Background: The effect of health education provided by teachers, in three primary schools of Guerrero, Mexico, on the prevalence of head louse infestation was compared.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey and rapid appraisal methods were performed, including a child questionnaire and qualitative data from teachers and focus groups of mothers in the same schools.
Results: Nine hundred and forty-four students and 33 teachers were interviewed; a focus group discussion with 6-8 mothers per school was performed. In the self-diagnosis of pediculosis, the prevalence was 22% (range, 18%-33%) with a sensitivity of 68% and a specificity of 86%. In one school, 100% of the teachers applied a health program, whereas in the other two schools this percentage was only 20%. A child under 9 years of age who attended a school without information on health was 3.6 times more likely to have head louse infestation (OR = 3.6, CI 95% = 2.1-6) than a child of the same age who attended a school where information was given. In older children the effect and potential impact were lower. The difference between the two age groups is unlikely to be explained by chance (X2 het = 5.7, df = 1, p = 0.01).
Conclusions: This study emphasizes the potential value of simple, but effective, health education provided by school teaching staff through liaison with patents in the amelioration of endemic disease.