Factors influencing mothers' health care seeking behaviour for their children: evidence from 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa

BMC Health Serv Res. 2020 Sep 7;20(1):842. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-05683-8.


Background: Almost half of the estimated 5.3 million deaths of under-five children in 2018 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa with morbidity contributing substantially to these deaths. Seeking medical care for children has been described as an important measure of reducing mortality occasioned by morbidity. This study examined factors influencing mothers' health seeking behaviour for their children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: This study made use of data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The study involved 75,982 children who received or did not receive measles vaccine and 93,142 children who sought or did not seek medical care when affected by fever or cough and diarrhoea. Binary logistic regression was applied in the analysis.

Results: Most of the children (74%) received measles vaccine while less than one-fifth sought medical care for fever or cough (16%) and diarrhoea (10%). Majority of the children of women who received measles vaccine and sought medical care when they had fever or cough are from richest households. Children of women with primary and secondary or higher education, children of working women and children of women that attended antenatal care during pregnancy are more likely to seek medical care for fever or cough. While children of women who live in urban areas and children of second or higher order of birth are less likely to receive measles vaccine, children aged 24-35 months and those who were of average size at birth are less likely to seek medical care for diarrhoea.

Conclusions: This study has revealed that mothers' health care seeking behaviour for their children is influenced by social, maternal and child factors. Any intervention aimed at improving child health in sub-Sharan Africa should take these factors into consideration.

Keywords: Children; Demographic and health surveys; Diarrheal; Global Health; Health care; Mother; Seeking behaviour.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Fever
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy