Community Participation in Vector Control: Lessons from Chagas' Disease

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  • Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Proyecto de Salud Infantil y Communitaria, Programa Nacional de Control de la Enfermedad de Chagas, Ministerio de Prevision Social y Salud Publica de Bolivia, USAID/Bolivia, Vector Biology and Control Project, U.S. Agency for International Development, District of Columbia; Centro de Pesquisas Rene Rochou, Atlanta, Georgia, Bolivia

As applied to vector-borne disease control, the term community participation has been broadly interpreted. Community-based vector control projects have been described as having both active and passive components. Recently, community participation in organized efforts to control Chagas' disease has become more dynamic, with increasingly active involvement by local community members. Chagas' disease is a particularly significant vector-borne disease problem in the South American countries of Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia, and health officials there are beginning to emphasize horizontal or decentralized approaches to control of triatomine vectors. Experience suggests that vector control programs using community participation have significant and sustainable impact on vector density, appear to be more cost-effective than purely vertically structured programs, are readily integrated with other health or development programs, promote an enduring sense of pride in home and community, and are politically viable vector control strategies. Community participation per se has inherent value because of its positive effect on social relationships and community solidarity. Moreover, it is a dynamic process that results in accrued benefits for public health that exceed most vector control program goals and persist well beyond program termination.