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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Community perceptions on malaria and care-seeking practices in endemic Indian settings: policy implications for the malaria control programme

Ashis Das1*, RK Das Gupta2, Jed Friedman1, Madan M Pradhan3, Charu C Mohapatra3 and Debakanta Sandhibigraha3

Author Affiliations

1 The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA

2 National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi, India

3 Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, India

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:39  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-39

Published: 29 January 2013

Abstract

Background

The focus of India’s National Malaria Programme witnessed a paradigm shift recently from health facility to community-based approaches. The current thrust is on diagnosing and treating malaria by community health workers and prevention through free provision of long-lasting insecticidal nets. However, appropriate community awareness and practice are inevitable for the effectiveness of such efforts. In this context, the study assessed community perceptions and practice on malaria and similar febrile illnesses. This evidence base is intended to direct the roll-out of the new strategies and improve community acceptance and utilization of services.

Methods

A qualitative study involving 26 focus group discussions and 40 key informant interviews was conducted in two districts of Odisha State in India. The key points of discussion were centred on community perceptions and practice regarding malaria prevention and treatment. Thematic analysis of data was performed.

Results

The 272 respondents consisted of 50% females, three-quarter scheduled tribe community and 30% students. A half of them were literates. Malaria was reported to be the most common disease in their settings with multiple modes of transmission by the FGD participants. Adoption of prevention methods was seasonal with perceived mosquito density. The reported use of bed nets was low and the utilization was determined by seasonality, affordability, intoxication and alternate uses of nets. Although respondents were aware of malaria-related symptoms, care-seeking from traditional healers and unqualified providers was prevalent. The respondents expressed lack of trust in the community health workers due to frequent drug stock-outs. The major determinants of health care seeking were socio-cultural beliefs, age, gender, faith in the service provider, proximity, poverty, and perceived effectiveness of available services.

Conclusion

Apart from the socio-cultural and behavioural factors, the availability of acceptable care can modulate the community perceptions and practices on malaria management. The current community awareness on symptoms of malaria and prevention is fair, yet the prevention and treatment practices are not optimal. Promoting active community involvement and ownership in malaria control and management through strengthening community based organizations would be relevant. Further, timely availability of drugs and commodities at the community level can improve their confidence in the public health system.

Keywords:
Malaria; Prevention; Treatment; Sociocultural belief; Community response; India