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October 2022

Trop Geogr Med. 1979 Mar; 31(1): 139-48.

Machakos Project Studies: agents affecting health of mother and child in a rural area of Kenya. XII. Beliefs and practices concerning treatment of measles and acute diarrhoea among the Akamba.

Maina-Ahlberg B.

This sociological investigation, carried out within the framework of a medical research project, aimed at finding out what mothers believe about measles and diarrhoea and what they do when their children contract these diseases. Perceived aetiological notions about measles and diarrhoea were found to influence beliefs held and this led to their being classified among 'God's diseases', a classification which influenced adherence to traditional practices as well as the acceptability to seek modern care. It was found that mothers used modern medical care exclusively in 50% of measles cases and 63% of diarrhoea cases. In 48% of measles cases and 28% of diarrhoea cases, mothers combined modern and indigenous care. Use of indigenous care only was relatively rare. Withholding of water and milk from children with measles was practice by 62% of the mothers in the total sample. Variables like age and education did not influence the type of medical care mothers selected, but did influence use of certain traditional practices. Younger and better educated mothers were found to follow these practices much less than older and less educated mothers.


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