Leprosy perceptions and knowledge in endemic districts in India and Indonesia: Differences and commonalities.
BACKGROUND: Understanding how knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding leprosy differ in endemic countries can help us develop targeted educational and behavioural change interventions. This study aimed to examine the differences and commonalities in and determinants of knowledge, attitudes, practices and fears regarding leprosy in endemic districts in India and Indonesia.
PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: A cross-sectional mixed-methods design was used. Persons affected by leprosy, their close contacts, community members and health workers were included. Through interview-administered questionnaires we assessed knowledge, attitudes, practices and fears with the KAP measure, EMIC-CSS and SDS. In addition, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted. The quantitative data were analysed using stepwise multivariate regression. Determinants of knowledge and stigma that were examined included age, gender, participant type, education, occupation, knowing someone affected by leprosy and district. The qualitative data were analysed using open, inductive coding and content analysis. We administered questionnaires to 2344 participants (46% from India, 54% from Indonesia) as an interview. In addition, 110 participants were interviewed in-depth and 60 participants were included in focus group discussions. Knowledge levels were low in both countries: 88% of the participants in India and 90% of the participants in Indonesia had inadequate knowledge of leprosy. In both countries, cause, mode of transmission, early symptoms and contagiousness of leprosy was least known, and treatment and treatability of leprosy was best known. In both countries, health workers had the highest leprosy knowledge levels and community members the highest stigma levels (a mean score of up to 17.4 on the EMIC-CSS and 9.1 on the SDS). Data from the interviews indicated that people were afraid of being infected by leprosy. Local beliefs and misconceptions differed, for instance that leprosy is in the family for seven generations (Indonesia) or that leprosy is a result of karma (India). The determinants of leprosy knowledge and stigma explained 10-29% of the variability in level of knowledge and 3-10% of the variability in level of stigma.
CONCLUSION: Our findings show the importance of investigating the perceptions regarding leprosy prior to educational interventions in communities: even though knowledge levels were similar, local beliefs and misconceptions differed per setting. The potential determinants we included in our study explained very little of the variability in level of knowledge and stigma and should be explored further. Detailed knowledge of local knowledge gaps, beliefs and fears can help tailor health education to local circumstances.