Imagine feeling like a foreigner in your own country. That is the experience many rural Guatemalans have when they engage the local healthcare system. Language represents one of greatest barriers to healthcare in this diverse and vibrant country and can leave both parties, patient and provider, feeling like outsiders. Nearly half of Guatemalans speak Kaqchikel, an indigenous Mesoamerican language. Although Kaqchikel is taught in schools throughout Guatemala there are many dialects complicating communication between villages and regions. Since nearly all of healthcare is delivered in Spanish, the indigenous people struggle to engage healthcare providers, understand diagnoses and maintain continuity of care.
But language is not the only barrier the indigenous people face. Healthcare in Guatemala tends to be concentrated in large cities and population centers leaving limited funds and scarce resources for the rural villages and outposts. To access care, villagers must travel far and very early just to secure a place in the waiting room at either a clinic or hospital. Often times a visit to the clinic requires a long walk down steep terrain or an expensive bus ride that only comes once or twice a week to their village. Time visiting clinics is time away from working in the fields, caring for family, cooking and collecting wood or water for daily living. A day away from these activities can be very costly for those living on limited funds and resources.
Language, travel distance, lack of funding all contribute to a fragmented and chaotic experience when engaging healthcare not only in Guatemala but in many parts of the world including the United States. Many systems struggle to optimize a balance of resource delivery versus cost. What seems to be most striking though is the lack of basic primary and acute care in rural Guatemala. It seems that with just a small investment of time and money, one could significantly contribute to the wellbeing of a community.
Beginning in June 2016, Global Health Reach (GHR) in partnership with ABPD and ALDEA (Advancing Local Development through Empowerment and Action) bring high quality primary care, dentistry, dental and hygiene educational modules directly to the villages. ALDEA and ABPD have already implemented hand-hygiene, child nutrition, clean water and sustainable agriculture programs but wanted to expand this to include primary care access which is very limited due to centralized module of healthcare in Guatemala. By committing to returning every 3-4 months, GHR hopes to raise the quality of life and health standards for these vibrant, wonderful and vulnerable communities.
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