Illness beliefs of leprosy patients: Use of medical anthropology in clinical practice

T. C. Neylan, K. E. Nelson, V. Schauf, D. M. Scollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Illness beliefs of 61 patients identified as having leprosy were assessed by Kleinman's Explanatory Model Format. Our patients used a wide variety of etiologic theories which were grouped in categories such as venereal disease, heredity, dangerous food, sin, karma, and humoral disorders. Despite efforts at patient education, very few patients adopted the concept of bacterial infection to explain their illness. The patients identified their illness with a variety of different labels, some of which had associations with particular symptoms. Leprosy was perceived and experienced more as a series of acute disorders not necessarily related to one another. The various theories of illness were instrumental in directing treatment choices which included a number of indigenous healing practices. Such information may be useful in improving patient care and compliance by providing practitioners with interpretive strategies for communicating with their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-237
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Leprosy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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