Laboratory of Biology of Interactions, Instituto Oswaldo Cruz/Fiocruz
Chagas’ disease is a neglected disease, with aspects related to morbidity and mortality that represent a challenge: to go through the medical-curative, antiparasitic treatment, to address the improvement of the quality of life. In 2016, on the occasion of the XXXI Annual Meeting of Applied Research in Chagas’ disease, the 1st Brazilian Meeting of Social Movements to Fight Neglected Diseases also took place, focused on the theme “Challenges, advances, perspectives and articulations of social movements in defense of life, SUS and the fight against neglected diseases.” This initiative meant an advance, in the sense of the active participation of patients with the disease, by the impulse to search for answers to the doubts that affect their daily lives as well as possible solutions to alleviate their problems.
However, what we want to emphasize here is the importance of changing the paradigm: from a view restricted to the curative posture and the control of transmission, to a higher level, of “facing” Chagas’ disease. Thus, health education emphasizes its key role as an important social determinant of health, without which it is almost impossible to question the living conditions that lead to infectious and parasitic diseases. Through health education strategies, based on research, it is possible to favor the perception of issues related to the origin of the local problem of endemic diseases. For example, the introduction of large-scale coffee plantations in São Paulo, initially in the Paraíba Valley, contributed to the establishment of an endemic area for Chagas’ disease – related to deforestation and the disorderly occupation of precarious housing.
Promoting health means perceiving the psychosocial implications in the health-disease process and, on the other hand, understanding the interference of poor socio-environmental conditions in the displacement of the process towards the disease. Therefore, this can come from the way in which the natural space is occupied and explored. Health education, therefore, is a component of health promotion and should not be understood as information, which is transmitted unidirectionally through lectures and campaign pamphlets. In turn, health promotion presupposes a process that demands cultural exchanges in which all social actors participate: scientists, health and education professionals, rural workers, families, and communities. Thus, with social participation, sustainable solutions can be built collectively and the process, dynamic, will revert towards health in a gradual but lasting way.