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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


ISAZA, Diana María et al. Leishmaniasis: knowledge and practices in populations of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1999, vol.6, n.3, pp.177-184. ISSN 1680-5348.

In 1997 a descriptive study with a qualitative emphasis was carried out in order to document, by gender, the knowledge and practices related to cutaneous leishmaniasis among inhabitants 14 years and older in seven communities of Colombia's Pacific coastal department of Chocó. Since the control activities carried out by the Chocó Sectional Health Services had not had the desired results, the residents of the region were at high risk of contracting leishmaniasis, which they called bejuco (liana) and yateví. Qualitative data were collected by directly involving each community in discussion workshops and by interviewing knowledgeable informants. Using these materials as a foundation, the researchers prepared a survey with 10 closed-ended questions, which they administered to all persons over 14 years of age in each randomly chosen home visited. The results indicate that 94% of the population knew that leishmaniasis appeared as a skin disease; those not knowing that were more often women than men. With respect to the mode of transmission, 35% of the respondents connected the disease to the bite of an insect, but they did not what the etiologic agent was and thought that the bite was inflicted by a worm that lives in the mountains. In the communities studied, the residents used a great variety of treatments to cure the disease. The treatments were based on plants, chemical substances, burning the lesions with a piece of heated metal, and, to a lesser degree, drugs. Despite being responsible for taking care of sick persons in the household, women were not acquainted with the traditional treatments used in the community. This gender difference in treatment knowledge was statistically significant, the only such statistically significant gender difference found in the research. Of the people surveyed, 45% did not know how to prevent the disease. This was more often true for women; 102 of the 155 respondents saying they did not know how to prevent the disease were women. This research emphasizes the importance of studying the knowledge and practices of local inhabitants before designing and organizing educational programs to control leishmaniasis.

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