From Palm Oil Production to a Region Health Center

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The students arrived in the Matina region along the Caribbean coast, an area that has seen an increase in mosquito-borne diseases, especially malaria and dengue. Health promotion students from the University of Costa Rica came to this region to conduct a household survey to identify the social, economic and environmental factors associated with these diseases.

After completing their study they had a responsibility to report their findings to the affected community. They invited us to join them and participate in the meetings held at a variety of locations throughout the district; these included the local Ministry of Health office where employees are responsible for identifying and tracking cases of communicable diseases and ensuring treatment of those affected.

We also visited a private company that produces palm oil where employees are exposed everyday to the disease-carrying insects so that they can learn how to protect themselves. We also visited a regional clinica where medical and public health employees treat those with malaria and dengue as well as other infections and communicable diseases on a daily basis.

Students from Albany will also be “exposed” in a number of ways. Perhaps they will be exposed to malaria-spreading mosquitoes. So the Ministry of Health Director encouraged them to take a prophylaxis to prevent the disease called Cloroquina, a single dose of four pink tablets. The medicine is designed to break the infection cycle if one has already been bitten by an infected mosquito and provide protection from any bites received while visiting the area. However, dengue is a virus and there is no vaccination to prevent it.

Students will also be “exposed” to every level of the Costa Rican healthcare system from the local clinics to the very comprehensive hospitals located at the regional and municipal centers.

Today’s blog entry is provided by Carol Whittaker, Director of the Center for Global Health and Assistant Dean for Global Health at the School of Public Health, University at Albany.