Caregiver Decision-Making: Household Response to Child Illness in Sub-Saharan Africa


Sub-Saharan Africa, Demographic and Health Surveys, Child illness, Caregiver Decision-making, Treatment


We draw upon a framework outlining household recognition and response to child illness proposed by Colvin et al. (Soc Sci Med 86:66–78, 2013) to examine factors predictive of treatment sought for a recent child illness. In particular, we model whether no treatment, middle layer treatment (traditional healer, pharmacy, community health worker, etc.), or biomedical treatment was sought for recent episodes of diarrhea, fever, or cough. Based on multinomial, multi-level analyses of Demographic and Health Surveys from 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we determine that if women have no say in their own healthcare, they are unlikely to seek treatment in response to child illness. We find that women in sub-Saharan Africa need healthcare knowledge, the ability to make healthcare decisions, as well as resources to negotiate cost and travel, in order to access biomedical treatment. Past experience with medical services such as prenatal care and a skilled birth attendant also increases the odds that biomedical treatment for child illness is sought. We conclude that caregiver decision-making in response to child illness within households is critical to reducing child morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original Publication Citation

Pierce, Hayley, Ashley L. Gibby, &Renata Forste.2016.“Caregiver Decision-making: Household Response to Child Illness.”Population Research and Policy Review, 35(5):581-597.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Population Research and Policy Review




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor