In countries where Chagas is endemic, clinicians can be unaware of the benefits of treatment. When doctors are reluctant to treat chronic patients, this is often an important barrier to treatment access.
In Colombia, since DNDi began partnering with the Ministry of Health in 2015 in a pilot project to increase access to diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease, over 700 health workers have been trained in the latest scientific evidence for diagnosis and treatment.
In 2018, DNDi’s treatment access team also worked with local health authorities to develop a workshop for doctors and nurses to improve their skills in reading electrocardiogram test results. As Chagas disease progresses to the advanced stage, one in three people will develop associated complications, most of them affecting the heart. Electrocardiograms can provide early warning signals that Chagas disease is impacting the heart. The results help clinicians to determine the best course of treatment. Nearly 100 doctors and nurses have participated in workshops in Casanare and Boyacá districts.
“Many doctors working in primary healthcare in Colombia are not used to interpreting electrocardiogram results. They feel insecure and rely on a specialist. This practical workshop, implemented in partnership with the local health authorities, improved their skills and gave them confidence to do it.” Dr Rafael Herazo, DNDi doctor working for the Chagas treatment access project in Colombia
“We planned this workshop with DNDi after identifying that equipment was available at the primary healthcare level to do the electrocardiogram, but the doctors would only use them for emergencies. Now, as they have strengthened their capacity, we make better use of the equipment and we have been able to reduce the gap between diagnosis and the start of the treatment.” Dr Fernando Torres, coordinator for Diseases Transmitted by Vectors, Casanare government, Colombia
Photo credit: Felipe Abondano-DNDi