Perceived delay in healthcare-seeking for episodes of serious illness and its implications for safe motherhood interventions in rural Bangladesh
Delay in accessing emergency obstetric-care facilities during life-threatening obstetric complications is a significant determinant of high maternal mortality in developing countries. To examine the factors associated with delays in seeking care for episodes of serious illness and their possible implications for safe motherhood interventions in rural Bangladesh, a cross-sectional study was initiated in Matlab sub-district on the perceptions of household heads regarding delays in seeking care for episodes of serious illness among household members. Of 2,177 households in the study, 881 (40.5%) reported at least one household member who experienced an illness perceived to be serious enough to warrant care-seeking either from health facilities or from providers. Of these, 775 (88.0%) actually visited some providers for treatment, of whom 79.1% used transport. Overall, 69.3% perceived a delay in deciding to seek care, while 12.1% and 24.6% perceived a delay in accessing transport and in reaching the provider respectively. The median time required to make a decision to seek care was 72 minutes, while the same was 10 minutes to get transport and 80 minutes to reach a facility or a provider. Time to decide to seek care was shortest for pregnancy-related conditions and longest for illnesses classified as chronic, while time to reach a facility was longest for pregnancy-related illnesses and shortest for illnesses classified as acute. However, the perceived delay in seeking care did not differ significantly across socioeconomic levels or gender categories but differed significantly between those seeking care from informal providers compared to formal providers. Reasons for the delay included waiting time for results of informal treatment, inability to judge the graveness of disease, and lack of money. For pregnancy-related morbidities, 45% reported ‘inability to judge the graveness of the situation’ as a reason for delay in making decision. After controlling for possible confounders in multivariate analysis, type of illness and facility visited were the strongest determinants of delay in making decision to seek care. To reduce delays in making decision to seek care in rural Bangladesh, safe motherhood interventions should intensify behaviour change-communication efforts to educate communities to recognize pregnancy-danger signs for which a prompt action must be taken to save life. This strategy should be combined with efforts to train community-based skilled birth attendants, upgrading public facilities to provide emergency obstetric care, introduce voucher schemes to improve access by the poorest of the poor, and improve the quality of care at all levels.
J Health Popul Nutr 2006 Dec;24(4):403-412