Attitudes and perceptions towards access and use of the formal healthcare sector in northern Malawi

Emily Fisher, Rebecca Lazarus, Ramin Asgary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We evaluated community attitudes, perceptions, and experiences regarding access and use of health care systems in Northern Malawi. Through a qualitative descriptive approach, 12 focus group discussions were conducted in 2014 with community members (n=71) in Mzimba North, Malawi. Data were transcribed and analyzed for major themes. Both formal health care systems and traditional medicine were widely used as complementary. Health care-seeking behavior was governed by previous treatment history and by whether a disease was believed to be biological or spiritual in nature, the latter being best treated with traditional medicine. Barriers to using formal health care included cost, hospital resources/environment, socio-cultural beliefs, and transportation. Transportation was a significant barrier, often linked to increased mortality. Support of local strategies to address transportation, structural approaches to improve hospital capabilities and environment, and community education reconciling traditional beliefs and modern medicine may mitigate access issues and improve use of the health care system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1115
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of health care for the poor and underserved
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Access
  • Focus groups
  • Health care
  • Health care behavior
  • Malawi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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