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Misuse of government resources is a challenge within the health sector that can be addressed by increasing public demand for accountability, reporting suspected misuse of resources, and other client-driven changes. This study was led by the USAID/Health Communication for Life Project to inform the design of social accountability communication messages and interventions. The study also established baseline data on Malawians’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to efficient use of government resources in the health sector.
This baseline, formative research study used a non-experimental, cross sectional survey design. Sampling for the mobile survey was conducted using the random digit dialing technique. Data were collected via mobile phone using interactive voice response technology. Our sample included 1,425 respondents, 67% of whom were male and 33% were female. Respondents were mostly 35 years old or younger, with more than half of female respondents reporting their age as 18–24 years.
Our findings indicate that Malawians believe misuse of government resources is pervasive in Malawi. Seventy percent of men and nearly 60% of women reported having noticed, found, or seen drugs believed to be from a government health facility being sold elsewhere. Few respondents who had observed or experienced misuse of government health sector resources reported the incident. When asked the likelihood that they would report a request for a bribe, gift, or favor in exchange for health services in the future, 68% of respondents said they would report it.
Social and behavior change communication could serve a key role in motivating those who are aware of misuse of public sector health resources to report the issues they observe and providing them with the information needed to follow through. Further research is needed to understand the best approaches to mitigate underlying factors that drive misuse of resources and underreporting.