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Int J Dermatol. 1996 Sep;35(9):633-9.

Skin disease and socioeconomic conditions in rural Africa: Tanzania.

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Murgwanza Hospital, Ngara, Kagera, Tanzania.



Many skin diseases in developing countries are associated with socioeconomic factors. It is generally agreed that a public health approach to dermatology in this setting is particularly appropriate; but, there has been little epidemiologic research done to examine which particular socioeconomic factors are important determinants of the prevalence of skin disease. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa.


A survey of two villages in Ngara district, North West Tanzania, involved 254 randomly selected households using a questionnaire, measurements of houses and water quality, and examination of the skin of 1114 household members.


Significant skin disease was encountered in 300 individuals (26.9%). Transmissible diseases comprised the bulk of skin disease (73.9%) with younger age groups being affected most. Socioeconomic conditions were poor, with low quality, crowded housing, low levels of literacy, unsatisfactory water sources, and few households with a regular cash income. Household density was significantly associated with transmissible skin disease. Other indicators of poverty (e.g., no regular cash income and illiteracy) did not correlate with the prevalence of skin disease.


Skin disease as highly prevalent in the villages surveyed, especially transmissible diseases in the younger age groups. Household density was the only socioeconomic factor significantly associated with skin disease. Reduction of household density is an attainable intervention that could reduce the prevalence of skin disease in rural African populations. Simple studies like this one should be the first step in community dermatology, assessing the burden of skin disease in communities and looking for particular factors with which public health interventions could effectively reduce the prevalence of skin disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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