African Health Sciences

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Stereotypes on Nodding syndrome: responses of health workers in the affected region of northern Uganda

B Mutamba, C Abbo, J Muron, R Idro, AD Mwaka


Background: Nodding Syndrome is a debilitating disorder of yet unknown etiology that has affected children and adolescents aged 3 – 18 years in parts of sub Saharan African countries including Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Liberia.
Objective: To identify stereotypes and negative attitudes held by primary care health workers about nodding syndrome. Method: Of one hundred health workers invited by the Uganda Ministry of Health for training on nodding syndrome from the three most affected districts of Pader, Lamwo and Kitgum forty were interviewed using a predesigned tool. Content and thematic analysis was applied.
Results: There were 22 females. The median age was 33 years (range 23-54 years). The participants included Psychiatric Clinical Officers, Medical Clinical Officers, Laboratory Technicians, Midwives, Registered and Enrolled Nurses. Overall, four broad categories of negative stereotypes were identified; Nodding syndrome is 1) an incurable disease, 2) is associated with evil spirits and curses, 3) is disabling, making the patient a burden to society and 4) is a fatal illness. Conclusion: Primary health care workers who lead the care of patients with nodding syndrome have several negative stereotypes that may potentially impact negatively on the quality of care they provide.

Keywords: Stereotypes, nodding syndrome, northern Uganda

African Health Sciences 2013; 13(4): 986 - 991
AJOL African Journals Online