Background: Chagas disease is a zoonotic infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which affects an estimated 8-11 million people globally. Chagas disease is almost always associated with poverty in rural areas and disproportionately impacts immigrants from Latin America living in the United States. Approximately 20-30% of people who are infected with Chagas disease will develop a chronic form of the infection that can be fatal if left untreated. Chagas disease is vastly underestimated in the United States, often goes undiagnosed and is not well understood by most U.S. healthcare providers. One of the most important ways at reducing barriers to improving diagnostics of Chagas disease in the U.S. is giving healthcare providers the most up-to-date information and access to leading experts.
Methods: An online webinar was conducted for healthcare providers, veterinarians and public health professionals using Chagas disease expert panelists. Pre and post tests were administered to participants (n = 57) to determine the efficacy in raising awareness and to determine key focus areas for improving knowledge. A Wilcoxon rank-sum was used for non-parametric variables equivalent and for questions that assessed knowledge the McNemar's Chi-Square test was used.
Results: There were statistically significant learning increases in multiple categories including transmission (p = <.001), clinical presentation (p = 0.016), diagnostics (p = <.001), and treatment (p = <.001).
Conclusion: Providing easily accessible learning opportunities using validated testing and evaluations should be further developed for rural healthcare providers in the U.S. as well as healthcare providers serving under represented populations such as immigrants. There is a clear lack of knowledge and awareness surrounding Chagas disease in the United States and just by raising awareness and providing education on the topic, lives will be saved.
Keywords: Chagas disease; Neglected tropical diseases; Online medical education; Telehealth; Trypanosoma cruzi.