Barriers to childhood asthma care in sub-Saharan Africa: a multicountry qualitative study with children and their caregivers.

01 Sep 2023


This study identifies barriers and provides recommendations to improve asthma care in children across sub-Saharan Africa, where qualitative data is lacking despite high rates.


One of the aims of our National Institute for Health Research global health research group 'Achieving Control of Asthma in Children in Africa' was to use qualitative thematic analysis of transcribed audio recordings from focus group discussions (FGDs) to describe barriers to achieving good asthma control.


Schools in Blantyre (Malawi), Lagos (Nigeria), Durban (South Africa), Kampala (Uganda) and Harare (Zimbabwe).


Children (n=136), 12-14 years with either asthma symptoms or a diagnosis and their caregivers participated in 39 FGDs. All were recruited using asthma control questions from the Global Asthma Network survey.


There were four key themes identified: (1) Poor understanding, (2) difficulties experienced with being diagnosed, (3) challenges with caring for children experiencing an acute asthma episode and (4) suboptimal uptake and use of prescribed medicines. An inadequate understanding of environmental triggers, a hesitancy in using metred dose inhalers and a preference for oral and alternate medications were identified as barriers. In addition, limited access to healthcare with delays in diagnosis and an inability to cope with expected lifestyle changes was reported. Based on these findings, we recommend tailored education to promote access to and acceptance of metred dose inhalers, including advocating for access to a single therapeutic, preventative and treatment option. Furthermore, healthcare systems should have simpler diagnostic pathways and easier emergency access for asthma.


In a continent with rapidly increasing levels of poorly controlled asthma, we identified multiple barriers to achieving good asthma control along the trajectory of care. Exploration of these barriers reveals several generalisable recommendations that should modify asthma care plans and potentially transform asthma care in Africa.



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Resource information

Respiratory conditions
  • Asthma
Respiratory topics
  • Global Health
Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Naidoo KL, Dladla S, Mphahlele RE, Mosler G, Muyemayema S, Ssemata AS, Mkutumula E, Adeyeye OO, Moyo M, Goodman O, Kuyinu Y, Nantanda R, Ticklay I, Mujuru HA, Grigg J, Masekela R