Malaria: The assessment of knowledge, perception with respect to social and cultural context of a tribal community of western Odisha and barriers in seeking treatment
Smrooti Prajna Patel
Since the dawn of civilization the mankind has been affected by various diseases and pestilence. Malaria had been a major concern all the time world over as it eluded treatment for a long time and during Second World War too it took thousands of life. The disease has been endemic to the equatorial and the tropical areas and ran in fatal proportion before the malaria parasite was discovered by Sir Ronal Ross, a colonial doctor in India, inside the intestine of female anopheles mosquito. Consequently, Quinine was invented and a measure breakthrough was reached. Despite decades of great control and prevention efforts, Malaria still remains a major global public health problem affecting all ages. It remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Two strains of malaria parasite has been the cause of malaria – Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum. Whereas the first one is responsible for common malaria, the other causes cerebral malaria. Malaria is a major problem of the tribal areas of India. 50 percent of all malaria cases, 70 percent of all cerebral malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) cases and 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in tribal areas. The high incidence of malaria in tribal areas is due to a variety of factors. The present study was undertaken with the aim to assess the knowledge and perceptions regarding malaria; it further tries to investigate the treatment seeking behaviour and exploring factors involved in the selection of different treatment options in the studied population. Data have been collected by using different qualitative methods like observation, focus group discussion and also questionnaire based household surveys to household heads, in-depth interviews to key informants were carried out independently. This paper presents the results of a study into community perceptions and practice relating to causation, treatment and prevention of malaria in Oraons community of a village of Western Odisha. The Oraons of the studied area are aware of malaria fever and actively seeking medical help from available sources of treatment, however they are poorly informed of dangerous falciparum malaria and process of the disease transmissions through infected mosquitoes. They have less access to the government health facility. Further social and cultural beliefs and practices play crucial roles among tribal people as barriers and stimulants to accept and reject modern health care services and other health facilities. Thus the improved health services in terms of availability, quality and accessibility and effective information and communication regarding diseases and services can go a long way in tackling the problem.