Healthcare seeking behaviour (HSB) is defined as, “Health or care seeking behavior has been defined as any action undertaken by individuals who perceive themselves to have a health problem or to be ill for the purpose of finding an appropriate remedy. Since the first case of the Corona virus was detected in Cameroon on the 6th of March 2020, there have been a lot of myths about the virus and its treatment options which has had an effect on the health care seeking behavior of Cameroonian citizens. The virus has been diagnosed in all the 10 regions of the country with cases growing exponentially on a daily basis especially in the Centre, Littoral and West regions of the country. According to the Cameroon news agency, as of Monday the 17th of August, there were 18469 cases, 16540 recoveries and 401 deaths.
Since the first case of the Corona virus was detected in Cameroon, there has been an exponential increase in cases. This pandemic has resulted in far-reaching consequences on societal life including on the health seeking behavior in communities. Several factors are known to influence health seeking behavior of individuals and in the context of a pandemic, these factors are common.
In Cameroon, phobia of health facilities especially those designated as COVID-19 treatment centers has been very prevalent, with several facilities observing significant drops in the number of consultations and other patient care activities. Fueling this phobia is the fear of being exposed to infected patients and fear of being misdiagnosed and confined because of respiratory symptoms. Some persons abhor the stigma associated with a positive test for COVID-19 and would rather avoid hospital settings where testing is more likely. One consequence of this change in behavior is an increase in the use of self-prescribed conventional and traditional remedies.
Misinformation and propaganda concerning COVID-19 which has been rampant via social media has also had an impact on health seeking behavior. Media posts about killer vaccines, infected face masks and 5G theories just to name a few, had varying effect on health seeking trends. As a result, gross mistrust of the health system, boycotting of vaccination campaigns and disregard for guidance from government and international organisations were manifested in some communities.
Therefore, the following recommendations are necessary to combat poor health seeking behavior amid COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon:
- Temporal treatment sites like stadia be used as COVID-19 isolation centers to decongest hospital and reduce the phobia associated with seeking regular medical care in health facilities.
- Targeted media programs be designed to fight COVID-19 misinformation and stigmatization
- Reinforcement of remote counseling services via phone calls and internet to accompany communities through the trauma of living in a pandemic setting.