Volume 87, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Little is known about how beliefs about heredity as a cause of health conditions might influence preventive and interpersonal behaviors among those individuals with low genetic and health literacy. We explored causal beliefs about podoconiosis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) endemic in Ethiopia. Podoconiosis clusters in families but can be prevented if individuals at genetically high risk wear shoes consistently. Adults ( = 242) from four rural Ethiopian communities participated in qualitative assessments of beliefs about the causes of podoconiosis. Heredity was commonly mentioned, with heredity being perceived as (1) the sole cause of podoconiosis, (2) not a causal factor, or (3) one of multiple causes. These beliefs influenced the perceived controllability of podoconiosis and in turn, whether individuals endorsed preventive and interpersonal stigmatizing behaviors. Culturally informed education programs that increase the perceived controllability of stigmatized hereditary health conditions like podoconiosis have promise for increasing preventive behaviors and reducing interpersonal stigma.


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  • Received : 30 Mar 2012
  • Accepted : 02 May 2012
  • Published online : 03 Oct 2012

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