Friday, January 10, 2014

VCU's Global Health & Health Disparities Program Sets Off for Honduras (Again!)

Traveling to La Hicaca 
Our group leaves this Sunday to meet with our community partners and the local Ministry of Health in Yoro, Honduras. We have traditionally used our January trip to meet with our key partners, review information from the prior brigade and to help lay the groundwork for the subsequent large-scale, clinical brigade in June.

Since 2008 we have been serving a series of 17 villages with approximately 2,000 people in rural, mountainous northern Honduras. People in the region have little to no access to healthcare and suffer from fundamental environmental health pressures (such as lack of access to clean water and latrines). 

We have a large-scale water filter program in the region that has been active since 2008. To date we have distributed over 350 water filters, each of which can provide clean drinking water to an entire family for 2 years (or more). We estimate approximately 75% of the people in the region have access to clean drinking water as a direct result
Preparing water filters for distribution 
of this program. Anecdotally, less children are developing (and occasionally dying from) diarrheal illness. More objectively, the incidence of severe diarrheal illness reported to the Ministry of Health has halved since the inception of the program. 

One of our projects this past June, a Chagas disease knowledge and attitudes survey, was performed at the request of the local health ministry. Chagas disease is a parasitic disease that is common in Latin America and is associated with severe cardiac and gastrointestinal morbidity. We will be sharing the results of the project with our partners this upcoming week; we are excited to discuss study implications and next steps.
Working on the indoor air quality project

Two years ago the health ministry and local leaders asked us to investigate the problem of indoor air pollution. A now-third year VCU medical student, Audrey Le, formally assessed the issue and found certain home characteristics were associated with respiratory symptoms. Subsequently we discovered many stoves were in a state of disrepair and not effectively ventilating smoke. This upcoming week we will be meeting with a local non-profit organization who may be able to help repair these defective stoves; we are excited about this potential collaboration.

Additionally, we are excited to discuss several upcoming surveys we hope to administer in June: looking at knowledge, attitudes and risk factors for intestinal helminth (worm) infection and a survey on women's health issues. We also are partnering with a VCU undergraduate group, Engineers Without Borders, to explore a novel rain catchment technology (to help provide clean drinking water) and will be conducting a survey focused on barriers for optimal use of water filters

Clinic in Lomitas
During next week's trip we will also be supplying anti-helminthics to help bolster regional efforts for intestinal worm control. We will also be doing the groundwork for our upcoming clinical mission; figuring out key logistics such as clinic space, how to recruit patients, et cetera. 

I will post about our trip either during the trip or shortly thereafter; stay tuned. Dr. Gonzalo Bearman will also be posting about the experience, be sure to check out his blog. You can also follow our progress on twitter here

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