How can children be healthy, when parents externalize all the health benefits associated with the healthcare seeking behavior (HSB)?
When a child becomes sick, it is very rare to find a parent/caretaker who seeks health information for the sick child. However it’s very common to take the child to the hospital when his situation becomes critical or severely ill. The reasons are diverse. Some parents may not see how important it is and they may lack the willingness to seek health information. While some others do not have to time to do so. Despite the rarity of health seeking behavior in our community, it’s significantly important to seek health information promptly, whenever someone (whether a child or an adult) becomes sick in the family.
Healthcare seeking behavior has been defined as any action or step taken by someone in order to find an appropriate remedy for themselves or for the person whom they take care of, when they have a health problem or illness. Health Seeking Behavior is a usual habit of the population that is resulted by the interaction and balance between health needs, health resources, and socioeconomic, cultural as well as political and national factors and determines how health services are used and in turn the health outcomes of population. Healthcare-seeking behavior has emerged as a tool to tackle perceived ill health by taking remedial actions, and, currently, a lot of efforts are being directed toward encouraging people to learn and use health-promoting behaviors.
In Somali communities, Health seeking behavior isn’t where it meant to be. The reasons are diverse. Poverty is one of the main reasons that affected negatively healthcare seeking behavior. The relationship is complex and multidimensional. Let me simplify; as we know, our healthcare cost is based on the individual pocket. In other words, it’s called “out of pocket cost”. And it refers to the costs that individuals pay out of their own cash reserves to receive a certain type of medical care. It means that the medical care attentions are available to only those who can afford the costs. One study conducted in Ghana showed that individual payments for their healthcare services resulted in adverse effects on health-care-seeking behavior during illness.
There is another affect that poverty gives rise to. Parents from poor families, especially those who are single-parents, are busy because they are working so hard, most of their times, to survive. This busyness hindered or made it difficult for many parents to seek healthcare information when their children become sick. That is why it’s frequent to seek medical care when the child’s situation becomes critical.
Another factor that has a profound effect in HSB is parents’ level of education. It has been argued that parents’ education – especially mothers’- shouldn’t be treated easily as a proxy for the determinants of herself or her child’s health but rather as significant force in its own right. This clearly articulates how much it’s important to educate mothers. Besides, many research studies conducted in different countries clearly articulated that the level parents’ education significantly affects their HSB. For example, a study conducted in India showed that literate mothers are 11 times more likely to seek healthcare attention during their children’s illness compared to illiterate mothers. Literate parents know not only when their child is sick but also where to seek healthcare attention and information. In addition, they are able to analyze types of healthcare options that are available and finally chose the most appropriate type of care for their children, which is clearly unlike illiterate parents.
Finally, it is important to understand that success in reducing childhood illnesses needs more than the availability of adequate health services with well-trained health professionals. As families are the first people responsible for child care, success requires a partner- ship between health workers and families with community support.
Abdirahman A. Sulleiman.