The use of cell phone text messaging to improve access to continuing healthcare education in under-resourced settings is not well documented. We aimed to assess whether this method of education is acceptable to South African midwives in both the public and private sectors. Essential healthcare lessons from the Maternal Care book of the Perinatal Education Programme (PEP) were delivered via text message to more than 2 500 midwives each week for a period of 6 months. Each message concluded with a link to a website, where additional information about each lesson could be accessed. Results of a survey, conducted with 50 of the message recipients, demonstrated that the text messages were well received by the midwives; the information was widely shared with colleagues and was believed to improve learning and patient care. Lack of access to the Internet, or failure to utilise this facility to obtain additional information, indicated that limitations still exist in internet-based distance education, especially in the public sector. The use of text messaging promises to provide cost-effective learning opportunities, and improve a wide range of clinical services, such as the management of HIV-infected children and adults.
Background. Acute onset vomiting and diarrhoea is one of the most common illnesses of infancy, and is second only to respiratory illnesses as a cause of childhood deaths worldwide. Existing guidelines for management of diarrhoea are often ignored in public and private practice, possibly because of a perception that the guidelines are too simple, or because of expectations of the need to give 'real' drug therapy to stop diarrhoea.
Objectives. This guideline provides a problem-based approach to the basics of present-day management of acute gastroenteritis, and discusses the evidence for the recommendations.
Recommendations. Each episode of diarrhoea must be seen as an opportunity for caregiver education in the prevention of the illness, in the 'what' and 'how' of oral rehydration and re-feeding, and in the recognition of when to seek help. The vast majority of patients recover rapidly, but serious complications do occur and must be recognised and managed correctly.
Validation. The guidelines are endorsed by the Paediatric Management Group (PMG) in South Africa.
Conclusion. The aim of management is to help the child to maintain or regain hydration, and to recover from diarrhoea, with careful attention to adequate oral rehydration and judicious re-feeding.