Most Widespread Diseases in Central America

Photographer: Polina Soyref, Irina Arbuzova

Treating diseases is a major part of our work at Health & Help. They can be contagious or non-communicable, fully treatable or chronic. Here are some of the most common illnesses our patients experience: 

  • Diabetes – When left untreated, this illness causes high blood sugar, and later cardiovascular, kidney, and eye problems. Over 8% of Guatemala’s adult population suffer from diabetes, a number that skyrockets to 25% among the indigenous community. This is because people in rural areas do not have access to fresh, affordable, healthy food or clean water, or knowledge about healthy diets, resorting to fast food snacks and Coca-Cola instead. While diabetes is a chronic condition, a healthy diet and medication can help patients manage this disease. 
  • Heart disease – 28% of Nicaraguans suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), a major risk factor and cause of heart disease. Like diabetes, this is also the result of a poor diet and other lifestyle trends which cause people to become overweight. In 2010, ischemic (caused by narrowed arteries) heart disease was the second-highest cause of death in Nicaragua. 
  • Parasitic infections – Illnesses like malaria, giardia, chagas, and all fall under the category of parasitic diseases, and spread through insect bites or contaminated food and water. These illnesses can be life-threatening or lead to long-lasting complications if left untreated. Improved infrastructure like mosquito nets and clean water help limit their transmission. 
  • Anemia – 47% of children in Guatemala are anemic. This condition occurs when the body does not have enough iron and causes dizziness and fatigue. Many children are chronically malnourished and rarely get to eat iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, or leafy greens, leading to anemia. 

While some of these diseases are chronic and do not have a cure, proper treatment allows patients to live normal lives thanks to an iron supplement or effective diabetes medication. In many parts of the world, the mortality rates of these illnesses have dropped significantly due to accessible healthcare. Our goal is to stop unnecessary deaths from treatable conditions in Guatemala and Nicaragua, and we need your help. By subscribing to a monthly donation, you’re helping us purchase medicine and plan a budget that will save lives. Sign up on our website at

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