Leprosy remains a disease of concern in many countries including Nepal. To achieve the target of elimination, the WHO strategy promotes comprehensive education of patients, healthcare workers (HCWs), and the public on leprosy-related issues. However most educational programs are based on the concerns of HCWs and not on patients’ needs. The objective of this paper is to explore the educational needs of leprosy affected patients in Nepal and compare them to the needs perceived by HCWs.
Semi directive interviews were conducted with patients and HCWs. The data was analyzed using the basic interpretative qualitative framework. The study was conducted in two leprosy referral centers, one university hospital and one primary health care center: Lalgadh Leprosy Hospital and Services Centre, Anandaban Hospital and its satellite clinic in Patan, B. P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan, and the Itahari primary health care centre.
The results show that there remains a lack of knowledge regarding the disease (origins, manifestations, prevention and treatment) contributing to late care seeking behavior and high levels of stigma, with an important psychological and financial stress for patients. All of the HCWs displayed a good understanding of patients’ difficulties and needs and acknowledged the key role of patient education. However, they expressed several challenges in managing patients due to lack of time, human resources and training in patient education.
Further efforts need to be made to increase patients’ general knowledge of the disease in order to motivate them to seek healthcare earlier and change their perception of the disease to reduce stigma. HCWs need proper training in patient education and counseling for them to acquire the necessary skills required to address the different educational needs of their patients. The use of lay and peer counselors would be an option to address the workload and lack of time expressed by HCWs.