A qualitative study on the implementation of a holistic care package for control and management of lymphoedema: experience from a pilot intervention in northern Ethiopia.
BACKGROUND: Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as podoconiosis, lymphatic filariasis (LF) and leprosy mainly affect communities in low resource settings. These diseases are associated with physical disability due to lymphoedema as well as poor mental health and psychosocial outcomes. Integration of care across these NTDs at primary health care level, which includes mental health and psychosocial care alongside physical health care, is increasingly recommended.
METHODS: A holistic integrated care package was developed and piloted as part of the EnDPoINT project in Gusha district, Awi zone, Ethiopia. The intervention was conducted at the health care organization, health facility and community levels. To assess the impact of the care package in terms of acceptability, scalability, sustainability and barriers to implementation, a qualitative study was conducted in January 2020. This included four focus group discussions (29 participants) and ten key informant interviews with decision makers, health professionals, patients, and community representatives.
RESULTS: The integrated lymphoedema care package was found to be efficient compared to vertical programs in saving time and resources. It also resulted in improved awareness of the causes, treatment and prevention of lymphoedema, in marked improvements in the lymphoedema, and in reduced stigma and discrimination. The care package was found to be acceptable to patients, health professionals and decision makers. The barriers to integrated care were unrealistic patient expectations, inadequate dissemination across health workers, and poor transportation access. Health professionals, decision makers and patients believed the integrated lymphoedema care package to be scalable and sustainable.
CONCLUSION: The integrated holistic care package was found to be acceptable to patients, health professionals and decision makers. We recommend its scale-up to other endemic districts.