Prevalence of Skin Disease in Rural Tanzania and Factors Influencing the Choice of Health Care, Modern or Traditional

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Abstract

Objectives

To determine the prevalence of skin disease in a rural Tanzanian community and to investigate the health-seeking behavior of this community.

Design

The study was in 3 parts: (1) 120 heads of households were interviewed to determine the factors that influence the families' health-seeking behavior; (2) the 800 members of these families were examined for evidence of skin disease; and (3) a focus group discussion was held with influential members of the community to get a broader view of health-seeking behavior.

Setting

A rural village in the southwestern area of Tanzania. Individuals were interviewed and examined in their own homes.

Results

A total of 34.7% of 800 villagers had one or more skin diseases, the most common of which were tinea capitis, tinea corporis, scabies, acne, and eczema. Modern and traditional health facilities were equally used, but heads of the households older than 55 years who had never been to school and individuals who were not Christians favored traditional medicine. It was cheaper to go to a traditional healer, but modern medicine was thought to be more scientific.

Conclusions

Skin disease was a problem in this village and was perceived to be a problem by both individuals and the community. There is a need to assess the clinical and diagnostic skills of both modern and traditional health practitioners and to instigate a preventive health education program to eradicate the common infections and infestations.

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