Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Self-reported Symptoms of Reproductive Tract Infections: The Question of Accuracy and Meaning

Author: Durr-e-Nayab

Verbal surveys are the most common way of gauging any population’s health status, but questions remain regarding the accuracy of the responses they elicit. The present paper compares women’s self-reports regarding their experiences with reproductive tract infections (RTIs) and the medical diagnosis that they went through to ascertain the presence or otherwise of the infections. Weak concordance was found between women’s self-reports and the medical diagnosis, with the former over-representing the presence of infections. Some of the selfreported symptoms were pathogenic in nature, as represented by the true positive reports, but the majority of the self-reports were false positives when compared to medical diagnosis. The conventional health surveys, relying solely on verbal responses, thus, do not essentially represent the actual health situation of a population studied, and any policy intervention formulated exclusively on this information would be flawed. There is a need to understand the non-medical context of illnesses to understand the disease fully.