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OHIO, partners to launch next phase in effort to stop spread of Chagas disease

Ohio University is about to take a bold new step in its research and educational programs in Ecuador.

Now in its 20th year of programs in the country, the university is embarking on a new initiative to improve the lives of the people of Ecuador. This new initiative, which involves several academic programs at Ohio University, will result in the construction of 61 new homes for families in Ecuador in the next two years as part of the fight to eliminate Chagas disease.

During the week of June 23-30, a delegation led by Executive Vice President/Provost Chaden Djalali will visit Ecuador to take part in a series of events that will include an event to officially kick off the new initiative. Djalali will be joined on the trip by Vice Provost for Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds, Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Professor Mario Grijalva, who is the director of the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute and is leading the new initiative.

“Ohio University students and faculty from academic programs across the university have done incredible work with our research and service learning projects in Ecuador over the last 20 years,” Grijalva said. “The research has shown the need for housing that can properly keep the insects that carry Chagas disease at bay, along with providing support to the families that will use these homes. We are proud to be moving into this next phase of our involvement as we work to eliminate Chagas disease and improve the lives of the people of Southern Ecuador.”

According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), an estimated 8 million people are infected with Chagas disease. Each year, approximately 10,000 people die from the disease, according to the WHO.

Most of the Chagas disease infections are in Latin America, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately 300,000 people in the United States have the disease.

When this next phase of Ohio University’s Healthy Living Initiative project is complete in 2021, it will provide enough data to show whether Chagas disease can be effectively prevented through a large-scale implementation of the plan.

In order to raise funds for the new homes, students and faculty from the Scripps College of Communication have designed and will lead a crowd-funding campaign. Students and faculty members are working with partners in Ecuador to create a wide variety of marketing materials for different mediums, and then will help to promote the campaign.

The campaign, which has been named the Healthy Homes for Heathy Living campaign, will be officially announced at a public event in the Loja Province of Ecuador that Ohio University will host with the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE), a partner institution, on June 27.

The Ohio University delegation will take part in this event, while also visiting the communities that will be involved in the project and taking part in a series of meetings on the PUCE campus. The delegation will also meet with Ohio University students and faculty taking part in study away projects in Ecuador. This summer, Ohio University students are taking part in several research and service learning projects in the country.

Six homes have been built through Ohio University’s involvement in previous years as part of the research into fighting Chagas disease, and one more home will be built this summer to kick off the Healthy Homes for Healthy Living initiative.

Once the funding is in place, 30 homes will be built in 2020 and 30 more will be built in 2021. Additional information about the campaign can be found at h3living.org.