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Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 1998;93 Suppl 1:59-62.

Epidemiology and anthropology: an integrated approach dealing with bio-socio-cultural aspects as strategy for the control of endemic diseases.

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Departamento de Parasitologia, Centro de Pesquisas Aggeu Magalhàes-Fiocruz, Cidade Universitária, Recife, PE, Brasil.


The control of endemic diseases has not attained the desired level of effectiveness in spite of the use of modern efficient technologies. The classic interventionist approach for the control of schistosomiasis is centered on systemic control of the snail hosts combined to large scale medical treatment and is usually carried out without social preoccupation due to the assisted communities. It is easy to understand the interest and the ethical compromise of public health research while producing studies in which the biological and social determinants as well as the cultural components should be considered and also encompass the historical dimensions and symbolic representations. In face of the recent political decision in favor of decentralizations of health administration to municipal level, we suggest, in the present paper, an integrated approach for the epidemiological diagnosis of an endemic situation at local level. Theoretical and methodological aspects from both, epidemiology and anthropology are discussed. Epidemiological methods can be used to detect the dependent variables (those related to the human infection) and the independent variables (demographic, economic, sanitary and social). Another methodological approach of anthropological/ethnographic nature can be conducted in order to make an articulation of the knowledge on the various dimensions or determinant levels of the disease. Mutual comprehension, between researchers and the people under investigation, on the dynamic transmission process would be relevant for a joint construction, at local level, of programmed actions for the control of endemic diseases. This would extend reflections on the health/disease process as a whole.

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