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For many people with severe stigmatising skin diseases, lack of access to health and social services results in significant physical and psycho-social consequences, complex treatment journeys, and catastrophic socio-economic impacts. Their research aims to reduce illness, stigma, social exclusion and poverty caused by severe stigmatising skin diseases (SSSDs) in Liberia. Improving fair access to services is an important cornerstone of universal health coverage (UHC) (the provision of key health services to everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, disability or gender, for example) and in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. UHC requires action beyond single disease programmes and approaches to ensure that no one is left behind. Integrated health system approaches to managing skin diseases have been proposed as a key solution to these challenges.
Liberia is one of the first countries in the world to develop a national integrated approach to managing SSSDs. This means managing diseases with signs on the skin (e.g. lymphatic filariasis, leprosy, Buruli ulcer, yaws and onchocerciasis), through a combined approach at the local level. However, there is limited evidence about patient knowledge, priorities and experiences and the equity and effectiveness of the current approach.
REDRESS will develop new knowledge with regional and global relevance on affordable, timely, appropriate and improved treatment strategies that also reduce stigma and address other social issues for affected vulnerable populations. Our project has been co-developed between researchers, patients and programme implementers at the request of the Liberian NTD programme and directly responds to priority health needs, detailed in the country’s ‘Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System’.