Objectives: To determine the hypothetical and actual willingness of households to pay (WTP) for insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), and compare these in areas with and without previous exposure to free ITNs.
Methodology: The contingent valuation method was used to determine the willingness of the heads of 1908 randomly selected households from five communities in south-east Nigeria to pay for two sizes of ITNs. Two communities previously had free access to ITNs. Validity was assessed using multiple regression analyses, and by offering ITNs for sale to 200 randomly selected people drawn from the original sample. The data was collected between March and September 1998.
Findings: Most respondents were willing to pay for ITNs: Mbano (93.26%), Ugwogo (97.69%), Orba (83.24%), Alor-uno (95.37%), and Ibagwa-ani (87.34%). In multivariate analyses, WTP was significantly associated with the number of people living in a household, sex of the respondent, average yearly expenditure on gifts and the type of savings scheme (P < 0.05). Some of the residences were also statistically significant in the two models used, and those with prior exposure to free ITNs were negatively related to WTP. Seventy-six percent of those who were hypothetically willing to pay actually purchased them, and the WTP technique correctly predicted the choices of 80% of the respondents.
Conclusion: There was good evidence that stated WTP could be translated into actual WTP. However, peoples' perception of affordability of the nets and its link to their WTP needs further exploration. The WTP technique is a potentially valid tool for market research in healthcare, as it was able to predict the direction of actual WTP for the ITNs. The hypothetical WTP amounts could be used as guide to know either the optimal price to charge for the ITNs or the level of subsidy to introduce.