Chagas is an infectious disease that affects approximately 10 million people, mainly in the rural areas of South America. The pathogen is a single-celled parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted by assassin bugs. The disease is often fatal if left untreated, but it can be cured by timely treatment during the acute stage.
Under the project, Caritas and Bayer staff will visit schools in rural areas, which are often cut off from healthcare services, to provide comprehensive and age-appropriate, on-the-spot education about Chagas disease. They will focus on using playful methods to teach the school children. They represent a particularly vulnerable risk group who can also pass on what they learn to their families. To increase the people's knowledge about how the disease spreads, blood tests for diagnosing people infected with the disease will also be conducted, especially in remote areas. A project office in Buenos Aires will pool the findings and, in close collaboration with the public health authorities, subject the data to further analysis and use it to develop preventive measures.
"Screening could prevent many cases of Chagas disease. Much more effort must therefore be invested in education and enlightenment," said Horacio Cristiani, Head of Caritas Argentina. "In Bayer we have found a strong partner who can help us not only to improve the data situation - enabling us to take more targeted measures against the disease - but also to reduce the number of new infections by means of active health education."
"We want to sustainably improve people's health and quality of life," says Professor Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, CEO of Bayer HealthCare AG. "This is a task that no aid organization, government, company or research institute can manage alone. Together with Caritas Argentina we want to raise the population's awareness of the threat posed by Chagas disease."
The concept was developed by a multidisciplinary team made up of international, up-and-coming Bayer managers and Bayer staff members from Argentina within the framework of a Group-wide program, uniting global talent management with the promotion of volunteering by Bayer HealthCare staff in the respective project country. The task is to jointly work out a sustainable plan of action against Chagas disease - one that can also be adopted as a model by other countries and projects.
"This program has shown us the kind of social contribution a team of highly motivated and creative members of staff can make," says Bayer Foundation Board member Thimo V. Schmitt-Lord. "By pooling all the skills that Bayer has in the health field, we have succeeded in getting an innovative project off the ground that can help fill a healthcare gap."
Bayer HealthCare has also been supporting the fight against Chagas disease in another way since 2004. The company supplies the WHO with nifurtimox tablets, and provides financial support for logistics and distributing the drug. In addition, Bayer HealthCare and twelve other pharmaceutical companies have jointly signed the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, which has set itself the goal of controlling or eliminating ten neglected tropical diseases.
About the Bayer Cares Foundation
As the social welfare foundation of the innovation company Bayer, the Bayer Cares Foundation sees itself especially as an initiator, promoter and partner for innovation at the interface between industry and the social sector. The sponsorship programs are focused on people - their commitment to public welfare, their wealth of ideas in resolving social tasks, as well as their need in times of emergency. The foundation's funding activities are a central element of Bayer's global social commitment amounting to approximately EUR 50 million annually - with the focus on promoting scientific education and leading-edge research, and on providing health care and meeting the basic social needs of people who live near the company's sites.
About Bayer HealthCare
The Bayer Group is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. Bayer HealthCare, a subgroup of Bayer AG with annual sales of EUR 18.6 billion (2012), is one of the world's leading, innovative companies in the healthcare and medical products industry and is based in Leverkusen, Germany. The company combines the global activities of the Animal Health, Consumer Care, Medical Care and Pharmaceuticals divisions. Bayer HealthCare’s aim is to discover, develop, manufacture and market products that will improve human and animal health worldwide. Bayer HealthCare has a global workforce of 55,300 employees (Dec 31, 2012) and is represented in more than 100 countries.