Journal of Biosocial Science

Research Article

Perceptions of symptoms of severe childhood malaria among Mijikenda and Luo residents of Coastal Kenya

H. A. Mwenesia1a2, T. Harphama3, K. Marsha2a4 and R. W. Snowa2a4

a1 Medical Research Centre, Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Nairobi

a2 Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Coastal Unit, Kilifi, Kenya

a3 Public Health and Policy Department, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford

a4 Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Oxford University, Oxford


Effective community based malaria control programmes require an understanding of current perceptions of malaria as a disease and its severe manifestations. Quantitative and qualitative surveys of mothers on the Kenyan Coast suggest that fever is conceptualised in biomedical terms whereas the aetiology of severe malaria is perceived to be of more complex cultural origin. This is reflected in the treatments sought for convulsions. The results are discussed in the context of ethnographic factors. To be effective, future health information programmes must take cultural beliefs into account.

(Received June 07 1994)