Health care utilization for diarrhea and fever in 4 urban slums in Karachi.
Zaidi SSH., Seidlein LV., Nizami SQ., Acosta C., Bhutta ZA.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate the fraction of fever and diarrhea patients making use of private practitioners, self-treatment, hospital care, drug vendors, community health centers and traditional healers. DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey. PLACE AND DURATION OF STUDY: Four slums in and around Karachi during October and November, 2001. PATIENTS AND METHODS: A sample of 1842 households was selected with probability proportional to size of the slum. The household head or a representative was asked regarding the treatment providers for diarrhea and cases of fever persistent for 3 days or more. Only households with an actual case of fever and/or diarrhea were included in the analysis. RESULTS: The study found that more than half of diarrhea and fever cases are seen by private practitioners. Self medication with medicines available in the home or specifically purchased for the disease episode from a drug vendor combined provides 13% to 18% of health care. Only between 11% and 13% of patients are seen by the public sector, hospitals and community health centers. There was no significant difference between the choice of health care provider for diarrhea and fever cases. CONCLUSION: In this survey, the majority of fever and diarrhea patients presented first to private practitioners and not to drug vendors or the public sector. Successful passive surveillance of febrile or diarrheal illness in these communities has to integrate private practitioners.