A research conducted in Valle Alto, Bolivia, highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach on Chagas disease for the success of the scientific and medical response.

16 August 2021

Map of the Valle Alto of Cochabamba and the health facilities in the region.

This work takes off on the idea of incorporating the social spheres and its demands on the scientific process. By promoting a horizontal dialogue between the professionals and the local communities, the aim is to gain knowledge about their situation and so optimize the strategies designed for improving the living conditions of the people affected by Chagas disease.

The relationship with several families from Valle Alto, Cochabamba, reveals such a crucial information from in-depth interviews, pointing on different sociocultural aspects as an influential factor when it comes to the access to information and health care for the entire population in a hyper-endemic region like that.

This research started in 2018 by collecting data and experiences from several affected families, resulting on three categories, closely interrelated with each other: the structural component, the psychosocial component, and a plural health system component. This means that an interdisciplinary approach to their circumstances demonstrates how the social, economic and family living conditions influence the perception of the disease and its acceptance, along with other issues related to gender, social representations of this sometimes invisible but fatal disease, and the accessibility to the public health system in terms of seeking comprehensive health care.

The conclusions of the study point to the urge of improving the knowledge about the daily lives of the people affected by Chagas and how they manage the situation, in order to adapt the protocols and access to diagnosis and treatment to their realities. Also, the authors emphasize the need for a general improvement on the education about Chagas disease, not only from a social perspective, avoiding the eventual stigmatization and discrimination, but consequently to promote a social awareness that make that comprehensive health care possible.

The aim now consists on strengthening early detection in the acute phase as a strategy to provide timely antiparasitic treatment and prevent the illness and all its effects.

This investigation has been conducted by members of  ISGlobal and CEADES foundation, partners in the implementation of the Bolivian Chagas Platform and the InSPIRES project.

The study has been published by PLOS. You can access the entire content by following this link.