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February 28, 2017: The Power of Prevention

After a 6:00 AM wake-up call this morning, we all quickly got dressed for breakfast as we prepared for the day ahead of us. Today was our second day of clinic, and I couldn’t have been more excited to return to the routine of taking vitals, shadowing doctors, and working in the pharmacy.

After eating a delicious breakfast of eggs, beans, and plantains, we left the house to begin our drive to Jocotenango.

Today, the main focus of our clinic was preventative medicine. Prevention plays a crucial role in the field of medicine and vastly lowers the chance of disease in the future.

It is easy to listen to a health problem, quickly write a prescription, and provide a patient with a bottle of medication or sleeve of tablets. However, the doctors at our clinic took their time to converse with each and every patient and discuss the underlying causes for their health problems. Social, economic, and environmental factors were all taken into account, and most importantly, doctors took the time to discuss methods of prevention with patients.

After patients finished seeing the doctors and dentists, they filed over to our pharmacy to pick up their medication. At the pharmacy, we handed out pamphlets, highlighting the importance of specific macro and micronutrients for women of childbearing age, as well as for adolescents and women who are currently experiencing menopause.

The pamphlet discussed macronutrients such as protein and micronutrients such as folate, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B-12.

As the day progressed, I shadowed several doctors and the importance of preventative medicine became even more vivid.

It is incredibly easy to take our education and access to health care for granted. We are constantly informed about the importance of regularly exercising, eating healthy, drinking water, and not smoking. Growing up, these are things we have heard countless times.

Living in the United States, if we are in pain, we can drive a few miles to the drugstore and buy pain medication. If we have a cough, we can buy cough drops. We can buy allergy medication for our allergies.

In many parts of the world, there are men, women, and children who have experienced pain or chronic illness for weeks, months, or even years. They do not always have access to the health services they need in order to make a drastic life change. Whether it is a lack of money or simply a lack of access, health care is not available to hundreds of thousands of people.

My heart broke when a woman came in with a blood sugar level of over 600, way above the normal range. When the doctor told her that she needed to go to a hospital and receive a supply of medication, she responded that the hospital she had visited did not have the medication that she required.

Another patient, a 19-year-old boy, stopped by the clinic and asked why his energy was down and why he had been experiencing tiredness and fatigue. When asked how much water he drank, he responded that he only drank soda and he didn’t exercise often. To many, the solution is clear: drink water. However, in many parts of Guatemala, drinking from a once-sealed soda can is a safer option than drinking unclean water that carries parasites and other bacteria. However, after hearing about the significant role that water plays in the human body, the boy is better positioned to take better care of himself in the future. Rather than buying soda, the boy can spend his money on bottled water.

In another case, a middle-aged man came in with high blood pressure and high blood glucose. He had been diagnosed with diabetes several years earlier and he was also a smoker. All of these are major risk factors for heart disease, and if he didn’t make a life change, his health could be negatively impacted. The doctor informed him of the importance of changing his lifestyle, which included quitting smoking, eating healthy, and exercising more frequently.

Overall, preventative medicine is a major key to reducing the rate of illness in the future and bettering the lives of patients.

Check back again tomorrow for another update!

- Danya Ziazadeh

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