Caring for Sick Children in the Community
An open-access training that builds CHWs’ skills in identifying signs of common childhood illnesses, caring for sick children at home, and referring families to health facilities when needed.
Children between two months and five years of age die mainly from illnesses that can often be treated or prevented. According to UNICEF, pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria were responsible for approximately 30% of global deaths among children under age five in 2019.
Trained community health workers (CHWs) can help identify the early signs of common childhood illnesses and take action to prevent serious illness progression and death.
We developed this course with Lwala Community Alliance, One to One Africa, Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Trust, and an advisory group of CHWs. These resources are freely available for use by the global community and can complement standard training and provide additional guidance on key topics.
Newly available: Course materials will be released on an ongoing basis, beginning with the course introduction and first modules on “Your Role in Caring for Sick Children” and “Cough”. Accessing training content through the Digital Medic mobile app is recommended in settings with limited data and internet connectivity.
About the Project
However, with the help and guidance of a trained CHW, the outcome may be different. Skilled CHWs can identify the early signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses. They can then help families and caregivers treat mild symptoms at home, decide on the best course of action for moderate symptoms, or refer the child to a health facility if the signs are severe. In doing this, CHWs can save lives and create resource utilization efficiencies, preserving facility-based care for those most in need.
Our collaborator organizations and CHW advisors highlighted a need for accessible education to improve CHWs’ confidence around common childhood illnesses and, ultimately, child health outcomes.
Discussions with collaborators at Lwala, One to One, and Philani informed our understanding of priority topics as well as the characteristics and learning needs of our target audiences. We also conducted a comprehensive content analysis to identify gaps in the available training resources and held focus group discussions with CHWs to gain their insights and feedback. Though the training has been developed with Kenyan and South African CHWs in mind, it can be used broadly in various contexts.
The content for this course was sourced from collaborating organizations and is aligned with best practices outlined by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, as well as the Ministries of Health of Kenya and South Africa.
Organizations that support CHWs may share the training content in meetings, as part of broader CHW training, through mobile messaging platforms like WhatsApp or delivery tools like CommCare, and more.
This training is free and openly accessible under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). You are able to freely share the content, without modifying it. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about licensing and sharing content.
• Identify the signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses, determine whether they are mild, moderate, or severe, and take action accordingly.
• Advise caregivers on how to treat and monitor a child with mild symptoms at home.
• Decide on the best next steps for moderate illness.
• Recognize when to refer a child to a health facility and how to support a family through this process.
• Work together with families toward achieving the shared goal of keeping their children healthy.
Ultimately, this knowledge will:
• Prevent unnecessary referrals, freeing health facilities to deal with priority cases.
• Save families the expense and extensive arrangements of going to a health facility if it is not necessary.
• Support prompt referral for those children who need a higher level of care.
Animated characters Sarah and John are knowledgeable and experienced CHWs and serve as narrators in the training videos. These characters guide learners through the content and bring the concepts to life through compelling stories and demonstrations.
CHWs can access these resources anytime on their preferred device, online or offline.
Caring for Sick Children in the Community
As a community health worker, you can help save children’s lives in your community. Join Sarah and John as they show you how to care for sick children in your community and keep them healthy.
Module 0: Your Role in Caring for Sick Children
001 Your Role in Caring for Sick Children
As a community health worker, you play an important role in caring for sick children in your community and supporting families until their children are well again. This video will provide you with an overview of what these tasks involve.
002 Assess a Sick Child: Ask, Look and Listen
Learn how to ask the caregiver questions to identify the child’s symptoms, and look and listen to the child to identify any signs of illness. The video will also cover the danger signs to look out for and what to do if you see any.
003 Act: Decide on the Next Steps
After you have completed your assessment of the sick child, you will be able to decide whether the signs and symptoms indicate a mild, moderate or severe illness. This video will show you how to refer a child to a health facility or help the family care for the child at home.
004 Follow Up on a Sick Child
A child’s illness can change quickly so follow up with the child until they are better. Explore how to do this whether the child is being treated at home or has been referred.
005 Communication Skills to Work with Families to Keep their Children Healthy
It is helpful to work together with the child’s family to achieve the shared goal of keeping their child healthy and well. This video will explain how to do this through building trust, having open conversations, and being mindful of a family’s concerns.
Module 1: Cough
101 How to Assess a Child with a Cough
A cough is a common symptom in sick children and there are many causes. To decide if the cough is a sign of a mild, moderate or severe illness, it is important to ask the caregiver a few questions and examine the child. This video will explain how to do this for a child between 2 months and 5 years of age.
102 How to Identify Fast Breathing
Recognizing fast breathing is a critical skill that helps community health workers identify a moderate respiratory (or breathing) illness. This video demonstrates how to identify fast breathing in a child between 2 months and 5 years of age.
103 How to Identify Chest Indrawing
Recognizing chest indrawing is a critical skill that helps community health workers identify a severe respiratory (or breathing) illness. This video demonstrates how to identify chest indrawing in a child between 2 months and 5 years of age.
104 How to Identify Difficulty Breathing
Recognizing if a child is struggling to breathe is a critical skill that can save a child’s life. This video demonstrates how to identify respiratory (or breathing) signs and symptoms that indicate severe illness in a child between 2 months and 5 years of age.
105 How to Care for a Child with a Cough
After you have gathered enough information about the child’s symptoms from their caregiver and examined them for signs, you can decide on the next steps. This video reviews what to do to care for a child with a cough who is between 2 months and 5 years of age.
Module 2: Fever
201 How to Assess a Child with a Fever
A fever is a sign that a child has an illness that may need treatment or closer monitoring. In this video, you will learn how to assess a child between 2 months and 5 years of age to find out if the fever is a sign of a mild, moderate or severe illness.
202 How to Identify Hypothermia
A very low body temperature or hypothermia is a danger sign in young children. Learn how to identify hypothermia in a child between 2 months and 5 years of age and what to do next.
203 How to Care for a Child with a Fever
After you have gathered information about the child’s symptoms from their caregiver and examined the child for signs of illness, you can decide on the next steps. This video reviews what to do to care for a child with a fever who is between 2 months and 5 years of age.
Module 3: Diarrhoea
301 How to Assess a Child with Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is a common sign in sick children between 2 months and 5 years of age, and if it continues for more than a few days it can indicate a more serious illness. This video will show you how to assess a child’s signs and symptoms to decide if the diarrhoea indicates a mild, moderate or severe illness.
302 How to Make Oral Rehydration Solutions
Diarrhoea can be treated and one of the main treatments is an oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution or a sugar-salt solution (SSS). Learn how to make these solutions and give them to a child with diarrhoea or dehydration.
303 How to Care for a Child with Diarrhoea
Once you have spoken to the caregiver and examined the child for signs of illness, you are able to take the next steps. This video will explain how to care for a child with diarrhoea who is between 2 months and 5 years of age.