Social Sciences Research on Infectious Diseases of Poverty: Too Little and Too Late?

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
May 2014

Social Sciences Research on Infectious Diseases of Poverty: Too Little and Too Late?
José Azoh Barry mail
Published: June 12, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002803
Infectious diseases of poverty, also labeled tropical diseases or neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and caused by pathogenic agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other parasites), are viciously more prevalent among poor people. Though being preventable for the most part in a cost-effective way, they are devastating. These are, to name a few, Chagas disease, schistosomiasis, malaria, leprosy, visceral leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, Buruli ulcer, and onchocerciasis. Besides the vicious circle these diseases maintain with dire conditions of poverty, an increased microbial resistance to some therapeutic drugs adds to the complexity of health disparities and human suffering among the socially disadvantaged, marginalized, and prejudiced against. Fostering virtuous circles (as opposed to vicious circles) against infections of poverty and putting the disenfranchised first are primary concerns for social scientists engaged with research into infectious diseases of poverty. The historical role of social science research into these diseases, its current impacts, substantial contributions, and opportunities and interests for future endeavors are the focus of this article. Persistent disruptions and their propensity to wholly hamper productivity, derail economic and social progress, and deny child development are part of the complex reality to look into. In forcing the displacement of populations and creating chaos, they increase the risk for the spread of infections and maintain the infected poor in a downward spiral of poverty through their capacity of securing the vicious relationship with NTDs. Rather than compassion for inequalities, vulnerabilities, deprivations and misery, or bad fate, foci such as social justice, preparedness, and empowerment are of utmost importance. The case for bridging the divide among scientific disciplines has been strongly made over the years by scholars and outside of academic institutions. Acknowledging the importance of interdisciplinary science and contemplating the need for funded multidisciplinary research is hopeful for broadening the expertise needed to tackle these multidimensional afflictions. However, it should also call for a cautious enthusiasm…