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Free Content An ethnographic study of barriers to and enabling factors for tuberculosis treatment adherence in Timor Leste

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BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in Timor Leste; treatment adherence was identified by the National TB Control Programme (NTP) as an impediment to TB control.

OBJECTIVE: To identify barriers to and enabling factors for the successful implementation of the DOTS strategy in Timor Leste.

METHOD: Qualitative research was carried out in the two districts (one rural and one urban) with the lowest treatment completion rates. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with patients, health workers and community members in eight villages.

RESULT: Good knowledge of TB, including a correct understanding of how it is cured, together with the provision of incentives, were important factors contributing to treatment completion. Defaulting patients and community members had less knowledge of TB. TB nurses had a good understanding of, and a high level of commitment to implementing the DOTS strategy. Obstacles to treatment completion included preference for traditional medicine, economic difficulties and geographic remoteness.

CONCLUSION: Local cultural practices and knowledge as well as socio-economic factors contribute to less than optimal adherence to TB treatment. This study has assisted Timor Leste's NTP in modifying its DOTS expansion strategies to overcome barriers to treatment completion.
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Keywords: Timor Leste; qualitative research; traditional health beliefs; treatment adherence; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia; Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia; and National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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