The impact of health education on the prevalence of faecal-orally transmitted parasitic infections among school children in a rural community in Cameroon
Background: Faecal-orally transmitted parasites are those parasites which are spread through faecal contamination of food and drinks. Infections with these parasites are among the most common in the world being responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality, especially in children. This study was carried out to determine the impact of health education on the prevalence of faecal-orally transmitted parasitic infections among primary school children in a typical African rural community. Methods: An intervention study was conducted in two villages in the South-West Region of Cameroon. A total of 370 volunteer pupils aged between 5-15 years were enrolled in the study out of which 208 were from Kake II experimental arm) and 162 from Barombi-Kang (control arm). The research was conducted in two phases. In phase 1, stool samples were collected from all participants and analyzed using the formol-ether concentration technique and health education was given to the pupils in the experimental village but not in the control village. Phase 2 was conducted six months later during which only stool samples were collected and analyzed from both villages. Results: Before health education intervention (phase1) faecal-orally transmitted parasites were present in 106 (50.9%) stool specimens collected in Kake II and in 84 (51.5%) of those collected in Barombi-kang. The difference in prevalence between these two villages was not significant (P>0.05). After health education intervention (phase2), 56 (26.9%) stool specimens were positive for faecal-oral parasite in Kake II and 92 (54.7%) in Barombi-kang, and the difference in prevalence between these two villages was statistically significant (P0.05). The change in the prevalence of infection was significant in Kake II (50.9% vs. 26.9%, P0.05). Hence, health education applied in the experimental village was responsible for the drop in the prevalence observed, especially among pupils infected with Ascaris lumbricoides (24.9% vs. 3.4%, P=0.004) Conclusion: Health education through the framework of schools can be used as a strategy for the control of faecal-orally transmitted parasitic infections among children in African rural communities.
Key words: Intestinal parasites, parasitic infections, health education, Cameroon