Gender difference in knowledge of tuberculosis and associated health-care seeking behaviors: a cross-sectional study in a rural area of China

Jianming Wang, Yang Fei, Hongbing Shen, Biao Xu
BMC Public Health 2008, 8: 354

BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) detection under the national TB control program in China follows passive case-finding guidelines, which could be influenced by the accessibility of health service and patient's health-care seeking behaviors. One intriguing topic is the correlation between men and women's knowledge on TB and their health-care seeking behaviors.

METHODS: Two cross-sectional studies were separately carried out in Yangzhong County, a rural area of China. One study, by using systematic sampling method, including 1,200 subjects, was conducted to investigate the TB knowledge among general population. Another study in the same source population screened 33,549 people aged 15 years or over among 20 stratified cluster-sampled villages for identifying prolonged cough patients at households and individual interviews were then carried out. Gender difference in the knowledge of TB and health-care seeking behaviors was analyzed particularly.

RESULTS: Among general population, only 16.0% (men 17.1% vs. women 15.0%) knew the prolonged cough with the duration of 3 weeks or longer was a symptom for suspicious TB. Fewer women than men knew the local appointed health facility for TB diagnosis and treatment as well as the current free TB service policy. Moreover, women were less likely to learn information about TB and share it with others on their own initiatives. On the contrary, after the onset of the prolonged cough, women (79.2%) were more likely to seek health-care than men (58.6%) did. However, a large part of women preferred to visit the lower level non-hospital health facilities at first such as village clinics and drugstores.

CONCLUSION: TB and DOTS program were not well known by rural Chinese. Gender issues should be considered to reduce diagnostic delay of TB and improve both men and women's access to qualified health facility for TB care. Strengthening awareness of TB and improving the accessibility of health-care service is essential in TB control strategy, especially under the current vertical TB control system.

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