Background: Endemic non-filarial elephantiasis or podoconiosis is a chronic and debilitating geochemical disease occurring in individuals exposed to red clay soil derived from alkalic volcanic rock. It is a major public health problem in countries in tropical Africa, Central America and North India.
Objective: To estimate the direct and the average productivity cost attributable to podoconiosis, and to compare the average productivity time of podoconiosis patients with non-patients.
Methods: Matched comparative cross sectional survey involving 702 study subjects (patients and non-patients) supplemented by interviews with key informants in Wolaita Zone, southern Ethiopia.
Results: Total direct costs of podoconiosis amounted to the equivalent of US$ 143 per patient per year. The total productivity loss for a patient amounted to 45% of the total working days per year, causing a monetary loss equivalent to US$ 63. In Wolaita zone, the overall cost of podoconiosis exceeds US$ 16 million per year.
Conclusions: Podoconiosis has enormous economic impact in affected areas. Simple preventive measures (such as use of robust footwear) must be promoted by health policy makers.