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Int J Dermatol. 1998 Oct;37(10):752-8.

Dermatology in southwestern Ethiopia: rationale for a community approach.

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St John's Institute of Dermatology (UMDS), Guys' Hospital, London.



Skin diseases represent one of the most frequent causes of morbidity in developing countries; however, little is known about the dermatologic needs of the population. The prevalence of skin disease in two different rural communities in southwestern Ethiopia was determined using descriptive epidemiologic techniques.


A household survey, designed to ascertain demographic information and dermatologic needs, was given to all households in both communities (827). The point prevalence of skin diseases was determined after examination by dermatologists of 768 self-selected individuals (40% of individuals were invited to attend dermatologic examination, either those self-reporting skin disease or identified as positive cases during the household survey); an individual survey form was given to all of these patients.


Although 47% (S/UO) and 59% (Kishe) of the households in the two communities reported skin symptoms, the true dermatologic needs of these settlements were far greater than the expressed values, as examination by dermatologists of randomly selected households revealed that 67% of householders not reporting dermatoses had significant skin disease. During the point prevalence study, the commonest complaints were parasitic (scabies, pediculosis, and onchocerciasis) infestations (46% of diagnoses), followed by bacterial and fungal infections (33%); other conditions included endemic nonfilarial elephantiasis. Overcrowding was the main risk factor for infection. Thirty-two per cent (S/UO) and 39% (Kishe) of examined individuals had received previous treatments, which were ineffective in 74% and 63% respectively.


Subsistence farmers spend a high proportion of their limited cash income on ineffective treatment. Simple schemes of management for the most common dermatoses, which local health workers could be trained to recognize and manage, could do much to redress the burden of skin disease in this population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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