By Jennifer Browning
Every first Wednesday of the month Project Medishare employees go to select area schools in Haiti’s Central Plateau to provide medical check-ups for children through the School Health Program.
In 2008, Medishare received a grant from Cross International to begin working with primary schools in Thomonde, Marmont and Casse/Lahoye to provide access to age-specific curative and preventive healthcare to over 6,000 students between 5–19 years of age in Thomonde. This program reaches children typically neglected when it comes to access to health care. Additionally, there are certain ailments in children, such as malnutrition and visual problems that can handicap his/her ability to adapt, pay attention, and learn in school. Through the program, a community health nurse and two LPN’s visit these schools on a monthly basis and provide vaccinations, nutritional supplementation, visual screening, deworming, vitamin A and multivitamins, basic medical evaluations and health education. School Health is an important and supplementary aspect to Project Medishare’s Community Health Program. This program has the support of the Haitian Ministries of Health & Education with the goal to replicate it in other schools throughout the country.
In addition to providing medical examinations to the participating school children, it also allows Project Medishare’s staff to set up the vaccination clinic for infants. Here parents in the community bring their babies to check their weight and to get the necessary vaccinations such as polio, diphtheria, and tetanus. An average of 70-80 infants are seen each month during the school year.
Project Medishare nurse Marcel Pascal said the School Health Program helps the staff provide routine medical check-ups so that potential health issues can be combated immediately.
“The School Health Program is important because now, the children don’t have to miss a day of school in order to get a check-up,” he said, “and if the child is having a health issue then it allows us to detect the problem sooner.”
Pascal said that the most typical conditions found in children during the medical examinations are worms and malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, intestinal parasites eat up to 20 percent of a child’s nutritional intake a day. In most cases, ridding a child of these parasitic worms can mean the difference between life and death. Importantly, worm infections cause anemia, vitamin deficiencies, a weakened immune system, lethargy and poor physical growth, especially in children. Worms also have longer-term economic effects. Anemia results in poor cognitive and intellectual development and impaired cognitive function.
In addition to the opportunity of early detection, the clinics provided through the School Health Program add a convenience for the parent. Before the program, parents had to wait to take their children to a mobile clinic in the area. This meant either and paying to rent a horse or donkey for the transportation, and possibly spend two hours under the sun during their journey to get to the clinic.
“Sometimes the parents don’t have the money, even if they see that their child needs to see a doctor, they can’t afford it,” he said, “so the School Health Program helps make sure these children get the appropriate follow-ups they need.”
Last year Project Medishare worked in 95 schools, and served 17,544 students through the School Health Program.