Psycho-social and Economic Evaluation of Onchocerciasis: A Literature Review

Laura Moya Alonso

Abstract


Background: Onchocerciasis or river blindness is a chronic parasitic disease caused by the filarial nematode Onchocerca Volvulus. It occurs in 38 countries in the world, including Africa, Latin America and the Arabian Peninsula. The infection predominantly causes visual impairment and blindness and skin disease.

Objectives: The aim of this project is to review the literature on the psycho-social and economic consequences of onchocerciasis in endemic areas. Economic evaluation studies on onchocerciasis and its control programmes were also reviewed.

Methods: Electronic searches of PUBMED and Google were made. In addition, the Cochrane Library and WHO website were searched. Different types of economic analysis were reviewed to quantify the relationship between the programme costs and impacts.

Results: Eighty papers were identified from different sources, most of which are quantitative studies or literature reviews, and only two were clinical trials.
Onchocerciasis has severe socio-economic and psychological consequences. The stigma associated with the disease may reduce marital prospects among affected individuals, disrupt social relationships and cause loss of self-confidence. Also among agricultural workers onchocerciasis has been associated with increased time away from work and reduced productivity, leading to lower income.

Discussion: Most of the papers analysed were cross-sectional studies based on data collection through questionnaires. Although there is an increasing number of published papers about the importance of the psycho-social and economic perspective of onchocerciasis, further research is still necessary to quantify and control its consequences.

Conclusion: Onchocerciasis is still a serious problem in poor countries. Infected people face physical disability and social stigma that can dramatically reduce the quality of life and land productivity. Control programmes, though costly, have been very successful and cost-effective. Priority should be given to the development of new tools to support control programmes and to enable eradication of the disease.

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Editorial Offices:

Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, New York, 10461

Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social (ALAMES)/Latin American Social Medicine Association:
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ALAMES, Mexico Region, San Jerónimo 70 – 1, Col. La Otra Banda, CP 01090, México, D.F.