Barriers to prompt and effective treatment of malaria in northern Sri Lanka
BACKGROUND For the past 18 years, northern Sri Lanka has been affected by armed ethnic conflict. This has had a heavy impact on displacement of civilians, health delivery services, number of health professionals in the area and infrastructure. The north of Sri Lanka has a severe malaria burden, with less than 5% of the national population suffering 34% of reported cases. Health care providers investigated treatment-seeking behaviour and levels of treatment failure believed to be the result of lack of adherence to treatment.
METHODS Pre- and post-treatment interviews with patients seeking treatment in the outpatient department (OPD) and focus groups.
RESULTS A total of 271 persons completed interviews: 54.4% sought treatment within 2 days of the onset of symptoms, and 91.9% self-treated with drugs with prior to seeking treatment, mainly with paracetamol. Self-treatment was associated with delaying treatment (RR 3.55, CI 1.23–10.24, P=0.002). In post-treatment interviews, self-reported default was 26.1%. The main reasons for not taking the entire regimen were side-effects (57.6%) and disappearance of symptoms (16.7%). Focus groups indicated some lack of confidence in chloroquine treatment and prophylaxis, and scant enthusiasm for prevention methods.
CONCLUSIONS A number of factors contribute to a lack of access and a lower quality of care for malaria: lack of medical staff and facilities because of the fighting; lack of confidence in treatment, and perception of malaria as a routine illness. Prevention efforts need to take into account certain beliefs and practices to be successful.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2002-09-01