Preventing Chagas Disease

Date: c. 1980
Owner: National Library of Medicine
Source Type: Images


The Pan American Health Organization, in conjunction with Bolivia's Ministry of Public Health, published this poster to teach rural Bolivians the sanitation measures necessary to prevent Chagas' disease (for more on the disease itself, see the Tropical Medicine topic). The disease was spread by triatomas, insects that lived in poorly-built homes and passed the parasite trypanosoma cruzi to humans through bites to the face (as illustrated in the upper-left portion of this source).

According to historian Marcos Cueto, the most important impact of the PASB's and PAHO's work in Latin America was instilling average citizens with the idea that it was the duty of their government to provide them with a sanitary environment and the peoples' natural right to be healthy. This was a new way of thinking about health, one that promulgated several national agencies meant to ensure that sanitation and health care were disseminated democratically.

Like many other initiatives by the PAHO, the focus here is preventing the spread of disease vectors through improving local sanitation. To secure one's home against the triatoma, the PAHO recommended keeping the house clean and domestic animals penned far from human residences. Most importantly, one must shore up the cracks in the walls and ceiling because triatomas usually live in the walls by day and come out to eat (and spread Chagas' disease) by night. The caption of the happy and healthy family on the bottom-right informs Bolivians that "avoiding Chagas' disease is everyone's responsibility." This is both a practical message about personal sanitation and an admission that national sanitation bureaus throughout Latin America have remained unable to eradicate the vectors of harmful diseases like Chagas'.

Reference: Cueto, Marcos. The Value of Health: The History of the Pan American Health Organization. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2007.

CITATION: Eliminemos a las vinchunas transmisoras del mal de chagas. United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Order #: A025981.