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‘We no longer experience the same pain’: a cross-sectional study assessing the impact of Heart and Sole Africa's podoconiosis prevention education program


Background: Podoconiosis is a non-infectious neglected tropical disease caused by long-term exposure to irritant volcanic soils. It results in severe physical, psychological and financial consequences. Heart and Sole Africa (HASA) is a non-governmental, community-based organization providing management to podoconiosis patients in Rwanda. We sought to analyze the impact of their program on the lives of patients.

Methods: Quantitative surveys recorded the participants’ demographics, adherence to HASA's management recommendations and changes in quality of life (QOL). Qualitative questions were used to gather respondent perspectives on HASA programming.

Results: We interviewed 127 patients from HASA's Musanze (n=47) and Burera (n=80) clinics. Almost all participants (98.4%) reported statistically significant (p<0.01) improvements in their QOL, and more than one-half (51.2%) had a favorable adherence score of >80%. Qualitative feedback identified specific challenges to adherence and recognition of program success in symptom management.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated the value of community-based podoconiosis programming in improving the lives of patients. Practices such as regular feet washing, emollient application, shoe wearing and limb raising can result in a marked reduction of morbidity. Our findings support the argument for scaling up these management practices across Rwanda.

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Journal Article
Gebreselassie AF
Shimelash N
Kallon A
Mkondo G
Huston T
Schurer JM