Health Perceptions in Relation to Child Health and Mortality in a Rural Context, Sierra Leone: A Mixed Method Study

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Child survival and wellbeing remain a global health challenge despite vast development within the area and a significant decline in mortality rates of children under five years of age. This study investigates the perceived causes of ill health and childhood mortality in the context of five villages located in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone. Mixed method methodology was applied in this study consisting of both quantitative and qualitative data contribution. The quantitative part consisted of a household survey on child health, where 341 households, equivalent to 50.6% of the total number of households in the five villages, participated with a response rate of 100%. The qualitative part consisted of six semi structured interviews-one with a health care worker and five with mothers from each village. The main perceived reason for child morbidity was inadequate care of children related to personal hygiene of the child, hygiene and safety in the environment, in-sufficient nutrition, inadequate supervision and poor healthcare seeking behavior. Additionally, reasons given for disease included supernatural forces such as witchcraft. In relation to the survey, the perceived causes of child mortality for ill children in the villages were mainly malaria (33.6%), diarrhea (11.6%), pneumonia (8.6%), and unknown (26%). The observed symptoms of illness among children were fever (43.7%), cough and difficulty breathing (10.7%), frequent watery stool (10.3%) and no symptoms (20.3%). The perception of ill health in children was mainly associated with the parent's ability to cater for the child's physical needs, but also associated with external factors such as witchcraft and "God's will". In addition, biomedical causes for disease and supernatural causes for disease were seen to coexist.

Original languageEnglish
Article number308
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • health perceptions, child health, children under five, caregivers, Sierra Leone, CARE

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