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BMC Hematol. 2013 May 6;13(1):5. doi: 10.1186/2052-1839-13-5.

Local concepts of anemia-related illnesses and public health implications in the Taabo health demographic surveillance system, Côte d'Ivoire.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland.



A 14-month prospective longitudinal study conducted in the Taabo health demographic surveillance system (HDSS), south-central Côte d'Ivoire, revealed high prevalence of anemia in different population groups in three types of settings (i.e., small town, village, and hamlet). Demographic parameters and several variables related to parasitic infections, micronutrient status, and inflammation were significantly associated with higher odds of anemia. However, cultural concepts and knowledge of various anemia-related illnesses and their relation with people's behaviors have not been investigated.


Sixteen focus group discussions and six key informant interviews were performed with village authorities, health workers, and traditional healers. Questionnaires were administrated to 200 school-aged children and 115 young women. Of these individuals, 206 participated in the preceding longitudinal study, whereas the remaining 109 people were not exposed to prior research, but had similar age and sex profiles. Mean prominence of participants' responses was compared between groups of participants and across study settings.


Local concepts of anemia-related illnesses referred to its perceived causes based on two logical frameworks - biomedical and sociocultural - although a clear distinction was often blurred. We found few differences in knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors across study settings and between participants who were exposed to prior research and newly recruited ones. Malaria und nutritional issues as understood and managed by the population differed from definitions and recommendations provided by the health system. Malaria was not acknowledged as an exclusive mosquito-transmitted disease and participants referred to the quantity, rather than the quality, of food when talking about nutritional issues.


Local concepts and ideas about anemia have public health implications, inasmuch as they are related to people's attitudes, risk-related and help-seeking behaviors, which in turn might affect their health status. Local terminology and beliefs about anemia and malaria should be carefully considered when developing health intervention and education programs. The similarity in knowledge about anemia-related illnesses and associated behaviors, regardless of study setting and prior exposure to research, suggests that a uniform communication strategy may be used to develop education programs and awareness campaigns aimed at the prevention and control of anemia in south-central Côte d'Ivoire.

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