Evaluation of a urogenital schistosomiasis behavioural intervention among students from rural schools in Unguja and Pemba islands, Zanzibar
Urogenital schistosomiasis is a common experience among children in Zanzibar. There is a paucity of behavioural science-based, health education and behaviour change (HEBC) interventions for school-aged children, those at greatest risk for urogenital schistosomiasis. We assessed the influence of a HEBC intervention, guided by the Health Belief model, among rural schoolchildren on Pemba and Unguja islands in Zanzibar, Tanzania. From 2012 to 2016, a cluster-randomized trial to assess three different interventions against urogenital schistosomiasis was conducted in 90 schools and shehias across Zanzibar. The HEBC intervention was implemented in 15 schools per island. In 2017, at the trial conclusion, we administered written questionnaires to schoolchildren from 4 HEBC intervention schools and 4 not HEBC exposed schools on each island, respectively. Responses were compared between students that were exposed or not exposed to the HEBC intervention using a Fisher's exact test. A total of 1451 students, 708 from intervention and 743 from non-intervention schools completed the questionnaire. Noting some between island differences, students who had received the HEBC interventions reported significant improvements in knowledge about Schistosoma haematobium transmission and personal risk, strategies for schistosomiasis prevention, and self-reported changes in risk behaviours: stopped washing laundry/dishes 49.4% (350/708) versus 5.8% (43/743), stopped bathing in streams/ponds 49.4% (350/708) versus 4.2% (31/743), and stopped playing in streams/ponds 40.8% (289/708) versus 10.8% (80/743). HEBC exposed children also reported a significant increase in swallowing tablets during mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns (when they had not before) 30.2% (214/708) versus 4.6% (34/743). The school based HEBC interventions were associated with desirable positive behaviour change among students. Data suggest that scaling up HEBC interventions to all schools in high-risk areas, augmented with bi-annual MDA, can help to reduce prevalence of urogenital schistosomiasis in Zanzibar, strengthening the possibility for future disease elimination.