Recognizing neglected skin diseases: WHO publishes pictorial training guide

8 June 2018 | Geneva — The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a training guide that aims to make it easier for health workers to identify the signs and symptoms of neglected tropical diseases of the skin and other common skin conditions through their visible characteristics.


Skin diseases are among the most common of all human health afflictions and affect almost 900 million people in the world at any time. Five common conditions account for over 80% of all skin diseases.1

This training guide is meant for front-line health workers who do not have thorough knowledge of common skin diseases and supports WHO’s efforts to provide health for all and to everyone, everywhere” said Dr Kingsley Asiedu, Medical Officer, Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, who led the project. “It is possible to identify the most common skin diseases as their treatment is simple, with many responding to medication that is widely available.”

Several skin diseases are associated with long-term disfigurement, disability and stigma. The guide is part of WHO’s efforts to combine control, treatment and care activities for skin-related diseases to maximize the use of limited resources and expand treatment coverage.

Targeting skin NTDs also provides an integrated platform for improved detection and treatment of common skin conditions in the communities and, therefore, has wider public health benefits” said Dr Daniel Argaw Dagne, Coordinator of the Innovative and Intensified Disease Management unit of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “The success of our integrated approach depends on well-trained health workers and community volunteers who can correctly identify multiple skin conditions.”

Skin examination offers an opportunity to screen people and to identify multiple conditions in a single visit. An integrated approach in communities and schools can potentially reduce costs and cut down delays in diagnosis as well as promote skin health for all.

This publication marks an exciting collaboration between NTD experts and dermatologists drawing on the principle that so many important and common diseases can first be recognized by their appearance on the skin” said Professor Rod Hay of the U.K-based International Foundation for Dermatology. “The manual draws together simple diagnostic flow charts with action pathways that support early detection and integrated case management”.

The skin-related neglected tropical diseases include Buruli ulcer, cutaneous leishmaniasis, post kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, mycetoma, onchocerciasis, scabies and yaws. The commonest skin diseases include: fungus, pyoderma, scabies, acne, eczema and warts.

1Hay RJ, Johns NE, Williams HC, Bolliger IW, Dellavalle RP, Margolis DJ, Marks R et al. The global burden of skin disease in 2010: an analysis of the prevalence and impact of skin conditions. J Invest Dermatol. 2014;134:1527–34. doi:10.1038/jid.2013.446.

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