COMMUNITY PERCEPTIONS AND FACTORS INFLUENCING UTILIZATION OF HEALTH SERVICES IN NIGERIA
Healthcare utilization has particular relevance as a public health and development issue. Unlike material and human capital, there is little empirical evidence on the utility of social resources in overcoming barriers to healthcare utilization in a developing country context. We sought to assess the relevance of social resources in overcoming barriers to healthcare utilization.
To explore community perceptions among three different wealth categories on factors influencing healthcare utilization in Eastern Uganda.
We used a qualitative study design using Focus Group Discussions (FGD) to conduct the study. Community meetings were initially held to identify FGD participants in the different wealth categories, (‘least poor’, ‘medium’ and ‘poorest’) using poverty ranking based on ownership of assets and income sources. Nine FGDs from three homogenous wealth categories were conducted. Data from the FGDs was analyzed using content analysis revealing common barriers as well as facilitating factors for healthcare service utilization by wealth categories. The Health Access Livelihood Framework was used to examine and interpret the findings.
Barriers to healthcare utilization exist for all the wealth categories along three different axes including: the health seeking process; health services delivery; and the ownership of livelihood assets. Income source, transport ownership, and health literacy were reported as centrally useful in overcoming some barriers to healthcare utilization for the ‘least poor’ and ‘poor’ wealth categories. The ‘poorest’ wealth category was keen to utilize free public health services. Conversely, there are perceptions that public health facilities were perceived to offer low quality care with chronic gaps such as shortages of essential supplies. In addition to individual material resources and the availability of free public healthcare services, social resources are perceived as important in overcoming utilization barriers. However, there are indications that having access to social resources may compensate for the lack of material resources in relation to use of health care services mainly for the least poor wealth category.
The differential patterning of social resources may explain or contribute to the persisting inequities in health care utilization. Additional research using quantitative analytical methods is needed to test the robustness of the contribution of social resources to the utilization of and access to healthcare services.