Psychosocial factors associated with malaria care-seeking in rural Ethiopia

Bolanle Olapeju, Habtamu Tamene, Minyahil Ayele, Simon Heliso, Tsega Berhanu, Guda Alemayehu, Nandita Kapadia-Kundu

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1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Ethiopia's National Malaria Control and Elimination Program aims to diagnose all suspected malaria cases within 24 h of fever onset and provide prompt treatment for confirmed cases. This study explored psychosocial factors associated with no-, delayed- and prompt- care-seeking among female caregivers of children under five years with fever in rural Ethiopia. METHODS: Household surveys were conducted from 2016-2019 among female caregivers (N = 479) of children under five years old with fever in Oromia; Amhara; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR); and Tigray. Prompt and delayed care-seeking were defined as seeking treatment within ≤ 24 h or > 24 h of symptom onset respectively. Contextual factors explored included sociodemographic factors, household supply of bed nets, exposure to health messages, and household vulnerability (a measure of financial access to food, shelter, schooling, and medical treatment). Ideational factors included psychosocial factors related to care-seeking (knowledge, self-efficacy, response efficacy, attitudes, involvement in decision-making, and household social support). RESULTS: The prevalence of fever among children under five years was 18% (ranging from 9% in Tigray to 34% in SNNPR. Overall, 45% of caregivers of children with fever sought care promptly, while 23% delayed care-seeking and 32% sought no care. Prompt care-seeking rates were higher among caregivers with positive attitudes toward prompt care-seeking (48%), involved in decision-making (48%) or perceived equitable gender norms in the community (65%). Caregivers with a high care-seeking ideation had increased odds of prompt care-seeking (aOR: 2.65; 95% CI: 1.74-4.02). Significant contextual factors included residence in the Oromia region (aOR: 2.99; 95% CI:1.40-6.41), caregivers age 35-49 years (aOR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.26-0.95), residence in vulnerable households (aOR: 2.01; 95% CI: 1.28-3.18). CONCLUSIONS: Among this rural Ethiopian population, prompt care-seeking was low but positively influenced by both ideational and contextual psychosocial factors occurring at the caregiver level. Multi-sectoral interventions at the individual, community, and health facility levels are needed to improve prompt care-seeking. These include social behavior change interventions to improve ideation, complemented by health facility interventions to ensure provision of high-quality services and structural interventions to increase educational attainment in these rural settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Care-seeking
  • Ethiopia
  • Malaria
  • Psychosocial


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