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Free Content Gender and socio-cultural determinants of delay to diagnosis of TB in Bangladesh, India and Malawi [Special section on gender and TB]

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SETTING: Tuberculosis (TB) control programmes in Bangladesh, India and Malawi.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the interval from symptom onset to diagnosis of TB for men and women, and to assess socio-cultural and gender-related features of illness explaining diagnostic delay.

DESIGN: Semi-structured Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue (EMIC) interviews were administered to 100 or more patients at each site, assessing categories of distress, perceived causes and help seeking. Based on time from initial symptoms to diagnosis of TB, patients were classified with problem delay (>90 days), timely diagnosis (≤30 days) or moderate delay. EMIC interview data were analysed to explain problem delay.

RESULTS: The median interval from symptom onset to diagnosis was longest in India and shortest in Malawi. With adjustment for confounding, female sex (Bangladesh), and status of married woman (India) and housewife (Malawi) were associated with problem delay. Prominent non-specific symptoms—chest pain (Bangladesh) and breathlessness (Malawi)—were also significant. Cough in India, widely associated with TB, was associated with timely diagnosis. Sanitation as a perceived cause linked to poor urban conditions was associated with delayed diagnosis in India. Specific prior help seeking with circuitous referral patterns was identified.

CONCLUSION: The study identified gender- and illness-related features of diagnostic delay. Further research distinguishing patient and provider delay is needed.

Keywords: DOTS treatment; cultural epidemiology; diagnostic delay; gender; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland 2: Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai, India 3: Equi-TB Knowledge Programme, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK 4: Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) Research and Evaluation Division, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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