BACKGROUND: The existence and magnitude of socio-economic inequalities in health-seeking behaviours for child curative care in Egypt and mechanisms underlying these associations have not been comprehensively assessed. This study examined whether socio-economic position (SEP) was associated with health-seeking behaviours for diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection (ARI) in children and explored potential mechanisms underlying these associations using mediation analysis.
METHODS: Children aged under-five years living with their mothers sampled by the 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey were used to estimate the prevalence of diarrhoea and ARI in the two-week period preceding the survey. If either illness was reported, three dimensions of health-seeking were examined in adjusted mediation models, separately by illness: whether medical care was sought, whether such care was timely (within one day of symptom onset), and whether it was sought from private providers. Latent variables of parental socio-cultural capital and household-level economic capital were the main exposures of interest.
RESULTS: In the sample of 10,006 children, 8.4% had diarrhoea and 7.6% had ARI. Care was sought for 62.0% of children with diarrhoea and 78.5% with ARI; two-thirds of care-seeking for both illnesses was timely. More than 7 in 10 children who sought care were taken to private providers. Socio-cultural capital or economic capital were not independently associated with seeking care for either illness. Socio-cultural capital was positively associated with timely care-seeking, and economic capital was positively associated with private provider use in adjusted analyses for both illnesses.
CONCLUSIONS: SEP was not a strong determinant of care-seeking for diarrhoea or ARI, but there was a modest positive effect of SEP on timely receipt of care and private provider use. Further research is needed to explore perceptions of illness severity and the availability and quality of care from public and private providers.