STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aims were (1) to review inpatient burn records of Attat Hospital (Ethiopia) for the years 1983-1989, and (2) to determine the prevalence of burns and knowledge of first aid for burns in 16 communities served by Attat Hospital in rural Ethiopia. DESIGN--A retrospective review of all records was used to describe characteristics of the inpatient with burns and cost of the service. Adult members of a systematic random sample (20%) of households from 16 communities (total population = 10,183) were interviewed. Questions focused on what to do to put out the fire, what to do for first aid for a burn, the major cause of adult and childhood burns, and a history of burn in any household member. SETTING--The study was conducted at Attat Hospital and in the surrounding Gurage-Chaha Region of West Shoa Province of Ethiopia. STUDY SUBJECTS--There were 271 burn inpatients during the 7 year period from 1983-1989; 163 households were selected for interview; there were no refusals. MAIN RESULTS--During the 7 year period the cost of tertiary inpatient burn treatment at Attat Hospital has been estimated to be US$86,366.72, of which the hospital absorbed 66%. From community based information the cumulative incidence of burns in this population was found to be 5-11%. The absence of a cumulative increase in burns over time in men suggests that female respondents may not fully recall burn histories in adult male household members. The study population possess inadequate knowledge regarding burn prevention and burn first aid. Deleterious traditional compounds were used on 32% of burn patients in the villages. CONCLUSIONS--Since most burns are related to household fires, generally in the domain of women in rural Ethiopia, women's groups may be the most appropriate setting for education on burn prevention and first aid. Burn prevention and first aid education should also be recognised as a priority in schools and in the training of community health workers.
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