BioScience Trends. 2009;3(1):3-16.

Assessment of the experiences and coping strategies of people working in the informal sector in their quest to access health care services: The case of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Munga MA, Gideon GM


Addressing inequities in health care provision and financing has been at the center stage of Health Sector Reform (HSR) discussions since the early 1980s. The poor, women, and informal health sector workers in most developing countries are rarely covered by formal health insurance mechanisms that are meant to ensure access to essential health services. They are also sidelined in formal banking and credit systems due to their being predominantly low income earners, with little resources to meet eligibility criteria for borrowing and also to be considered creditworthy. In light of this fact, the present paper analyzes both quantitative and qualitative data in an attempt to explore and discuss the experiences and coping strategies of women and men employed in the informal sector economy in their daily attempts to access health care services. The paper employs Malaria as a tracer disease and gender as a unit of analysis. Analysis indicated the significance, as perceived by interviewees, of both informal credit networks and formal insurance and banking systems as important shock-absorbers for vulnerable populations in their struggle to access basic health services in times of need. The paper further highlights and discusses diverse coping strategies that households employ in dealing with illness-related costs and a greater willingness to be integrated into both formal and informal financial mechanisms. The paper finally concludes that the government must take the following steps: 1) enhance existing formal and communitybased initiatives to make them sustainable, 2) devise ways to reduce the lack of flexibility in membership requirements for insurance schemes/financial institutions, and 3) reduce perverse incentives inherent in the health system that may prevent people from seeking membership in available insurance mechanisms. In addition, deliberate steps must be taken by the government to employ 'targeted measures' to ensure that health care access is improved and sustained particularly for vulnerable populations.

KEYWORDS: Informal sector, (In)Equity, Coping strategies, Access, Malaria

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