Health risk perceptions are associated with domestic use of basic water and sanitation services—evidence from rural Ethiopia

Carmen Anthonj*, Lisa Fleming, Samuel Godfrey, Argaw Ambelu, Jane Bevan, Ryan Cronk, Jamie Bartram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
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We examine factors associated with the use of basic water supply and sanitation services as part of an integrated community-based nutrition programme which included a drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) intervention and emphasise findings related to health risk perceptions. Data were collected from 2658 households in four regions in Ethiopia with a cross-sectional survey in WaSH intervention areas, as well as in control areas, where the intervention was not implemented. The data were analysed using bivariate and multivariable regression analysis. Awareness of health risk factors related to inadequate WaSH was high in the programme area. The use of basic water and sanitation services was associated with several health risk perceptions: Perceiving water quality as good increased the odds of using basic water services as opposed to believing the water quality was poor (OR 3.94; CI 3.06–5.08; p ≤ 0.001). Believing that drinking unsafe water was the main cause for diarrhoea increased the odds of using basic water services (OR 1.48; CI 1.20–1.81; p ≤ 0.001). In the WaSH intervention group, the use of basic sanitation was more likely than in the control group. The use of basic sanitation was associated with households who had previously received sanitation training, as opposed to such who had not (OR 1.55; CI 1.22–1.97; p ≤ 0.001). Perceiving dirty space as the main cause of diarrhoea (OR 1.81; CI 1.50–2.19; p ≤ 0.001), and privacy when using a latrine (OR 2.00; CI 1.67–2.40; p ≤ 0.001), were associated with higher odds of using basic sanitation. Households that indicated a disadvantage of owning a latrine was maintenance costs were less likely to use basic sanitation (OR 0.49; CI 0.38–0.63; p ≤ 0.001). Risk perceptions were important determinants of use of basic services. The findings point to risk perceptions motivating the application of positive WaSH-related and health-protective behaviours. This suggests that well-designed health risk communication strategies may be effective for engaging households in healthy WaSH behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Behaviour Change
  • Diarrheal disease
  • Health knowledge
  • Risk communication
  • Health belief
  • Risk perception
  • Rural water supply
  • SDG 6
  • WaSH intervention


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