Discovering the cost of care: consumer, provider, and retailer surveys shed light on the determinants of malaria health-seeking behaviours

in Research Mar 22, 2024 From Malaria Journal


The growing threat of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and drug resistance in the Plasmodium parasites increases the importance of ensuring appropriate malaria case management and enabling positive health-seeking behaviour. Treatment-seeking behaviours are poorly characterized in malaria-endemic regions that have been the focus of intensive control and elimination campaigns. This study uses a comprehensive approach to shed light on the determinants of malaria treatment-seeking behaviours from different perspectives.


The authors conducted cross-sectional surveys from 832 households, fifteen health centers, and 135 retailers across three sites in the Emuhaya and Kakamega districts of the western Kenyan highlands. Participants were recruited via random sampling and data were collected with the use of a structured questionnaire about malaria treatment-seeking behaviour. All households, healthcare facilities, and retailers were mapped using a handheld GPS and a GIS algorithm was used to calculate “walk distance” based on the Tobler rule; an estimate of this distance was used to calculate the travel time used in the analyses.


Across the three sites, 47.5–78.9 % of the residents sought diagnosis and treatment at hospitals, clinics, or dispensaries; 6.3–26.1 % of the residents sought malaria care only at pharmaceutical retailers. Overall, 40.3–59.4 % of residents reported delaying seeking care for more than 24 h after fever onset. After adjustment, residents who chose to visit a pharmaceutical retail facility rather than a hospital were 121 and 307 % more likely to delay seeking medical care after fever onset than those who reported choosing a healthcare facility for treatment. No significant association was found between travel time and delay in seeking care. The surveys of the healthcare facilities indicated an average total cost per patient per visit was 112 KES ($1.40 US) for public facilities and 165 KES ($2.06 US) for private facilities.


Understanding the local health behaviours that perpetuate transmission of malaria will help develop targeted preventive measures and educational interventions that can empower the residents with the knowledge needed to combat malaria in a safe and effective manner. Ensuring patient access to health care facilities in countries with high disease burdens has broader implications on measures of equity and on public health prevention methodologies.


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