Community-based solutions to control Chagas disease

TDR news item
4 July 2017

This is a profile of one of 23 social innovations selected for case study research. The Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI) is a collaboration with TDR, the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

A community-centred research approach to develop new solutions that address Chagas disease in the Chaco region of Paraguay.

CHALLENGES

An educational tool on Chagas disease
An educational tool on Chagas disease
Credit: SIHI

Chagas disease is a potentially life-threatening illness affecting between six and seven million people worldwide. It is responsible for 21 000 deaths annually. In Paraguay, Chagas disease is endemic to the Gran Chaco region. The Chaco is a vast semi-arid geographic area in western Paraguay. According to the Paraguayan 2012 census, 455 of the country’s 711 indigenous communities do not have health facilities of any kind, and where they do exist, the services are often insufficient.

INTERVENTION

The Centre for the Development of Scientific Research (CEDIC) recognized the need for a community-owned approach to tackle Chagas disease. Its inclusive co-design process allows for the development of an integrated pipeline of innovative product and process solutions. Several solutions were developed, including new educational games for children, new water filters and housing that prevents the Chagas bug from nesting inside and infecting family members. The housing project brought together university soil testing, a local business which provided construction tools, and meals and transport from the local government for community members who constructed the buildings. The communities decided to turn the first buildings into health posts and a school, and 200 homes are planned for the Chaco region.

IMPACT

“Every year there is a national emergency declared because of drought and flooding in the indigenous communities. This is not an emergency anymore. It’s a chronic problem that needs a lasting solution.”

Founder, CEDIC

The incidence of Chagas and the infestation rate of triatomines cannot be fully measured due to difficulties in obtaining reliable baseline data and determining confounding variables. The National Program for Chagas Control of the Ministry of Health, however, reported a decline in the infestation rate in homes in affected communities from 30% to 12%. Community leaders are satisfied and continue to work with CEDIC on new projects.


For more information, contact Beatrice Halpaap .