Nicholls, P.G., Wiens, C. and Smith, W.C.S.
Delay in presentation in the context of local knowledge and attitude towards leprosy: the results of qualitative fieldwork in Paraguay
International Journal of Leprosy and other Mycobacterial Diseases, 71, (3), . (doi:10.1489/1544-581X(2003)71<198:DIPITC>2.0.CO;2). (PMID:14608815).
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OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of our research was to explore help-seeking behavior in the context of knowledge, attitude, and practice as factors contributing to delay in presentation in leprosy. The secondary objective was to demonstrate the value of basic qualitative research methods in this context. METHODOLOGY: Fieldwork was based at the Hospital Mennonita Km 81, the referral center for leprosy services in Paraguay. We adopted exclusively qualitative methods for fieldwork, effectively carrying out a rapid assessment of factors contributing to delay. We relied on multiple sources of information and the use of multiple methods to ensure the validity of our findings. RESULTS: Our findings linked delay in presentation to traditional beliefs, lack of awareness of the early symptoms of leprosy, stigma, seeking help from natural healers, and to interactions with the health services. Traditional beliefs diminish the importance of the early symptoms of leprosy. Stigma has an impact on decisions to seek help. Natural healers have maintained their traditional status in society; their preferred treatments for leprosy are ineffective. Only rarely do natural healers refer to the health services. Once presented to the health services, some individuals affected by leprosy experienced lengthy delays in diagnosis and start of treatment. DISCUSSION: To address the traditional values of a society and provide effective public health initiatives is a clearly a major challenge for program organizers and for health education. Increased awareness of leprosy and sensitivity to its social consequences among health service practitioners is a further priority.
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