Wednesday, May 28, 2014

June 2014 GH2DP Outreach Trip to Yoro: Preview

Our group leaves for the mountains of the Yoro province of Honduras this coming Sunday, where we will spend over a week seeing patients and participating in a number of public health projects.

Testing for bacterial water contamination (presence of
color = growth of bacteria) 
This marks our 9th large-scale medical mission to Honduras since 2005. Initially our efforts were primarily focused on providing acute medical care. Since that time our work has expanded to include numerous public health projects including a large-scale, filter-based clean water initiative that has led to supplying approximately 1,500 people with clean water. Additional efforts have included regular mass de-worming, an indoor air pollution assessment and subsequent education initiative, several mass anemia screenings, improved access to cervical cancer screening and a large Chagas disease knowledge and attitudes assessment. Our group has been blessed to have wonderful community partnerships which help to direct and facilitate our efforts. In the nearly one decade since we have been active in Honduras we have come along way... but there is much, much more to do. 

Our program (the Global Health & Health Disparities Program, GH2DP) has a tripartite mission: improve the health of people with poor access to healthcare, expose US-based learners to medicine in resource-poor settings and to systematically study our efforts to learn what works and what doesn't. This work has involved the efforts of myriad individuals, non-profit organizations and academic departments here at VCU. 
Medicine clinic, La Hicaca 

Since 2005 we have seen over 10,000 patients. Beyond providing acute medical care we now regularly screen and treat patients for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. We also screen patients for vision issues and provide eye glasses, help facilitate dental extractions and help support cervical cancer screening, as well. Every person in the 17 villages we serve receives anti-worm medication at least twice yearly; since 2008 we have distributed nearly 20,000 doses of anti-worm medication. 

Assembling and cleaning water filters 
Our clean water program provides water filters that are created in-country and provide clean drinking water to entire families for up to 2 years. Since the inception of the program we have distributed 401 filters and now provide clean water to approximately 1,500 people (roughly 75% of the region we serve). This year we are partnering with a local non-profit organization to provide entire villages with clean drinking water via a chlorination project involving cisterns. It is estimated that 6 of the 17 villages we serve will have access to clean drinking water via this project-without the need for water filters. 

In terms of educational efforts, to date we have provided global health experiences to approximately 80 students and residents. Of these learners, 32 have been afforded advanced mentorship on public health research projects that have led to 10 publications and 15 presentations at national and international conferences. More importantly, their work has advanced our medical and public health missions. Additionally, we have an active GH2DP residency pathway which involves over 150 hours of advanced training in global health as well as a Student Scholars program

Our June trip may be our most ambitious ever. We have assembled a fantastic team of students who have been working hard the past 9 months raising money to help procure medicines and supplies. We also have a terrific group of residents and other staff.

We have 4 survey projects planned: one focused on worm infections, one on women's health issues, one on barriers to water filter use and one on access to clean water. Additionally, we are partnering with researchers from Brock University who will be doing fecal testing to evaluate the regional worm burden and the effectiveness of our mass-deworming program. As well, a group of engineering students from VCU will be traveling with us to trial novel water catchment technology. We anticipate seeing approximately 1,000 patients, or roughly half of the population of the region we serve. 

Stay tuned for updates on the trip.