International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (Sep 2021)

Barriers to Access of Healthcare Services for Rural Women—Applying Gender Lens on TB in a Rural District of Sindh, Pakistan

  • Shifa Salman Habib,
  • Wafa Zehra Jamal,
  • Syed Mohammad Asad Zaidi,
  • Junaid-Ur-Rehman Siddiqui,
  • Hira Mustafa Khan,
  • Jacob Creswell,
  • Srichand Batra,
  • Anna Versfeld

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 10102
p. 10102


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Background: Women in the rural districts of Pakistan face numerous barriers to healthcare, rendering gender-responsive health programming important, including for the disease of tuberculosis (TB). This study was conducted to assess the general understanding of TB and for women’s access to healthcare, as a first step towards implementation of a gender responsive TB program in Tando Allahyar, a rural district of Pakistan. Methods: A total of 36 participants were interviewed for the study. The focus group discussion guide comprised of questions on: (1) family/household dynamics, (2) community norms, (3) healthcare systems, (4) women’s access to healthcare, (5) TB Awareness, and (6) women’s access to TB Care. Results: Limited autonomy in household financial decision-making, disapproval of unassisted travel, long travel time, lack of prioritization of spending on women’s health and inadequate presence of female health providers, were identified as barriers to access healthcare for women, which is even higher in younger women. Facilitators to access of TB care included a reported lack of TB-related stigma, moderate knowledge about TB disease, and broad understanding of tuberculosis as a curable disease. Other suggested facilitators include health facilities closer to the villages and the availability of higher quality services. Conclusion: Significant barriers are faced by women in accessing TB care in rural districts of Pakistan. Program implementers in high burden countries should shift towards improved gender-responsive TB programming.