Rural-urban health seeking behaviours for non-communicable diseases in Sierra Leone
Senesi, Reynold G. B.
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Idriss, A., Diaconu, K., Zou, G., Senesi, R.G., Wurie, H. and Witter, S. (2020) ‘Rural–urban health-seeking behaviours for non-communicable diseases in Sierra Leone’, BMJ Global Health, 5(2), p. e002024. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2019-002024.
Introduction Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of mortality globally. In Africa, they are expected to increase by 25% by 2030. However, very little is known about community perceptions of risk factors and factors influencing health-seeking behaviour, especially in fragile settings. Understanding these is critical to effectively address this epidemic, especially in low-resource settings.Methods We use participatory group model building techniques to probe knowledge and perceptions of NCD conditions and their causes, health-seeking patterns for NCDs and factors affecting these health-seeking patterns. Our participants were 116 local leaders and community members in three sites in Western Area (urban) and Bombali District (rural), Sierra Leone. Data were analysed using a prior framework for NCD care seeking developed in Ghana.Results Our findings suggest adequate basic knowledge of causes and symptoms of the common NCDs, in rural and urban areas, although there is a tendency to highlight and react to severe symptoms. Urban and rural communities have access to a complex network of formal and informal, traditional and biomedical, spiritual and secular health providers. We highlight multiple narratives of causal factors which community members can hold, and how these and social networks influence their care seeking. Care seeking is influenced by a number of factors, including supply-side factors (proximity and cost), previous experiences of care, disease-specific factors, such as acute presentation, and personal and community beliefs about the appropriateness of different strategies.Conclusion This article adds to the limited literature on community understanding of NCDs and its associated health-seeking behaviour in fragile settings. It is important to further elucidate these factors, which power hybrid journeys including non-care seeking, failure to prevent and self-manage effectively, and considerable expenditure for households, in order to improve prevention and management of NCDs in fragile settings such as Sierra Leone.