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Open Access Research

Differences in health care seeking behaviour between rural and urban communities in South Africa

Marinka van der Hoeven1*, Annamarie Kruger2 and Minrie Greeff2

Author Affiliations

1 Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR) and Centre of Excellence for Nutrition (CEN), Faculty of Health Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, Private Bag x6001, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa

2 Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR), Faculty of Health Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, Private Bag x6001, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2012, 11:31  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-31

Published: 12 June 2012

Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to explore possible differences in health care seeking behaviour among a rural and urban African population.

Design

A cross sectional design was followed using the infrastructure of the PURE-SA study. Four rural and urban Setswana communities which represented different strata of urbanisation in the North West Province, South Africa, were selected. Structured interviews were held with 206 participants. Data on general demographic and socio-economic characteristics, health status, beliefs about health and (access to) health care was collected.

Results

The results clearly illustrated differences in socio-economic characteristics, health status, beliefs about health, and health care utilisation. In general, inhabitants of urban communities rated their health significantly better than rural participants. Although most urban and rural participants consider their access to health care as sufficient, they still experienced difficulties in receiving the requested care. The difference in employment rate between urban and rural communities in this study indicated that participants of urban communities were more likely to be employed. Consequently, participants from rural communities had a significantly lower available weekly budget, not only for health care itself, but also for transport to the health care facility. Urban participants were more than 5 times more likely to prefer a medical doctor in private practice (OR:5.29, 95% CI 2.83-988).

Conclusion

Recommendations are formulated for infrastructure investments in rural communities, quality of health care and its perception, improvement of household socio-economical status and further research on the consequences of delay in health care seeking behaviour.

Keywords:
Accessibility; Health care seeking behaviour; Quality; Rural community; Urban community