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How poor living conditions affect the Hansen’s disease


Bom dia!  Only two weeks has passed since I arrived in Brazil. But even in this brief time, I have been able to get to know a part of their history, culture and religious beliefs, which are important to understand when it is required to implement community health strategies. My stay here has helped me to understand why the Hansen’s disease is a health problem for the country.


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Brazil is a land of contradictions where the beauty of the landscape and luxurious buildings contrasts with the big extension of deprived neighborhoods or favelas, characterized by the poor housing and sanitation, high household density, illiteracy, and low socio-economic levels. Characteristics that are considered risk factors for the proliferation of the Hansen’s disease.


Heathcare barriers

In an additional way, the violence in the favelas plus the uncontrolled urbanization makes that the general population, or even the police and health care professionals, feel afraid to enter the favelas to work or to provide services to this communities, contributing to the late detection of new cases of Hansen’s disease and the high number of people with  grade 2 disabilities because of it.


Inclusive projects

Some processes to improve this situation has started with the police pacification projects, which aims to decrease the violence and reduce or eliminate the drugs gangs. In this way, it's expected that touristic projects that involve the population of the favela and the visit to it, improve the economy of these neighborhoods. At the same time it is projected that education and health programs related to the prevention and early detection of the Hansen’s disease, among other diseases, will also be implemented.

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Disease as barrier for tourism

Even when this project is aiming to improve the conditions of the population, many of the information related to the Hansen’s disease is not divulgated to avoid that the disease becomes a barrier for tourism in the country as it has occurred with other diseases such as Zika and Yellow fever. However, poverty and health issues are not the reasons for Brazilian people to stop sharing things with others. The kindness and warmth of the people are something that defines them. The joy that they show in their daily activities, and even share with those who are foreign and do not speak Portuguese, is unique.


Great cultural richness

Brazil is also a country with a great cultural richness, a product of the mixture of cultures generated since the colonization. This is reflected in the samba practices on Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon; the murals on the walls that express religious beliefs or social critiques; the religious celebrations that are so large that it seems to involve the entire population, even people with impairments; the passion for soccer that is observed since they are children; and even in the parties in the streets where everyone dances and shares regardless of race, social position or sexual orientation.


Keep following my blog to know the next step in my research in this amazing country!



Blog geschreven door Rossana,

Brazilië, 25 april 2017



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Olinda is one of the most important cities of the state of Pernambuco. Is considered Historic and Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Prove of this can be seen in the colorful houses in the streets and the architecturally outstanding buildings. Contrasting the beauty, Olinda still present issues in some health indicators. Since 2009 to 2011 there was an increase in the new cases of Hansen’s disease detected in the municipality. It has shown a stabilization since then with incidence rates around 58 cases/100,000 habitants.








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