PloS one 2016 Oct 611(10) e0163975 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0163975
Tuberculosis (TB) prevalence surveys offer a unique opportunity to study health seeking behaviour at the population level because they identify individuals with symptoms that should ideally prompt a health consultation.
To assess the health-seeking behaviour among individuals who were presumptive TB cases in a national population based TB prevalence survey.
A cross sectional survey was conducted between 2013 and 2014 among 66 survey clusters in Zambia. Clusters were census supervisory areas (CSAs). Participants (presumptive TB cases) were individuals aged 15 years and above; having either cough, fever or chest pain for 2 weeks or more; and/or having an abnormal or inconclusive chest x-ray image. All survey participants were interviewed about symptoms and had a chest X-ray taken. An in-depth interview was conducted to collect information on health seeking behaviour and previous TB treatment.
Of the 6,708 participants, the majority reported at least a history of chest pain (3,426; 51.1%) followed by cough (2,405; 35.9%), and fever (1,030; 15.4%) for two weeks or more. Only 34.9% (2,340) had sought care for their symptoms, mainly (92%) at government health facilities. Of those who sought care, 13.9% (326) and 12.1% (283) had chest x-ray and sputum examinations, respectively. Those ever treated for TB were 9.6% (644); while 1.7% (114) was currently on treatment. The average time (in weeks) from onset of symptoms to first care-seeking was 3 for the presumptive TB cases. Males, urban dwellers and individuals in the highest wealth quintile were less likely to seek care for their symptoms. The likelihood of having ever been treated for TB was highest among males, urban dwellers; respondents aged 35-64 years, individuals in the highest wealth quintile, or HIV positive.
Some presumptive TB patients delay care-seeking for their symptoms. The health system misses opportunities to diagnose TB among those who seek care. Improving health-seeking behaviour among males, urban dwellers and those with a higher social economic status; and addressing health care lapses in TB case detection is required if TB is to be effectively controlled in Zambia.