Breaking the silence: A health narratives approach to understanding tuberculosis in El Paso, Texas

Angelica Forero-Quintana, University of Texas at El Paso


Tuberculosis is a chronic illness affecting people in El Paso, Texas. TB continues to be a disease of great concern along the US-México border. The TB rates in El Paso for 2008 and 2009 were 5.4 and 8.9 per 100,000 and 13.5 and 13.3 per 100,000 in Ciudad Juárez. The number of new TB cases in 2008 and 2009 for El Paso were 40 and 67 cases and in Ciudad Juárez, they were 311 and 306 cases (Moya, 2010). This study relied on interviews with fifteen people undergoing treatment for TB (and three of their children) using a health narratives approach. Important themes from the narratives included delayed diagnosis, challenges in dealing with TB, and positive aspects that came out of recovering from the disease. In terms of explaining why people were delayed in diagnosis, reasons ranged from several misdiagnoses in a row, lack of awareness of TB by doctors', fear of immigration authorities, and fewer economic resources for health care. Once receiving a diagnosis, participants faced additional challenges including poverty and difficulties accessing social services (e.g., finding employment because of TB, and eligibility to qualify for social assistance such as unemployment compensation, food stamps or housing). Other challenges participants faced while undergoing treatment were a lack of knowledge about TB (e.g., sources of infection, treatments, and clinics where people can get tested) and stigma. At the end of treatment, some participants reported positive outcomes from being a person with TB illustrated by beneficial changes in behaviors (e.g., consuming healthier foods, stopping illegal drug use and exercising); a desire to give back to their community (e.g., volunteering); and positive changes in family relations (e.g., closer relationships). This study contributes to the understanding of the experiences of people with TB in communities with a relatively high burden of disease.

Subject Area

Public health|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Forero-Quintana, Angelica, "Breaking the silence: A health narratives approach to understanding tuberculosis in El Paso, Texas" (2010). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1483822.