Childhood Illness Prevalence and Health Seeking Behavior Patterns in Rural Tanzania

Kanté, Almamy Malick; Gutierrez, Hialy R.; Larsen, Anna M.; Jackson, Elizabeth; Helleringer, Stéphane; Exavery, Amon; Tani, Kassimu; Phillips, James F.

This paper identifies factors influencing differences in the prevalence of diarrhea, fever and acute respiratory infection (ARI), and health seeking behavior among caregivers of children under age five in rural Tanzania.

Using cross-sectional survey data collected in Kilombero, Ulanga, and Rufiji districts, the analysis included 1,643 caregivers who lived with 2,077 children under five years old. Logistic multivariate and multinomial regressions were used to analyze factors related to disease prevalence and to health seeking behavior.

One quarter of the children had experienced fever in the past two weeks, 12.0 % had diarrhea and 6.7 % experienced ARI. Children two years of age and older were less likely to experience morbidity than children under one year [ORfever = 0.77, 95 % CI 0.61-0.96; ORdiarrhea = 0.26, 95 % CI 0.18-0.37; ORARI = 0.60 95 % CI 0.41-0.89]. Children aged two and older were more likely than children under one to receive no care or to receive care at home, rather than to receive care at a facility [RRRdiarrhea = 3.47, 95 % CI 1.19-10.17 for “No care”]. Children living with an educated caregiver were less likely to receive no care or home care rather than care at a facility as compared to those who lived with an uneducated caregiver [RRRdiarrhea = 0.28, 95 % CI 1.10-0.79 for “No care”]. Children living in the wealthiest households were less likely to receive no care or home care for fever as compared to those who lived poorest households. Children living more than 1 km from health facility were more likely to receive no care or to receive home care for diarrhea rather than care at a facility as compared to those living less than 1 km from a facility [RRRdiarrhea = 3.50, 95 % CI 1.13-10.82 for “No care”]. Finally, caregivers who lived with more than one child under age five were more likely to provide no care or home care rather than to seek treatment at a facility as compared to those living with only one child under five.

Our results suggest that child age, caregiver education attainment, and household wealth and location may be associated with childhood illness and care seeking behavior patterns. Interventions should be explored that target children and caregivers according to these factors, thereby better addressing barriers and optimizing health outcomes especially for children at risk of dying before the age of five.

Geographic Areas


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BMC Public Health

More About This Work

Academic Units
Population and Family Health
Published Here
September 23, 2015