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1.  Mental distress and podoconiosis in Northern Ethiopia: a comparative cross-sectional study 
International health  2014;7(1):16-25.
The stigma, deformity and disability related to most neglected tropical diseases may lead to poor mental health. We aimed to assess the comorbidity of podoconiosis and mental distress.
A comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in 2012, including 346 people with podoconiosis and 349 healthy neighbourhood controls. Symptoms of mental distress were assessed using the validated Amharic translation of the Kessler-10 scale (K10). A linear regression analysis was conducted to identify factors associated with mental distress.
The mean K10 score was 15.92 (95% CI: 15.27 to 16.57) in people with podoconiosis and 14.49 (95% CI: 13.85 to 15.12) in controls (average K10 scores 1.43 points higher [95% CI: 0.52 to 2.34]). In multivariate linear regression of K10 scores, the difference remained significant when adjusted for gender, income, alcohol use, age, place of residence and family history of mental illness. In the adjusted model, people with podoconiosis had K10 scores 1.37 points higher than controls (95% CI: 0.64 to 2.18). Other variables were also associated with high K10 scores: women had K10 scores 1.41 points higher than men (95% CI: 0.63 to 2.18). Those with family history of mental illness had K10 scores 3.56 points higher than those without (95% CI: 0.55 to 6.56).
This study documented a high burden of mental distress among people with podoconiosis compared with healthy controls. Taking this finding in the context of the high stigma and reduced quality of life, we recommend integration of psychosocial care into the current morbidity management of podoconiosis.
PMCID: PMC4236095  PMID: 25062906
Elephantiasis; Ethiopia; Mental distress; Mental health disorders; Neglected tropical disease; Podoconiosis
2.  Epidemiology and individual, household and geographical risk factors of podoconiosis in Ethiopia: results from the first nationwide mapping 
Although podoconiosis is one of the major causes of tropical lymphoedema and is endemic in Ethiopia its epidemiology and risk factors are poorly understood. Individual level data for 129,959 individuals from 1,315 communities in 659 woreda (districts) were collected for nationwide integrated survey of lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis. Blood samples were tested for circulating Wuchereria bancrofti antigen using immunochromatographic card tests. A clinical algorithm was used to reach a diagnosis of podoconiosis by excluding other potential causes of lymphoedema of the lower limb. Bayesian multilevel models were used to identify individual and environmental risk factors. Overall, 8,110 of 129,959 (6.2%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.1 - 6.4%) surveyed individuals were identified with lymphoedema of the lower limb, of whom 5,253 (4.0%, 95% CI 3.9 - 4.1%) were confirmed to be podoconiosis cases. In multivariable analysis, being female, older, unmarried, washing the feet less frequently than daily, and being semiskilled or unemployed were significantly associated with increased risk of podoconiosis. Attending formal education and living in a house with a covered floor were associated with decreased risk of podoconiosis. Podoconiosis exhibits marked geographical variation across Ethiopia, with variation in risk associated with variation in rainfall, enhanced vegetation index and altitude.
PMCID: PMC4288951  PMID: 25404069
podoconiosis; mapping; non-filarial elephantiasis; lymphoedema; Ethiopia
3.  Association between Footwear Use and Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
The control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) has primarily focused on preventive chemotherapy and case management. Less attention has been placed on the role of ensuring access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene and personal preventive measures in reducing exposure to infection. Our aim was to assess whether footwear use was associated with a lower risk of selected NTDs.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between footwear use and infection or disease for those NTDs for which the route of transmission or occurrence may be through the feet. We included Buruli ulcer, cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), leptospirosis, mycetoma, myiasis, podoconiosis, snakebite, tungiasis, and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections, particularly hookworm infection and strongyloidiasis. We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane, Web of Science, CINAHL Plus, and Popline databases, contacted experts, and hand-searched reference lists for eligible studies. The search was conducted in English without language, publication status, or date restrictions up to January 2014. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported a measure of the association between footwear use and the risk of each NTD. Publication bias was assessed using funnel plots. Descriptive study characteristics and methodological quality of the included studies were summarized. For each study outcome, both outcome and exposure data were abstracted and crude and adjusted effect estimates presented. Individual and summary odds ratio (OR) estimates and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated as a measure of intervention effect, using random effects meta-analyses.
Principal Findings
Among the 427 studies screened, 53 met our inclusion criteria. Footwear use was significantly associated with a lower odds of infection of Buruli ulcer (OR = 0.15; 95% CI: 0.08–0.29), CLM (OR = 0.24; 95% CI: 0.06–0.96), tungiasis (OR = 0.42; 95% CI: 0.26–0.70), hookworm infection (OR = 0.48; 95% CI: 0.37–0.61), any STH infection (OR = 0.57; 95% CI: 0.39–0.84), strongyloidiasis (OR = 0.56; 95% CI: 0.38–0.83), and leptospirosis (OR = 0.59; 95% CI: 0.37–0.94). No significant association between footwear use and podoconiosis (OR = 0.63; 95% CI: 0.38–1.05) was found and no data were available for mycetoma, myiasis, and snakebite. The main limitations were evidence of heterogeneity and poor study quality inherent to the observational studies included.
Our results show that footwear use was associated with a lower odds of several different NTDs. Access to footwear should be prioritized alongside existing NTD interventions to ensure a lasting reduction of multiple NTDs and to accelerate their control and elimination.
Protocol Registration
PROSPERO International prospective register of systematic reviews CRD42012003338
Author Summary
Consistent use of footwear may help in preventing or slowing down the progression of many neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between footwear use and infection or disease for those NTDs for which the route of transmission or occurrence may be through the feet. We found that footwear use reduces the risk of Buruli ulcer, tungiasis, hookworm, any STH infection, strongyloidiasis, and leptospirosis. No significant association between footwear use and podoconiosis was found and no data were available for mycetoma, myiasis or snakebite. We recommend that access to footwear should be prioritized alongside existing NTD interventions to ensure a lasting reduction of multiple NTDs and to accelerate their control and elimination.
PMCID: PMC4230915  PMID: 25393620
4.  Extent of podoconiosis-related stigma in Wolaita Zone, Southern Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:647.
Studies have indicated that social stigma related to podoconiosis (endemic non-filarial elephantiasis) has a major impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of patients. However, little effort has been made so far to quantify the level of both felt and enacted stigma in a range of domains of life. We used a recently developed podoconiosis stigma assessment scale to measure levels of stigma as recalled over the previous 12 months. One hundred and fifty patients with podoconiosis rated the levels of stigma they perceived and experienced in ‘interpersonal interactions’, ‘major life areas’ and ‘community, social and civic life’. High levels of stigma were observed on both felt and enacted stigma scales. The overall average stigma score was 40.7 (range 0 to 96). Enacted stigma was scored higher than felt stigma (mean score 21.2 vs. 19.5, respectively). The mean enacted stigma score was higher in ‘major life areas’, and ‘community, social and civic life’ than ‘interpersonal interactions’, while felt stigma was experienced most at the interpersonal level. Over half of patients reported that they had considered suicide in response to discrimination and prejudice, particularly in interpersonal interactions. Forced divorce, dissolution of marriage plan, insults and exclusion at social events were some of the most commonly mentioned forms of enacted stigma reported by affected individuals. Scores for overall level of stigma and enacted stigma increased significantly with stage of podoconiosis while the association observed in relation to felt stigma was only marginally significant (p = 0.085). Appropriate stigma reduction strategies must be identified and implemented in communities highly endemic for podoconiosis.
PMCID: PMC4233027  PMID: 25485190
Podoconiosis; Enacted stigma; Felt stigma; Ethiopia
5.  Perceptions of consent, permission structures and approaches to the community: a rapid ethical assessment performed in North West Cameroon 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1026.
Understanding local contextual factors is important when conducting international collaborative studies in low-income country settings. Rapid ethical assessment (a brief qualitative intervention designed to map the ethical terrain of a research setting prior to recruitment of participants), has been used in a range of research-naïve settings. We used rapid ethical assessment to explore ethical issues and challenges associated with approaching communities and gaining informed consent in North West Cameroon.
This qualitative study was carried out in two health districts in the North West Region of Cameroon between February and April 2012. Eleven focus group discussions (with a total of 107 participants) were carried out among adult community members, while 72 in-depth interviews included health workers, non-government organisation staff and local community leaders. Data were collected in English and pidgin, translated where necessary into English, transcribed and coded following themes.
Many community members had some understanding of informed consent, probably through exposure to agricultural research in the past. Participants described a centralised permission-giving structure in their communities, though there was evidence of some subversion of these structures by the educated young and by women. Several acceptable routes for approaching the communities were outlined, all including the health centre and the Fon (traditional leader). The importance of time spent in sensitizing the community and explaining information was stressed.
Respondents held relatively sophisticated understanding of consent and were able to outline the structures of permission-giving in the community. Although the structures are unique to these communities, the role of certain trusted groups is common to several other communities in Kenya and Ethiopia explored using similar techniques. The information gained through Rapid Ethical Assessment will form an important guide for future studies in North West Cameroon.
PMCID: PMC4195877  PMID: 25277694
6.  Integrated mapping of lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis: lessons learnt from Ethiopia 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):397.
The World Health Organization (WHO), international donors and partners have emphasized the importance of integrated control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Integrated mapping of NTDs is a first step for integrated planning of programmes, proper resource allocation and monitoring progress of control. Integrated mapping has several advantages over disease specific mapping by reducing costs and enabling co-endemic areas to be more precisely identified. We designed and conducted integrated mapping of lymphatic filariasis (LF) and podoconiosis in Ethiopia; here we present the methods, challenges and lessons learnt.
Integrated mapping of 1315 communities across Ethiopia was accomplished within three months. Within these communities, 129,959 individuals provided blood samples that were tested for circulating Wuchereria bancrofti antigen using immunochromatographic card tests (ICT). Wb123 antibody tests were used to further establish exposure to LF in areas where at least one ICT positive individual was detected. A clinical algorithm was used to reliably diagnose podoconiosis by excluding other potential causes of lymphoedema of the lower limb.
A total of 8110 individuals with leg swelling were interviewed and underwent physical examination. Smartphones linked to a central database were used to collect data, which facilitated real-time data entry and reduced costs compared to traditional paper-based data collection approach; their inbuilt Geographic Positioning System (GPS) function enabled simultaneous capture of geographical coordinates. The integrated approach led to efficient use of resources and rapid mapping of an enormous geographical area and was well received by survey staff and collaborators. Mobile based technology can be used for such large scale studies in resource constrained settings such as Ethiopia, with minimal challenges.
This was the first integrated mapping of podoconiosis and LF globally. Integrated mapping of podoconiosis and LF is feasible and, if properly planned, can be quickly achieved at nationwide scale.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-397) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4153915  PMID: 25164687
Integrated; Mapping; Lymphedema; Elephantiasis; Lymphatic filariasis; Podoconiosis; Ethiopia
7.  Concerns about covert HIV testing are associated with delayed presentation of suspected malaria in Ethiopian children: a cross-sectional study 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:301.
Early diagnosis is important in preventing mortality from malaria. The hypothesis that guardians’ fear of covert human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing delays presentation of children with suspected malaria was tested.
The study design is a cross-sectional survey. The study population consisted of guardians of children with suspected malaria who presented to health centres in Oromia Region, Ethiopia. Data were collected on attitudes to HIV testing and the duration of children’s symptoms using interview administered questionnaires.
Some 830 individuals provided data representing a response rate of 99% of eligible participants. Of these, 423 (51%) guardians perceived that HIV testing was routinely done on blood donated for malaria diagnosis, and 353 (43%) were aware of community members who delayed seeking medical advice because of these concerns. Children whose guardians suspected that blood was covertly tested for HIV had longer median delay to presentation for evaluation at health centres compared to those children whose guardians did not hold this belief (three days compared to two days, p < 0.001). Children whose guardians were concerned about covert HIV testing were at a higher odds of a prolonged delay before being seen at a health centre (odds ratio 1.73, 95% confidence intervals: 1.10 to 270 for a delay of ≥3 days compared to those seen in ≤2 days).
Children whose guardians believed that covert testing for HIV was routine clinical practice presented later for investigation of suspected malaria. This may account for up to 14% of the delay in presentation and represents a reversible risk factor for suboptimal management of malaria.
PMCID: PMC4126071  PMID: 25098338
Malaria; HIV; Diagnosis; Delay; Stigma; Ethiopia
8.  Modelling environmental factors correlated with podoconiosis: a geospatial study of non-filarial elephantiasis 
The precise trigger of podoconiosis — endemic non-filarial elephantiasis of the lower legs — is unknown. Epidemiological and ecological studies have linked the disease with barefoot exposure to red clay soils of volcanic origin. Histopathology investigations have demonstrated that silicon, aluminium, magnesium and iron are present in the lower limb lymph node macrophages of both patients and non-patients living barefoot on these clays. We studied the spatial variation (variations across an area) in podoconiosis prevalence and the associated environmental factors with a goal to better understanding the pathogenesis of podoconiosis.
Fieldwork was conducted from June 2011 to February 2013 in 12 kebeles (administrative units) in northern Ethiopia. Geo-located prevalence data and soil samples were collected and analysed along with secondary geological, topographic, meteorological and elevation data. Soil data were analysed for chemical composition, mineralogy and particle size, and were interpolated to provide spatially continuous information. Exploratory, spatial, univariate and multivariate regression analyses of podoconiosis prevalence were conducted in relation to primary (soil) and secondary (elevation, precipitation, and geology) covariates.
Podoconiosis distribution showed spatial correlation with variation in elevation and precipitation. Exploratory analysis identified that phyllosilicate minerals, particularly clay (smectite and kaolinite) and mica groups, quartz (crystalline silica), iron oxide, and zirconium were associated with podoconiosis prevalence. The final multivariate model showed that the quantities of smectite (RR = 2.76, 95% CI: 1.35, 5.73; p = 0.007), quartz (RR = 1.16, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.26; p = 0.001) and mica (RR = 1.09, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.13; p < 0.001) in the soil had positive associations with podoconiosis prevalence.
More quantities of smectite, mica and quartz within the soil were associated with podoconiosis prevalence. Together with previous work indicating that these minerals may influence water absorption, potentiate infection and be toxic to human cells, the present findings suggest that these particles may play a role in the pathogenesis of podoconiosis and acute adenolymphangitis, a common cause of morbidity in podoconiosis patients.
PMCID: PMC4082615  PMID: 24946801
Podoconiosis; Spatial analysis; Epidemiology; Soil; Ethiopia
9.  Community-based survey of podoconiosis in Bedele Zuria woreda, west Ethiopia 
International Health  2013;5(2):119-125.
Podoconiosis is a neglected tropical disease resulting in progressive bilateral swelling of the lower legs in barefoot individuals exposed to red-clay soil derived from volcanic rocks. It is a considerable public health problem in countries across tropical Africa, Central America and northern India. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence and clinical features of podoconiosis, and patients' experience of disease prevention and treatment, in Bedele Zuria woreda (district), west Ethiopia.
The study was conducted during 2011 and involved a house-to-house survey in all 2285 households of five randomly selected rural kebeles (villages).
The prevalence of podoconiosis was 5.6% (379/6710) (95% CI 5.1–6.2%) and was significantly greater among women than men (6.6% vs 4.7%; p = 0.001). A total of 311 (16.9%) households had at least one member with podoconiosis, and 128 (33.8%) study participants reported having a blood relative with podoconiosis. Two hundred and forty-three (76.4%) podoconiosis patients were in the economically productive age group of 15–64 years. On average, a patient experienced at least six episodes of adenolymphangitis per year resulting in a loss of 25 working days per year.
This study has revealed a high burden of podoconiosis in west Ethiopia, and suggests that disease prevention and treatment programmes are needed.
PMCID: PMC3889643  PMID: 24030111
Podoconiosis; Non-filarial elephantiasis; Lymphoedema; Prevalence; Survey; Ethiopia
10.  A mixed-methods study on perceptions towards use of Rapid Ethical Assessment to improve informed consent processes for health research in a low-income setting 
BMC Medical Ethics  2014;15:35.
Rapid Ethical Assessment (REA) is a form of rapid ethnographic assessment conducted at the beginning of research project to guide the consent process with the objective of reconciling universal ethical guidance with specific research contexts. The current study is conducted to assess the perceived relevance of introducing REA as a mainstream tool in Ethiopia.
Mixed methods research using a sequential explanatory approach was conducted from July to September 2012, including 241 cross-sectional, self-administered and 19 qualitative, in-depth interviews among health researchers and regulators including ethics committee members in Ethiopian health research institutions and universities.
In their evaluation of the consent process, only 40.2% thought that the consent process and information given were adequately understood by study participants; 84.6% claimed they were not satisfied with the current consent process and 85.5% thought the best interests of study participants were not adequately considered. Commonly mentioned consent-related problems included lack of clarity (48.1%), inadequate information (34%), language barriers (28.2%), cultural differences (27.4%), undue expectations (26.6%) and power imbalances (20.7%). About 95.4% believed that consent should be contextualized to the study setting and 39.4% thought REA would be an appropriate approach to improve the perceived problems. Qualitative findings helped to further explore the gaps identified in the quantitative findings and to map-out concerns related to the current research consent process in Ethiopia. Suggestions included, conducting REA during the pre-test (pilot) phase of studies when applicable. The need for clear guidance for researchers on issues such as when and how to apply the REA tools was stressed.
The study findings clearly indicated that there are perceived to be correctable gaps in the consent process of medical research in Ethiopia. REA is considered relevant by researchers and stakeholders to address these gaps. Exploring further the feasibility and applicability of REA is recommended.
PMCID: PMC4055294  PMID: 24885049
Rapid ethical assessment; Ethiopia; Research ethics; Consent
11.  Effects of Early Life Paracetamol Use on the Incidence of Allergic Disease and Sensitization: 5 Year Follow-Up of an Ethiopian Birth Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93869.
The hypothesis that paracetamol, one of the most widely used medicines, may increase the risk of asthma and allergic disease is of obvious importance but prospective cohort data looking at dose and timing of exposure are lacking.
The aim of the study is to investigate the role of paracetamol use in early life on the prevalence and incidence of wheeze, eczema, rhinitis and allergic sensitization, prospectively over 5 years in an Ethiopian birth cohort.
In 2005/6 a birth cohort of 1006 newborns was established in Butajira, Ethiopia. Questionnaire data on allergic disease symptoms, paracetamol use and numerous potential confounders were collected at ages 1, 3 and 5, and allergen skin sensitivity measured at ages 3 and 5. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine independent effects of paracetamol exposure on the incidence of each outcome between ages 3 and 5, and prevalence at age 5.
Paracetamol use in the first 3 years of life was reported in 60% of children and was associated with increased incidence of wheeze, eczema, rhinitis and allergic sensitisation between ages 3 and 5 which was statistically significant for wheeze and eczema. High exposure (reported use in the past month at age 1 and 3) was associated with a more than 3-fold increased risk of new onset wheeze (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 3.64; 95% confidence interval, 1.34 to 9.90) compared to never users. Use in the past year at age 3 but not age 1 was associated with ORs at least as large as those for use in first year of life only. Significant positive dose-response effects of early life use were seen in relation to the prevalence of all outcomes at age 5.
Use of paracetamol in early life is a strong risk factor for incident allergic disease in childhood.
PMCID: PMC3981735  PMID: 24718577
12.  Stigma towards a Neglected Tropical Disease: Felt and enacted Stigma Scores among Podoconiosis Patients in Northern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1178.
Podoconiosis, or non-filarial elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) characterised by swelling of the lower legs. When left untreated, this disfiguring condition has a significant social impact. This study aimed to describe the stigma experience among podoconiosis patients in Dembecha, Northern Ethiopia and assess potential associations between stigma and sociodemographic determinants.
The study was conducted in May 2012 in Northern Ethiopia. A questionnaire-based cross-sectional study design was used and stigma was assessed using a validated podoconiosis stigma scale including 'felt’ and 'enacted’ stigma domains. Enacted stigma includes the experience of discrimination such as abuse, loss of employment or prejudicial attitudes, while felt stigma is the perceived fear of enacted stigma. A multivariable linear regression model was used to explore determinants that may be associated with stigma.
A total of 346 clinically confirmed podoconiosis patients participated in the study. The total mean score of all stigma scale items was 30.7 (Range = 0 to 96). There was a higher mean score of scale items in domains of felt stigma (21.7; Range = 0 to 45) as compared to enacted stigma (9.0; Range = 0 to 51). The total mean score of all stigma scale items appeared to increase with disease stage. A final adjusted linear regression model found an association between stigma and factors including monthly income, duration lived in the current residence, and disease stage, after controlling for confounders.
Podoconiosis is a stigmatized disease with a clear social impact. This paper documented the burden of podoconiosis-related stigma and identified associated factors. Programs aimed at preventing and treating podoconiosis should incorporate interventions to mitigate both felt and enacted stigma. Interventions targeting patients should prioritize those with advanced disease.
PMCID: PMC3878751  PMID: 24330684
Podoconiosis; Stigma; Discrimination; NTD; Ethiopia
13.  Individual Correlates of Podoconiosis in Areas of Varying Endemicity: A Case-Control Study 
Podoconiosis is a non-filarial form of elephantiasis resulting in lymphedema of the lower legs. Previous studies have suggested that podoconiosis arises from the interplay of individual and environmental factors. Here, our aim was to understand the individual-level correlates of podoconiosis by comparing 460 podoconiosis-affected individuals and 707 unaffected controls.
Methods/principal findings
This was a case-control study carried out in six kebeles (the lowest governmental administrative unit) in northern Ethiopia. Each kebele was classified into one of three endemicity levels: ‘low’ (prevalence <1%), ‘medium’ (1–5%) and ‘high’ (>5%). A total of 142 (30.7%) households had two or more cases of podoconiosis. Compared to controls, the majority of the cases, especially women, were less educated (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.3 to 2.2), were unmarried (OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 2.6–4.6) and had lower income (t = −4.4, p<0.0001). On average, cases started wearing shoes ten years later than controls. Among cases, age of first wearing shoes was positively correlated with age of onset of podoconiosis (r = 0.6, t = 12.5, p<0.0001). Among all study participants average duration of shoe wearing was less than 30 years. Between both cases and controls, people in ‘high’ and ‘medium’ endemicity kebeles were less likely than people in ‘low’ endemicity areas to ‘ever’ have owned shoes (OR = 0.5, 95% CI = 0.4–0.7).
Late use of shoes, usually after the onset of podoconiosis, and inequalities in education, income and marriage were found among cases, particularly among females. There were clustering of cases within households, thus interventions against podoconiosis will benefit from household-targeted case tracing. Most importantly, we identified a secular increase in shoe-wearing over recent years, which may give opportunities to promote shoe-wearing without increasing stigma among those at high risk of podoconiosis.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a neglected tropical disease that results in swelling of the lower legs and feet. It is common among barefoot individuals within defined areas due to the geochemical characteristics of the soil in these areas. Presence of podoconiosis and its huge burden among the affected people in north Ethiopia has previously been documented. Moreover, difference in the occurrence of the disease by area and among individuals had been observed. In the present study, we investigated individual factors for the occurrence of podoconiosis, by comparing individuals with podoconiosis and without podoconiosis that live in three areas with varying disease prevalence. We found that individuals with the disease, particularly women, were less educated, with lower income and less likely to be married, compared to healthy individuals. Moreover, more than one individual was found in most of the affected households. Podoconiosis-affected individuals started wearing shoes at later ages than healthy individuals, and their feet were observed to be more cracked and dirty. There is a recent increase in shoe-wearing among all study subjects. We concluded that intervention efforts should focus to address late age shoe-wearing and inequalities in education, income and marriage, between podoconiosis affected individuals, and particularly among female patients. In addition, the presence of more than one patient per household helps for targeted case identification for intervention.
PMCID: PMC3854961  PMID: 24340109
15.  The Association of Beliefs About Heredity with Preventive and Interpersonal Behaviors in Communities Affected by Podoconiosis in Rural Ethiopia 
Little is known about how beliefs about heredity as a cause of health conditions might influence preventive and interpersonal behaviors among those individuals with low genetic and health literacy. We explored causal beliefs about podoconiosis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) endemic in Ethiopia. Podoconiosis clusters in families but can be prevented if individuals at genetically high risk wear shoes consistently. Adults (N = 242) from four rural Ethiopian communities participated in qualitative assessments of beliefs about the causes of podoconiosis. Heredity was commonly mentioned, with heredity being perceived as (1) the sole cause of podoconiosis, (2) not a causal factor, or (3) one of multiple causes. These beliefs influenced the perceived controllability of podoconiosis and in turn, whether individuals endorsed preventive and interpersonal stigmatizing behaviors. Culturally informed education programs that increase the perceived controllability of stigmatized hereditary health conditions like podoconiosis have promise for increasing preventive behaviors and reducing interpersonal stigma.
PMCID: PMC3516310  PMID: 22826482
16.  The impact of podoconiosis on quality of life in Northern Ethiopia 
Podoconiosis is one of the most neglected tropical diseases, which untreated, causes considerable physical disability and stigma for affected individuals. Little is known about the quality of life (QoL) of patients with podoconiosis. This study aimed to assess the QoL of patients with podoconiosis in comparison with healthy controls in Ethiopia.
A comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2012, among 346 clinically confirmed adult patients with podoconiosis, and 349 healthy adult neighbourhood controls in Dembecha woreda (district) in northern Ethiopia. QoL was assessed using the validated Amharic version of the World Health Organisation Quality of Life questionnaire (WHOQoL-BREF) scale; in addition, mental health and stigma were assessed by the Kessler-10 scale and podoconiosis stigma scale respectively. Logistic regression analysis was done to identify factors associated with QoL.
Patients with podoconiosis had significantly lower mean overall QoL than the controls (52.05 versus 64.39), and this was also true in all four sub domains (physical, psychological, social and environmental). Controls were 7 times more likely to have high (above median) QoL (Odds Ratio = 6.74, 95% Confidence Interval 4.62 to 9.84) than cases. Factors associated with lower QoL were: experiencing high levels of stigma, living in an urban area, being illiterate, having additional co-morbidities, and being unmarried. Mental illness was associated with lower scores in psychological and physical domains.
Programs targeting podoconiosis interventions should include QoL as an indicator for monitoring progress. Interventions targeting improvement of QoL among patients with podoconiosis should address depression, stigma and other co-morbidities.
PMCID: PMC3726315  PMID: 23866905
Podoconiosis; Elephantiasis; Quality of life; Neglected tropical diseases; Ethiopia
17.  Spatial Distribution of Podoconiosis in Relation to Environmental Factors in Ethiopia: A Historical Review 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68330.
An up-to-date and reliable map of podoconiosis is needed to design geographically targeted and cost-effective intervention in Ethiopia. Identifying the ecological correlates of the distribution of podoconiosis is the first step for distribution and risk maps. The objective of this study was to investigate the spatial distribution and ecological correlates of podoconiosis using historical and contemporary survey data.
Data on the observed prevalence of podoconiosis were abstracted from published and unpublished literature into a standardized database, according to strict inclusion and exclusion criteria. In total, 10 studies conducted between 1969 and 2012 were included, and data were available for 401,674 individuals older than 15 years of age from 229 locations. A range of high resolution environmental factors were investigated to determine their association with podoconiosis prevalence, using logistic regression.
The prevalence of podoconiosis in Ethiopia was estimated at 3.4% (95% CI 3.3%–3.4%) with marked regional variation. We identified significant associations between mean annual Land Surface Temperature (LST), mean annual precipitation, topography of the land and fine soil texture and high prevalence of podoconiosis. The derived maps indicate both widespread occurrence of podoconiosis and a marked variability in prevalence of podoconiosis, with prevalence typically highest at altitudes >1500 m above sea level (masl), with >1500 mm annual rainfall and mean annual LST of 19–21°C. No (or very little) podoconiosis occurred at altitudes <1225 masl, with annual rainfall <900 mm, and mean annual LST of >24°C.
Podoconiosis remains a public health problem in Ethiopia over considerable areas of the country, but exhibits marked geographical variation associated in part with key environmental factors. This is work in progress and the results presented here will be refined in future work.
PMCID: PMC3706425  PMID: 23874587
18.  A Qualitative Study Exploring Barriers Related to Use of Footwear in Rural Highland Ethiopia: Implications for Neglected Tropical Disease Control 
The role of footwear in protection against a range of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is gaining increasing attention. Better understanding of the behaviors that influence use of footwear will lead to improved ability to measure shoe use and will be important for those implementing footwear programs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using the PRECEDE-PROCEED model we assessed social, behavioral, environmental, educational and ecological needs influencing whether and when children wear shoes in a rural highland Ethiopian community endemic for podoconiosis. Information was gathered from 242 respondents using focus groups, semi-structured interviews and extended case studies. Shoe-wearing norms were said to be changing, with going barefoot increasingly seen as ‘shameful’. Shoes were thought to confer dignity as well as protection against injury and cold. However, many practical and social barriers prevented the desire to wear shoes from being translated into practice. Limited financial resources meant that people were neither able to purchase more than one pair of shoes to ensure their longevity nor afford shoes of the preferred quality. As a result of this limited access, shoes were typically preserved for special occasions and might not be provided for children until they reached a certain age. While some barriers (for example fit of shoe and fear of labeling through use of a certain type of shoe) may be applicable only to certain diseases, underlying structural level barriers related to poverty (for example price, quality, unsuitability for daily activities and low risk perception) are likely to be relevant to a range of NTDs.
Using well established conceptual models of health behavior adoption, we identified several barriers to shoe wearing that are amenable to intervention and which we anticipate will be of benefit to those considering NTD prevention through shoe distribution.
Author Summary
Consistently wearing shoes may help in preventing onset or progression of a wide range of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This study assessed the factors that influenced shoe wearing behaviors among people living in a rural community in highland Ethiopia. In this community, a substantial proportion of people are at risk for podoconiosis, a debilitating lower leg condition that can be prevented by wearing shoes. We conducted semi-structured individual interviews, focus group discussions and extended case studies among 242 adults and systematically analyzed the information. We found that shoe wearing is intermittent, and that different factors such as cost and ability to use the shoes for certain activities (such as farming) influenced consistent shoe wearing for most people. Some factors (such as shoe size, fear of stigma) were more relevant for podoconiosis patients. Social norms were found to be increasingly supportive of shoe wearing, and children exhibited greater desire to wear shoes than adults. These findings have relevance for preventing development and progression of a variety of NTDs in a range of settings.
PMCID: PMC3636134  PMID: 23638211
19.  Development of a scale to measure stigma related to podoconiosis in Southern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:298.
Health-related stigma adds to the physical and economic burdens experienced by people suffering from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Previous research into the NTD podoconiosis showed significant stigma towards those with the disease, yet no formal instrument exists by which to assess stigma or interventions to reduce stigma. We aimed to develop, pilot and validate scales to measure the extent of stigma towards podoconiosis among patients and in podoconiosis-endemic communities.
Indicators of stigma were drawn from existing qualitative podoconiosis research and a literature review on measuring leprosy stigma. These were then formulated into items for questioning and evaluated through a Delphi process in which irrelevant items were discounted. The final items formed four scales measuring two distinct forms of stigma (felt stigma and enacted stigma) for those with podoconiosis and those without the disease. The scales were formatted as two questionnaires, one for podoconiosis patients and one for unaffected community members. 150 podoconiosis patients and 500 unaffected community members from Wolaita zone, Southern Ethiopia were selected through multistage random sampling to complete the questionnaires which were interview-administered. The scales were evaluated through reliability assessment, content and construct validity analysis of the items, factor analysis and internal consistency analysis.
All scales had Cronbach’s alpha over 0.7, indicating good consistency. The content and construct validity of the scales were satisfactory with modest correlation between items. There was significant correlation between the felt and enacted stigma scales among patients (Spearman’s r = 0.892; p < 0.001) and within the community (Spearman’s r = 0.794; p < 0.001).
We report the development and testing of the first standardised measures of podoconiosis stigma. Although further research is needed to validate the scales in other contexts, we anticipate they will be useful in situational analysis and in designing, monitoring and evaluating interventions. The scales will enable an evidence-based approach to mitigating stigma which will enable implementation of more effective disease control and help break the cycle of poverty and NTDs.
PMCID: PMC3637122  PMID: 23556435
Stigma; Measure; Podoconiosis; Neglected tropical disease; Ethiopia; Validity
20.  Podoconiosis and Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs): Double Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Wolaita Zone, Rural Southern Ethiopia 
Both podoconiosis and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections occur among barefoot people in areas of extreme poverty; however, their co-morbidity has not previously been investigated. We explored the overlap of STH infection and podoconiosis in Southern Ethiopia and quantified their separate and combined effects on prevalent anemia and hemoglobin levels in podoconiosis patients and health controls from the same area.
Methods and Principal Findings
A two-part comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in Wolaita zone, southern Ethiopia. Data were collected from adult patients presenting with clinically confirmed podoconiosis, and unmatched adult neighborhood controls living in the same administrative area. Information on demographic and selected lifestyle factors was collected using interviewer-administered questionnaires. Stool samples were collected and examined qualitatively using the modified formalin-ether sedimentation method. Hemoglobin level was determined using two different methods: hemoglobinometer and automated hematology analyzer. A total of 913 study subjects (677 podoconiosis patients and 236 controls) participated. The prevalence of any STH infection was 47.6% among patients and 33.1% among controls (p<0.001). The prevalence of both hookworm and Trichuris trichiura infections was significantly higher in podoconiosis patients than in controls (AOR 1.74, 95% CI 1.25 to2.42, AOR 6.53, 95% CI 2.34 to 18.22, respectively). Not wearing shoes and being a farmer remained significant independent predictors of infection with any STH. There was a significant interaction between STH infection and podoconiosis on reduction of hemoglobin level (interaction p value = 0.002).
Prevalence of any STH and hookworm infection was higher among podoconiosis patients than among controls. A significant reduction in hemoglobin level was observed among podoconiosis patients co-infected with hookworm and ‘non-hookworm STH’. Promotion of consistent shoe-wearing practices may have double advantages in controlling both podoconiosis and hookworm infection in the study area.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis and soil-transmitted helminth infections are neglected tropical diseases occurring among barefoot people in areas of extreme poverty, and both promote poverty through effects on education, economic productivity and disability. In Ethiopia, little research on podoconiosis has been conducted and though social, economic and psychological burdens have been described, no previous study has investigated co-morbidity with other neglected tropical diseases. We therefore aimed to explore the overlap of soil-transmitted helminth infection and podoconiosis in southern Ethiopia by comparing the prevalence of STH infections among podoconiosis patients and healthy controls. We also demonstrate the separate and combined impact of STH infection and podoconiosis on hemoglobin level. We found that the prevalence of any STH and hookworm infection was higher among podoconiosis patients than among controls. A significant reduction in hemoglobin level was observed among podoconiosis patients co-infected with hookworm and ‘non-hookworm STH’. Based on the current findings, integrated control programs that include targeted anthelminthic distribution to control STH among podoconiosis patients, and promotion of consistent shoe-wearing practices are recommended in the study area.
PMCID: PMC3597475  PMID: 23516659
21.  Factors influencing place of delivery for women in Kenya: an analysis of the Kenya demographic and health survey, 2008/2009 
Maternal mortality in Kenya increased from 380/100000 live births to 530/100000 live births between 1990 and 2008. Skilled assistance during childbirth is central to reducing maternal mortality yet the proportion of deliveries taking place in health facilities where such assistance can reliably be provided has remained below 50% since the early 1990s. We use the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data to describe the factors that determine where women deliver in Kenya and to explore reasons given for home delivery.
Data on place of delivery, reasons for home delivery, and a range of potential explanatory factors were collected by interviewer-led questionnaire on 3977 women and augmented with distance from the nearest health facility estimated using health facility Global Positioning System (GPS) co-ordinates. Predictors of whether the woman’s most recent delivery was in a health facility were explored in an exploratory risk factor analysis using multiple logistic regression. The main reasons given by the woman for home delivery were also examined.
Living in urban areas, being wealthy, more educated, using antenatal care services optimally and lower parity strongly predicted where women delivered, and so did region, ethnicity, and type of facilities used. Wealth and rural/urban residence were independently related. The effect of distance from a health facility was not significant after controlling for other variables. Women most commonly cited distance and/or lack of transport as reasons for not delivering in a health facility but over 60% gave other reasons including 20.5% who considered health facility delivery unnecessary, 18% who cited abrupt delivery as the main reason and 11% who cited high cost.
Physical access to health facilities through distance and/or lack of transport, and economic considerations are important barriers for women to delivering in a health facility in Kenya. Some women do not perceive a need to deliver in a health facility and may value health facility delivery less with subsequent deliveries. Access to appropriate transport for mothers in labour and improving the experiences and outcomes for mothers using health facilities at childbirth augmented by health education may increase uptake of health facility delivery in Kenya.
PMCID: PMC3585789  PMID: 23414104
Maternal and child health; Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Still birth; Delivery
22.  Factors related to discontinued clinic attendance by patients with podoconiosis in southern Ethiopia: a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:902.
Podoconiosis is a lymphoedema of non-infectious cause which results in long-term ill health in affected individuals. Simple, effective treatment is available in certain parts of Ethiopia, but evidence indicates that not all patients continue collecting treatment supplies from clinic sites once started. We used qualitative techniques to explore factors related to discontinued attendance at outreach clinics of a non-government organization in southern Ethiopia.
A cross-sectional qualitative study was conducted in four clinic sites through unstructured in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions with the involvement of 88 study subjects.
Discontinuation of clinic visits is common among podoconiosis patients. The reasons were: remoteness from the clinic sites, unrealistic expectation of ‘special’ aid, worry about increasing stigma, illness and misconceptions about treatment.
Several of these factors are remediable through community and individual information and education. Appropriate routes to deliver this information must be identified. Certain factors (such as distance to clinic sites and stigma) require substantial expansion of services or liaison with village-level government health services.
PMCID: PMC3503806  PMID: 23095311
Podoconiosis; Factors; Treatment adherence; Ethiopia
23.  The burden of neglected tropical diseases in Ethiopia, and opportunities for integrated control and elimination 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:240.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of chronic parasitic diseases and related conditions that are the most common diseases among the 2·7 billion people globally living on less than US$2 per day. In response to the growing challenge of NTDs, Ethiopia is preparing to launch a NTD Master Plan. The purpose of this review is to underscore the burden of NTDs in Ethiopia, highlight the state of current interventions, and suggest ways forward.
This review indicates that NTDs are significant public health problems in Ethiopia. From the analysis reported here, Ethiopia stands out for having the largest number of NTD cases following Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethiopia is estimated to have the highest burden of trachoma, podoconiosis and cutaneous leishmaniasis in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the second highest burden in terms of ascariasis, leprosy and visceral leishmaniasis, and the third highest burden of hookworm. Infections such as schistosomiasis, trichuriasis, lymphatic filariasis and rabies are also common. A third of Ethiopians are infected with ascariasis, one quarter is infected with trichuriasis and one in eight Ethiopians lives with hookworm or is infected with trachoma. However, despite these high burdens of infection, the control of most NTDs in Ethiopia is in its infancy. In terms of NTD control achievements, Ethiopia reached the leprosy elimination target of 1 case/10,000 population in 1999. No cases of human African trypanosomiasis have been reported since 1984. Guinea worm eradication is in its final phase. The Onchocerciasis Control Program has been making steady progress since 2001. A national blindness survey was conducted in 2006 and the trachoma program has kicked off in some regions. Lymphatic Filariasis, podoconiosis and rabies mapping are underway.
Ethiopia bears a significant burden of NTDs compared to other SSA countries. To achieve success in integrated control of NTDs, integrated mapping, rapid scale up of interventions and operational research into co implementation of intervention packages will be crucial.
PMCID: PMC3551690  PMID: 23095679
Names of WHO listed neglected tropical disease; Integration; Elimination; Ethiopia
24.  HLA Class II Locus and Susceptibility to Podoconiosis 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(13):1200-1208.
Podoconiosis is a tropical lymphedema resulting from long-term barefoot exposure to red-clay soil derived from volcanic rock. The World Health Organization recently designated it as a neglected tropical disease. Podoconiosis develops in only a subgroup of exposed people, and studies have shown familial clustering with high heritability (63%).
We conducted a genomewide association study of 194 case patients and 203 controls from southern Ethiopia. Findings were validated by means of family-based association testing in 202 family trios and HLA typing in 94 case patients and 94 controls.
We found a genomewide significant association of podoconiosis with the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs17612858, located 5.8 kb from the HLA-DQA1 locus (in the allelic model: odds ratio, 2.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.82 to 3.26; P = 1.42×10−9; and in the additive model: odds ratio, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.66 to 2.90; P = 3.44×10−8), and suggestive associations (P<1.0×10−5) with seven other SNPs in or near HLA-DQB1, HLA-DQA1, and HLA-DRB1. We confirmed these associations using family-based association testing. HLA typing showed the alleles HLA-DRB1*0701 (odds ratio, 2.00), DQA1*0201 (odds ratio, 1.91), and DQB1*0202 (odds ratio, 1.79) and the HLA-DRB1*0701–DQB1*0202 haplotype (odds ratio, 1.92) were risk variants for podoconiosis.
Association between variants in HLA class II loci with podoconiosis (a noncommuni-cable disease) suggests that the condition may be a T-cell–mediated inflammatory disease and is a model for gene–environment interactions that may be relevant to other complex genetic disorders. (Funded by the Wellcome Trust and others.)
PMCID: PMC3350841  PMID: 22455414
25.  Patients’ perceptions of podoconiosis causes, prevention and consequences in East and West Gojam, Northern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:828.
Podoconiosis is a form of non-filarial elephantiasis that affects barefoot individuals in highland tropical areas. The disease presents with bilateral, asymmetric swelling of the legs, usually confined to below the knee. This study aimed to assess podoconiosis patients’ perceptions of prevention, control, causes and familial clustering of the disease, and to document physical, social and economic impairments associated with the disease, with the ultimate aim of enabling development of tailored interventions in this region.
This descriptive study is part of the largest cross-sectional community-based household survey yet conducted on podoconiosis. It was completed in November and December, 2011, in Debre Eliyas and Dembecha Woredas of East and West Gojam Zones, northern Ethiopia, and consisted of a house-to-house census by community health workers followed by interviews of identified patients using a structured questionnaire.
In the 17,553 households surveyed, 1,319 patients were identified. More male as compared to female patients were married (84.6% vs. 53.6%, χ2 = 157.1, p < 0.0001) while more female as compared to male patients were divorced (22.5% vs. 3.6%, χ2 = 102.3, p < 0.0001). Less than half of the study subjects believed podoconiosis could be prevented (37.5%) or controlled (40.4%) and many (41.3%) did not know the cause of podoconiosis. Two-fifths of the study subjects had a relative affected with podoconiosis. Approximately 13% of the respondents had experienced one or more forms of social stigmatization. The coping strategies adopted by patients to mitigate the physical impairments caused by podoconiosis were: working only occasionally (44.9%), avoiding physically demanding tasks (32.4%), working fewer hours (21.9%) or completely stopping work (8%). Most study subjects (96.4%) had noticed a decline in their income following the development of podoconiosis, and 78% said they were poorer than their healthy neighbours.
This study shows that podoconiosis has strong psychosocial, physical and economic impacts on patients in East and West Gojam Zones of northern Ethiopia. Concerns related to familial clustering, poor understanding of the causes and prevention of podoconiosis all add to the physical burden imposed by the disease. Strategies that may ease the impact of podoconiosis include delivery of tailored health education on the causes and prevention of disease, involving patients in intervention activities, and development of alternative income-generating activities for treated patients.
PMCID: PMC3519620  PMID: 23020758

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