Health-seeking behaviour among adults with prolonged cough in Vietnam

N B Hoa, E W Tiemersma, D N Sy, N V Nhung, M Vree, M W Borgdorff, F G J Cobelens
Tropical Medicine & International Health: TM & IH 2011, 16 (10): 1260-7

OBJECTIVE: To assess health-seeking behaviour among adults with prolonged cough in a population-based, nationally representative sample in Vietnam.

METHODS: Cross-sectional survey conducted from September 2006 to July 2007. All inhabitants aged ≥15 years were invited for screening for cough, history of tuberculosis (TB) treatment and chest X-ray (CXR) examination. TB suspects, defined as any survey participant with CXR abnormalities consistent with TB, or productive cough for more than 2 weeks or TB treatment either currently or in the preceding 2 years submitted sputum specimens for smear examination and culture and provided information on health-seeking behaviour in an in-depth interview.

RESULTS: Of 94 179 persons participating in the survey, 4.6% had prolonged productive cough. Forty-four percentage of those had sought health care and reported pharmacies (35%), commune health posts (29%), public hospitals (24%) and private physicians (10%) as first point of contact. Only 7% had undergone sputum smear examination. Of TB suspects with prolonged productive cough, 2.9% were diagnosed with TB; 10.2% of these reported smear and 21.9% reported X-ray examination when visiting a health care facility. The average patient delay was 4.1 weeks (95% CI: 3.9-4.4) among cough suspects and 4.0 weeks (95% CI: 3.1-4.9) among TB cases.

CONCLUSIONS: In this Vietnamese survey, nearly half of persons with cough for more than 2 weeks had visited a health care provider. The commonest first health facility contacted was the pharmacy. Sputum smears were rarely examined, except in the provincial TB hospital. Our findings highlight the need to improve diagnostic practices by retraining health staff on the performance of sputum examination for TB suspects.

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