Pathways from first health care seeking to diagnosis: obstacles to tuberculosis care in rural China

W B Wang, Q W Jiang, Y Chen, B Xu
International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease 2007, 11 (4): 386-91

OBJECTIVE: To examine health care seeking pathways for patients with tuberculosis (TB) and barriers related to these pathways in counties under the National TB Control Programme in rural China.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted in two counties of east China in 2004-2005. A total of 557 TB patients were recruited and interviewed by physicians at the time of TB diagnosis.

RESULTS: Of 557 participants, 13.3% had presented to a specialised county TB dispensary (CTD) directly after onset of symptoms, 31.4% had first sought care at a village health station and 51.2% had visited a township or county hospital first. The proportion of referral by a first health care provider to a CTD was highest in county level hospitals (73.5%) and lowest in village health stations (21.7%). The most prompt pathway from first health care seeking to TB diagnosis was to visit a CTD directly, with a median provider's delay of only one day. There was an increase in provider's delay when more health facilities were involved.

CONCLUSION: To improve direct referral from general health care providers, especially village health care workers, to TB specialists would significantly shorten the delays in TB diagnosis in rural China.

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