Working with parents and schools to provide a bug busting approach to head lice is helping to reduce infestation levels, tackle health inequalities and reduce healthcare costs, according to a review in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
A team from the UK charity Community Hygiene Concern led a review of studies carried out in the UK, Belgium and Denmark since 1996.
"The best results are obtained when parents are supplied with a free Bug Buster Kit, which includes special combs and instructions on how to detect and eradicate head lice with normal shampoos and conditioners" explains Joanna Ibarra, Programme Co-ordinator for the charity.
"The Bug Buster Kit can be reused by a whole family for a year or more" she adds. "This enables families of all socio-economic classes to participate in a whole-school approach.
"In the UK, promoting the bug busting approach is reducing primary care expenditure on treatment for head lice and professional time spent with worried families. As a result, healthcare providers can spend more time with the few families who need one-to-one guidance."
The review was carried out with the help of experts from each of the three countries featured.
Key findings included:
"Evidence from the UK and other European countries shows that getting the whole school community involved in bug busting makes it much easier to control infestations and reduce health inequalities" concludes Joanna Ibarra.
"Parents support the bug busting approach because everyone is treated equally and the stigma associated with catching head lice is reduced.
"They also prefer a system that uses normal shampoos and conditioners to mechanically remove lice, rather than expensive formulated products to kill them.
"Costs are reduced for healthcare systems that provide such medication on prescription, and for parents living in countries where they are not available on prescription. This is a particular advantage for low-income families who struggle to afford them.
Reference: Overcoming health inequalities by using the Bug Busting 'whole-school approach' to eradicating head lice. Ibarra et al. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 16, 1955-1965. October 2007.
Community Hygiene Concern, which plays a key role in the UK's national bug busting days, was established with funding from the Department of Health and King's Fund.
Materials provided by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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