"We discovered that at the peak of a recent tuberculosis epidemic among the Ach natives, 18 percent of the population had active tuberculosis. That's the highest prevalence ever published anywhere in the world," she said. "In the meantime, we would visit surrounding mestizo villages and ask if anyone had tuberculosis. We found zero cases, despite the fact that the mestizos and indigenous people were living only a few miles apart in the same ecozone. One of the things I've been mulling over was this invisible, social barrier creating pockets of disease. We need to understand those barriers."
Hurtado's field research plans for 2012 includes a new project with colleagues in Panama and Paraguay at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Centro para el Desarrollo de la Investigacion Cientifica, to study indigenous health and explore the evolutionary origins of public health as well as health transitions in indigenous populations moving into modern environments.
"We are very much behind in the 21st century. There are 3 billion people in the world today who do not have access to clean water, sanitation and are infected with intestinal worms that make them susceptible to bacterial and viral diseases," Hurtado said. "Now these diseases can rapidly spread around the world, since populations are networked through frequent social interaction and transmission is much faster than ever before in human history. We have a time bomb right now in global health."
Hurtado is grateful for the interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary environment at ASU that allows her to expand her research into other disciplines and work with researchers outside of her field of study. She credits this synergistic environment of ideas and communication as a major factor in articles she has published on unique social structure and cooperative breeding in human societies in the past year with her husband Kim Hill in the journals N
|Contact: Julie Newberg|
Arizona State University