Perceptions of Environmental Health Risks and Care Seeking Behaviors of Vulnerable Urban Households in the Tamale Metropolitan Area

  • I K Osumanu


The link between the urban environment and health has long been recognized. In spite of this, the environmental contribution to ill-health continues to increase in many cities of the developing world. The threat of environmental-related diseases is often exacerbated by increasing poverty and social inequities thus making many urban dwellers vulnerable, especially low-income households. Little is however known of how these environmental threats to human life are perceived by these vulnerable groups. It is in this context that this study was undertaken to assess peoples' perceptions of environmental risks and their priorities regarding health care, through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews. The findings indicate that risks have many dimensions and mean far more to vulnerable households than the possible health effects. Moreover, each way of perceiving risk embodies its own set of subjective value judgments based on experiences. Decisions to seek health care are influenced by a combination of cultural perceptions about disease causality and knowledge of curative efficacy with modern health care generally considered a last resort. The paper concludes that health risks cannot be seen in isolation from physical, social, cultural and economic forces, all of which are related to life in general. It calls for risk prevention measures to be planned within a socio-cultural context, and the inclusion of socio-cultural beliefs in designing community health programmes.

Ghana Journal of Development Studies Vol. 4 (21) 2007: pp. 75-89

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eISSN: 0855-6768