Persuading people to take medication to prevent a disease isn’t always easy!

For more than eight years, we have used community-based approaches in India to manage lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis) and related disabilities. We collaborate with the government to raise awareness and to make sure that the drugs provided are taken every year. 

The World Health Organization’s global strategy for lymphatic filariasis aims to eliminate the disease by 2020. The main method is by using mass drug administration (MDA) to target every eligible individual, including children, living in areas where the disease is endemic.

We are the first non-governmental organisation to pioneer an integrated approach to disability care for people affected by lymphatic filariasis. The World Health Organization commissioned us to share our learning and expertise on managing the disease and preventing related disability.

Over the next five years, we will be increasing this work in India through piloting an integrated disability care model in seven primary healthcare centres in the Samastipur district (population 4,255,000) in Bihar state, India. Through that project, we aim to reach 116,000 people with lymphatic filariasis and 4,000 people with leprosy.

We teach an eight-step programme for self-care to people affected by lymphatic filariasis and also make sure that their family and carers know about it. All of the eight steps are important in reducing swelling and pain:
  • Inspect the affected parts
  • Clean them with soap and cold water twice a day
  • Dry them gently to avoid injury and ensure that no moisture remains
  • Do simple exercises to improve circulation
  • Massage gently with oil, using lymph drainage techniques
  • Use compression aids like flexible bandages
  • Elevate the affected parts (e.g legs) to reduce pain and improve circulation
  • Wear protective footwear to make sure that feet stay clean and to prevent injuries
  • We also encourage self-support groups who will help each other by sharing experiences and giving moral support.

We have demonstrated the success of this integrated disability care model , which starts with early detection and aims to achieve re-integration into the community. We recommend that the capacity of public health staff and volunteers is increased through training. Our health education programmes aim to remove the stigma of the disease.

Read the World Health Organization report