[en] This study analyses the choice determinants of the population for health centres through a survey of the behaviour of families in a representative sample of 1,000 households in the health districts of Kinshasa, Congo in 1997. For the most recent episode of illness, the respondents turned to seven types of care: the health centre (37%), private dispensaries (26.5%), self-medication through a pharmacy (23.9%), traditional practitioner (21%), traditional self-medication (16.9%), private outpatients' clinic (16.7%) and a reference hospital (10.4%). Past logistics have shown that patients resort to a health centre rather than another type of care structure (P = 0.05) when looking for quality care, reasonable prices and the availability of varied services. On the other hand, concern about the geographical proximity in relation to the family's residence calls for using the private dispensary. When looking for a doctor or the existence of a 'convention', families are more inclined to choose a private officially recognized outpatients' clinic. Those who had been looking for a solution to a special type of illness opted primarily for a traditional practitioner. In conclusion, the results of this study show that if people choose the care offered by health centres, it is because they judge it to be of good quality. The integrated care offered by the same technician, with a required training, is a major asset in the acceptability of the first line of primary health care in Kinshasa. This study suggests that it would no doubt be beneficial to integrate non-official private care structures into the primary health care system, as far as it is possible for them to achieve a level of quality comparable to that of the health centres. In order that the traditional practitioner might play an important complementary role in the realization of primary health care, even in urban areas, the possibility of promoting sites of communication should be studied. Moreover, considering the weak buying power of the city's inhabitants and the previous existence of tontines out of solidarity, the 'conventions' providing relief of health care costs, under the leadership of the local communities, should be integrated into the organization of the urban health system.