Thursday, July 2, 2009


(With less than two months to go in our wild South American adventure, harassment of the roommates for more guest blogs has officially commenced. Serena is up first, and she has some exciting things to share! Enjoy.)

"A visit to a public hospital ran by the Ecuador Ministry of Health:
-Cost of receiving vitamins and micronutrients for all children ages 3 and under: Free
-Cost of an x-ray: Free
-Cost of a C-section: Free
-Cost of a TB vaccination: Free
-Cost of getting your eyes checked: Free
-Cost of anti-diabetic meds: Free
-Cost of an emergency service: Free

In the US?
-Contact your insurance company. aka, get out your pocketbook.

Of course, I'm not saying the health care system in Ecuador is superior in any way. All health care systems are internally flawed. But here I am, living in a relatively impoverished country that is considered "developing" by Western standards, and getting a free physical check-up without having to fill out any forms about who my provider is. In the same situation in the US, without insurance, I'd be paying close to triple digits. I don't get it.

But unfortunately, free services do come with a price. There are not enough medical personnel working for the MoH to service all patients who are in need of care. Many clinical physicians find themselves multitasking at both the micro- and macro- levels and end up running entire clinics completely on their own. Although Rafael Correa (the Ecuadorian president) is increasing spending on health care, the patient to physician ratio is over-saturated, so patients will only be seen if they are showing physical symptoms, thus diverting the attention away from the important aspect of prevention.

This is where we come in.

Along with summer volunteers Mari and Priya as well as our new Country Director Bibi, we have been working tirelessly on finalizing a promising health proposal in hopes of turning the 4th floor of the building that hosts the MPI library/teen center into a full-fledged, no BS, locally-owned Preventative Health Center (PHC). So far, we have held the first of many successful focus groups with 20+ women from the Exercise and Nutrition Program and attended various meetings with the Ministry of Health to obtain insight on local/national health issues as well as how to get this moving. We're currently in the process of contacting local health promoters and prospective community health workers (our aim is 10), connecting them with the Municipio (town) to provide professional and certified health promotion training, and then finally, in the long-run, hiring them to work at the PHC to create local ownership and sustainability.

We hope our surrounding communities will frequently utilize the health resources provided by the center, learn to properly care for their health before getting (and while being) sick, and in the long-term lower the national cost burdens spent on preventable illnesses.

Empowering individuals: Check
Strengthening institutions: Check
Building networks: Check

With the help of Healthechildren, we have high hopes of turning our idea into reality that is nothing short of extraordinary. Oye, that's how the library started, right?


(If you're interested in learning more about this program or how to donate directly to it, please email either or

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