Health education regarding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dengue fever is "insufficient, under-funded, and irregular" in Cambodia, according to a new study published in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Dengue fever, caused by a mosquito-transmitted virus, has become a significant public health problem in Cambodia, where a recent epidemic resulted in 34,542 cases and 365 deaths nationwide between January and August 2007.
Health education is essential to dengue control in ensuring that community members understand the mechanisms of infection and the key behaviors that need to be addressed to prevent transmission, reduce severe disease, and avoid fatalities. In Cambodia,
health education for dengue control is provided in primary schools, at village health centers, and by the National Dengue Control Program. However, the study suggests that these educational programs are accorded low priority; strategies and materials are not evaluated on a routine basis; messages are sometimes confusing; and the health staff lacks the training, time, and opportunities to deliver educational messages.
The researchers, Dr Sokrin Khun from Cambodia's Ministry of Health and Professor Lenore Manderson from Monash University in Australia, used ethnographic methods such as key-informant interviews, focus-group discussions, in-depth interviews, and open-ended questionnaires in Kampong Cham, a province in eastern Cambodia where dengue is particularly prevalent. They found that, although health education within the community offers potential to reduce the prevalence of dengue, "this cannot occur where health education is poorly resourced and episodic, and where attention is not paid to the translation of knowledge to practice."