Coping with ill-health: Health care facility, chemist or medicinal plants? Health-seeking behaviour in a Kenyan wetland

C. Anthonj*, Peter Giovannini, Thomas Kistemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Sub-Saharan African wetlands, settlement areas to growing populations, expose their users to diseases as necessary health infrastructure remains underdeveloped.

Mixed methods were adopted to assess the health-seeking behaviour of different exposure groups (farmers, pastoralists, service sector workers) in a Kenyan wetland community. Based on a cross-sectional survey (n = 400), syndromic surveillance was linked to health-seeking event analysis. In-depth interviews with community members (n = 20) and experts (n = 8) enabled the integration of healthcare user and provider perspectives.

Health-seeking behaviour in the wetland was determined by physical/infrastructural, natural/environmental, financial/socioeconomic and social/demographic factors, as well as human/cultural aspects such as traditional preferences rooted in health beliefs. Community members had different strategies of coping with ill-health and few symptoms remained untreated. Whether via a health care facility admission, the visit of a chemist, or the intake of pharmaceuticals or medicinal plants: treatment was usually applied either via a healthcare service provider or by the community members themselves.

An undersupply of easy-to-reach healthcare options was detected, and healthcare services were not available and accessible to all. The widely-practiced self-treatment of symptoms, e.g. by use of local medicinal plants, mirrors both potential healthcare gaps and cultural preferences of wetland communities.

Integrated into an overall health-promoting wetland management approach, widely accepted (cultural) realities of health-seeking behaviours could complement health sector service provision and help ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all in wetlands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBMC International Health and Human Rights
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2019


  • Cultural context
  • Health behaviour
  • Risk Perception
  • Pastoralism
  • Period prevalence
  • Sustainable livelihoods
  • Traditional medicine


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