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Open Access Research article

Gatekeepers of health: A qualitative assessment of child care centre staff's perspectives, practices and challenges to enteric illness prevention and management in child care centres

Marsha Taylor12*, Cindy L Adams13 and Andrea Ellis12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. 50 Stone Rd. E, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

2 Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division, Public Health Agency of Canada. 255 Woodlawn Rd. W, Unit 120, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 8J1, Canada

3 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:212  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-212

Published: 13 June 2008

Abstract

Background

Enteric outbreaks associated with child care centres (CCC) have been well documented internationally and in Canada. The current literature focuses on identifying potential risk factors for introduction and transmission of enteric disease, but does not examine why these risk factors happen, how the risk is understood and managed by the staff of CCCs, or what challenges they experience responding to enteric illness. The purpose of this study was to explore the understanding, knowledge and actions of CCC staff regarding enteric illness and outbreaks, and to identify challenges that staff encounter while managing them.

Methods

Focus groups were conducted with staff of regulated CCCs in Southern Ontario. Five focus groups were held with 40 participants. An open ended style of interviewing was used. Data were analyzed using content analysis.

Results

CCC staff play an important role in preventing and managing enteric illness. Staff used in-depth knowledge of the children, the centre and their personal experiences to assist in making decisions related to enteric illness. The decisions and actions may differ from guidance provided by public health officials, particularly when faced with challenges related to time, money, staffing and parents.

Conclusion

CCC staff relied on experience and judgment in coordination with public health information to assist decision-making in the management of enteric illness and outbreaks. Advice and guidance from public health officials to CCC staff needs to be consistent yet flexible so that it may be adapted in a variety of situations and meet regulatory and public health requirements.