Language and beliefs in relation to noma: a qualitative study, northwest Nigeria
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JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
AbstractBACKGROUND: Noma is an orofacial gangrene that rapidly disintegrates the tissues of the face. Little is known about noma, as most patients live in underserved and inaccessible regions. We aimed to assess the descriptive language used and beliefs around noma, at the Noma Children's Hospital in Sokoto, Nigeria. Findings will be used to inform prevention programs. METHODS: Five focus group discussions (FGD) were held with caretakers of patients with noma who were admitted to the hospital at the time of interview, and 12 in-depth interviews (IDI) were held with staff at the hospital. Topic guides used for interviews were adapted to encourage the natural flow of conversation. Emergent codes, patterns and themes were deciphered from the data derived from IDI's and FGDs. RESULTS: Our study uncovered two main themes: names, descriptions and explanations for the disease, and risks and consequences of noma. Naming of the disease differed between caretakers and heath care workers. The general names used for noma illustrate the beliefs and social system used to explain the disease. Beliefs were varied; participant responses demonstrate a wide range of understanding of the disease and its causes. Difficulty in accessing care for patients with noma was evident and the findings suggest a variety of actions taking place before reaching a health center or health worker. Patient caretakers mentioned that barriers to care included a lack of knowledge regarding this medical condition, as well as a lack of trust in seeking medical care. Participants in our study spoke of the mental health strain the disease placed on them, particularly due to the stigma that is associated with noma. CONCLUSIONS: Caretaker and practitioner perspectives enhance our understanding of the disease in this context and can be usedto improve treatment and prevention programs, and to better understand barriers to accessing health care. Differences in disease naming illustrate the difference in beliefs about the disease. This has an impact on health seeking behaviours, which for noma cases has important ramifications on outcomes, due to the rapid progression of the disease.