To facilitate the design of malaria prevention and control programs in tropical Africa, a qualitative investigation of treatment seeking behaviors and perceptions of the causes and symptoms of malaria was conducted in a rural area in South Western Uganda's Masaka District. Components of the investigation included focus group discussions involving 42 participants recruited from women's clubs and prenatal and child health clinics, semi-structured interviews with 395 female outpatients 13 years of age and above and adult women escorting young children to government subdispensaries for treatment of a new malaria episode, and household interviews with 64 mothers. In this rural community, there is no specific word for malaria; rather, the word "omusujja" is used to refer to malarial symptoms as well as any kind of fever. Respondents consistently identified omusujja as the most prevalent, serious disease in their community. They linked its causation to food and drink, environmental conditions, vectors such as mosquitoes, and other illnesses. There was widespread awareness that omusujja presents differently according to age group, e.g. fever, refusal to suck, crying, vomiting, and mouth sores in infants as compared to miscarriage, vomiting, weakness, chills, and joint pain in pregnant women. Treatment is initiated promptly, although it mainly consists of use of local herbs; if the herbs fail to reduce the fever, hospital care is sought. Preventive methods cited included boiling water, cleaning cooking utensils, avoiding raw mangoes and roasted maize, and keeping mosquitoes out of the home. Recommended is a health education campaign emphasizing the role of mosquitoes in malaria transmission and the need for prompt medical intervention.
- Treatment-seeking behaviour