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Medical News & Perspectives
May 14, 2014

For-Profit African Clinics Underuse Oral Rehydration Therapy for Diarrhea

JAMA. 2014;311(18):1845. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4983

Although oral rehydration can mean the difference between life and death for children with diarrheal illnesses, a new study suggests that for-profit clinics in sub-Saharan Africa may be more likely than large public hospitals to prescribe expensive treatments instead.

Children younger than 5 years are at risk of death from diarrheal illnesses, which claim about 700 000 young lives each year. Most of the deaths result from dehydration and can be prevented by providing a solution of glucose and electrolytes. This simple and inexpensive intervention, oral rehydration therapy (ORT), can cost less than 50 cents per treatment. Unfortunately, this lifesaving tool is underused in sub-Saharan Africa.

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