This study was developed in an endemic area of tegumentary leishmaniasis in Minas Gerais, Brazil, with the objective of analyzing a health education process based on the social representations theory. The educational model was developed in two phases with 34 local residents. In the first phase, social representations of leishmaniasis were identified and analyzed. The second phase was based on the interaction between social representations and scientific knowledge. The results showed that social representations were structured in a central core by the terms "wound" and "mosquito" and in the peripheral system by the terms "mountains", "standing water", and "injection" related respectively to place, transmission, and treatment of the disease. We concluded that tegumentary leishmaniasis is viewed as a wound caused by a mosquito, portrayed by metaphors. The results of the second phase showed that social representations are systems that favor adherence to scientific knowledge, at times more rigidly in the central core, other times more flexibly when linked to the peripheral systems.