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Epilepsy Behav. 2007 Feb;10(1):111-9. Epub 2006 Oct 18.

Zambian health care workers' knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding epilepsy.

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Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Zambia School of Medicine, Nationalist Road, Lusaka, Zambia.



Zambia suffers from a physician shortage, leaving the provision of care for those with epilepsy to nonphysician health care workers who may not be adequately trained for this task. These individuals are also important community opinion leaders. Our goal in this study was to determine the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of these health care workers with respect to epilepsy.


Health care workers in urban and rural districts of Zambia completed a self-administered, 48-item questionnaire containing items addressing demographics, personal experience with epilepsy, social tolerance, willingness to provide care, epilepsy care knowledge, and estimates of others' attitudes. Analyses were conducted to assess characteristics associated with more epilepsy care knowledge and social tolerance.


The response rate was 92% (n=276). Those who had received both didactic and bedside training (P=0.02) and more recent graduates (P=0.007) had greater knowledge. Greater knowledge was associated with more social tolerance (P=0.005), but having a family member with epilepsy was not (P=0.61). Health care workers were generally willing to provide care to this patient population, but approximately 25% would not allow their child to marry someone with epilepsy and 20% thought people with epilepsy should not marry or hold employment. Respondents reported that people with epilepsy are feared and/or rejected by both their families (75%) and their community (88.8%).


Knowledge gaps exist particularly in acute management and recognition of partial epilepsy. More recent graduates were more knowledgeable, suggesting that curriculum changes instituted in 2000 may be improving care. Health care workers expressed both personal and professional reservations about people with epilepsy marrying. In addition to improving diagnosis and treatment skills, educational programs must address underlying attitudes that may worsen existing stigmatizing trends.

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