Perceived Needs Related to Social Participation of People with Leprosy-related Disabilities and other People with Disabilities in Cambodia: A Qualitative Study

Marie-Julie J Heeren, Lai Ky, Wim H. van Brakel


Purpose: The objective of this study was to describe the similarities and differences in perceived needs related to social participation of persons with leprosy-related disabilities and other persons with disabilities in Cambodia, and to suggest key interventions to promote participation in the community.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted. People with leprosy-related disabilities were selected at home during field visits or at the rehabilitation centre for people with leprosy in Phnom Penh. People with locomotor disabilities were selected at the rehabilitation centre for persons with disabilities in Phnom Penh and Prey Veng. A pilot-tested, face-to-face semi-structured interview, with open and closed questions, and focus group discussions were used to investigate the perceived needs related to social and economic participation in the community. The interview was based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model of the WHO.

Results: Both groups of people with disabilities struggle with social exclusion in society. People with leprosy-related disabilities, in particular, live below the poverty line of US$ 0.5 per day. Most of the participants lived in rural areas. Participants raised the need for enhanced self-esteem and help in finding jobs. To overcome the difficulty in finding employment, they felt vocational training and microcredit to start businesses, were required.  

Conclusions: The study found that both groups of people with disabilities have similar needs to improve participation in social and economic life. Rehabilitation centres provide vocational training and microcredit. Self-help groups have also proven effective in reaching poor people with disabilities in rural areas and improving social participation. The authors suggest that it is best to form multi-disability self-help groups to empower all the affected people and help fight poverty. 


Self-help groups; social exclusion; socio-economic rehabilitation; participation

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