Health seeking behavior by families of children suspected to have malaria in Kabale, Uganda

  • Sam Tumwesigire Kabale Regional Hospital, P.O. Box 7, Kabale, Uganda
  • Sharon Watson Development Studies and Social Anthroplogy, University of Notre Daine, USA (51270 Mayflower Road South Bend, I N 46628 United States )


Background: Malaria is common among communities of Kabale district, and many young children die of the illness. Despite a good distribution of health facilities, able to handle malaria patients, families and individuals tend to depend on self-treatment, or private clinics where drugs used may be of doubtful quality.
Objective: To establish the health seeking behaviour by families with children suspected to have malaria.
Methodology: A community-based, cross-sectional survey among 209 rural peasant families living in 12 villages, chosen from the 5 most malaria-affected sub-counties was done. Using a questionnaire, respondents' reactions to the disease and what decisions they took were recorded. Reasons for choices such as drugs used, location of treatment and malaria control methods were recorded.
Results: Ninety seven percent lived within easy reach of a public health facility. Over 2/3 knew how malaria was transmitted and how it presented. They believed it was best treated at public heath facilities using western type of medicine. Fifty percent of the children, who attended public health units, were treated within 24 of illness. Thirty eight percent of the caretakers knew how to correctly use chloroquine. The caretakers relied on fever, vomiting and refusal to feed as the main symptoms for their diagnosis of malaria. Only 31% of the families sought treatment from government health facilities.
Fifty three percent of the families sought treatment from drug shops/vendors. Unfortunately only 38% of the families knew the correct regimen of chloroquine, 4.3% for sulpha-doxine pyrimethamine and 0.5% for quinine. One quarter could afford malaria treatment, and one out of five missed treatment because of poverty. Concerning prevention, 90% stated at least one method but only 21.2% used them. Conclusions: Despite reasonable knowledge for diagnosis of malaria, awareness of correct treatment is limited. Paradoxically government health units appear to play a minor role in the treatment of malaria.

Key words: Malaria, health seeking, behaviour, Uganda

African Health Sciences 2002; 2(3): 94-98

eISSN: 1680-6905