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1.  Respiratory illness healthcare-seeking behavior assessment in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:444.
Background
Respiratory illness (RI) remains a public health problem in Laos, but little is known about the overall burden and people’s healthcare-seeking behavior for RI. Understanding the burden of RI and community patterns of healthcare-seeking behavior would provide better guidance for Lao public health program and policy planners to improve RI public health practice, surveillance systems, and prevention strategies.
Methods
A quantitative and qualitative survey was conducted in 14 randomly selected villages of two purposively selected peri-urban and two rural provinces in Laos. A pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaire was used to collect information on RI in household members (defined as new fever with cough and/or sore-throat in the absence of other diagnoses during the preceding 30 days) from all heads of household in each village. Sixteen focus group discussions were conducted to obtain more information to support the quantitative survey.
Results
Among 1,751 households (9,114 people) studied, 3.5% (317/9,114) had experienced RI (fever, cough, and/or sore-throat) in the 30 days before the survey [6.2% in rural and 2.4% in peri-urban areas (p<0.001)]. The percentage of RI among persons aged ≥15 years was 2.7%, 3.7% for those aged 5 – 14 years, and 8.2% for children < 5 years (p<0.001). Of all sick persons, 71% sought treatment [94% in peri-urban and 48% in rural areas (p<0.001)] and 31.5% of them self-medicated [55.5% in peri-urban and 29% in rural areas (p<0.001)]. Sick people in peri-urban areas preferred to chose private clinics and pharmacies as their first treatment option while in rural areas they frequently consulted with village health volunteers and visited health centres as their first choice. The qualitative study suggests that distance, costs of care, and service availability are the most important determinants of seeking healthcare.
Conclusions
The RI burden and healthcare-seeking behavior are different between rural and peri-urban areas of Laos and this is probably due to the differences in environmental and hygienic conditions, health service availability and socio-economic status between the two areas. Therefore strategies for healthcare service improvement may also need to differ between the two areas.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-444
PMCID: PMC3689642  PMID: 23642240
Respiratory illness; Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Laos
2.  Reasons rural Laotians choose home deliveries over delivery at health facilities: a qualitative study 
Background
Maternal mortality among poor rural women in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is among the highest in Southeast Asia, in part because only 15% give birth at health facilities. This study explored why women and their families prefer home deliveries to deliveries at health facilities.
Methods
A qualitative study was conducted from December 2008 to February 2009 in two provinces of Lao PDR. Data was collected through eight focus group discussions (FGD) as well as through in-depth interviews with 12 mothers who delivered at home during the last year, eight husbands and eight grandmothers, involving a total of 71 respondents. Content analysis was used to analyze the FGD and interview transcripts.
Results
Obstacles to giving birth at health facilities included: (1) Distance to the health facilities and difficulties and costs of getting there; (2) Attitudes, quality of care, and care practices at the health facilities, including a horizontal birth position, episiotomies, lack of privacy, and the presence of male staff; (3) The wish to have family members nearby and the need for women to be close to their other children and the housework; and (4) The wish to follow traditional birth practices such as giving birth in a squatting position and lying on a “hot bed” after delivery. The decision about where to give birth was commonly made by the woman’s husband, mother, mother-in-law or other relatives in consultation with the woman herself.
Conclusion
This study suggests that the preference in rural Laos for giving birth at home is due to convenience, cost, comfort and tradition. In order to assure safer births and reduce rural Lao PDR’s high maternal mortality rate, health centers could consider accommodating the wishes and traditional practices of many rural Laotians: allowing family in the birthing rooms; allowing traditional practices; and improving attitudes among staff. Traditional birth attendants, women, and their families could be taught and encouraged to recognize the signs of at-risk pregnancies so as to be able to reach health facilities on time.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-86
PMCID: PMC3449206  PMID: 22925107

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