Managing an epidemic: Zika interventions and community responses in Belize

Glob Public Health. 2019 Jan;14(1):9-22. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2018.1471146. Epub 2018 May 7.


Implementing effective health interventions in recent epidemics has been difficult due to the potentially global nature of their spread and sociocultural dynamics, raising questions concerning how to develop culturally-appropriate preventive measures, and how these health threats are understood locally. In Belize, health policy makers have only been marginally effective in managing infections and mosquito vectors, and Zika has been declared endemic in certain regions, particularly on the island of Caye Caulker. Based on ethnographic research conducted primarily in 2017, we examine how perspectives of Zika-related health consequences are shaped, and how state interventions to manage Zika are understood. We argue that despite its declared endemic status, Zika is not perceived as a true health concern for community members due to numerous neoliberal structural challenges. Moreover, the state's restrictive form of reproductive governance which limits family planning services is forcing individuals to weigh conflicting conceptions of health consequences. This also contributes to an ambiguous healthcare environment for health practitioners, giving them an unclear picture of the scope of Zika as a public health concern. We also consider how critical medical anthropology and feminist analytical approaches are useful in exploring these questions and contributing to understandings of the health impacts of Zika.

Keywords: Belize; Reproductive governance; endemic Zika; health policy; neoliberalism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Belize / epidemiology
  • Epidemics / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Mosquito Control
  • Mosquito Vectors
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Health Services
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology
  • Zika Virus Infection / prevention & control*