Geographic Education and Schistosomiasis Control in the Philippines
Schistosomiasis is one of the most important tropical diseases in the Philippines. It is outranked only by malaria and tuberculosis among the leading causes of morbidity in that country. Within the 24 provinces where schistosomiasis occurs, there are 1,152 endemic villages in 169 municipalities. The total exposed population, defined as the population of the endemic municipalities, is estimated at more than 7 million, or about 10 percent of the Philippine population. Despite annual chemotherapy, schistosomiasis persists in many areas. This paper attempts to show how geographic education may be used for sustainable control of schistosomiasis in the Philippines. By using the model of the schistosomiasis transmission cycle as a heuristic device, this paper identifies the elements involved in the transmission cycle of Schistosomiasis japonicum and analyzes how each might contribute to the persistence of the disease. The main components of the transmission cycle — parasitic flukes, human hosts, snails, animal reservoirs, and the environment in which they all interact — can all be understood using the themes of geography. The results of the author's village level study of the parts of the transmission cycle are subsequently used as the foundation for identifying the corresponding elements of a pedagogical strategy that involves teachers, students, and families. Using data from the author's survey of 251 people in the endemic village, the author examines perceptions of schistosomiasis and its impact, knowledge of transmission and control processes, and attitudes toward the disease, control measures, and the control program. The relationship between these factors and the persistence of schistosomiasis in the village is explored. At the time of the author's field survey, the local elementary school was not disseminating information on schistosomiasis to schoolchildren. Since school-age children are the most vulnerable age group to schistosomiasis infection, efforts must be made to incorporate the geographic aspects of schistosomiasis in the school curriculum.
Keywords: Geographic education, Schistosomiasis, Philippines
Dr. Renato Cerdena
Associate Professor, Social Sciences Department, Ferris State University