What are the global health initiatives or priorities of Belize that you’ve witnessed while here?
While on the trip I learned about the general health care structure in Belize through observations in the clinics, and when we did the hospital tour. One of the biggest initiatives I noticed was that people get free or low cost healthcare services in Belize, which I think is a huge benefit especially because many people would not otherwise be able to afford healthcare. The fact that they have such cheap healthcare is a big positive aspect of Belize, however, there is a severe lack of healthcare professionals and this leaves clinics understaffed, and places like the emergency departments and hospitals overworked. Many of the private clinics are more expensive and are not open 24/7 so people with minor ailments turn to emergency departments for treatments causing long wait times for patients and long hours for healthcare workers. To solve this problem, one big initiative of Belize is that the government pays for citizens to go to medical school in order to encourage more people to get into the field. Dr. Gutierrez told us that this was a huge benefit for him going to medical school even if the only medical school he could go to was in Cuba.
One of the best initiatives I saw in Belize was the promotion of breastfeeding for women. In America breastfeeding is somewhat taboo, especially in public, and usually women have to wear covers or bottle feed in public. This is a really unfortunate part of society in America. However, in Belize breastfeeding is much more accepted and is promoted by the healthcare systems. In the hospital especially I saw many posters that showed breastfeeding techniques, explained benefits of breastfeeding, and showed posters about breastfeeding in public areas. One of the main signs even said “Mother-baby friendly Northern Regional Hospital” along with a picture of a woman breastfeeding. In the maternal ward of the hospital there were many more posters I saw that promoted breastfeeding and the relationship with mother and baby. Formula is not widely used in Belize and it is discouraged for women to turn to it as their only option of infant feeding. I know in America that the sale of infant formula is pushed and it is often seen as a primary option for many women. In Belize formula is only used in cases where it is the sole option. It is clear that these initiatives are working because when doing house visits and clinics I saw women who were openly breastfeeding and did not seem ashamed or like they were trying to hide it in any way. The women would breastfeed in front of us and in front of the doctors and no one even noticed because it is so common place there. I think initiatives like these are vital to society because breastfeeding is a natural part of life and should not be hidden or looked down upon. As someone who wants to go into child health care I want to carry over many of these pro-breastfeeding initiatives to America because I believe that the health of a child starts from birth and can be aided by sole breastfeeding.