PLoS ONE (2019-01-01)

Pattern of health care utilization and traditional and complementary medicine use among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone.

  • Peter Bai James,
  • Jon Wardle,
  • Amie Steel,
  • Jon Adams

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 9
p. e0223068


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BACKGROUND:It is well established that Ebola Survivors experience a myriad of physical and psychological sequelae. However, little is known about how they seek care to address their health needs. Our study determines the current healthcare seeking behaviour among Ebola survivors and determines the prevalence, pattern of use and correlates of traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) use among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone. METHODS:We conducted a nationwide questionnaire survey among a cross-sectional sample of Ebola Survivors in Sierra Leone between January and August 2018. We employed descriptive statistics, chi-square test, Fisher exact two-tailed test and backward stepwise binary regression analysis for data analysis. A p-value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS:Ebola Survivors who participated in our study (n = 358), visited a healthcare provider (n = 308, 86.0%), self-medicated with conventional medicines (n = 255, 71.2%) and visited a private pharmacy outlet (n = 141, 39.4%). Survivors also self-medicated with T&CM products (n = 107, 29.9%), concurrently self-medicated with conventional and T&CM products (n = 62, 17.3%), and visited a T&CM practitioner (n = 41, 11.5%). Almost half of (n = 163, 45.5%) Ebola survivors reported using T&CM treatments for post ebola related symptoms and non-Ebola related symptoms since their discharge from an Ebola treatment centre. Ebola survivors who considered their health to be fair or poor (AOR = 4.08; 95%CI: 2.22-7.50; p<0.01), presented with arthralgia (AOR = 2.52; 95%CI: 1.11-5.69, p = 0.026) and were discharged three years or less (AOR = 3.14; 95%CI: 1.13-8.73, p = 0.028) were more likely to use T&CM. Family (n = 101,62.0%) and friends (n = 38,23.3%) were the common sources of T&CM information. Abdominal pain (n = 49, 30.1%) followed by joint pain (n = 46, 28.2%) and back pain (n = 43, 26.4%) were the most cited post-Ebola indications for T&CM use. More than three-quarters of T&CM users (n = 135, 82.8%) failed to disclose their use of T&CM to their healthcare providers. CONCLUSION:Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone employ a myriad of healthcare options including T&CM in addressing their healthcare needs. Researchers, health policy makers and healthcare providers should be aware of the substantial role of T&CM in the health seeking of survivors, and this topic that should be factored into future research, policy formulation and implementation as well as routine practice regarding Ebola survivors.