Rocio Diaz: Working to Improve Hygiene Practices in Honduras

Since my first semester at Florida State University in the Fall of 2019, I have been working alongside Dr. Charles Fleischer and his team, on a primarily student-led global health research project. Throughout my time working as a research assistant, I have learned of the vast array of preventable diseases that plague rural and impoverished areas and take millions of lives each year. Alongside our team, we have been focused on coming up with sustainable initiatives to decrease preventable illnesses in a small village located in the mountains of Honduras named Gracias a Dios. My contributions to the research project have been specifically on researching and developing a way to successfully decrease the incidence and prevalence of diarrheal illnesses in the community through improved hand and oral hygiene practices.

Rocio Diaz

This upcoming summer, my plan is to conduct a comprehensive literature review of oral hygiene and sanitation interventions that have been previously conducted in rural and impoverished areas. The literature review will be conducted using peer-reviewed databases such as PubMed and will use keywords such as “Honduras and hygiene” and “Honduras and diarrheal illnesses” to search for the appropriate literature. The literature review will also only include interventions that have been done within the past 10 years in order to obtain the newest and most recent data.

The information garnered through this literature review will then be thoroughly critiqued, analyzed and adapted into an educational curriculum in both English and Spanish. This educational curriculum will highlight the most successful and sustainable practices used to increase hand and oral hygiene standards in rural areas. The educational curriculum will be used to train village health workers, who are hired directly from the community of Gracias a Dios, Honduras. I will be working in conjunction with the non-profit organization, Rotary Club of Olanchito in Honduras, an international organization who specializes in providing humanitarian services within the community.

The village health workers will encourage and teach members of the community how to incorporate hygienic and sanitary practices into their everyday lives in order to improve their overall health. This will be in the form of implementing fluoride rinses with the help of a local dentist, routine handwashing, regular toothbrushing, and using clean water. The Scott and Ina McNichols Undergraduate Research Award grant be used to purchase necessary supplies such as toothbrushes, soap bars, toothpaste, as well as for the village health care worker salary.

My research in improving hand and oral hygiene practices in Gracias a Dios, Honduras is in conjunction with the FSU-FAMU Global Health Collaborative Project led by Dr. Charles Fleischer from the Florida State University College of Medicine and Dr. Nicole Cheung from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Pharmacy. The goal of my research is to decrease the mortality and morbidity rates associated with preventable illnesses such as diarrheal disease. My hope is that if the educational curriculum proves to be a successful component of improving health and sanitation standards in Gracias a Dios, that it could be published alongside the literature review and used by others looking to inspire positive change in the global health community.

As a rising junior, I am honored to have been selected as an IDEA Grant Recipient and fortunate to be able to conduct my own research project this summer. As a student in the Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences major with a focus on Clinical Professions, conducting research focused on global health directly aligns with my career goals. After graduating from Florida State University, my goal is to go to medical school and become a doctor. So far, my interests lie with public health and family medicine.

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