Healthcare seeking for chronic illness among adult slum dwellers in Bangladesh: A descriptive cross-sectional study in two urban settings

Alayne M. Adams, Rubana Islam, Sifat Shahana Yusuf, Anthony Panasci, Nancy Crowell

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Accompanying rapid urbanization in Bangladesh are inequities in health and healthcare which are most visibly manifested in slums or low-income settlements. This study examines socioeconomic, demographic and geographic patterns of self-reported chronic illness and healthcare seeking among adult slum dwellers in Bangladesh. Understanding these patterns is critical in designing more equitable urban health systems and in enabling the country's goal of Universal Health Coverage by 2030.

Methods: This descriptive cross-sectional study compares survey data from slum settlements located in two urban sites in Bangladesh, Tongi and Sylhet. Reported chronic illness symptoms and associated healthcare-seeking strategies are compared, and the catastrophic impact of household healthcare expenditures are assessed.

Results: Significant differences in healthcare-seeking for chronic illness were apparent both within and between slum settlements related to sex, wealth score (PPI), and location. Women were more likely to use private clinics than men. Compared to poorer residents, those from wealthier households sought care to a greater extent in private clinics, while poorer households relied more on drug shops and public hospitals. Chronic symptoms also differed. A greater prevalence of musculoskeletal, respiratory, digestive and neurological symptoms was reported among those with lower PPIs. In both slum sites, reliance on the private healthcare market was widespread, but greater in industrialized Tongi. Tongi also experienced a higher probability of catastrophic expenditure than Sylhet.

Conclusions: Study results point to the value of understanding context-specific health-seeking patterns for chronic illness when designing delivery strategies to address the growing burden of NCDs in slum environments. Slums are complex social and geographic entities and cannot be generalized. Priority attention should be focused on developing chronic care services that meet the needs of the working poor in terms of proximity, opening hours, quality, and cost.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0233635
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Adams et al. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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