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.
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