Communicable diseases such as cholera and malaria have received significant research, prevention, and treatment attention in Haiti, but there is little information related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. The dearth of information on NCDs in developing countries such as Haiti cyclically reinforces the lack of surveillance, screening programs, and treatment/prevention efforts. In order to fill this gap, the Haiti Health Study was launched by multi-PIs Dr. Linda Cottler, Dr. Krishna Vaddiparti and Dr. Catherine Striley of the department of epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine in collaboration with PI Dr. Vince DeGennaro in the College of Medicine.
[Photo: Dr. Krishna Vaddiparti surveys the study site in Carrefour, Haiti and maps the anchor points for household enumeration and data collection. The terrain of the urban site is hard to traverse and poses myriad challenges in enumeration of households. Access to the households in this area is only by foot]
The UF department of epidemiology worked with the State University of Haiti College of Medicine and Pharmacy to prioritize health needs and to build research capacity prior to launching the study. The study is the first of its kind to be conducted in Haiti to identify crucial information on the prevalence and risk factors for NCDs. It also provides opportunities for training in research methodology and community engagement for interested faculty and students.
The study is being implemented separately in urban and rural Haiti using identical protocols. Drs. Cottler, Vaddiparti and Striley are implementing this study in the urban area of Carrefour and Dr. DeGenarro in the rural area of Thomonde. Researchers will estimate the prevalence of NCDs such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and substance use disorders, along with cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and chronic renal insufficiency. The study explores the associated risk factors of NCDs, including social determinants of health. A total of 2,000 households from randomly selected clusters in Carrefour and Thomonde are being proportionately enumerated.
Drs. Vaddiparti and Striley identified local community health workers (CHWs) and trained them in study protocol, household enumeration, study assessments, interviewing, responsible conduct of research and human subjects protection. CHWs also received training in taking physical measurements and performing blood tests using finger sticks for hemoglobin A1C, cholesterol and serum creatinine.