Using traditional healers to treat child malnutrition: a qualitative study of health-seeking behaviour in eastern Ethiopia

Degefa, Ketema, Tadesse, Adugna, Ackley, Caroline, Madrid, Lola, Assefa, Nega, Breines, Markus, Sivalogan, Kasthuri, Maixenchs, Maria and Blevins, John (2022) Using traditional healers to treat child malnutrition: a qualitative study of health-seeking behaviour in eastern Ethiopia. BMC Public Health, 22. p. 873. ISSN 1471-2458

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Background: Malnutrition among children under five years of age is a major public health issue in many low and middle-income constrained countries. According to WHO, 5.3 million under-five children die every year and about 45% of these deaths are linked to malnutrition. While it is clear that poverty and lack of food are important factors in children’s malnutrition, less is known about the ways in which local conceptions of malnutrition affect parents’ treatment choices. In Ethiopia, child malnutrition is a severe public health problem and a common cause of child death, and this paper explores the local views of malnutrition and how these shape people’s health-seeking behaviour. Methods: The study was conducted in eastern Ethiopia from December 2017 to January 2019, conducting interviews and focus group discussions to explore different views and treatment options malnutrition. The study used grounded theory because it allows new and unexpected themes to arise from the data. Researchers’ assumptions on local terminologies of child malnutrition are also controlled as a principle of ground theory. Results: Child malnutrition was not only perceived to be related to lack of food but was understood in a wider local conceptualization of health and illness. Parents often relied on healers because they are long-standing members of the community, possess indigenous knowledge, and cost less than other options. Because health professionals and the community perceive and speak of health very differently, people often do not seek support from health services. The misalignments between how health professionals and healers diagnose and treat malnourished children have implications on the possibilities to implement change to reduce malnutrition. Conclusions: Through an exploration of people’s own terminology and understandings of what a malnourished child is, as well as the underlying reasons for their illness, this paper explores how people understand malnutrition symptoms and why many tend to rely on healers rather than seeking care from health centres.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Child mortality, Ethiopia, Healers, Health-seeking behaviour, Healthcare system, Malnutrition, Qualitative, Child, Child Nutrition Disorders, Child, Preschool, Ethiopia, Humans, Malnutrition, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Qualitative Research
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Global Health and Infection
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2022 14:04
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 15:30

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