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What parents in Australia know and do about head lice

Counahan, Megan, Andrews, Ross M., Weld, Helen, Walsh, Helen and Speare, Rick (2007). What parents in Australia know and do about head lice. Rural and Remote Health,7(3):Article No. 687.

Document type: Journal Article
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IRMA ID 10452xPUB36
Title What parents in Australia know and do about head lice
Author Counahan, Megan
Andrews, Ross M.
Weld, Helen
Walsh, Helen
Speare, Rick
Journal Name Rural and Remote Health
Publication Date 2007
Volume Number 7
Issue Number 3
ISSN 1445-6354   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page Article No. 687
Total Pages 10
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher Australian Rural Health Education Network
Field of Research 1117 - Public Health and Health Services
1303 - Specialist Studies in Education
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract INTRODUCTION: Although parents in developed market economies regard head lice infections (pediculosis) as a significant problem, health departments generally rate pediculosis as a low priority health issue, encouraging parents to manage and control it. But how well equipped and willing are parents to manage the infections? There do not appear to be any studies in the literature addressing these issues. This article presents the results of a survey conducted in Australia that aimed to answer these questions.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of parents of primary school aged children in Victoria (Vic) and north Queensland (NQ) was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire. The study investigated the knowledge, attitudes and practices of parents regarding head lice infections.

RESULTS: Only 7.1% of 1338 who completed the questionnaire answered all 10 knowledge questions correctly and more than one-third failed to answer half correctly. There was a weak negative correlation between parents' knowledge and the prevalence of active pediculosis in the school. Almost all parents wanted the responsibility for treating pediculosis and more than three-quarters saw it as a health concern. A higher proportion of parents in NQ used preventative strategies (67% vs 41%). Most parents spent less than AU$50 per year on treatments. Alarmingly, however, the proportion of children missing school as a result of pediculosis was 24.4% and 30.3% in Vic and NQ, respectively. In Vic there was a positive correlation (r = 0.39) between missing school in the previous 12 months and prevalence of pediculosis in the school.

CONCLUSIONS: This appears to be the most comprehensive study of parental knowledge, beliefs, and practices regarding head lice infections. Although parents wanted responsibility for the management of pediculosis, deficiencies in their knowledge indicate they may be inadequately equipped to do so. Given the high proportion of children in both states who have missed school as a result of head lice, it is recommended that health departments in Australia should work to ensure that consistent and accurate messages about pediculosis are disseminated, and that relevant legislation is amended to prevent children being excluded from school.
Keywords Australia
school absenteeism
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