Indian Journal of Community Medicine

: 2007  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 71--72

Factors determining health seeking behaviour for sick children in a fishermen community in Pondicherry

MB Sudharsanam, SB Rotti 
 Department of PSM Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry - 605006., India

Correspondence Address:
S B Rotti
Department of PSM Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry - 605006.

How to cite this article:
Sudharsanam M B, Rotti S B. Factors determining health seeking behaviour for sick children in a fishermen community in Pondicherry.Indian J Community Med 2007;32:71-72

How to cite this URL:
Sudharsanam M B, Rotti S B. Factors determining health seeking behaviour for sick children in a fishermen community in Pondicherry. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2022 May 20 ];32:71-72
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Full Text

In a country like India, the mortality of under-five children is mainly due to acute respiratory infections (23%) and diarrheal diseases (18%) as per WHO report 2002 [1] . However these may be very low estimates as many children may not be brought to an accountable health care facility and they go unnoticed. Therefore health seeking behaviour for such sick children and the factors which determine the treatment need to be assussed.

 Material and Methods

The study was undertaken in a fisherman village, Veerampattinam, in Pondicherry Union Territory. The village houses a health subcentre manned by a multipurpose health worker. The nearest PHC is 4 Kms away and many private practitioners are available nearby. The study was carried out from March 2004 to June 2004. All children between 2 and 59 months of age were enrolled by house-to-house visit and the entire population was screened without any sampling. Sickness was defined as any child between 2 and 59 months, with fever (lasting at least 2 days) or acute respiratory infection or earache or diarrhea (2 episodes of watery loose stools for at least 1 day). A period of 2 weeks was chosen as the criterion to ensure better recall on the part of the mothers about the illness because these illnesses are supposed to recur frequently among children. An initial cross sectional survey was carried out by a house­to-house survey to determine the prevalence of sickness. A pre-tested interview schedule was used to obtain the required information after getting informed consent from the respondent. Mothers were always preferred for interview. Out of 441 children, 406 were contacted for sickness screening by enquiring the mother. In those houses, which were locked at the time of the first visit, attempt was made to contact the children by making at least two more visits to the house. Inspite of these only 406 children could be met and 35 children (8%) were to be left out of the study. After an initial door-to-door survey, an age-matched child without sickness in the past 2 weeks was selected for each case and the health seeking behaviour was obtained for the current sickness for cases and previous sickness for controls. Details of age, sex, birth order, mother's education and occupation, father's occupation, number of persons and children in the family, monthly per capita income, immunization status for age, contraceptive practices followed in the family, system of medicine sought, nature of health care were sought from both the groups. Two focus group discussions were conducted, one each for mothers and fathers of under-five children to find the reasons for preferences for care and factors affecting their preferences.


About 14% of the children were sick in the study period, which included acute respiratory infections (5.6%), acute diarrhea (4.7%), and fever (3.7%). All parents in both the groups sought allopathic system of medicine for sickness. About 65% of them sought private care. [Table 1] reveals that gender is not playing a role in health seeking preferences as there was no gender differences in seeking private or government health care.(Chi-square-1.2 , p [2] . Sur et al found that in Kolkata 60% only went for allopathic system and 35% for private care for diarrheal episodes for the child, while our study showed 100% of them sought allopathic care and 65% private care [3] .

Pillai et al revealed no gender difference in seeking treatment but male children were taken to the alternative system of medicine but our study did not reveal any gender difference in seeking treatment or in the nature of health system approached [4] .

Schellenberg et al, have reported that there was association between socioeconomic status and health seeking behaviour; with low socioeconomic status people seeking frequently the government health care [5] . Pillai et al have reported the same type of association but our study showed that even people below poverty line sought private care [4] .

Focus group discussi ons revealed that there was no gender bias in health seeking behaviour as they gave equal importance to both males and females ("ellam nama petha pulla thane. Idhula enna vidyasam?"- Both are my children. Why at all a difference?). They all preferred allopathic system and private care due to the accessibility, (rathri nerathla endha government aspathri tharandhirukku sollunga?-.which government hospital is open in the night?) availability, and the way they are treated in government hospitals. (forum vandha modhal nallula ittunu ponein… ivlo lateava kuttiyarudhunu ennaye thittraru doctoru!!! I took my child on the first day of fever to government hospital. He scolded me for bringing my child late.)


All parents sought allopathic system and majority, private care. No gender bias in health seeking preference. Birth order, number of children in the family, maternal literacy did not influence the health seeking behaviour. Inspite of low socio economic status they shought private care. Private care was preferred due to availability even in the evening and night, accessibility, quick relief and good individual attention.


1World Health Report, Geneva, WHO 2002.
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4Pillai RK, Williams SV, Glick HA, Poloky D, Berlin JA, Lowe RA. Factors affecting decisions to seek treatment for sick children in Kerala in India. Soc. Sci. Med Journal 2003; 57: 783-90.
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