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Teachers as multipliers of knowledge about schistosomiasis: a possible approach for health education programmes


Background: In the past decade, Brazil has significantly reduced the prevalence of schistosomiasis through a combined effort of early treatment of infected people, expansion of basic sanitation infrastructure and educational measures. Despite these efforts, in some areas, prevalence of schistosomiasis exceeds 20% of the school population, who lack knowledge of the risks of the disease. Action can be taken in schools to empower this population about their health condition. This paper describes the role of the teacher as a multiplier of knowledge about schistosomiasis and proposes two different approaches to training these teachers.

Methods: This study used mixed methods to evaluate training of teachers and educational intervention with those teachers’ pupils. Two training courses, each of 40 hours of face-to-face activity, were offered to 19 teachers. The courses included classroom activities and laboratory and field work. After the training, the teachers conducted activities on schistosomiasis with their pupils. These activities involved constructing educational materials and cultural productions. The pupils’ knowledge about the disease was evaluated before the activities and 12 months later. The teachers’ acceptance and perceptions were assessed through structured interviews and subsequent thematic analysis. Infection status for Schistosoma mansoni was also assessed using the Kato Katz stool test.

Results: The parasitological study showed 31.6% of the teachers and 21.4% of the pupils to be positive for S. mansoni. The teachers’ knowledge of important aspects of schistosomiasis transmission and prevention was fragmented and incorrect. The teachers’ knowledge changed significantly after the training and they were strongly accepting of the pedagogical methods used during the training. The level of their pupils’ knowledge about the disease had increased significantly. However, most pupils responded that, even after the educational activities, they still had contact with the city’s contaminated waters.

Conclusions: The results of this study underline the importance of schools and teachers as partners in controlling and eliminating schistosomiasis. Teacher training on the disease significantly increases their pupils’ knowledge, reflecting empowerment with regard to local health conditions.

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