Community management of intellectual disabilities in Pakistan: a mixed methods study

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Pakistan has one of the highest reported rates of childhood intellectual disabilities (ID) in the world. Prevalence estimates vary from 19.1/1000 for serious ID to 65/1000 for mild ID.


We surveyed carers of persons with ID (n = 100) using quantitative and qualitative instruments. We conducted in-depth interviews of carers (n = 16) and key primary health providers (n = 10). We also carried out focus groups (n = 7). Data were triangulated and interpreted in light of peer reviewed literature.


There was a delay of 2.92 (95% CI 1.9 to 3.94) to 4.17 (95% CI 2.34 to 6.01) years between detection and seeking of care. Parental stress associated with caring for these children was high (mean Self-Reporting Questionnaire score 8.4; 95% CI 6.80 to 9.91). Home management consisted mainly of physical containment. Stigma associated with ID contributed to decreased opportunity for these children and families to participate in community activities. There was a lack of knowledge about causation and effective interventions for ID.


Our findings suggest that there is significant delay in detection of ID especially in rural setting where more than 70% of population of Pakistan resides. This missed opportunity for rehabilitation in early formative years is a cause of significant distress for the caregivers who rarely receive valid information about course, prognosis and what remedial action to take. There is a need to develop feasible, cost-effective, community level interventions, which can be integrated into existing healthcare systems.

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