The objective of the literature review was to identify proven and potential interventions to promote early diagnosis and start of treatment in leprosy, specifically, forms of intervention addressing needs at the local or primary level.
Using a structured search procedure, we identified recent leprosy-related publications describing proven interventions. To identify potential interventions the search was extended to publications assessing knowledge and attitudes towards leprosy and extended again to identify publications relating to patient-related delay in the context of other infectious diseases.
The review identified just 19 publications reporting leprosy-related interventions that included a form of evaluation of which only 10 directly addressed patient-related delay. These included health education interventions focussed on people directly affected by leprosy, their family members and other key individuals or groups within the local community. We identified no reports of interventions focussed specifically on the needs of women.
Our conclusion is that the evidence base available to inform the choice of small-scale interventions to promote early detection at the primary level is extremely limited. There is an urgent need to develop and extend the range of proven interventions, specifically those that address the needs of women, those that explore and develop the health promotion potential of people previously affected by leprosy and those that exploit the potential of individuals with leadership roles within the community. This will require careful attention to planning, implementation, evaluation and reporting of interventions.