Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Influence of International Medical Tourism on Health Belief Systems in Rural Belize




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



It is becoming evident that hypertensive diseases and diabetes are becoming critical health issues in Central America. Recent health related studies in Belize have demonstrated the increasing prevalence and morbidity of these non-communicable diseases. In response, a growing number of non-governmental organizations are facilitating US-based health initiatives throughout the country. The preliminary research presented here represented an initiative that sought to ascertain overall beliefs and perceptions of personal health among villagers who demonstrated hypertension and diabetes. Utilizing the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised and SF12 survey instruments, an inter-disciplinary team conducted survey research in eight villages surrounding the urban center of San Ignacio in the Cayo district of Belize. Villagers participated in voluntary health screenings for hypertension and diabetes and survey data was collected as a follow up to determine belief systems regarding causation and overall health. Survey results presented a conundrum. Participating individuals presented very negative beliefs regarding personal physical and mental health yet very positive beliefs regarding treatment and a strong knowledge base regarding causation and symptoms. Based on this preliminary data and discussions with locally based NGO staff, correlative assumptions will be made regarding the ongoing saturation of medical development tourism in the area. The nature and extent of these often university-based study trips is causing disconnects between participants self-perception of health and the medical realities of diabetes and hypertension. These preliminary findings raise further questions regarding the efficacy and ethics of the current models that typically inform medical tourism in rural Belize.

Conference Name

110th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Montreal, QC, Canada

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