Chagas disease is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer”. Most people living with this chronic disease will be without symptoms for years or even decades and go undiagnosed until either they are no longer eligible for treatment or the damage is irreversible and fatal. Chagas disease is an infection with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) and is endemic throughout the Americas resulting in significant morbidity and economic burdens. While the United States (US) is typically considered a non-endemic country, research has found T. cruzi-positive Triatoma vectors in 27 southern states along with evidence of sylvatic transmission and locally acquired human cases. Texas, in particular, is becoming recognized as an endemic area for both sylvatic and domestic transmission and has a disproportionate number of locally acquired human infections.
Unfortunately, less than 1% of known Chagas disease cases in the US have been properly diagnosed or received appropriate treatment. This critical treatment gap is likely due to the documented low physician awareness and lack of active surveillance of high-risk groups, demonstrating the current state of Chagas disease as a neglected tropical disease in the United States. The overall aim of this proposal is to increase health care provider awareness of Chagas disease screening and treatment protocols and provide education and outreach materials for communities to assist with prevention activities. The long-term outcomes of our study will have clinical implications regarding Chagas disease for South Texas communities, and will serve as a representation for the larger
Latino and low-income communities living in the southern US. Specifically, this project has the following aims:
- Aim 1: Establish a Chagas-specific Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) program to be utilized by south Texas clinicians to increase awareness and enhance patient care;
- Aim 2: Establish a Chagas-specific ECHO program for Community Health Workers (CHWs) to be utilized by south Texas CHWs to better assist with patient access to information and care; and
- Aim 3: Disseminate Chagas related information to communities and the emerging healthcare workforce via South Texas Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) to help better our understanding of prevalence and prevention measures needed in high-risk communities.
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