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BACKGROUND: Fever is a common reason to seek healthcare in Southeast Asia, and the decline of malaria has complexified how is perceived, and what actions are taken towards it. We investigated the concept of fever and the determinants influencing health-seeking behaviours among migrants on the Thai-Myanmar border, where rapid economic development collides with precarious political and socio-economic conditions. METHODS: We implemented a mixed-methods study between August to December 2019. Phase I used a qualitative approach, with in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Phase II used a quantitative approach with a close-ended questionnaire based on Phase I findings. A conditional inference tree (CIT) model first identified geographic and socio-demographic determinants, which were then tested using a logistic regression model. RESULTS: Fever corresponded to a high diversity of conceptions, symptoms and believed causes. Self-medication was the commonest behaviour at fever onset. If fever persisted, migrants primarily sought care in humanitarian cost-free clinics (45.5%, 92/202), followed by private clinics (43.1%, 87/202), health posts (36.1%, 73/202), public hospitals (33.7%, 68/202) and primary care units (30, 14.9%). The qualitative analysis identified distance and legal status as key barriers for accessing health care. The quantitative analysis further investigated determinants influencing health-seeking behaviour: living near a town where a cost-free clinic operated was inversely associated with seeking care at health posts (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.40, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] [0.19-0.86]), and public hospital attendance (aOR 0.31, 95% CI [0.14-0.67]). Living further away from the nearest town was associated with health posts attendance (aOR 1.05, 95% CI [1.00-1.10] per 1 km). Having legal status was inversely associated with cost-free clinics attendance (aOR 0.27, 95% CI [0.10-0.71]), and positively associated with private clinic and public hospital attendance (aOR 2.56, 95% CI [1.00-6.54] and 5.15, 95% CI [1.80-14.71], respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Fever conception and believed causes are context-specific and should be investigated prior to any intervention. Distance to care and legal status were key determinants influencing health-seeking behaviour. Current economic upheavals are accelerating the unregulated flow of undocumented migrants from Myanmar to Thailand, warranting further inclusiveness and investments in the public health system.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Infect Dis

Publication Date





Febrile illness, Fever conception, Health-seeking behaviour, Healthcare service, Humanitarian-based, Migrants, Migration health, NGO clinics, Public health system, Thai-Myanmar border