Graduation Year


Document Type



M.A.; M.S.P.H.

Degree Granting Department

Applied Anthropology; Public Health

Major Professor

Roberta D. Baer, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Boo H. Kwa, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.


health-seeking behavior, urban health, Metro Manila, medical anthropology, maternal child health


Reducing neonatal mortality can contribute to the further reduction of infant mortality rates in international health as it is responsible for about half of the mortality rate for those underfive today. The situation of infant mortality in the Philippines is no exception to this global trend. This study of the social demographic aspects of sepsis neonatorum in the Philippines has explored the conditions of the urban environment, and local cultures related to newborn illnesses and the patterns of health seeking behaviors of urban poor mothers which can affect the survival of newborns. The mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods has been used to gather relevant data from two groups of mothers; 12 mothers with infants who had experienced neonatal septicemia and 24 mothers who live in squatter camps of Muntinlupa City, Philippines.

The results of this study indicate that two groups of mothers share a relatively similar socioeconomic status, knowledge of health and hygiene, and have similar health-seeking behaviors. The mothers’ lack of knowledge and their local view of illnesses seemed to embody questionable newborn care related to breastfeeding practices and oil applications to newborns. Three psychosocial factors that appeared to contribute to the mother’s health-seeking behaviors were attitudinal factors (this consisted of favorable or unfavorable perceptions toward services based on the mother’s prior experiences or familiarity with service), social pressures (opinions from others and the mother’s competing responsibilities), and self-efficacies accessibility, availability, and affordability). In addition, the external factor of poverty in the slum settlements was also a significant factor which determined the mother’s health seeking behaviors.

The implications of these findings are discussed in further detail, which are then followed by a set of recommendations for future health interventions designed to reduce the risk of sepsis neonatorum in urban communities. This study underscores the benefits of integrating the perspectives of anthropology and public health to further the understanding of the neonatal health problem. Finally, the need for future studies is addressed as it is necessary to further understand the existing local practices and beliefs in relation to the risks of sepsis neonatorum.