Effect of mHealth on the roles of patent medicine vendors in improving surveillance of cases of skin-related neglected tropical diseases in Ebonyi State, Nigeria, 2021

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  • Dermatological Conditions
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  • deafness
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Skin-related neglected tropical diseases (skin NTDs) cause considerable disability, stigma, and exacerbation of poverty. Nigeria contributes about 25% of the burden of NTDs in Africa. Patent medicine vendors (PMVs) are important informal primary care providers. We therefore assessed the effect of mHealth on the surveillance of skin NTDs among PMVs.

We conducted a quasi-experimental study comprising intervention and control arms in three phases: baseline, intervention, and post-intervention surveys. We recruited 106 participants from the intervention and 91 from the control arms. The intervention involved weekly SMS using mobile phone on content including types of NTDs such as buruli ulcer (BU), leprosy, and lymphatic filariasis (LF); symptoms; complications and preventive measures. This was repeated weekly over three months. SMS reminders were sent weekly over three months to evaluate skin manifestations. Knowledge of NTDs was set at a cut-off of 75%; <75% as poor and ≥75% as good knowledge. Chi-square was used to compare proportions of knowledge of NTDs in both arms.

There were 197 participants at baseline. Mean age was 33.1±9.4 years. Median years of practice was 5 years (range: 1-42). Majority were female (54.7%), had secondary education (76.4%), and had apprenticeship (87.7%). Prior to study, majority had never suspected BU (86.8), leprosy (82.1%) or LF (74.5%) in their drug shops. Throughout the study, no case of BU, leprosy or LF was suspected by PMVs. On knowledge of NTDs, there was no significant
difference between both arms at baseline (p=0.682), 3 months post-intervention (p=0.251), and 6 months post-intervention (p=0.308).

The proportion of PMVs with good knowledge of skin NTDs was low. Despite intervention, there was no significant increase in knowledge and no case was suspected. Physical training is recommended for PMVs to improve surveillance for skin NTDs as they may have poor education and attitude towards reading SMS in phones.

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