Combining footwear with public health iconography to prevent soil-transmitted helminth infections

Sarah B. Paige, Sagan Friant, Lucie Clech, Carly Malavé, Catherine Kemigabo, Richard Obeti, Tony L. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Shoes are effective for blocking soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) that penetrate the skin. Unfortunately, shoe-wearing is uncommon in many areas where STHs are prevalent, in part because local populations are unaware of the health benefits of wearing shoes. This is especially true in low-literacy populations, where information dissemination through written messages is not possible. We launched a public health intervention that combines a public health image with sandals. The image is a "lenticular image" that combines two alternating pictures to depict the efficacy of shoes for preventing STH infection. This image is adhered to the shoe, such that the message is linked directly to the primary means of prevention. To create a culturally appropriate image, we conducted five focus group discussions, each with a different gender and age combination. Results of focus group discussions reinforced the importance of refining public health messages well in advance of distribution so that cultural acceptability is strong. After the image was finalized, we deployed shoes with the image in communities in western Uganda where hookworm is prevalent. We found that the frequency of shoe-wearing was 25% higher in communities receiving the shoes than in control communities. Microscopic analyses of fecal samples for parasites showed a sustained reduction in infection intensity for parasites transmitted directly through the feet when people received shoes with a public health image. Our results show that combining culturally appropriate images with public health interventions can be effective in low-literacy populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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