Health-seeking behaviours in a malaria endemic district in Lao People's Democratic Republic: a mixed methods study

BMJ Open. 2021 Dec 13;11(12):e055350. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055350.


Objectives: This mixed methods study was conducted to explore the barriers and facilitators for health-seeking behaviours in a malaria endemic district in Lao PDR.

Design: A convergent mixed methods design.

Setting: Two malaria endemic villages in Thapangthong district, Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR.

Participants: Villagers and healthcare workers in the two villages in Thapangthong district.

Methods: In the quantitative part, a pretested questionnaire was used to identify the health-seeking behaviours of the villagers. In the qualitative part, focus group discussions were employed to explore health-seeking behaviours of the villagers and in-depth interviews were used to explore the perceptions of the healthcare workers. Descriptive statistics were computed and multiple logistic regressions were used to identify the factors associated with perceived severity and perceived susceptibility. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data. Quantitative and qualitative results were integrated in joint displays.

Results: In the quantitative part, data were collected from 313 villagers from both villages. For malaria, 96.0% and 98.2% of villagers from villages A and B, respectively, would first seek treatment at public health facilities. Villagers who have not experienced malaria before were more likely to perceive that the consequences of malaria were serious compared with those who have experienced malaria before (adjusted OR=1.69, 95% CI: 1.03 to 2.75). However, qualitative data showed that villagers faced problems such as lack of medicines and medical equipment. Healthcare workers also mentioned the lack of manpower and equipment in the in-depth interviews. Nevertheless, villagers still preferred to seek treatment at the health center as the National Health Insurance was introduced.

Conclusions: Public health facility usage was high but barriers existed. Effective policy and enabling environment such as the introduction of the National Health Insurance could help accelerate the progress towards the malaria elimination goal. Moreover, the benefits could go beyond the context of malaria.

Keywords: public health; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Focus Groups
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Laos / epidemiology
  • Malaria* / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care