Caregiver Decision-Making: Household Response to Child Illness in sub-Saharan Africa.

Abstract

We draw upon a framework outlining household recognition and response to child illness proposed by Colvin and colleagues (2013) to examine factors predictive of treatment sought for a recent child illness. In particular, we model whether no treatment, middle layer treatment (traditional healer, pharmacy, community health worker, etc.), or biomedical treatment was sought for recent episodes of diarrhea, fever, or cough. Based on multinomial, multilevel analyses of Demographic and Health Surveys from 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we determine that if women have no say in their own healthcare, they are unlikely to seek treatment in response to child illness. We find that women in sub-Saharan Africa need healthcare knowledge, the ability to make healthcare decisions, as well as resources to negotiate cost and travel, in order to access biomedical treatment. Past experience with medical services such as prenatal care and a skilled birth attendant also increase the odds that biomedical treatment for child illness is sought. We conclude that caregiver decision-making in response to child illness within households is critical to reducing child morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.

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