The first stage of a new pilot intervention to detect, manage and record neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) at primary healthcare level in Ethiopia has been completed, resulting in the training of approximately 100 health workers.
NTDs are diseases of poverty which disproportionally affect vulnerable and underserved populations. Building the capacity of primary healthcare providers to play a central role in combating those diseases will ensure that health services meet the needs of those living with NTDs and manage the chronic disabilities caused by NTD infection.
The study, led by Malaria Consortium in partnership with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, is being carried out in Hawella Tula, a district located in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Regional State. This area was selected due to the high prevalence of a number of NTDs, including schistosomiasis (intestinal and urogenital), soil-transmitted helminth infections, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and podoconiosis.
Approximately 100 health workers from the different levels of the primary health care system have been trained, including Health Extension Workers (HEWs), a cadre of trained health workers providing a basic package of care at rural health posts, and Health Development Army volunteers, a network of women tasked with driving health-related behaviour change within their communities. Now the training is complete, health workers will be better equipped to recognise patients suffering from NTDs and can look to provide good quality care. The Health Development Army will assist by detecting community members with signs and symptoms of NTDs and encouraging them to seek care from a health facility.
At the final training session in Hawassa City in May 2018, health extension worker Hana Kasahun, said: “Before the training, my knowledge was very small and now I have learned how I can manage the neglected tropical diseases. Before, I only knew about malaria being able to transmit illness through insect bites”
Esey Batisso, Malaria Consortium’s Programmes Coordinator in the region said: ‘The training went well as all sessions were covered, the turnout was high and the time allocated for each session was sufficient. I hope that the study will demonstrate integrating diagnosis, management, and recording of NTDs into primary health care is feasible and acceptable; and that it improves the capacity of primary health care in combating NTDs.”
The study involves a range of activities to assess whether the pilot intervention is feasible and acceptable to health workers, patients and communities. Results are expected towards the end of the year.
This pilot study is conducted through COMDIS-HSD, a Research Programme Consortium led by the Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development at the University of Leeds. It is funded through UK aid from the UK government.