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Disparities in parasitic infections, perceived ill health and access to health care among poorer and less poor schoolchildren of rural Côte d'Ivoire

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Differences in the state of health between rural and urban populations living in Africa have been described, yet only few studies analysed inequities within poor rural communities. We investigated disparities in parasitic infections, perceived ill health and access to formal health services among more than 4000 schoolchildren from 57 primary schools in a rural area of western Côte d'Ivoire, as measured by their socioeconomic status. In a first step, we carried out a cross-sectional parasitological survey. Stool specimens and finger prick blood samples were collected and processed with standardized, quality-controlled methods, for diagnosis of Schistosoma mansoni, soil-transmitted helminths, intestinal protozoa and Plasmodium. Then, a questionnaire survey was carried out for the appraisal of self-reported morbidity indicators, as well as housing characteristics and household assets ownership. Mean travel distance from each village to the nearest health care delivery structure was provided by the regional health authorities. Poorer schoolchildren showed a significantly higher infection prevalence of hookworm than better-off children. However, higher infection prevalences of intestinal protozoa (i.e. Blastocystis hominis, Endolimax nana and Iodamoeba bütschlii) were found with increasing socioeconomic status. Significant negative associations were observed between socioeconomic status and light infection intensities with hookworm and S. mansoni, as well as with several self-reported morbidity indicators. The poorest school-attending children lived significantly further away from formal health services than their richer counterparts. Our study provides evidence for inequities among schoolchildren's parasitic infection status, perceived ill health and access to health care in a large rural part of Côte d'Ivoire. These findings call for more equity-balanced parasitic disease control interventions, which in turn might be an important strategy for poverty alleviation.
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Keywords: Côte d'Ivoire; access to health care; concentration index; health inequities; household assets ownership; parasitic infections

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: UFR Biosciences, Université d'Abidjan-Cocody, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire 2: Direction Départementale de la Santé de Man, Man, Côte d'Ivoire 3: Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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