient stabilization center according to standard World Health Organization protocols until they are well enough to be transferred to the outpatient therapeutic program.
IMPACT OF COMMUNITY-BASED THERAPEUTIC CARE PROGRAMS: Twenty-one (21) community-based therapeutic care programs were implemented in Malawi, Ethiopia, and North and South Sudan between 2000 and 2005. These programs, which treated 23,511 cases of severe acute malnutrition, achieved recovery rates of 79.4% and mortality rates of 4.1%. Coverage rates were approximately 73%. Of the severely malnourished children who presented, 76% were treated solely as outpatients. Initial data indicate that these programs are affordable, with the cost-effectiveness of emergency community-based therapeutic programs varying from US$12 to US$132 per year of life gained.