The activity represented a major effort in educating teachers, parents, and students, and the Ministry of Health took advantage of the opportunity to conduct other interventions simultaneously, including administering antiparasitics to children and searching for and treating cases of other diseases that affect them, such as blinding trachoma and schistosomiasis. The program was conducted in more than 20.000 schools in Brazil.
Thanks to the campaign, nearly 3 million questionnaires were provided to public schools in 852 municipalities, and 293 cases of leprosy were detected early among children, as well as 114 additional cases among their contacts, for a total of 407 new cases detected. If not for this campaign, these cases would have been detected years later, with the consequent risk of disability and permanent physical and psychological sequelae. As part of the campaign, antiparasitics were also administered to some 3 million children. “This is the first time in 10 years that a massive deworming campaign of children in priority areas has been accomplished,” Rosa explained. About 45.295 eye examinations were also conducted, in 34 municipalities of six states, detecting a total of 2.307 positive cases of trachoma blindness. Treatment was provided for 2.387 students and 1.273 of their home contacts.
“Despite the challenges, such as getting state and municipal education secretariats to collaborate with the campaign’s health secretariats, the effort was worthwhile: ultimately, collaboration was excellent, and all of the school principals and teachers participated actively, in many cases conducting highly creative activities with the children,” Rosa said.
In 2014, annual investment in the leprosy program by Brazil’s Ministry of Health totaled approximately US$ 7.6 million. In addition to those resources, both the state and municipal secretariats allocate Funds from their budget to the leprosy control program each year.
Brazil receives a donation of approximately 16 million doses of leprosy treatment from WHO. For the integrated campaign, the Ministry of Health also received 9.2 million parasitic tablets from WHO to treat STHs, and purchased drugs to treat blinding trachoma using its own resources.
As an additional benefit of the campaign, many of the children who participated in the program helped educate their parents, siblings, and other close relatives about the disease.