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Health education and cholera in rural Guinea-Bissau
Jónína Einarsdóttir | Alberto Passa | Geir Gunnlaugsson
Date of Publication:
International journal of infectious diseases
The study was undertaken to explore local ideas about cholera and the diffusion of official health educational messages for cholera prevention and to assess whether such messages contributed to changed behavior in the population.
During the ongoing cholera epidemic in 1994 in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, a roster of all adult residents in a rural community was established. From this roster of 458 adults, 53 of 60 randomly chosen residents were interviewed for qualitative data on cholera and its prevention.
Local preventive rituals performed contributed to high awareness of the epidemic. Radio and word-of-mouth communication were the most important sources of information on cholera, whereas posters and television did not effectively reach the population. All persons with cholera rapidly sought care. Thirty-four (64%) of 53 participants recalled at least one preventive measure; specifically, treatment of water with lemon was mentioned by 21 (40%) of respondents. None of the respondents could explain how cholera is transmitted to humans.
To improve compliance with recommended preventive measures, these should take local conceptions of diseases into account and be few in number, practical, and effective. The impact of the radio could be increased if those who hear the message are urged to spread the recommendation, especially to women who take care of food, water, and general hygiene in the household.