Knowledge, attitudes and practices of health professionals towards people living with lymphoedema caused by lymphatic filariasis, podoconiosis and leprosy in northern Ethiopia

Int Health. 2021 Oct 11;ihab067. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihab067. Online ahead of print.


Background: Podoconiosis, lymphatic filariasis and leprosy are highly stigmatised neglected tropical diseases that cause lymphoedema. Their enormous impacts on health-related quality of life, mental health and economic productivity can be significantly reduced by morbidity management and disability prevention (MMDP) services, but to deliver such services requires appropriate training of healthcare professionals. The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) of rural Ethiopian healthcare professionals towards people with lymphoedema as a way to assess training needs.

Methods: This study used questionnaires to quantitatively assess KAP towards people with lymphoedema among rural healthcare professionals in northwest Ethiopia before and 12 months after a short training intervention.

Results: Questionnaires were administered to 14 health professionals at baseline and 21 at follow-up. At baseline, 71% (10/14) were found to hold at least one stigmatising attitude towards lymphoedema patients, compared with 66% (14/21) at follow-up. Large gaps in knowledge were noted, with many unable to identify ways of treating/preventing the diseases.

Conclusions: This study showed high proportions of healthcare workers holding stigmatising views and lacking essential knowledge about lymphoedema. To maximise the impact of MMDP interventions, further research is urgently needed to understand how to address these issues.

Keywords: attitudes; elephantiasis; health knowledge; leprosy; neglected diseases; practices; social stigma.