A family-based intervention for prevention and self-management of disabilities due to leprosy, podoconiosis and lymphatic filariasis in Ethiopia: A proof of concept study.
A key issue for persons with leprosy-, lymphatic filariasis- and podoconiosis-related disabilities is the life-long need to practice self-management routines. This is difficult to sustain without regular encouragement and support of others. Family-based support may be a sustainable and feasible strategy to practice self-management routines. This proof of concept study aimed to develop and pilot a family-based intervention to support prevention and self-management of leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis-related disabilities in Ethiopia. We used a quasi-experimental pre/post intervention study design with a mixed methods approach. The study population included persons affected by leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis and their family members. All persons affected had visible impairments due to their condition. We collected physical impairment outcomes, data on activity limitations, stigma and family quality of life using the SALSA scale (range 0-80), the SARI stigma scale (range 0-63) and the Beach Centre Family Quality of Life scale (range 0-125) and conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Quantitative data were analysed using paired t-tests, unequal variances t-tests, linear regression and binary logistic regression. Qualitative data were coded using open, inductive coding and content analysis. The family-based intervention consisted of self-management of disabilities, awareness raising and socio-economic empowerment. The intervention was delivered over several monthly group meetings over the course of several months. A total of 275 (100%) persons affected attended at least one session with a family member, and 215 (78%) attended at least three sessions. There was no significant improvement in eye and hand problems after the intervention. However, foot and leg impairments, number of acute attacks, lymphedema and shoe wearing all significantly improved at follow-up. In addition, family quality of life significantly improved from 67.4 at baseline to 89.9 at follow-up for family members and from 76.9 to 84.1 for persons affected (p<0.001). Stigma levels significantly decreased from 24.0 at baseline to 16.7 at follow-up (p<0.001). Activity levels improved, but not significantly. This proof of concept study showed that the family-based intervention had a positive effect on impairments and self-management of disabilities, family quality of life and stigma. We recommend a large-scale efficacy trial, using a randomised controlled trial and validated measurement tools, to determine its effectiveness and long-term sustainability.