Lady Health Workers (LHWs) as Flag Bearers for Children with Disabilities in Pakistan
Purpose: This study explores the perceptions, knowledge and attitudes of LHWs towards children with disabilities in Pakistan. It considers the feasibility of utilising the LHWs for prevention, early identification and management of disabilities for these children in the community.
Methods: Two Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 15 Lady Health Workers (LHWs), and two In Depth Interviews (IDIs) with LHWs of both a semi-urban and a rural community of Pakistan.
Results: LHWs were found to have major concerns and strong emotions regarding children with disabilities. They also revealed the insensitive attitude of community members towards these children. While they understood the major types and magnitude of disabilities better than lay persons, they lacked the knowledge to manage these disabilities. Consanguineous marriages were identified as the main cause of disabilities. LHWs reported that education and health facilities were lacking in semi-urban and rural areas, and demanded that the government provide these facilities for the children. They also expressed their willingness to work for these children, provided they had the approval of higher authorities and were given proper training.
Conclusions: This qualitative exploratory study recommends that the existing primary health system be reviewed, and the possibility of introducing community based rehabilitation services, utilising LHWs’ services for children with disabilities, be examined. In this regard, it is imperative to assess the existing training modules of LHWs and to introduce modules on prevention, early identification, and management of children with disabilities. It is also necessary to employ mass media to spread awareness about persons with disabilities.
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