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OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to explore how published communication frameworks could be amended to ensure applicability and cultural appropriateness for professionals to support family-centred conversations by investigating' healthcare professionals' (1) experiences of providing support to families when a caregiver or a dependent child (<18 years old) has a life-threatening condition, (2) perceived challenges for caregivers and healthcare professionals in communicating with children about illness, (3) perceptions of how clinicians could be equipped to facilitate conversations between caregivers and children about an adult or the child's own life-threatening condition and (4) suggestions for amendments to previously published guidelines to ensure cultural relevance in South Africa and Uganda. DESIGN: A qualitative study involving two 2-day workshops with embedded focus group discussions, break out rooms and consensus discussions. SETTING: Health and social care and third sector organisations in South Africa and Uganda. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-two professionals providing care to families affected by life-threatening conditions in South Africa or Uganda who were aged 18 years or older and able to converse in English. RESULTS: Participants identified obstacles to having conversations with caregivers about children and to telling children about serious illness during consultations. These included patients' beliefs about illness, medicine and death, language barriers between families and the healthcare team, and emotional and practical challenges for professionals in having these conversations. Culturally appropriate adaptations were made to previously published communication frameworks for professionals to support family-centred conversations. CONCLUSIONS: Culturally sensitive communication frameworks could help healthcare professionals to talk with families about what children need to know when they or a caregiver have a serious illness. More broadly, effective communication could be facilitated by promoting healthcare professionals' and communities' understanding of the benefits of telling children about illness within the family. Together these strategies may mitigate the psychological impact of global disease on children and their families.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





community child health, education & training (see medical education & training), medical education & training, mental health, qualitative research, Adult, Humans, Child, Adolescent, South Africa, Uganda, Health Personnel, Qualitative Research, Communication, Delivery of Health Care