East African Medical Journal

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Health status and health seeking behaviour of the elderly persons in Dagoretti division, Nairobi

L. M. Waweru, E. W. Kabiru, J. N. Mbithi, E. S. Some


Objective: To determine the health status and the health seeking behaviour of the elderly people aged 65 years and above.
Design:A descriptive cross sectional study of individuals interviewed through questionnaires and focus groups discussions.
Setting:Dagoretti Division, Nairobi Province, Kenya.
Subjects:Four hundred non-institutionalised elderly persons.
Results:Four hundred people including 276(69%) women and 124(31%) males were interviewed; 44% had no independent source of livelihood and 51% were widowed. The majority 376(92.5%) of the respondents had been sick within the last three months, preceding the study with 111(27.8%) being sick all the time. The prevalent diseases included musculoskeletal (80%), respiratory (68%), sight (44%) and dental conditions(40%). Three hundred and sixteen (79%) of the respondents were functionally independent in activities of daily living. One hundred and sixty one (40.3%) were satisfied with their current way of life while (63%) perceived themselves as healthy, 24.8% of the respondents lived alone. The reported social problems included:- economic dependency (96%), poor housing (76%), loneliness (60%) and feeling not needed (42%) of the respondents. Only 26% were on treatment, lack of money hindered health care access to 73% of the respondents (p<0.001). Sixty two per cent of the respondents were buying over-the-counter drugs. Walking was under taken by 217(67%) as a physical exercise, and (26%) of the respondents consumed addictive drugs. The focus groups criticized the lack of health facilities for the elderly in the community.
Conclusion:The effects of ageing, low economic status and inadequate access to health care contributed to the elderly poor health status. The use of over-the-counter drugs was indicative of the inefficient health facilities in meeting the health needs of the elderly. The study points out the need to formulate policies that will target on the health needs of the elderly.

(East African Medical Journal: 2003 80(2): 63-67)
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