The Best of Both Worlds for Newborn Survival - The relationship between neonatal health behavior and beliefs according to mothers; A case study in the Southern Province of Zambia

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUMID International Master programme in applied International Development and Management

Abstract: In the context of a global surge in attention towards reducing neonatal mortality in developing countries, this study explores how mothers in the Southern Province of Zambia describe their behavior to prevent and care for neonatal illnesses, and how this behavior is related to their beliefs on neonatal illness causation. Using an anthropological approach that is based on Kleinman’s (1980) local Health Care Systems model, this study has found that mothers’ illness etiology concepts strongly inform their health behavior when it occurs in the popular and folk sectors. Within this framework of strong traditional beliefs, however, common utilization of the professional sector is argued to imply that, through a process of rationalism that is informed by empirical effectiveness, mothers have reconciled their way of understanding illness in order to accept new systems of care and to adapt to their changing environment. These findings have important implications for public health specialists, because they suggest that in this context, new health practices to improve neonatal survival can be accepted by local populations and accommodated to the current belief system, as long as they are considered to be effective – a judgment that is to be made by local populations themselves, in relation to their health values and priorities.

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