Care seeking behavior of chest symptomatics: a community based study done in South India after the implementation of the RNTCP

Niruparani Charles, Beena Thomas, Basilea Watson, M Raja Sakthivel, V Chandrasekeran, Fraser Wares
PloS One 2010, 5 (9)

INTRODUCTION: With the creation of the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), tuberculosis services have become decentralized and more accessible. A 1997 study prior to RNTCP implementation reported that most chest symptomatics accessed first private health care facilities and a general dissatisfaction with government health facilities. The study was repeated post-RNTCP implementation to gain insight into the current care seeking behavior of chest symptomatics.

METHODOLOGY: A cross-sectional community-based study carried out between March-August 2008 in 4 sites (2 rural [R] and 2 urban [U]) from the same two districts of Chennai and Madurai, southern India, as in the 1997 study. Six hundred and forty chest symptomatics were identified (R 314; U 326), and detailed interviews were done for 606 (R311; U295).

RESULTS: Prevalence of chest symptomatics in the urban and rural areas were 2.7% and 4.9% respectively (p<0.01), and was found to increase with age (Chi-square for trend, p<0.01). Longer delays in seeking care were seen amongst symptomatics above 45 years of age (p 0.01), and those who had taken previous TB treatment (p=0.05). Overall, 50% (222/444) of the chest symptomatics approached a government health care facility first (R 142 (61%); U 80 (38%), p=or  <0.001). This was significantly (p<0.001) more than were observed in the 1997 study, where only 38.4% approached a government facility first. Sixty two (28%) of the 222 made a second visit to a government facility (R26%; U31%), while 17% shifted to a private facility (R14%; U21%). Dissatisfaction with the health care facility was one of the major reasons expressed.

CONCLUSIONS: It appears that the RNTCP has had an impact in the community with regard to the availability and accessibility of TB services in government health facilities. However the relatively high levels of subsequent shifting to private health facilities calls for urgent action to make government facilities more patients friendly with quality care facilities in the delivery of RNTCP services.

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