A survey of Schistosomiasis-related knowledge, beliefs and water contact practices among school children in Kaloleni Division of Coast Province: implications for health communication
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Urinary schistosomiasis is a waterborne disease with senous health and educational consequences in school children. Certain aspects of children's behaviour and hygiene practices at open freshwater sources contribute to transmission of the disease and increase the risk of infection in this group. However, school children are often unaware of the impact of their behaviour on disease transmission making health communication an important control strategy. This study investigated schistosomiasis-related knowledge and perceptions, water contact practices, and hygiene behaviour among school children in Kaloleni Division, Coast Province to determine the specific factors to be addressed through health communication interventions. A cross-sectional study was conducted involving 255 pupils of classes 4-6 from three purposively sampled primary schools; After segregating the school children by sex, systematic sampling was used to select the pupils who were interviewed. Four focus group discussions were also conducted with parents from the three schools to elicit information about the children's socio-cultural and economic context. The study found a high level of awareness of urinary schistosomiasis among the children with family members and teachers as the main sources of information. Most of the children (89%) knew the symptoms of the disease; they knew that they could seek treatment from the health centre (95.7%); and they also knew they could prevent the disease by avoiding contact with surface water (92.8%). Generally, the children had inadequate knowledge about the cause, mode of transmission, and methods of prevention of the disease. The children's activities and hygiene behaviour, mainly at open water sources, were likely to promote transmission of the disease and increase infection risk. The study concluded that health communication messages were required to enhance children's knowledge of the cause, transmission, and prevention of the disease; promote awareness of the risk of water contact practices and the need for better hygiene behaviour; and promote treatmentseeking behaviour. There was need to enhance the role of health personnel in providing accurate information about the disease not only to the school children but also the entire community.