MPH Panama Practicum 2012: The Leish…

July 14, 2012
Author: Garine Tomassian

As part of the environmental health vector control group, we went on many adventures, traveling from farm to farm, learning about the 3 most common diseases–malaria, dengue, & leishmaniasis. One of the most memorable experiences was when we followed-up with a family living on the Hacienda Rio Tocumen ranch, where both the Mr. & Mrs. Munoz had presented with leishmaniasis.

“I received my treatment from foreigners rather than the local clinic, and a year and a half later, I’m still healing from this disease.”

The wife sought treatment for the disease from the “Gringo” physicians that were visiting the neighborhood; the treatment consisted of only a medicated patch, which was inadequate for resolving the issue–as captured by the quote: “I received my treatment from foreigners rather than the local clinic, and a year and a half later, I’m still healing from this disease”.

Mario, on the other hand, sought treatment at the local clinic & subsequently, at the Gorges Hospital, where they preceded to remove the larvae from the infection/ bite site; Now, thanks to having sought the standard treatment as recommended by Panama’s health professionals at the Gorges Hospital, his disease is resolved. He was so committed to the health promotion cause that he was able to convince his workers, who are of Ngobe Bugle heritage to overcome their barriers to treatment, & to seek the standard treatment at the local clinic.  Such barriers included transportation, & misconceptions & cultural stigma surrounding the clinics.  This prompted me to develop a flyer covering some symptoms & prevention tips that I thought was important to communicate to the Panamanian people.  This disease is a growing public health problem in tropical & sub-tropical countries; it’s endemic in 88 countries worldwide including Bangladesh, India, Brazil, Peru, Saudi Arabia, & Syria. Annually number of dengue infections is an estimated 2 million with currently 12 million people infected. In Panama, in 2009, there is a total number of 1,866 cases of Dengue in Panama; 55.1 per 100,000 persons. Prevention is key!! This was something we thought was most important & something we tried to emphasize through all of our deliverables

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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