Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Julie Baldwin


Indigenous, Ngäbe-Buglé, Panama, Sanitation, Water, Women


Background: In 2007, approximately 66.2% of the population of the Comarcas (indigenous reservations) in Panama had access to potable water. However, over 50% of this population lacked access to sanitation. As a result, the leading causes of death in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé are due to severe diarrhea and gastroenteritis of infectious origin. The present project assessed the need for an in-depth understanding of the Ngäbe-Buglé women and their communities regarding their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about water and sanitation. Methodology: In this cross-sectional exploratory study, a convenience sample of 52 women were interviewed, utilizing a questionnaire guided by the Health Belief Model. Quantitative analysis was useful in identifying to generate descriptive statistics for the quantitative data, and qualitative methods were used to identify a priori and emergent codes in open-ended responses. Results: The Health Belief Model was useful to identify different factors that may prevent the adoption of safe behaviors, while the children play a key role in adopting those behaviors. Data showed that the women had some knowledge about safe water consumption, but that does not necessarily determine if they will consume safe water or not, although it seems that chlorination is more likely to be adopted than boiling water. There is a need for tailored educational programs for this population, especially topics related to sanitation, garbage disposal and hygiene practices