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Open Access Research article

Do health workers’ preferences influence their practices? Assessment of providers’ attitude and personal use of new treatment recommendations for management of uncomplicated malaria, Tanzania

Irene M Masanja123*, Angelina M Lutambi123 and Rashid A Khatib1

Author Affiliations

1 Ifakara Health Institute, Po Box 78373, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Socinstrasse 57, Basel, CH 4002, Switzerland

3 Universität Basel, Petersplatz 1, Basel, CH, 4003, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:956  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-956

Published: 8 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Due to growing antimalarial drug resistance, Tanzania changed malaria treatment policies twice within a decade. First in 2001 chloroquine (CQ) was replaced by sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) for management of uncomplicated malaria and by late 2006, SP was replaced by artemether-lumefantrine (AL). We assessed health workers’ attitudes and personal practices following the first treatment policy change, at six months post-change and two years later.

Methods

Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 2002 and 2004 among healthcare workers in three districts in South-East Tanzania using semi-structured questionnaires. Attitudes were assessed by enquiring which antimalarial was considered most suitable for the management of uncomplicated malaria for the three patient categories: i) children below 5; ii) older children and adults; and iii) pregnant women. Practice was ascertained by asking which antimalarial was used in the last malaria episode by the health worker him/herself and/or dependants. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with reported attitudes and practices towards the new treatment recommendations.

Results

A total of 400 health workers were interviewed; 254 and 146 in the first and second surveys, respectively. SP was less preferred antimalarial in hospitals and private health facilities (p<0.01) in the first round, and the preference worsened in the second round. In the first round, clinicians did not prefer SP for children below age of 5 and pregnant women (p<0.01), but two years later, they did not prefer it for all patient scenarios. SP was the most commonly used antimalarial for management of the last malaria episode for health workers and their dependants in both rounds, in the public sector (p<0.01). Health workers in the dispensaries had the highest odds of using SP for their own treatment [adjusted OR- first round: 6.7 (95%CI: 1.9-23.4); crude OR- second round: 4.5 (1.5-13.3)].

Conclusion

Following changes in malaria treatment recommendations, most health workers did not prefer the new antimalarial drug, and their preferences worsened over time. However, many of them still used the newly recommended drug for management of their own or family members’ malaria episode. This indicates that, other factors than providers’ attitude may have more influence in their personal treatment practices.

Keywords:
Health workers; Attitude; Practices; New treatment guidelines; Malaria