Health-seeking behaviors and self-care practices of Dominican women with lymphoedema of the leg: implications for lymphoedema management programs
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Health-seeking behaviors and self-care practices of Dominican women with lymphoedema of the leg: implications for lymphoedema management programs

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  • Alternative Title:
    Filaria J
  • Description:

    In the Dominican Republic, a Latin American country with filariasis-endemic areas, more than 63,000 people have lymphatic filariasis and more than 400,000 people are at risk of future infection. In this paper, we explore the health beliefs, health-seeking behaviors and self-care practices of women with lymphoedema in filariasis-endemic areas to better understand the needs of women when developing lymphoedema morbidity control programs.


    Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews of 28 women, 3 focus group discussions with 28 women, field notes and photographs.


    Women described exhaustive and expensive attempts at seeking a cure for their lymphoedema. Family members were influential in providing women with initial care seeking referrals to indigenous healers credited with influence over physical, mental, spiritual and supernatural properties of illness. When indigenous treatments proved to be ineffectual, the women sought care from trained healthcare providers. Most healthcare providers incorrectly diagnosed the edema, failed to adequately treat and meet the needs of women and were viewed as expensive. Most women resorted to self-prescribing injectable, oral, or topical antibiotics along with oral analgesics as a standard practice of self-care.


    Healthcare providers must understand a woman's cultural perspectives of illness, her natural networks of support and referral, her behavioural practices of care-seeking and self-care and the financial burden of seeking care. In the culture of the Dominican Republic family members and traditional healthcare providers are influential advisors on initial health-seeking behaviors and self-care practices. For this reason family-oriented interventions, support groups for women and their families, community education and training on simple, low cost lymphoedema management techniques for indigenous healers are viable ways to influence the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of women with lymphoedema. The extensive use of injectable, oral and topical antibiotics by indigenous healers and women without medical supervision suggests a need for health education messages related to the risks of such practices.

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