In a rural community block of north India we initiated a programme for control of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RF/RHD). This included a training campaign for all 74 health workers, 773 school teachers and 12,500 older pupils (class V to X) to enable them to suspect and refer cases of RF/RHD and counsel them about secondary prophylaxis. Training material was used by project staff, medical officers and teachers to convey that this serious disease with onset between 5 and 15 years can be recognized by four simple criteria: fever with joint pain or swelling; breathlessness and fatigue; involuntary face and limb movements. One year later we evaluated awareness generated by training by administering a questionnaire to random samples in the intervention area and in a noncontiguous control area. Health workers, teachers and pupils of the intervention block were significantly better aware of the nature, severity and presentation of the disease and reported having recognized cases whom they had referred for diagnosis, prophylaxis and counselled for follow up. We conclude that a training protocol incorporating simple messages can effectively create practical awareness for RF/RHD control among teachers, health workers and pupils in a rural community.
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