This summer, I am lucky enough to have two opportunities which allow me to experience healthcare in vastly different cultural and physical environments. During the weeks remaining before our trip to Peru, I have been working as an intern in the community health department of Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX. This department serves to assess environmental, social, and economic factors causing the most prominent public health issues in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and then develops programs and services in order to tackle those issues. In 2013, this department performed a Community Health Assessment to determine their future objectives. In this study, they found five areas that needed the most attention: access to care, prevention and management of chronic diseases, improved education and economic security indicators, expansion of public health infrastructure, and child advocacy and safety. I did some research, and it was interesting to compare these public health concerns to those in Peru.
According to the CDC Community Environmental Health Assessment in Peru, top public health issues include lack of basic services, contaminated food and water, and poor healthcare infrastructure. If you compare this list with the aforementioned survey of Dallas, you find that accessibility is a shared issue, but for different reasons. Lack of accessibility in Dallas usually means the child is uninsured and therefore cannot afford to receive preventive care, usually resulting in misuse of services provided in the Emergency Department. Lack of accessibility in Peru usually means that rural communities simply do not have the means to travel long distances required to receive basic care. It’s the same basic problem, but under largely different circumstances. It will be interesting to experience the necessity and impact of public health in these two areas.
I am so excited to travel to Pampas Grande, experience a new culture, and meet lots of new people. Two weeks is not a lengthy stay, but I am determined to squeeze in as much interaction, experience, and learning as I possibly can. I’m lucky to be traveling with such a knowledgeable crew, and I have high hopes for what we can accomplish during our short time in Peru. But as excited as I am to help in any way that I can, I do realize that our group is not the solution to all of this country’s problems. I think our role in global health is more like that of the first domino in the domino effect. We can give some momentum through education, supplies, and programs, but in the end, it’s only successful if the train of dominoes continues to fall without our push.
In conclusion, I have two personal goals for this trip. I just mentioned one of them: sustainability. I hope our projects offer progress beyond our two-week stay. The second, and most important in my opinion, is connection. Because as one of my favorite authors once said:
“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.”
Destini is an undergraduate at the University of Richmond. She will visit Pampas Grande, Peru for the first time with RGHA in just a few days.
Community Health Assessment of 2013 in Dallas:
Community Environmental Health Assessment in Peru: