Solar disinfection of drinking water in the prevention of dysentery in South African children aged under 5 years: the role of participant motivation.

Martella Du Preez, Natural Resources and the Environment, Petoria, South Africa
Kevin G. McGuigan, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Ronan Conroy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

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Solar disinfection (SODIS) effectively improves the microbial quality of drinking water for preventing diarrhea; however, the effect of participant motivation has not been studied. This 1-year randomized controlled trial investigated the effect of SODIS of drinking water and motivation on the incidence of dysentery and nondysentery diarrhea among children of age 6 months to 5 years living in periurban communities in South Africa.We compared 383 children in 297 households using SODIS with 335 children in 267 households with no intervention. At baseline 62.4% of the study households had stored water which met World Health Organization guidelines for zero thermotolerant coliforms per 100 mL. Dysentery was recorded using a pictorial diary. Incidence of dysentery was significantly associated with higher motivation, defined as 75% or better completion of diarrhea data. Incidence rates were lower in those drinking solar disinfected water (incidence rate ratio 0.64, 95% CI 0.39 - 1.0, P = 0.071) but not statistically significant. Compared with the control, participants with higher motivation achieved a significant reduction in dysentery (incidence rate ratio 0.36, 95% CI 0.16 - 0.81, P = 0.014). However, there was no significant reduction in risk at lower levels of motivation. Solar disinfection was not significantly associated with nondysentery diarrhea risk overall (P = 0.419). A statistically significant reduction in dysentery was achieved only in households with higher motivation, showing that motivation is a significant determinant for measurable health gains. Failure of three-quarters of participants to achieve a significant reduction in dysentery suggests that research into effective implementation is required.