Community-based door to door census of suspected people living with epilepsy: empowering community drug distributors to improve the provision of care to rural communities in Cameroon.BMC Public Health. 2020 Jun 05; 20(1):871.BP
Epilepsy is a severe neurological disorder with huge psychological, social, and economic consequences, including premature deaths and loss of productivity. Sub-Saharan Africa carries the highest burden of epilepsy. The management of epilepsy in Cameroon remains unsatisfactory due to poor identification of cases and a limited knowledge of the distribution of the disease. The objective of this study was to determine whether community drug distributors (CDDs) - volunteers selected by their communities to distribute ivermectin against onchocerciasis and who have been proven efficient to deliver other health interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, vitamin A tablets, and albendazole to treat soil transmitted helminthiasis - can be used to reliably identify people living with epilepsy to promote better management of cases.
This study was carried out in three health Districts in Cameroon. An exhaustive house to house census was carried out by trained CDDs under the supervision of local nurses. In each household, all suspected cases of epilepsy were identified. In each health district, five communities were randomly selected for a second census by trained health personnel (research team). The results of the two censuses were compared for verification purposes.
A total of 53,005 people was registered in the 190 communities surveyed with 794 (1.4%) individuals identified as suspected cases of epilepsy (SCE) by the CDDs. In the 15 communities where the SCE census was verified, the average ratio between the number of suspected cases of epilepsy reported in a community by the research team and that reported by the CDDs was 1.1; this ratio was < 0.8 and > 1.2 in 6 communities.
The results of this study suggest that CDDs, who are present in about 200,000 communities in 31 Sub Saharan African countries where onchocerciasis is endemic, can be successfully used to assess epilepsy prevalence, and therefore map epilepsy in many African countries.