By: Michael Jackson
“The findings from the present study indicate that there is a critical need for improvement of knowledge about postpoliomyelitis syndrome among Brazilian healthcare professionals. The services provided by these professionals may therefore become compromised. Furthermore, public healthcare initiatives should be implemented to improve knowledge among healthcare professionals.”
This conclusion of the authors highlights the persistent problems polio survivors face in obtaining informed and risk-managed health care. These problems are not specific to Brazil – we experience the same professional education barriers with LEoP and PPS here in Australia, however we do have public health initiatives (Polio Australia’s Department of Health funded professional workshop program) already in place.
In their convenience sample study, a total of 578 participants (78% women) were evaluated, with the professions represented being physicians (69), physiotherapists (151), nurses (224), nutritionists (78), and psychologists (56). A self-administered questionnaire used in a previous study was used, which has questions oriented to acute polio and post-polio syndrome.
A significant finding in the data, was that those who had previously received information on polio and post-polio were – unsurprisingly – better informed. But this awareness extended to only 54% of physicians and physiotherapists, 26% of nurses, 14% of psychologists, and 6% of nutritionists.
Only 11% of all participants reported obtaining access to information about the management of PPS during their undergraduate courses. This highlights the need to deliver this topic to practicing professionals as well as pre-professionals (still at university). Outreach for Polio Australia’s workshop program includes this audience, however while learning-time constraints are low at university and high in the workforce, the opposite is true for constraints in scheduling education for each audience.
Only 3% of the professionals correctly answered that those with PPS cannot perform any type (unlimited choices) of physical activity, and only 37% knew that intense exercise should be limited. Specific non-exercise risks and consequences were not assessed in the questions asked (falls, medications, anaesthesia and surgery).
Broadly, although all professions had members who held misconceptions about polio and PPS, the physicians and physios had significantly greater knowledge than the other professions. When these two were combined with nurses, this group of three in turn had significantly more knowledge than nutritionists and psychologists.
In response to this study, I translated the PPS part of the questionnaire into a pre-test activity for those who register for our workshop in the future. We will therefore obtain some indication as to whether 1 in 2 physios, and 1 in 4 nurses (and other attending professions) have a basic understanding in Australia of the topics we cover in depth in our workshops.
de Lira, C. A. B., Santos, D. A. T., Viana, R. B., Guimarães, J. M., Oliveira, J. N. S., Sousa, B. S., … & Knechtle, B. (2021). Knowledge of healthcare professionals about poliomyelitis and postpoliomyelitis: a cross-sectional study. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 139, 464-475. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-3180.2020.0617.16032021