Monday, June 9, 2014

Teaching in Health

Our public health component is a crucial part of our work in the clinic…teaching people how to care for themselves. 
We currently have 32 lay health promoters in Nueva Vida and the  three surrounding rural communities.  Our goal is to up that number to 50, but we are looking for dedicated people because we have much to teach:
  • Young women need to learn that annual visits are crucial…in order to check their health and look for signs of diseases that progress like silent killers.
  • One in 4 women die of complications due to diabetes because 1) they do not know they have diabetes, 2) they do not eat well, 3) they have organ failures because they are not taking the medications consistently, or 4) they get sores and do not treat them immediately.  Teaching poor people how to feed their children well is difficult because they do not have many resources, but will reduce the cases of diabetes in the future.
  • Cervical cancer kills more Nicaraguan women of reproductive age than any other cause of death.  Cervical cancer is easily treatable if detected early.  We have a goal to have a See and Treat program started in the next few months that will allow the doctors to see the cervix clearly and treat any abnormalities right away.
  • Nicaragua has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the Western Hemisphere, though the overall birth rate has dropped considerably in recent years.  There are many issues around this, and I will write about them in our next blog, but one issue is lack of access to birth control.  Although technically birth control is provided by the government and is free, government clinics do not always have the medications.  We are working with teens who are already mothers, teens who are not yet mothers, and older women who do not want to have more children or any at all.
  • Women who stay at home to raise the children (often because they do not have a choice) are the fastest growing HIV positive population, mainly because the government tests most pregnant women.  We have started HIV testing patients of both sexes in our clinic and are trying to expand our testing of other STIs.  We also give out free condoms.  Teaching about sexual health is important for the health of the teens, parents, and women.
You will note that most of our focus is on women…we have learned that they are the most amenable to learning about their health and the health of their children.  Also most of the care-giving in this country are done by women.  BUT…we hope to include more men and male-specific issues as well.

You can see though how many of these topics need privacy and a free flow of ideas from the students attending the classes…this is hard to do with a space that other patients walk through…which is why we need that third building. -Kathleen