By Peter Kirchgraber*
In a few short months, our 19th annual medical brigade will be in Honduras, working with our partners in Atima, Choloma, and other communities in the Santa Bárbara region. This year, we’ve been invited to visit another local community – San Vicente Centenario – to evaluate three of their public health initiatives, with a view to finding ways to work together in the coming years.
Community representatives said they started these projects to meet the needs of their most vulnerable residents: children and the elderly. The projects include:
An early-childhood care program that provides early intervention to children from infancy to age five. The program also provides care for children with disabilities. Developmental markers, such as height and weight, are carefully monitored, to flag potential health concerns for early intervention.
A preventive health program run by the local youth network, in a dedicated space that’s designed to be friendly and inviting.
A Center for Care of Elderly Adults (Centro de Cuidado Adultos Mayores), which provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, integrational therapy, and medical assistance.
The community also has developed an informal partnership with a local clinic, the José María Leiva Vivas Municipal Health Center (Centro de Salud de Nuestro Municipio, or CESAMO), to provide early childhood health assessments and care for the elderly. Given the modest resources at the community’s disposal, they’ve been forced to improvise to some extent: whenever the municipality hires a general practitioner to treat elderly patients, the doctor volunteers, after hours, to provide pediatric care and assessments for the early-childhood program.
Even with these ad hoc interventions, many health needs remain unmet, so community leaders have approached OCHO for support in the following areas:
Vision screening, because several people in the community have visual impairments;
Dietary consultations, because many local children are malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition;
Dental hygiene, to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems that can weaken overall health;
Pediatric consultations, to provide specialty care that otherwise is not available in the community.
The OCHO team will visit San Vincente Centenario to assess the scope of current health needs and discuss how we can best work with the community to improve services and outcomes. We’ll be listening closely and taking careful notes as we get to know the people of San Vincente, and we’re looking forward to some fruitful conversations. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears – and hearts – open!
*we would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following Towson University students who contributed to this piece: Rebecca Shifflett, Ivette Medrano Araujo, and Katherine Martinez.