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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 ,

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, NL
About Marie-Julie J

Marie-Julie Heeren received her master's degree in Biomedical Sciences from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam in 2012. At the moment she is a research assistant in quality of care at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam.

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Lai Ky,

National Leprosy Elimination Programme, Ministry of Health, KH
About Lai

Dr. Lai Ky holds a medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since 1998,  Dr. Lai Ky is officer in charge of the National Leprosy Elimination Program of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control which is part of the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Cambodia. He is specialized in leprosy diagnosis, treatment and health education, rural development and social work.

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Wim H van Brakel

Netherlands Leprosy Relief, Amsterdam, NL
About Wim H

Wim van Brakel holds a medical degree from Amsterdam University, an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a PhD in neuro-epidemiology from Utrecht University. Dr. van Brakel has worked for 17 years in Nepal and India for international NGOs, specializing in leprosy control, public health, prevention of disabilities, rehabilitation and research. He worked at the Royal Tropic Institute (KIT), Amsterdam, as Senior Adviser Public Health from 2003 to February 2014. He now works as Senior Technical Consultant for Netherlands Leprosy Relief and as researcher for Disability Studies in Nederland at the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam. His research interests include epidemiology of leprosy, peripheral neuropathy in leprosy, disability and rehabilitation, social participation, stigma and clinimetrics. He has published over 80 papers and chapters in international journals and books.

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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. 

How to Cite: Heeren, M.-J.J., Ky, L. and van Brakel, W.H., 2014. Perceived Needs Related to Social Participation of People with Leprosy-related Disabilities and other People with Disabilities in Cambodia: A Qualitative Study. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 25(3), pp.24–44. DOI:
Published on 23 Dec 2014.


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