Need for better tools to measure disability due to lymphatic filariasis

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Tuesday, 2 October, 2012
Elephantiasis (Grade IV) in a man from Tuvalu

Globally, 40 million people live with the chronic effects of lymphatic filariasis (LF), making it the second leading cause of disability in the world. An article by a team led by Lynne Zeldenryk, which included THS Director Rick Speare, has just been published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and identifies the tools currently being used to measure LF-related disability and reviews their applicability against the known impacts of LF (Zeldenryk et al 2012). The findings from the review show that the generic disability tools currently used by LF programs fail to measure the majority of known impacts of LF-related disability.

This publication built on a previous review by the same team (Zeldenryk et al 2011), which highlighted the widespread social stigma and oppressive psychological issues that face most people living with LF-related disability. Physical manifestations of LF make daily activities and participation in community life difficult. The findings confirmed the need for the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis to support morbidity management activities that address the complex biopsychosocial issues that people living with LF-related disability face.

However, the latest review indicates that a LF-specific disability measurement tool needs to be developed and made freely available.

Zeldenryk L, Gordon S, Gray M, Speare R, Melrose W. Disability measurement for lymphatic filariasis: A review of generic tools used within morbidity management programs. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2012;6(9):e1768.

Zeldenryk LM, Gray M, Speare R, Gordon S, Melrose W. The emerging story of disability associated with lymphatic filariasis: A critical review. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2011;5(12):e1366.

Image: Grade 4 elephantiasis in a 45 year old man from Tuvalu. This was present in one leg only.