Date of Conferral





Public Health


Michael G. Schwab


In Ethiopia, one of the primary contributors to blindness is trachoma, which is an infectious ocular disease. There is no record of any prevention programs in rural Ethiopian villages of Oromia, where the prevalence of trachoma is high. The original purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions of rural Oromo villagers in Ethiopia on the causes, treatment, and prevention of trachoma, using the health belief model and the social-ecological model as a theoretical framework. Due to a security situation in Ethiopia, final interviews were conducted with immigrant Ethiopians in the US, all of them from the trachoma-endemic rural areas of Oromia, all now living in Phoenix, Arizona. Results showed that this sample of former villagers had limited knowledge of the causes, prevention or treatment of trachoma, and could not recognize, or differentiate it from other eye diseases. The participants had some knowledge of governmental and nongovernmental efforts to control trachoma in their home country - through education and pit latrines. They also knew about the limitations of those programs. All reported that people would be willing to attend classes for trachoma prevention if held at a convenient time and place. These results may be useful in preparing a program to prevent trachoma in rural Ethiopia, and reduce blindness in this population, enabling more individuals to become educated and contributing to their community's well-being. Since trachoma is highly infectious, and participants in this study come from a trachoma-endemic area and do not know how to recognize it for themselves, the need for screening for trachoma on arrival in the US should be examined in more detail.