When I started this class I honestly had a very vague idea what global health was and what all it encompassed. I assumed that global health only dealt with the medical state and health of people in a nation. However, after going through this class and going to Belize I have realized that it is so much more than just medicine. Global health deals with health, wellness, culture, religion, income, location, local resources among other things in order to come up with solutions specific to a country. Another thing I learned is that global health is not an easy fix. You cannot just go to a country, try to implement a solution, and expect everything to be okay. It will take time and money and a lot of understanding of other cultures and locations. Fox example, trying to fix malnutrition in Africa is not as simple as just dropping food from the sky and expecting people to know what it is or eat it. To actually make a working solution, a lot of research needs to go into it before expecting any change to come about. Before I signed up for this course I wondered why developed nations weren’t doing so much more to help developing nations. I thought that because we have many of these helpful resources readily available, it would be simple just to bring them to a developing nation. Though developed nations do significantly help developing nations, many of the issues faced are not one quick fix. Thus, it is vital to understand the culture and lives of people in other nations for global health to be successful.
In going to Belize I could see what some of my roles were in Global health were. Prior to actually going on the trip or being in my class, I didn’t really see that I had any sort of role in global health at all. I felt as if just being in the United States and being a college student was not enough to make any sort of global impact. After going to Belize I saw how wrong I was in my beliefs. My college education has taught me so much more about the world, and about interacting and relating to people of all cultures on a deep level. By understanding American medicine and education I can take that knowledge and adapt it to other countries to develop fitting solutions. My role with all this knowledge when going to Belize was as a future medical professional, a student, an educator, and simply a friendly face. Interacting with people in Belize helped me see how much I could teach them, including the simplest things like brushing your teeth or washing your hands; as well as how much they could teach me, like empathy and compassion. Though our work in Belize may not have been long, simply getting a smile from a little girl after I gave her a coloring book was enough for me to see how much of a role I truly had.
Some of the biggest challenges I noticed while in Belize were the lack of trained medical professions and the issue with adherence and non-compliance in patients. Though there are global health efforts underway in Belize, there aren’t enough doctors to care for patients, and there isn’t enough equipment for physicians to use at each hospital. Due to this lack of doctors there can be long wait times in emergency rooms, and a lack of nearby doctors that people in rural areas can see. Additionally, most of the advanced equipment is only at the national hospital in Belize City, and so if there are emergent cases it will be a long commute to get the proper care, and this could lead to death or worsening of conditions during the drive there. Another challenge we saw, especially during the clinics, was the poor adherence to previous medications or treatments the patients had gotten. Several people we talked to said they had medication and stopped taking it because they were sick of taking it, or people would say they had medication and it ran out so they never got more, which led their conditions to worsen. Since healthcare is pretty much free in Belize, people tend to take medication for granted because they didn’t have to pay for it. If medication had a bigger value maybe more people would take it, but that would also be bad for poorer populations. To fix these problems a lot of education and research will have to be done to find the most effective solution that will help as many people as possible.
Some effective solutions to these challenges seen in Belize would be to make people understand the necessity of taking medications and getting refills, another would be to get more doctors into rural areas of Belize so that everyone has access to medical treatment. One thing I know the government of Belize is already doing is pay for them to go to medical school. I think this is a great incentive because it takes away the worry for people to go into debt, especially if they come from a less well off family. I also think it is a great way to get more doctors into Belize to fill the issue of having a lack of doctors. Once Belize does have more doctors I think it would be useful to have medical clinics to go to rural areas every few months and identify and check up on at risk patients and do things like refill medications and give people some sort of calendar so they can track when to take their pills and when they need to get more. There could also be some sort of incentive program for taking all medicine, although that may be difficult to assess, but if people had more of a reason to take their medication then maybe non-compliance would be less of an issue. Though I think these solutions will take time to implement, I think the fact that Belize pays for medical school is a really great first step for getting more doctors into the area.
Though this trip was nearly perfect and there are many aspects of it I would not change, there are a few things I wish had been a little different. One of the biggest things I think is that during clinic days I wanted to do more of the talking and the vitals and get more interaction with the patients, but usually when I was working in groups someone else would take it and so by the end I would only get to do blood pressure a couple times. I also wish I spoke more Spanish because I feel like I was not able to bond with people on a deeper level and many of the children who were not in school would not know English so they wouldn’t understand me. Also if I knew more Spanish I would be able to connect to the patients better and give them more friendly talk instead of just reading off a script to them. Even so, in the grand scheme of things these two things I would’ve changed would not have made a huge difference in how blessed and happy I even was to be on this trip at all.
Taking this trip solidified my passion and desire to go into the medical field and work in pediatrics. I had never had a chance before this trip to do any sort of medical work so I was reluctant that I would end up not liking it and not want to do medicine anymore. However, this trip made me see how rewarding and interesting doing this type of work is and I realized how incredible of a job it would be to help people everyday. This trip also showed me that I was able to get out of my comfort zone and truly enjoy it. Since I had never gone on a trip without my family before I was reluctant about this trip, but it showed me that I should take chances and try new things. After taking this trip I hope to go on other medical service trips and explore more global health careers for the future. Overall, I do not regret this trip one bit and I truly would go back again in a heartbeat.