Health care switching behaviour of malaria patients in a Kenyan rural community

Soc Sci Med. 2002 Feb;54(3):377-86. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(01)00036-3.


Patients ordinarily use multiple sources of health care. This study reveals the transitions patients in a rural region of Gusii, Kenya are likely to make beyond the homestead in their search for alternatives to combat malaria. Malaria is a very common health problem in the region resulting in enormous human and economic losses. Data on health care seeking behaviour were collected over a 10-month period. The primary data for this paper is from malaria-focused ethnographic interviews with 35 adults (18 women and 17 men). Results show that patients are more likely to start with self-treatment at home as they wait for a time during which they observe their progress. This allows them to minimise expenditure incurred as a result of the sickness. They are more likely to choose treatments available outside the home during subsequent decisions. The decisions include visiting a private health care practitioner, a government health centre or going to a hospital when the situation gets desperate. Knowledge and duration of sickness, the anticipated cost of treatment. and a patient's judgement of the intensity of sickness determine their choice of treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Cost of Illness
  • Decision Making
  • Hospitals, General / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Kenya
  • Malaria / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Private Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Care