Poverty causing impetigo's spread: former health chief

A former head of the National Health Services has attributed the significant number of impetigo cases in Samoa to poverty and difficulties families are facing in their living conditions.

Former N.H.S. General Manager Leota Laki Sio told the Samoa Observer in an interview that the alarming rise in impetigo cases points to a large number of social health issues in the country.

And while he agrees that hygiene and nutrition will prevent skin infection he asks the question of what causes poor hygiene that enables the infection.

“So you keep asking the question why we have a poor selection of food,” said Leota. “And if it relates to the economic status of the family then you ask again why. You keep asking why and the root of the problem is poverty.”

A study published in the highly respected medical journal The Lancet reports that nearly 57.6 per cent of school children in Samoa were diagnosed with impetigo, which is nearly four times the global average of the contagious skin infection.

The study revealed that out of 833 children (428 males, 397 females and eight unspecified) studied across eight primary schools in the Falealili District, some 476 had impetigo of which 263 were active infections. 

Active impetigo was also found in much higher rates in boys than in girls: 37.9 per cent versus 24.9 per cent. In addition, across all infections, it was the same, with 65.2 per cent of boys showing infections compared to 48.6 per cent.

Leota said the statistics is evidence that there is a serious problem in social health. 

“The survey suggests that there is a big percentage [of households] that needs to uplift and upgrade their living conditions, their homes,” he said. “There is a correlation of the survey and the way of living and the magic word is resilient. 

“When people talk about resilience they think of climate change and environment but we need to be resilient in our way of living, our social living.” 

Furthermore, Leota said recovering from the contagious skin infection has its economic costs, and emphasised that to be free of infection one has to improve his or her nutrition. 

“Basically lifting people out of poverty so they can overcome it. You look at [factors] unhygienic and nutrition and gather all that statistics then you get a fair idea when you keep asking for the root cause and it comes out it’s poverty and hardship.”

Leota then called on local authorities to consider the recommendations of the survey in order to address the rates of impetigo in Samoa.

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