A contextual exploration of healthcare service use in urban slums in Nigeria

Olufunke Fayehun, Motunrayo Ajisola, Olalekan Uthman, Oyinlola Oyebode, Abiola Oladejo, Eme Owoaje, Olalekan Taiwo, Oladoyin Odubanjo, Bronwyn Harris, Richard Lilford, Akinyinka Omigbodun, Gouranga Lal Dasvarma (Editor)

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Many urban residents in low- and middle-income countries live in unfavorable conditions with few healthcare facilities, calling to question the long-held view of urban advantage in health, healthcare access and utilization. We explore the patterns of healthcare utilization in these deprived neighborhoods by studying three such settlements in Nigeria.

The study was conducted in three slums in Southwestern Nigeria, categorized as migrant, indigenous or cosmopolitan, based on their characteristics. Using observational data of those who needed healthcare and used in-patient or out-patient services in the 12 months preceding the survey, frequencies, percentages and odds-ratios were used to show the study participants’ environmental and population characteristics, relative to their patterns of healthcare use.

A total of 1,634 residents from the three slums participated, distributed as 763 (migrant), 459 (indigenous) and 412 (cosmopolitan). Residents from the migrant (OR = 0.70, 95%CI: 0.51 to 0.97) and indigenous (OR = 0.65, 95%CI: 0.45 to 0.93) slums were less likely to have used formal healthcare facilities than those from the cosmopolitan slum. Slum residents were more likely to use formal healthcare facilities for maternal and perinatal conditions, and generalized pains, than for communicable (OR = 0.50, 95%CI: 0.34 to 0.72) and non-communicable diseases (OR = 0.61, 95%CI: 0.41 to 0.91). The unemployed had higher odds (OR = 1.45, 95%CI: 1.08 to 1.93) of using formal healthcare facilities than those currently employed.

The cosmopolitan slum, situated in a major financial center and national economic hub, had a higher proportion of formal healthcare facility usage than the migrant and indigenous slums where about half of families were classified as poor. The urban advantage premise and Anderson behavioral model remain a practical explanatory framework, although they may not explain healthcare use in all possible slum types in Africa. A context-within-context approach is important for addressing healthcare utilization challenges in slums in sub-Saharan Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0264725
JournalPLOS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2022


  • Nigeria
  • healthcare use
  • slums
  • urban


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