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About the Healthy Living Initiative

Saving Lives one Home at a Time

The Healthy Living Initiative is working with communities in southern Ecuador to construct a Chagas disease prevention model that addresses the interrelated social, economic, and political factors driving the disease. If proven successful, the model will serve as a transferrable approach for effectively preventing Chagas and other diseases of poverty, improving health, and expanding opportunities for people whose potential is now restricted by this disease.

Chagas is a debilitating and often fatal illness that affects approximately six to seven million people worldwide. It is caused by  Trypanasoma cruzi, a blood-borne protozoan parasite, spread by an insect known as the kissing bug. The disease is a significant public health concern, particularly in Latin America, but is not well-known, because it disproportionately affects people in underserved communities in tropical climates of Latin America.

The cornerstone of the Healthy Living Initiative is a project called Healthy Homes for Healthy Living, which is aimed at improving houses to interrupt the disease transmission cycle. Adobe walls, dirt floors, and tile roofs are often quite porous providing the kissing bugs with many options for entry. Improved housing will interrupt the disease transmission cycle by simply keeping bugs out of peoples’ homes.

Components under the initative

Through ongoing partnerships in Ecuador and within OHIO, we have developed the following components under the initiative:

• improve infrastructure,

• promote healthy living practices, and

• increase income generation.

These key elements of a healthy living environment, generated as the result of more than 13 years of collaborative research, are at the core of our model for sustainable Chagas disease prevention and control. We designed the prototype home and other interventions in collaboration with community members of the communities Bellamaría, Chaquizhca, and Guara in Loja Province, Ecuador.

Current projects

In 2020, OHIO students and faculty joined forces with partner families in the construction of new homes. By constructing more secure homes  in partnership with families, we hope to provide them with not only a more secure living environment but also more hope for the future. Special features of the homes include a bio digester toilet and the development of a productive garden. The garden provides food both for not only consumption but also for sale at the market.

Essential components of the project:


Apart from clinical activities to eliminate Chagas disease, providing health education to different groups within the community. Promoting and facilitating health are also a core part of this component.

Community Organization

True community development requires effective leadership and transparent representation of all the citizens. This component aims to strengthen those structures so community members can be the architects of their own well-being.


Helping citizens of the three communities to find funds to build better houses that are resistant to infestation of triatomines as well as other insects.

Safety and Security

Reinforcement of home and community to protect people from Chagas disease and social and regional issues.


Strengthening the capacity of adults and children to reinforce Chagas disease prevention, water use and conservation by organizing theater and dance activities, publishing local legends, tales, stories, anecdotes and history to reinforce community identity.


Providing community members who choose to participate activities that bring in more money for personal profit, and also the ability to pool together funds in a community account for future development needs that the communities themselves identify, as needed. These activities include jewelry making and guided bird-watching tours.