Disparities in mothers' healthcare seeking behavior for common childhood morbidities in Ethiopia: based on nationally representative data

BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Jul 8;21(1):670. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-06704-w.


Background: Childhood morbidities such as diarrhea and pneumonia are the leading causes of death in Ethiopia. Appropriate healthcare-seeking behavior of mothers for common childhood illnesses could prevent a significant number of these early deaths; however, little nation-wide research has been conducted in Ethiopia to assess mothers' healthcare-seeking behavior for their under five children.

Methods: The study used the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS) data. The EDHS is a cross sectional survey conducted in 2016 on a nationally representative sample of 10,641 respondents. The main determinants of care-seeking during diarrhea and acute respiratory infection (ARI) episodes were assessed using multiple logistic regression analyses while adjusting for complex survey design.

Results: Only 43% and 35% of households sought medical attention for their children in episodes of diarrhea and ARI, respectively, during a reference period of 2 weeks before the survey. The odds of seeking care for diarrhea are lower for non-working mothers versus working mothers. The likelihood of seeking care for diarrhea or ARI is higher for literate fathers compared to those with no education. The place of delivery for the child, receiving postnatal checkup and getting at least one immunization in the past determined the likelihood of seeking care for ARI, but not for diarrhea. The odds of seeking care are higher for both diarrhea and ARI among households that are headed by females and where mothers experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) violence. Religion and types of family structure are also significant factors of seeking care for diarrhea episodes, but not for ARI.

Conclusions: The findings call for more coordinated efforts to ensure equitable access to health care services focusing on mothers living in deprived household environment. Strengthening partnerships with public facilities, private health care practitioners, and community-based organizations in rural areas would help further improve access to the services.

Keywords: Acute respiratory illness; Determinants; Diarrhea; Ethiopia; Health services; Morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / therapy
  • Ethiopia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Mothers*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*