Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Heidi Castañeda, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Boo Kwa, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.


Arthropod-Borne Disease, Folk Illness, Idiom of Distress, Prevention and Surveillance Campaigns, Slums and Squatter Settlements


This project elucidated the explanatory model of dengue fever held by members of urban communities in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The study was conducted over a four-month period from May-August of 2011, and it was divided into two stages. The first stage of the project consisted of volunteer participation with dengue fever surveillance brigades in the three communities with the highest incidence of dengue fever during the beginning of 2011. This initial stage employed participant observation as its research method. The second stage was conducted in a different community within Tegucigalpa. The primary research methods employed during the second stage of the project were participant observation, semi-structured questionnaires (n=18), and ethnographic surveys (n=32). The semi-structured questionnaires were conducted in three different low-socioeconomic status neighborhoods within the research community, and the ethnographic surveys were administered in a higher-socioeconomic status neighborhood within the same community. Participant observation was conducted in all four neighborhoods. The conceptions of dengue fever were evaluated across differing socio-economic statuses and the possibility of a folk characterization of dengue fever was investigated. The study also explored new avenues for prevention and assessed the impact of surveillance and informational campaigns. In significant aspects, the results from this study ran contrary to previous investigations on the topic (Kendall et al 1991); the results indicated that participants had an explanatory model of dengue fever very

similar to the biomedical explanatory model. However, results also indicated that participants had a local-particular, etiological characterization of dengue fever that did not coincide with the biomedical explanatory model of dengue fever. In the latter respect, results were similar to those reported by Kendall et al (1991). Similarly, the participants in this study recognized poor communal cohesion and inadequate/inefficient governmental support or intervention as a prime promoter of dengue fever. The lack of communal cohesion and tension towards governmental authorities in relation to dengue fever has been described by Whiteford (1997). Finally, there were no apparent differences in the explanatory models held by low-socioeconomic status and high-socioeconomic status participants. This study contributes to the fields of anthropology and public health by 1) exploring differences in explanatory models across socio-economic status, 2) discussing local etiologies of dengue fever relating to dirt/filth, and 3) assessing local conceptions of dengue fever within the framework of a folk illness.