Magic Glasses Cartoon Halved Worm Infections In Chinese Schoolchildren

Researchers in China and Australia have reported huge success with a cartoon DVD promoting hygiene across rural China.

magic glassesAsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2013) – Researchers in China and Australia have reported huge success with a cartoon DVD promoting hygiene across rural China.

Infection rates halved when a ten-minute “Magic Glasses” cartoon – which shows children how to avoid parasitic worm infection, a major issue in rural communities – was shown in schools in China’s Hunan province.

The project, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Prof. Don McManus and PhD student Franziska Bieri from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, Dr. Darren Gray and Prof. Gail Williams from the University of Queensland in Australia, and Dr. Li Yuesheng from the Hunan Institute of Parasitic Diseases in China.

“Sometimes it just takes a simple change in behavior and attitudes to make a drastic difference in the spread of disease,” McManus said. “In this case, we’ve managed to make a real difference with a fun cartoon in Mandarin which explains the importance of hand washing, wearing shoes, covering food, and using lavatories.”

Intestinal worms such as roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm are a major issue in rural Chinese communities and can lead to malnutrition and stunted growth and cognitive development in children. Worldwide, two billion people are infected with parasitic worms.

In the cartoon DVD, when a small child puts on “magic glasses” they can suddenly see worm eggs and larvae in bright colors.

“The research was a major part of my PhD and included a cluster-randomized intervention trial where about 1700 children aged 9-10 were followed during one school year, and we screened the cartoon in some schools but not others,” Bieri said.

Bieri assessed the children’s knowledge of infection before and after viewing the DVD and compared the effectiveness of the cartoon against traditional posters.

“We found that tailoring the message to the children made an enormous difference to disease rates. There is an accessible cure for these worms, but the problem is reinfection because of poor hygiene,” she said.

The team has just secured 1.5 million Swiss Francs from the UBS Optimus Foundation to expand the educational program into other regions of China. They are also planning to work with the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine in Manila, to make a similar DVD for schoolchildren in the Philippines.

The article can be found at: Bieri FA et al. (2013) Health-Education Package to Prevent Worm Infections in Chinese Schoolchildren.


Source: QIMR.
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