Research Topic

Syndemics of Tropical Diseases: Thinking beyond co-morbidities to inform more effective interventions

About this Research Topic

The theory of syndemics hypothesizes that observed clusters of diseases in specific temporal and geographical contexts are the result of harmful socio-environmental conditions resulting in mutually enhancing deleterious consequences. The concept first emerged in the mid-1990s when anthropologist Merrill Singer noticed the common co-existence of substance abuse, violence, and HIV/AIDS among inner city Hispanic populations. Further investigation revealed the adverse biological interaction of two or more diseases or health conditions propelled by identifiable social and/or environmental factors in defined populations, the standing definition of syndemics. The syndemics concept now informs an array health-related disciplines, proving valuable in health research, policy, and practice.

Recent reviews of the syndemics literature reveal that despite its utility across multiple disciplines and its expansion to include non-communicable and communicable disease, the syndemics concept has not extended much into tropical diseases. While co-morbidities of tropical diseases have been well documented, there are few descriptions of syndemic arrangements. Given the nature of the biological interactions between health conditions and diseases and the observed concentration of these clusters within specific populations, syndemic arrangements of tropical diseases are likely common. Furthermore, the reviews revealed that scholarship labeled as syndemic did not always fully describe syndemic arrangements. Many studies described social determinants of health or presented an additive arrangement of conditions worsening health outcomes. In this collection, we ask scholars working in the field to consider how observed clusters of tropical diseases, resulting in worse health outcomes than each condition in isolation, has syndemic attributes. Specifically: (1) diseases or health conditions concentrated in a population; (2) the health conditions interacting biologically; and (3) social conditions interacting with health conditions in a manner that increases infectivity or disease progression.

This collection aims to expand awareness of syndemic arrangements of tropical diseases in order to inform health policy and interventions. Understanding the nature of disease interactions directs the scope and scale of interventions. Scholars are asked to present evidence of the observed syndemic, clearly addressing all three dimensions of syndemic theory and need to demonstrate or at least describe biological-biological and biological-social interactions. Manuscripts are not limited to specific methods (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), but should address how the findings inform effective public health control strategies beyond those currently employed.


Keywords: syndemics, tropical diseases, co-morbidities, intervention


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The theory of syndemics hypothesizes that observed clusters of diseases in specific temporal and geographical contexts are the result of harmful socio-environmental conditions resulting in mutually enhancing deleterious consequences. The concept first emerged in the mid-1990s when anthropologist Merrill Singer noticed the common co-existence of substance abuse, violence, and HIV/AIDS among inner city Hispanic populations. Further investigation revealed the adverse biological interaction of two or more diseases or health conditions propelled by identifiable social and/or environmental factors in defined populations, the standing definition of syndemics. The syndemics concept now informs an array health-related disciplines, proving valuable in health research, policy, and practice.

Recent reviews of the syndemics literature reveal that despite its utility across multiple disciplines and its expansion to include non-communicable and communicable disease, the syndemics concept has not extended much into tropical diseases. While co-morbidities of tropical diseases have been well documented, there are few descriptions of syndemic arrangements. Given the nature of the biological interactions between health conditions and diseases and the observed concentration of these clusters within specific populations, syndemic arrangements of tropical diseases are likely common. Furthermore, the reviews revealed that scholarship labeled as syndemic did not always fully describe syndemic arrangements. Many studies described social determinants of health or presented an additive arrangement of conditions worsening health outcomes. In this collection, we ask scholars working in the field to consider how observed clusters of tropical diseases, resulting in worse health outcomes than each condition in isolation, has syndemic attributes. Specifically: (1) diseases or health conditions concentrated in a population; (2) the health conditions interacting biologically; and (3) social conditions interacting with health conditions in a manner that increases infectivity or disease progression.

This collection aims to expand awareness of syndemic arrangements of tropical diseases in order to inform health policy and interventions. Understanding the nature of disease interactions directs the scope and scale of interventions. Scholars are asked to present evidence of the observed syndemic, clearly addressing all three dimensions of syndemic theory and need to demonstrate or at least describe biological-biological and biological-social interactions. Manuscripts are not limited to specific methods (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), but should address how the findings inform effective public health control strategies beyond those currently employed.


Keywords: syndemics, tropical diseases, co-morbidities, intervention


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

07 June 2021 Abstract
05 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

07 June 2021 Abstract
05 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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