Dementia knowledge in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa

28 February, 2022

Citation and abstract of a paper in the journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

CITATION: Dementia knowledge in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Alzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

17(Supplement 7) (pp e057649), 2021. Date of Publication: 01 Dec 2021.

Willis R.; Manful A.S.; Igbafe L.; Mukayagi P.


BACKGROUND: Limited research has been carried out in sub-Saharan Africa about knowledge of dementia, although studies report that supernatural causes predominate while the biomedical model has less adherence. The biomedical model has been called the pathway to care, but this is less useful when infrastructure and services for dementia are limited. Three African researchers sought to explore knowledge about dementia in three sub-Saharan African countries. This article provides added value by performing a synthesis across the three countries.

METHOD(S): Qualitative research was performed in Zambia (healthcare professionals and the general public), Kenya (people providing care for parents), and Nigeria (family members providing care for relatives). Individual interviews were analysed with thematic analysis. The findings from the three countries were synthesised to identify shared messages and areas of transferability.

RESULT(S): Zambian findings showed partial adherence to the biomedical model of dementia among professionals but not among the general public. There was evidence of othering those who believed in supernatural origins. In Kenya information-seeking strategies were used when carers realised something unusual was happening, indicating high levels of social capital are necessary. Nigerian findings demonstrated a similar process of gradual recognition of symptoms, but also labels of madness and expectations of recovery.

CONCLUSION(S): Overall, the three sets of data imply that adherence to the biomedical model of dementia is more widespread in sub-Saharan Africa than has been previously thought, but without care and support services and accompanying policies this will not benefit people with dementia and their families.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,