Social support in the practices of informal providers: The case of patent and proprietary medicine vendors in Nigeria
The social and institutional environments in which informal healthcare providers operate shape their health and business practices, particularly in contexts where regulatory enforcement is weak. In this study, we adopt a social capital perspective to understanding the social networks on which proprietary and patent medicine vendors (PPMVs) in Nigeria rely for support in the operation of their shops. Data are drawn from 70 in-depth interviews with PPMVs in three states, including interviews with local leaders of the PPMV professional association. We find that PPMVs primarily relied on more senior colleagues and formal healthcare professionals for informational support, including information about new medicines and advice on how to treat specific cases of illness. For instrumental support, including finance, start-up assistance, and intervention with regulatory agencies, PPMVs relied on extended family, the PPMVs with whom they apprenticed, and the leaders of their professional association. PPMVs' networks also provided continual reinforcement of what constitutes good PPMV practice through admonishments to follow scope of practice limitations. These informal reminders, as well as monitoring activities conducted by the professional association, served to reinforce PPMVs' concern with avoiding negative customer health outcomes, which were perceived to be detrimental to their business reputations. That PPMVs' networks both encouraged practices to reduce the likelihood of poor health outcomes, and provided advice regarding customers' health conditions, highlights the potential impact of informal providers' access to different forms of social capital on their delivery of health services, as well as their success as microenterprises.
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Volume (Year): 143 (2015)
Issue (Month): C ()
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