Awareness and attitudes towards leprosy in urban slums of Kolkata, India.
Urban slums have proliferated in India with poor health and socio-economic status with no organized health system. They are at high risk for contracting communicable diseases including leprosy. In order to obtain reliable data on knowledge, attitudes and treatment of leprosy; a random sample cluster survey was done in Kolkata slums. House to house screening for leprosy was done in 6 representative random samples of slums, each with a population of at least 5000, using accepted methods for detection. Suspects were confirmed by medical officers. Intensive interviews were done by qualified male and female investigators. A majority had some knowledge of leprosy but hardly any knew early signs or symptoms or where to get proper diagnosis and treatment. Half the respondents felt leprosy must be treated separately from general patients but stated they had no hesitation in working with or visiting a leprosy patient. There were 11 suspects of which 9 were confirmed for leprosy and sent to nearest centre for MDT. Glaring gaps are noticed between knowledge and practice of slum population regarding leprosy. An integrated health program is needed urgently in urban slums to control leprosy and other diseases using a variety of resources including medical colleges.