UFU study analyzes the impact of Chagas disease on the Brazilian social security and assistance system

The barber bug is responsible for transmitting Chagas disease. (Image: Ministry of Health)

Until the 1990s, Chagas was considered the parasitic disease with the greatest socioeconomic impact in Latin America. It causes great biopsychosocial implications for people, in addition to high costs for health systems, due to the high demand for care and demand for exams, medicines and surgical interventions and procedures.

Studies on social security related to specific diseases, with detailed data, are extremely rare, mainly due to the difficulty of accessing information sources. In relation to Chagas disease, there are few studies and these are old. It was with this in mind that a group of researchers from the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), coordinated by Professor Jean Limongi, from the Collective Health course, sought to characterize the sociodemographic profile of Brazilian social security beneficiaries with Chagas disease.

The research, in collaboration with Keile Santos, a social security expert at the National Social Security Institute (INSS), Antônio Oliveira, a professor at the UFU Institute of Geography, and Izabela Perissato, a student in the Collective Health course at UFU, identified factors associated with the granting of assistance benefits to patients with Chagas disease in the period from 2004 to 2016.

The study began during the Scientific Initiation of Perissato. “Since I entered the university I have awakened my gaze and interest in science; So, I went looking for knowledge about what this world was like and how I would insert myself in this context”, says the student.

Social assistance is the policy that provides for the care of basic needs, protecting the family, motherhood, childhood, adolescence, old age and people with disabilities. For the research, the variables gender (male and female, based on biological distinction, as recommended by the Guidelines for Gender and Sex Equity in Research), age at onset of illness and disability, time elapsed between illness and and disability, age group, area and macro-region of residence, type of benefit received (welfare or social security), year of granting the benefit (2004 to 2016) and form of affiliation to social security.

All study designs were approved by the Ethics Committee for Research with Human Beings (CEP) of the UFU. As a result, the research identified 36,023 beneficiaries with Chagas disease. Of these, most are male and live in urban areas in the Southeast region of the country. The main benefit granted was assistance for temporary incapacity, followed by retirement due to permanent incapacity and assistance for the disabled.

“The work provided unprecedented information. It is interesting to point out that it comes from a Scientific Initiation of a student, something that serves to encourage students to do Scientific Initiation and research”, highlights Limongi. O article with more details about the research was published in the “Journal of Epidemiology and Health Services (RESS)”of the Unified Health System (SUS).

Ress is one of the country’s leading scientific journals. (Image: Screenshot/Ress)

Through the results, the researchers realized that the number of people with chronic Chagas disease is still large in Brazil, which makes it necessary to follow up this population in health services, especially in primary care, in order to delay the progression of the disease and the work disability.

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