Perceptions of Gender Disparities in Access to Surgical Care in Malawi: A Community Based Survey

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Am Surg. 2022 May 19:31348221101522. doi: 10.1177/00031348221101522. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Gender disparities in surgical care exist but have been minimally studied, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This study explored perceptions and gender differences in health-seeking behavior and attitudes toward surgical care in Malawi among community members.

METHODS: A survey tool was administered to adults ≥18 years old at a central hospital, district hospital, and two marketplaces in Malawi from June 2018 to December 2018. Responses from men and women were compared using chi-squared tests.

RESULTS: Four hundred eighty-five adults participated in the survey, 244 (50.3%) men and 241 (49.7%) women. Women were more likely to state that fear of surgery might prevent them from seeking surgical care (29.1% of men, 43.6% of women, P = .0009). Both genders reported long wait times, medicine/physician shortages, and lack of information about when surgery is needed as potential barriers to seeking surgical care. More men stated that medical preference should be given to sons (17.1% of men, 9.3% of women, P = .01). Men were more likely to report that men should have the final word about household decisions (28.7% of men vs 19.5% of women, P < .0001) and were more likely to spend money independently (68.7% of married men, 37.5% of married women, P < .0001). Few participants reported believing gender equality had been achieved (61% of men and 66.8% of women).

CONCLUSIONS: A multi-pronged approach is needed to reduce gender disparities in surgical care in Malawi, including addressing paternalistic societal norms, education, and improving health infrastructure.

PMID:35592895 | DOI:10.1177/00031348221101522