The Parish’s involvement in community healthcare dates back more than 40 years. Today, the Parish’s healthcare efforts in the communities in and around San Lucas Tolimán continue through coordination with the mission clinic and the health promoter program. Each community has health promoters that are responsible for the well-being and health of the community.
The health promoters are able to provide basic medical care in the rural communities or connect the residents with the mission clinic in San Lucas. The role of the health promoters is also to provide the mission with the needs of the communities so that the mission can respond appropriately.
The health problems in San Lucas communities directly reflect the overall poverty of the community. Malnutrition affects about a quarter of all children and infections, including diarrhea and pneumonia cause widespread suffering and preventable death. Tuberculosis remains a hidden killer, a cause of chronic lung disease and disability that can affect whole families over a number of years.
The circumstances of poverty have a powerful impact on the health of the communities surrounding San Lucas. Most families, for example, cook over wood fires in their homes. Kitchens are often small and unventilated, and the wood, especially when damp, produces large amounts of smoke, adversely causing high rates of respiratory disease in women and children.
Proper hygiene is also problematic, as clean water and soap are scarce commodities. Children may play in wet or dirty environments where parasites and viruses thrive. As a result, diarrheal illnesses are common. Environment and hygiene also contribute to frequent dermatologic problems, such as Scabies. Finally, the circumstances of poverty also limit the quantity and variety of food available, contributing to high rates of malnutrition.
Parish healthcare efforts play an integral role in the overall work of the Parish, though it is part of larger effort toward integral community development. If a family lacks land to farm or a house to live, they likely also lack the means to maintain good health, even if treatment is provided. Efforts aimed at improving access to land, housing, and education serve as the foundation upon which improved health can be established. Only with this foundation can curative healthcare prove truly valuable for the people of San Lucas.
Striving to understand the underlying causes of poverty is an essential component of Parish healthcare effort, recognizing the limitations of a purely curative approach. While clearly it is important to treat a child’s parasites, it is equally important to address the underlying causes of why the child contracted parasites in order to prevent it from happening again. The existing healthcare program of the Parish works to structurally and systemically address many of these preventative issues through education and support; however, changing the underlying causes of poverty is a slow and gradual process.
The Community Healthcare Program aims to improve the accessibility, continuity, and prevention strategies of healthcare in the communities around San Lucas. Central health concerns are addressed through a preventative health program, through clinics offered by visiting health volunteers, and through referral to the Parish Clinic.
The preventive health effort is led by the community health coordinators (Jesus Antonio, Vicente, Dominga), with the support of local health promoters in each community. Their work currently focuses on prevention and treatment of the following common health problems:
Chronic Illness (Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, and Tuberculosis)
Preventive efforts consist of educational talks for mothers and/or school children on topics such as proper hygiene, nutrition, or preventive measures within the home. These talks are often coupled with a participatory demonstration on how to use effective and economical health tools. Other programs include: nutrition and weight monitoring for children under 5, home visits for chronic patients, Tuberculosis screening, and basic lab testing for urinary problems, anemia, glucose levels, and pregnancy.