This research chapter focuses on gender issues and women’s health concerns relevant to leprosy disease and their implications for leprosy control program in Southeast Nigeria. Four research questions guided the study, two of which were to ascertain the ways in which gender affect both awareness of leprosy and community support and post-treatment reintegration of persons affected by leprosy (PAL) into their communities.
A sample size of 1,116 adults drawn through cluster and random sampling methods were the study participants from whom quantitative data were collected via questionnaire. Qualitative data were generated through focus group discussion (FGD) among PAL, and in-depth interview (IDI) of both leprosy control staff, and other stakeholders purposively drawn from the area. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software was employed to process data, while frequency tables, bar charts, and chi-square were used to present, analyze, and test the hypothesis.
The study found that level of awareness about leprosy (which has several local names in the area) was relatively high (89.6%). However, significant differences exist in levels of awareness on leprosy between males and females. Also, men were perceived as less likely to comply with treatment instructions due to their gender roles of family economic upkeep. Males affected by leprosy were also found to encounter severest forms of social discrimination and post-treatment reintegration challenges.
The study scope was limited to the examination of public perception of gender issues and women’s healthcare concerns related to leprosy and their implications for leprosy control program in Southeast Nigeria. Only PAL registered with Nigeria’s Leprosy Control Programme participated with other non-patient respondents. The study focused on social aspects of leprosy (other than its biophysical component).
The implication of the research outcome includes need for deliberate strategy by leprosy control team to improve the level of awareness/knowledge as well as treatment compliance across gender. Similarly, differential mode of social reaction (to male and female gender) affected by leprosy should be addressed. Above all, aggressive public enlightenment through public, private, and local media and prohibition of sociocultural practices that promote spread of leprosy were stressed as measures to enhance leprosy control in the area.
Originality/Value of Paper
The study fills the knowledge gap with respect to gender issues and women’s healthcare concerns related to leprosy and their implications for leprosy control program in Southeast Nigeria. Findings from the concluded research set it apart and differed with earlier and similar studies elsewhere. For instance, men affected by leprosy in the area encounter severest forms of negative social reaction; are less compliant to treatment plans and less aware of leprosy when compared with females. All these affirm the position of the chapter that gender issues relevant to leprosy differ according to cultural setting, time, and place of inquiry and do not align to any universal scheme.
Nwankwo, I.U. (2019), "Public Perception on Gender Issues and Women’s HealthCare Concerns Related to Leprosy: Implications for Leprosy Control Program in Southeast Nigeria", Underserved and Socially Disadvantaged Groups and Linkages with Health and Health Care Differentials (Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 165-187. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0275-495920190000037013
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