28 June 2009
A review of health seeking behavior: problems and prospects
Posted by Butterfly under: Health Education .
Author: Sara MacKian Article reviewed by: Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray
Health seeking behavior refers to all those things humans do to prevent diseases and to detect diseases in asymptomatic stages. In contrast illness behavior refers to all those activities designed to recognize and explain symptoms after one feels ill, and sick role behavior refers to all those activities designed to cure diseases and restore health after a diagnosis has been made.
I agree to the author that there is growing recognition, in both developed and developing countries, that providing education and knowledge at the individual level is not sufficient in itself to promote a change in behavior. We need do something extra or focus to a different dimension to bring effective changes in health indicators. One more important thing that the author has insisted that factors promoting ‘good’ health seeking behaviors are not rooted solely in the individual, they also have a more dynamic, collective, interactive element. Understanding of the social capital and proper understanding of health seeking behavior could reduce delay to diagnosis, improve treatment compliance and improve health promotion strategies in a variety of contexts. Author has given utmost importance to make studies of health seeking behavior more useful from a health systems development perspective. In initial part of the article the author suggested the two approaches namely
(a) Health care seeking behaviors: utilization of the system
(b) Health seeking behaviors: the process of illness response
According to author variety of studies were conducted on the basis of macro analysis. Taking age, sex, geographical region etc.. But author aptly suggested that these determinants can be further broken to smaller fragments like Status of women, Elements of patriarchy, Social Age and sex, Socioeconomic Household resources Education level, Maternal occupation, Marital status, Economic status, ‘Cultural propriety’, Economic Costs of care Treatment, Travel time, Type and severity of illness Geographical Distance and physical access, Physical, Organizational Perceived quality and so many to identify the reality of the back ground problems. Despite the ongoing evidence from different studies that people do choose traditional and folk medicine or providers in a variety of contexts which have potentially profound impacts on health, few studies recommend ways to build bridges to enable individual preferences to be incorporated into a more responsive health care system. I find it most interesting that has been quoted by (Needham et al, 2001). As they suggested “the need to improve integration of private sector providers with public care to tackle this problem in a better way” And with the Indian perspective at least I can’t agree with Ahemad et al that the training to these non formal providers are wrong. At least we can use their community motivation in a modern way so that the health seeking behavior of these people will change gradually.
Now it is time to focus upon to understand the psycho logical process of these people as discussed in the section Health seeking behaviors: the process of illness response. The understanding of the ‘healthy choices’, in either their lifestyle behaviors or their use of medical care and treatment. Among the different models discussed here namely (a) social cognition models (b) Health belief model (c) health locus of control
o(a) social cognition models:
Predicting health behavior with social cognition models as per the figure illustrates I am completely agree with the author as she criticizes the model as “The downfall of these models is that most view the individual as a rational decision maker, systematically reviewing available information and forming behavior intentions from this. They do not allow any understanding of how people make decisions, or a description of the way in which people make decisions.”
o(b) Health belief Model:
The health belief model is a largely accepted theory and like any other theory it has its limitation also like the author writes “The health belief model has been criticized for portraying individuals as asocial economic decision makers, and its application to major contemporary health issues, such as sexual behavior, have failed to offer any insights” Any how I personally feel this can be a model of reference for contemporary diseases. and also what I feel this model is still holds good in describing the STIs though stigma, shame ness and sexual conservativeness comes into play.
It may be right that the way Mc Phill et all thinks “developed country research has a better track record of exploring this broader contextual picture, whilst work in developing countries tends not to acknowledge the poor relationship between knowledge and health seeking behavior.” Apart from the KABP model I find the description of the Reflexive communities are interesting .Reflexive communities reflect the particular ways of behaving, thinking and reaching decisions of individuals or groups, that in turn reflect the social construction of their position in wider society at a particular place and time. Information regarding health seeking has many facets and determinants like ‘moral, affective, aesthetic, narrative and meaning dimensions’. So more scientific way of approach will be ‘aesthetic reflexivity’ which “means making choices about and/or innovating background assumptions and shared practices upon whose bases cognitive and normative reflection is founded” In order to understand how people reach the decision we need to know also how the underlying, unspoken, unconscious feelings and assumptions which support that cognitive process. These concepts that are been discussed here are seems to be more theoretical to practice . But still these issues are need to be addressed aptly for events like HIV/AIDS . I and I am completely agreed with Harvey that “the way people perceive risks and experience risk should be a matter for public policy”
Health seeking behavior and the probes: a review
Health seeking behavior differs for the same individuals or communities
when faced with different persons, times& illnesses. The article has described some of the examples here. They have given a very nice example here regarding the health seeking practices of women when faced with abnormal vaginal discharge, as opposed to malaria. I think this is more a big problem in countries like India & Bangladesh than the developed worlds. Again the shortage of the female Health care staffs worsens the problem. And the most important thing that I feel is most of the sensitive illnesses or diseases or public health problems are having this problem. Or thinking in the reverse way that due to this embedded problem it is very difficult to address these problems or not getting quick results. Among the examples I try to touch them in short. Only the key issues are given as described the author. I think she has identified it very nicely from different studies.
(a) Late presentation and delayed diagnosis are problems for TB, reflecting both
individual and social factor. Delay can be related to social stigma, gender, fear or multiple health seeking.
(b) Culturally sensitive and situated understanding of health seeking behavior may
Provide better treatment compliance and shorten delay of diagnosis.
©Health education should be started at family and community level to improve
awareness and to avoid stigma.
(d)The doctor-patient relationship may need particular attention in relation to TB due to the lengthy treatment period.
Maternal and child health
(a) The way in which women reach the decisions they can have a great influence
on child morbidity and mortality and is therefore worthy of continued study.
(b) There may be a better ways of exploring women’s involvement in health
system and social structures .
Diabetes Type 1
(a)Perhaps the lack of material suggests there is more work needed in this area?
(b)The doctor-patient dynamic can potentially be used to promote ‘good’ health
seeking behavior and compliance with treatment, and is an issue reflected across
Social capital and Health & Development
Social resources norms and networks or processes and conditions within society that allow for the development of human and material capital. So social capital is created and used through individual participation. Bonding social capital which links members of a particular group, and bridging social capital which links across groups. So the first one when addresses the Horizontal Equity the later addresses the Vertical Equity. Social capital provides a means of shifting the focus from individuals to social groups, and the social involvement of the actions of individuals. Though it varies from community to community but social capital also has implications for the operation of health systems description of that in detail is beyond the scope of this literature.
Health seeking behavior in the context of health systems
Non formal practitioners and birth attendants so embedded in the existing social
fabric and reflexive communities so that mostly the women deny delivery in favour of trained public service doctors. And in the Indian sub-continent public doctors running private clinics alongside their public role, where they can charge patients they have referred from the public system, may have the effect of undermining trust in the wider system.
“To begin to picture the resources and constraints…the way the actor experiences them, is to take a crucial step towards understanding why and how people do what they do”
This statement by Wallman and Baker I think we always need to remember be coz Health care is a system that is so much embedded into the society and individuality of the people that if you search for the influencing the factors than finally you will get all the branches of science on your table. So to be practical is more important than criticizing any issue theoretically and parallely we can’t ignore any issue how ever that may seem impractical. That is the beauty and problem of designing the policy for the Health care. What I feel like head of the family neglects himself in due course of taking care of other family members we should not land in a troubled water by focusing more on the peripheral issues of Health care delivery system than the center stage. We should not forget to address the problems of the internal clients to provide a better motivated care to the external clients. Which in my view very poorly addressed in international, national & regional level. And last but not the least is the financing system and its proper management is the key issue.
Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray
Indian Institute Of Public Health, Gandhinagar
By: Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray
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