Strategies for the early detection of leprosy contacts in South Ethiopia
Nationally the existence of leprosy type grade II disability at the time of diagnosis suggests a subtly delayed diagnosis. The goal of this study was to determine the primary factor influencing the Leprosy Prevention and Control Programme's plan to develop user friendly strategies for effectively implementing the activities of the early detection of leprosy cases among contacts of index patients in the Sidama region of southern Ethiopia. The goals were to investigate and describe the perspectives and experiences of health professionals regarding their involvement in early leprosy case detection, to describe and critically analyse the causes of the difficulties that professionals face in leprosy early detection, to evaluate the current state of the health system's early leprosy case detection implementation and to develop user-friendly strategies to enhance existing ones of early leprosy case detection among individuals who have contact with index patients. The study employed a qualitative, descriptive and phenomenological explorative research design to answer the research questions. By the use of non-probability purposive sampling, research participants were identified. During the study, in-depth interviews were conducted to gather information regarding the experiences of health workers (medical doctors, public health officers, clinical nurses, health extension workers, health centre heads and regional and woreda district health office technical and programme experts). To analyse the qualitative data, inductive thematic analysis techniques were used. For analysis, ATLAS.ti 8 software was used. The data transcription, coding, display, reduction (theme) and interpretation of the discovered results were the processes undertaken for the analysis. The findings of the study revealed that leprosy prevention and control programmes are still problematic. The current national leprosy strategy use does not facilitate production of effective leprosy prevention programs because strategy does not address all of the crucial components of effective early detection activities. Themes that emerged from the data gleaned from the health workers included: wrong beliefs about leprosy disease in the community, delay in seeking early healthcare, the practice of the early detection of leprosy cases and challenges experienced and observed during the implementation of leprosy strategies. Based on the discovered results, leprosy prevention and control programme strategies were created. Overall, the analysis of the data revealed five themes. As a result, the researcher used the findings of the study to create strategies to improve the early detection of leprosy cases among the contacts of index patients. The strategies include implementing and strengthening effective community awareness building efforts, maintaining expertise in leprosy, strengthening comprehensive leprosy training for health workers, carrying out efficient and thorough contact tracing, enhancing monitoring, supervision, assessment and surveillance, boosting managerial skills, lobbying political commitment, motivating healthcare workers and reducing stigmatisation.