The Yoruba farm market as a communication channel in guinea worm disease surveillance

William R. Brieger, Carl Kendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Disease eradication programmes are by definition time bound and require strategies that facilitate timely intervention. Surveillance, which undergirds eradication, also requires timely strategies. Finding such strategies is especially challenging when the target disease is endemic in remote areas, e.g. guinea worm disease, the focus of this study. A strategy of market based surveillance was pilot tested in Ifeloju Local Government Area (LGA) of Oyo State, Nigeria. The project gaol was to design a surveillance system that both fit into the natural communication network of rural people, and also enlisted their active involvement. Ethnographic research methods were employed to learn about market location, structure, catchment area and attendance pattern. Four larger farm markets (serving 164 hamlets with 17,000 population) were chosen. Each hamlet was visited and a volunteer 'reporter' was recruited. Reporters were trained on case recognition and detection, first aid and prevention, with a sensitivity to distinguishing indigenous and clinical perceptions of guinea worm. The market cycle was based on the traditional four-day week. Field workers visited every second market 16 times between October 1990 and February 1991. The reporter was expected to identify correctly the first case of the season and thus label the village as endemic for the season. Reporters gave oral reports, and positive indications were followed up within 48 hr by field workers, who verified the case and administered first aid. All hamlets were visited once a month to verify negative reports. Reporter attendance was monitored. Those who had a formal role in the market, e.g. sales agents, had better attendance than ordinary farmers who came only to sell their own produce. Knowledge of market structure and attender roles offers a guide for adapting this surveillance approach to other cultural systems and health issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Farm markets
  • Guinea worm
  • Local knowledge
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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