Louse as the most common external parasite of infection in humans has a long history (1) and is still recognized as a recurring disease and a global health problem (2). Head lice are divided into three categories in terms of medical importance: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice (3). In scientific sources, severe head, body, and pubic infections are defined as pediculosis (4). Although this disease is detected in both girls and boys, it is more common in girls. Recent studies have indicated that more than 12 million girls, especially those within the age range of 1-11, are infected with head lice (5).
Although the prevalence of this disease is not limited to any specific age group, primary school students are the most vulnerable age group with high levels of infection (6). Head lice can cause direct problems, such as itching, scratching, and skin irritation. Moreover, it can result in social problems, insomnia, mental irritation, academic failure, depression, anemia, cervical adenopathy, bacterial infections, and allergic reactions (7). The International Association of Pediculosis of the United States defines the incidence of over 5% head lice as an epidemic (8).
According to extensive studies, we are witnessing an increase in the prevalence of head lice in different parts of the world and Iran in recent years. It has imposed heavy financial burdens upon the health care system (9, 10). Studies conducted abroad have reported the prevalence of head lice infestation in primary school students as variable, with the prevalence reported to be between 40-60% (11-13). The prevalence of infestation in different regions of Iran has been in the range of 6-30%. For instance, the prevalence rates of head lice in Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Fars, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, and Qom are estimated at 27%, 23.4%, 20.5%, 11%, 8%, and 7.6% (14, 15).
The promotion of public health, public awareness-raising, improvement of economic and social situation, as well as timely diagnosis and treatment of infected cases perform a peculiar role in controlling this disease (16). In this regard, although schools have great potential for heavy infestation with lice, they are the most suitable places for teaching hygiene issues (17). Mothers as one of the main backbones of teaching hygiene issues and promoting family health can provide children with valuable information.
Therefore, an increase in mothers' awareness can be very effective in the prevention of pediculosis. Moreover, mothers' disregard for the prevention and treatment of lice infestation may endangers the health of their children, as well as other students and their families. On the other hand, girls in primary school are not able to perform pediculosis preventive behaviors properly. Therefore, mothers should be more involved in solving this problem by the diagnosis and identification of infestation sources.
Researchers in a study conducted by Al-Maghribi et al. in Egypt have found that students are aware of high-risk behaviors that affect head lice infestation; nonetheless, they cannot avoid them (18). Therefore, the prevention of pediculosis in female students should be performed by mothers' encouragement and their direct participation in care through education.
In their study, Goodarzvand Chegini et al. found that educating mothers about the prevention of pediculosis could improve their behavior and reduce the incidence of pediculosis in their daughters (19). Mothers' pediculosis preventive behaviors are of utmost importance in the control and prevention of its complications in students; moreover, there is a paucity of studies on this issue. With this background in mind, the present study was carried out to determine the effect of education on the promotion of pediculosis preventive behaviors in mothers of female elementary school students.
The current study was conducted using interventional design and multi-stage random sampling method in collaboration with 176 mothers of female primary school students in Qom in the academic year of 2018-2019 in two groups of test and control (88 people in each group). To perform this study, a multi-stage random sampling method was used. The sample was obtained as 55 cases in each group (110 cases in total) using the following formula:
where Z1 is the reliability coefficient of 0.95 calculated at1.96.
Z2 is the test power of 0.80 obtained at 0.84.
S1and S2 are the estimates of the standard deviation of the performance score with a maximum score of 19.
d is the minimum change difference in the mean score between each of the two groups demonstrating a significant difference which is considered 10.
However, considering sample attrition, 60 people in each group, and a total of 120 cases were determined. Later, due to the interest of 88 eligible mothers in each group, a total of 176 people entered the study.
The code of ethics (IR.MUQ.REC.1396.133) was obtained from Qom University of Medical Sciences. After making the necessary coordination with the Department of Education, one of the four districts of Qom was randomly selected. Subsequently, among girls' primary schools in the selected area, two economically and culturally similar schools located in an acceptable distance were randomly selected as the schools of the test and control groups.
First, the hair of all the students in both schools was examined for pediculosis; thereafter, the mothers of all students who were not affected by pediculosis were invited to participate in the research. In order to observe the ethical principles, before completing the questionnaires, research participants were provided with the research objectives and assured of the confidentiality of their information. A written consent was then obtained from the participants.
The inclusion criteria entailed: 1) Iranian nationality, 2) residency in Qom, 3) basic literacy, 4) interest to participate in the study. On the other hand, the exclusion criterion was absence in training program for more than one session. Due to the absence of a standard questionnaire in this field, the study questionnaire was designed by the research team after extensive research and preparation of a question bank using existing resources and in the form of research objectives.
Thereafter, in order to review and confirm the face and content validity of this tool, it was examined by a panel of experts (7 faculty members and professors of Health Education, Public Health and Epidemiology departments) and their opinions were included in the questionnaire. Moreover, in order to measure reliability, the external reliability of the questions was calculated using test-retest method in the pilot study conducted on 30 mothers who were similar to the intended samples (other than the studied samples) with 2 weeks interval. The correlation coefficient scores of awareness and preventive behavior were reported as r= 0.91 and r = 0.81, respectively.
In addition, the internal consistency score of awareness and preventive behavior were obtained at 0.93 and 0.90, respectively, using Cronbach's alpha coefficient method. The questionnaire consisted of 33 questions, including 11 demographic, 11 awareness, and 11 pediculosis preventive behavior questions. Awareness questions were scored on a 3-point scale: 2(correct answer), 1( I don’t know) , and 0 (the wrong answer). The achievable range of awareness score was 0-22. The behavior questionnaire had two options: yes, I do (1) and no, I don't do (0). The minimum and maximum scores obtained in this section were 0-11. Thereafter, 88 mothers in the training group received the training program held in four 90-minute sessions in the form of lectures, group discussions, and practical demonstrations using PowerPoint, educational pictures and videos, and educational pamphlets over a period of 2 weeks.
Educational content included familiarity with the importance of skin and hair hygiene, general characteristics of pediculosis, lice-transmitted diseases, the proper examinations, control of hair, proper way of washing and ironing clothes, benefits of using fine-tooth combs and a personal bag at school, proper way of cleaning washable and non-washable lice-infested item, cleaning the house from lice, use of Permethrin shampoo and Dimethicone lotion, making vinegar solution, the proper way of nit removal, the physical and psychological effects of pediculosis, the importance of early examination and diagnosis and timely treatment of people with this disease. At the end of the last training session, mothers in the test group received a booklet containing the latest national guidelines for pediculosis care and educational pamphlets.
The control group did not receive any educational intervention during the training period. 3 months after the last training session, the questionnaire was re-completed by mothers in both groups, and all the educational content used for the study was made available to
the control group. After completing the questionnaires, the data were described by descriptive indicators, such as mean and standard deviation and analyzed in SPSS software (version 16) using Chi-Square, McNemar, Man Whitney, T-independent, T-pair statistical tests. A p-value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
The mean age scores of mothers in the test group and control group were reported as 35.8±5.27 and 36.02 ± 5.7. There was no statistically significant difference between the test and control group in terms of age (P=0.079). In the test group, 76(86.4%) mothers were housewife and 12 (13.6%) cases were employed. In the control group, 74 (84.1%) mothers were housewife and 14 (15.9%) cases were employed. chi-square test did not show any significant differences in this regard (P=0.41).
The results of the statistical tests demonstrated no statistically significant difference between the test and control groups in terms of demographic variables (P<0.05) (Table 1).
The results showed that there was a significant difference between the mean score of awareness in the test group before and 3 months after the educational intervention (P<0.001). Nevertheless, no significant difference was observed in the control group before and after the intervention (P=0.35). Furthermore, a significant difference was detected between the mean behavior score in the test group before and 3 months after the educational intervention (P <0.001). On the other hand, no significant difference was observed in the control group before and after the intervention (P=0.66).
The findings also indicated that the difference between the mean score of awareness and behavior between the test group and the control group was significantly different (P<0.001) (Table 2).
None of the mothers who participated in the study used a personal bag to put their children's clothes at school to prevent pediculosis before the intervention. Nonetheless, after the intervention, the rate of using a personal bag in the test group reached 100% (Table 3).