Public Knowledge, Perceptions and Practices in Relation to Infectious and other Communicable Diseases in Tanzania: Lessons Learnt from Babati District
Background: We report public knowledge, perceptions and practices on selected infectious diseases in Tanzania using a study done in Babati district, and identify policy related messages in light of health promotion strategies instituted for communicable disease control.
Methods: Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with individual household members and focus group discussions with other residents in several villages; in-depth interviews with health workers, local government leaders, and district health managers.
Results: Many villagers associated malaria transmission with people’s exposure to intense sunrays; TB and brucellosis with people drinking raw-milk, animal blood and meat; sharing a bed or utensils with TB/brucellosis patients; TB with smoking or inhaling cigarette smoke; leprosy with witchcraft; and lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis with people contacting dirty-water or through sexual intercourse. Occasional shortage of drugs and laboratory services, lack of reliable transport facilities, low public use of latrines, unaffordable bednet prices, and common sale of counterfeit drugs by unregulated retailers were perceived to perpetuate the existence and widespread communicable diseases. Use of traditional medicines to treat these diseases was reported to be a common practice.
Conclusion: Culturally rooted knowledge and beliefs about diseases influence people’s health care seeking practices and may perpetuate prevalence and transmission of diseases. There should be educational policy program considerations among the strategies aimed at effective disease control.
Key words: Communicable diseases; psycho-social, health care-seeking behaviour; Tanzania