Overcoming Delivery Challenges for National Deworming in South Korea

This case study investigates how collaboration between the Korean Association for Parasite Eradication, a small coalition of dedicated South Korean parasitologists and health professionals, and the Korean government overcame numerous delivery challenges to sustain a nation-wide deworming campaign for two decades, until the World Health Organization declared the country essentially worm-free in 1997.

South Korea relied on nation-wide, school-based administration of stool tests and deworming pills for close to two decades from 1969 till 1997 to effectively do away with the intestinal worm infection. Worm infection was indeed pervasive before the campaign: the infection rates were over 80% in the overall population.

Intervention

Nation-wide school-based deworming that consisted of two annual stool tests to identify children infected with intestinal worms and administration of deworming pills 

Key Stakeholders 

KAPE (Korea Association of Parasite Eradication), a civil society organization; Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; Ministry of Education; teachers and officials in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools; Japan’s OTCA (Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency), precursor to JICA   

Development Challenges

Overcoming pervasive infection with intestinal worms 

Delivery Challenges 

Awareness and communication strategy; stakeholder engagement; financial instability; skilled manpower 

Overcoming Delivery Challenges

Aggressive public awareness campaigns helped dispel wide-spread perception that intestinal worm infection does not merit a serious concern and that deworming campaigns, long-sustained, is both futile and infeasible. Systematic data collection documented visible decreases in infection prevalence, helping persuade the government of the need to sustain the public investment for deworming. 

Outcomes and Effects 

Intestinal worm infection, which used to be over 80% until the late 1960, has become a thing of the past, and in 1997, the World Health Organization declared South Korea essentially worm-free. A recent evaluation of the long-term effects documented significant gains in educational attainment and worker productivity attributable to the eradication of intestinal worm infection, especially for women.