Effect of women's perceptions and household practices on children's waterborne illness in a low income community
Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
An ecosystem approach to human health was adopted in a community-based study carried out in Bebnine, an underserved town in Lebanon. The objective of the study is to examine the association between women's household practices and diarrhea among children in a setting where contaminated drinking water and intestinal diseases are common. A total of 280 women were randomly selected and interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Data were collected on 712 children between the ages of 6 and 14. The study instrument included determinants of diarrhea such as sociodemographic characteristics, water, sanitation, hygiene practices, gender variables, and behavioral risk factors. Multivariate regression analysis was employed to examine the association between water handling practices and diarrhea. The prevalence of diarrhea is 5%. Female children are more likely to suffer from diarrhea than male children (OR = 2.58; 95% CI: 1.19-5.62). Treatment of drinking water at the household level and the use of drinking water for cooking and the preparation of hot beverages are protective against diarrhea (OR = 0.15; 95% CI: 0.03-0.65). Female caretakers' behaviors such as daily bathing and seeking medical care at times of illness are protective against diarrhea in children. The findings suggest that diarrhea is a gendered health problem. Female children, who are generally more involved in household activities than male children, are at higher risk of suffering from diarrhea. Female caretakers' personal hygiene, household practices, and perceptions of diarrhea are additional risk factors. Intervention activities would be more effective if based on a better understanding of gender roles and household power relations.