Background Each year, several thousand cases of malaria occur in south-central Vietnam. Evidence from elsewhere suggests that malaria can have an economic impact on the household as the illness prevents households from completing their normal, physically demanding, productive duties such as tending crops and animals. The economic impact of malaria on households was explored within the Raglay ethnic minority living in the montainous and forested area of south-central Vietnam (Ninh Thuan Province). Methods Two-hundred fifty-one malaria patients were identified and interviewed in an exit survey at Community Health Centres. The same patient sample was then re-interviewed in a household survey two to four weeks later. Survey data were complemented by approximately 40 informal discussions with health workers, vendors, patients, and community leaders. Results Each episode of malaria was estimated to cost the patient's household an average of 11.79 USD (2005 prices), direct costs for travel and treatment representing 6% of the total while the remainder was loss in annual income. Conclusion Whilst government provision of malaria treatment keeps the direct costs relatively low, the overall loss in income due to illness can still be significant given the poverty amongst this population, especially when multiple cases of malaria occur annually within the same household
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