Introduction The recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak was unprecedented in magnitude, duration and geographic scope. Hitherto there have been no population-based estimates of its impact on non-EVD health outcomes and health-seeking behaviour.
Methods We use data from a population-based panel survey conducted in the late-crisis period and two postcrisis periods to track trends in (1) the prevalence of adult and child illness, (2) subsequent usage of health services and (3) the determinants thereof.
Results The prevalence of child and adult illness remained relatively steady across all periods. Usage of health services for children and adults increased by 77% and 104%, respectively, between the late-crisis period and the postcrisis periods. In the late-crisis period, (1) socioeconomic factors weakly predict usage, (2) distrust in government strongly predicts usage, (3) direct exposure to the EVD outbreak, as measured by witnessing dead bodies or knowing Ebola victims, negatively predicts trust and usage and (4) exposure to government-organised community outreach predicts higher trust and usage. These patterns do not obtain in the post-crisis period.
Interpretation Supply-side and socioeconomic factors are insufficient to account for lower health-seeking behaviour during the crisis. Rather, it appears that distrust and negative EVD-related experiences reduced demand during the outbreak. The absence of these patterns outside the crisis period suggests that the rebound after the crisis reflects recovery of demand. Policymakers should anticipate the importance of demand-side factors, including fear and trust, on usage of health services during health crises.
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