What level of impact to do feel you are making in your service communities?
I believe I had a strong level of impact in certain aspects of my service community. While we were in Belize, we had a multistep approach to treating and helping these people that I believe had a strong influence. First, we worked on communicating with them effectively. In order to give the patient the best form of care, we had to make sure that they trusted us. Patient and health care provider trust is the only way to establish a strong relationship that allows full disclosure of conditions and complaints. Once we ensured that our patient trusted us, we assessed their condition and provided treatment. Treating the issues they are currently suffering with is very important and vital to their health. Administering medication and any sort of treatment-based care is definitely essential to fixing the problem. However, it is not the only way to make the initiative you are doing successful. The next step that we took was towards prevention. Treating the problem is only a band aid to the overall issue. Figuring out what is causing it, how many people are affected by it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future is extremely important. While we were treating the patients, we were educating them on a variety of different health issues we witnessed while we were there. Handwashing and teeth brushing was taught in the school systems so that the children could make sure their hygiene was good at home. In the clinics, we educated the patients on the importance of clean water, fully cooked food, handwashing, plenty of water intake to stay hydrated, and much more. The goal was not just to treat the problem, but to help these people understand the root of the problem and how to fix it for themselves and their families. If we can teach them to help each other in the short term, it could help prevent the problem in the long term.
On the other side of the issue, I believe there are ways we made a very weak impact in our communities. I felt a lot of frustration and hopelessness during our time seeing patients. Most of this stemmed from the fact that when obtaining medical history at the clinics, a lot of patients knew they had things like high blood pressure or diabetes. They were fully aware that they were detrimental to their health and when we checked things like blood glucose or blood pressure, the numbers were off the charts. The issue stems from the fact that they had no way to get to the hospital to receive their free medication and/or treatment. Public health care is free in Belize. However, the issue mostly comes from transportation to get to the hospital. When these people are living in remote villages with no cars, time, or money to ride public transportation, they can’t keep up with their checkups and medications. I felt very useless and hopeless administering a 30 day supply of blood pressure or diabetes pills. What happens when they run out? Are they even going to take them for the full 30 days? What is the point of giving them treatment for a month if they have no way of getting the rest of the medication every other month? In this sense, I felt like we didn’t make a strong impact. I wish there was a way to improve the transportation methods for people in rural communities to get to the hospital when they need to. Overall, I believe in some ways we were very strong and successful with our efforts, but also weak in others.