MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Mosquito Hunters-Environmental Group Blog

July 13, 2012
Author: Christopher Lopez

The vaccine/environmental group embarked on our journey unsure of what to expect as we accompanied health inspectors from the Centro De Salud in 24 de Deciembre. We visited farms, homes, markets, water treatment facilities and animal shelters on our guided tour through the environmental side of healthcare in Panama. We learned much about the public healthcare system here and were awed by the amazing work they do with such limited resources.  A group of three very dedicated inspectors cover a very large section of Panama pictured below. [edit: photo link broken]

The health inspection team took us on follow-up visits to sites that had been infected by disease. Their job is to eliminate potential outbreaks by decreasing risk factors at the site of incidence. We learned that the most common vector born diseases in the area are dengue fever, leishmaniasis and malaria.  We did environmental scans of the community and determined that raising awareness about vector born illnesses among children is the greatest tool we have to combat these diseases. We quickly set out to develop print material that could be distributed in local homes and schools. We also decided to create posters to put up in schools. One of our group members (Deena) also developed an interactive module that teaches children about prevention methods. As we work on our final presentations and develop our deliverables we reflect upon all that we have learned in Panama. Our journey here is winding down but the memories our group made will last a lifetime.

More about the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of 15 University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. The students have been divided into three groups to work on maternal and child health, vaccination, environmental infectious diseases, nutrition and physical activity.

One group will be surveying patients about the healthcare system at a local clinic and proposing interventions to improve vaccination, infant development and women’s health. Another group will be in the field responding to outbreaks of environmentally spread infectious diseases and working to control common vectors such as mosquitoes. The last group will be calculating body mass index measurements for elementary school students and developing methods to improve nutrition and exercise within the school.

During their trip, the students will also be attending lectures on Panama’s healthcare system and statistics as well as visiting a remote indigenous tribe. Before leaving Panama, each student will be providing a deliverable that is intended to improve health in Panama.

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