Trust matters: A narrative literature review of the role of trust in health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa

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This article makes a contribution to the debate about health service utilisation and the role of trust in fostering demand for health services in sub-Saharan Africa. It is framed as a narrative literature review based on a thematic analysis of nine empirical, qualitative studies. For the purposes of this article trust is defined as a voluntary course of action, which involves the optimistic expectation that the trustee will do no harm to the trustor and is increasingly perceived as an important influence on health system functioning. The article looks at trust issues in interpersonal, intergroup and institutional situations. The findings of the review point to four elements that are important for trust to develop in health sector relationships: the sensitive use of discretionary power by health workers, perceived empathy by patients of the health workers, the quality of medical care and workplace collegiality. When trust works in health sector encounters, it reduces the social complexity and inherent uneven distribution of power between clients and providers. The article concludes that understanding and supporting trust processes between patients and providers, as well as between co-workers and managers, will improve health sector collaboration and stimulate demand for health care services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1046-1059
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2015

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - ethnographic methods , mistrust , narrative literature review , situations of trust , sub-Saharan Africa

ID: 138735454