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MEDLIFE has a very rounded vision of development- we recognise one cannot simply eradicate poverty through one avenue alone, offering solely medical treatment for example. Our mission is focused on offering education, development, and healthcare to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty. In addition to the mobile clinics that our volunteers provide a huge amount of support towards, a lot of time and effort is put into organising educational workshops for the communities of Peru.

Educational workshops help prevent illness and ensure more serious conditions are recognised earlier, increasing the chance of treating and curing them before they become detrimental. Last Friday two other interns and I joined Carlos, the director of MEDLIFE Peru, and two MEDLIFE doctors who would be delivering the presentation, on the journey to the community. After a couple of bumpy bus rides and a short climb into the hills, we arrived at our destination. We revisited a community that we had recently begun collaborating with. After confirming with them that a new staircase would be built in their area in late August, we continued to present an educational workshop. One of the women had an area out the back of her home large enough to hold the event; she had arranged rows of chairs for those who could attend.

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Once we arrived, we hesitantly walked through to the back of the house, not knowing exactly what to expect, how many people would come- it was really quite a chilly afternoon and potentially still working hours for some. Though of course, there was nothing to be concerned about as the seats were filled with men, women, and children, wrapped up warm and prepared for the occasion.

The MEDLIFE doctors made do with simple portable materials, including illustrations and some paper they stuck on the wall to write on and help explain health information. The doctors alternated for different sections of the presentation, and the audience sat continually engaged, quiet until the occasional question arose. The children played silently, the camera I was using also offered a great distraction! All the children I had met on the trips into the hills of Lima have been the most beautiful subjects a photographer could ask for, their smiles growing with excitement every time I share the photographs I have taken of them.

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The quality of the public education in Lima, Peru remains unsatisfactory partly due to low teacher wages and lack of school spaces for the ever-growing population. This, combined with the common practice for women to give birth young, means a substantial proportion of Lima's migrant population won't receive an adequate education. This exemplifies the necessity for the MEDLIFE educational workshops, which in some cases may save lives.

Before finishing the presentation, one of our summer interns, Alex, bravely stood at the front to share her health experiences with the group- a last minute request from Carlos. It was only in afterthought that it dawned on me why Carlos had really encouraged Alex to do this: health can often be a sometimes sensitive and embarrassing subject, one people don't like to discuss and share. By Alex demonstrating that it's okay to talk to others about her health experiences, it may just make it easier for them to do so in the future.

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Last week, our student volunteers in Lima had the opportunity to hear about issues such as poverty and public health in Peru through the eyes of a promient public figure.

Thanks to the efforts of our student volunteer Daniel Muller, MEDLIFE staff and volunteers attended a private discussion hosted by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a Peruvian politician,
public administrator, and economist. He has served as Peru's Minister of Energy and Mines, Minister of Economy and Finance, and as Prime Minister. He was also a candidate for Peru's Presidential Election in 2011. At the talk last week, he spoke to the students on how issues such as the economy and infrastructure relate to public health in Peru.

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Though the GDP in Peru is still increasing, only a small percentage (around 4%) of that is spent on healthcare for its citizens, resulting in the poor public health that pervades the country. Another contributor to some of Peru's low health indicators is the country's lack of infrastructure. Peru is a large stratified country with three distinct regions -- the coast in the west, the mountains in the center and the jungle in the west -- so adequate infrastructure has been difficult to establish. Water systems throughout the country do not reach every house and there is a lack of proper fluoride in the water, in addition to insufficient sanitation. All of these factors increase health problems, such as parasites.

According to Kuczynski, Peru produces a surplus of doctors, but they are severely underpaid compared to doctors in other countries. This means many doctors in urban locations are forced to search abroad if they want to earn a well-paid salary. Conversely, rural areas are cut off from urban doctors and experience a shortage of medical facilities. There is a pressing need to establish proper clinics and hospitals so that the health of these rural populations can be properly addressed.

After he finished with his talk, students and MEDLIFE staff alike  were invited to ask him questions.

“I found the talk very interesting as not only were we hearing about the problems that the country faces from a Peruvian, but also from someone who can and has made changes to improve life in Peru and amend these issues,” said Elizabeth Beattie, a year-long intern who attended the talks.

Despite many of its problems, similar to those of other developing countries, Kuczynski wanted to let his audience know that Peru is changing rapidly and is working hard toward a better future.

"Peru is making headway with positive changes in many areas," Lizzie said. "Though Peru faces much poverty, it is hopeful to see that there are people fighting to improve the conditions for all and that the resources are there to enable this positive change."

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Rosendo, Segundo, Gladys and Maria make up the group of patients who we met at Mobile Clinics in the community of La Merced del Canton Alausi in the Chimborazo province. These communities, about three and a half hours from the nearest city, Riobamba, are known for their isolation and cold temperatures.

tbMEDLIFE Doctor examining a possible TB patient (Photo by Martha Chicaiza)

The clinics took place in the community school, and the patients arrived and were diagnosed by MEDLIFE doctors. During the exam, doctors observed a great deal of phlegm and strange noises coming from their lungs, symptoms which could indicate tuberculosis. They immediately contacted the closest public health center to carry out further tests.

At the end of the clinic week, MEDLIFE Director of Ecuador Martha Chicaiza got in touch with the director of the team in charge of tuberculosis at the hospital of the province. She explained MEDLIFE's work, and in addition to thanking her, the doctor asked that she be kept informed of future clinics there, to better diagnose and treat people with tuberculosis, as well as educate them about how dangerous the disease can be and how to prevent it.

The next day, Martha contacted the three patients who appear to be suffering from tuberculosis in order to make a plan to help them. Martha committed to helping them by coming with them to the hospital to orient them, and they agreed. But the day of the appointment none of them showed. Martha didn't let that discourage her; she contacted the municipality of Alausi, and they provided a car, which she took along with the doctor in charge of the tuberculosis program to test these people. On the day to do the visit, the car never came, and again Martha was left without a plan. But luckily she and the doctor ran into the provincial director of Chimborazo, who offered to take them in her own car, and then provide another car so that they could visit the patients and take the tests.

The test was taken, and she also took the chance to return the results for the pap smears from the Mobile Clinic.

According to the World Health Organization, Ecuador has an incidence of almost 6,000 new cases of tuberculosis each year.

Thanks to our Mobile Clinics, working in the most remote communities in Ecuador, MEDLIFE has joined to the fight against this illness by including Sputum tests for tuberculosis diagnosis as part of the Mobile Clinic routine.

Today after remembering everything she had to go through to examine these patients, Martha is happy to say that the results are in, and none of the patients have tuberculosis. 

 

Written by student volunteers from this week's clinic in Lima, Peru, and reposted from the MEDLIFE McGill blog.

Today was our first day of clinic. After a quick breakfast and wishing good luck to those of us that were headed to the grueling stairs construction project, we packed our materials and headed to a district near Pamplona Alta for the day.

My first station was general medicine with Cesar, a physician who'd specialized in geriatric care. Before the patients began rolling in, Cesar took those of us assigned to his station aside and began teaching. With humour and patience, he showed us how to distinguish abnormal heart and lung sounds from those of normal beats and breaths. He also introduced us to some ailments specific to the living conditions of the villagers; he directed our attention to the signs of anemia and vitamin A deficiency (discoloured gums and mucosa and white spots on the skin, respectively). As well, we got to see first-hand many cases of tonsilitis and parasite infections, as well as an older woman afflicted with ptosis, thus causing her to have a droopping eylid on one side only.

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By noon, I was getting hungry – my breakfast of bread, banana and egg was now long gone – but I didn't want to leave Cesar's side. There were always more patients to ascultate, more heart sounds to hear.

Eventually (and somewhat reluctantly), I did head for lunch and to my next station, but not before taking the time to pass over the knowledge I had gathered to the friends that were coming to replace me.

In the afternoon, triage proved equally interesting, albeit a bit more challenging since we were directly interacting with patients. My Spanish is far from perfect, but I was relieved to realize that I spoke well enough to be understood clearly by the villagers, even on my first try. Keeping a big smile on my face and using even larger gestures helped, too.

May 15, 2013 1:32 pm

Summer Mobile Clinics Are Here!

Written by Rachel Goldberg

The summer Mobile Clinic trip season is officially underway, with simultaneous clinics and development projects happening this week in Lima, Peru and Tena, Ecuador. Check out some photo highlights from the past few days in Lima:

collagelimaclinicYesterday's clinic took place in Ventanilla, north of Lima, Peru. 

collagestairsStudents from schools including WVU, VCU, North Dakota and Purdue worked tirelessly to help build the first staircase in Buena Vista, a new settlement in Lima, and enjoyed getting to know the neighbors as they worked together.

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