The Opatoro region is populated by the indigenous Lenca Tribe whose rich cultural history continues to dominate this beautiful area of Honduras. Their commitment to the health and strength of their communities, both the population and natural resources, is a wonderful example that we can learn from. In that spirit, medical and dental brigades are being offered an extraordinary opportunity to work together with local practitioners and health “promoters” from each village. We work directly with the regional health service in planning and working on health initiatives. The Mayor’s office has been very supportive of our collaborative model and are working with us in planning for future brigades.
Our medical staff works in the local clinic in the barrio of La Florida, with Honduran staff working alongside our practitioners. The Dental clinic is right behind the medical clinic, and is actually a local church which lends us their space for the week.
We have been asked to help with training and education. Our physicians and dentists work directly with the local doctor and clinic staff, enabling a rich and substantive experience as we learn from each other. Our brigades make home visits to the elderly and infirm along with a local nurse or health promoter. Home visits afford us the opportunity to teach families about supportive care for home and bed-bound elders and other health issues. We aid and support family members in caring for each other. We also perform minor surgical procedures during home visits. This is a symbiotic relationship. We learn about the local needs and treatment methods while traveling out to these communities, as the local health promoters possibly learn a different approach to a familiar problem. Working with the local doctor on some of the more complex health issues in the population affords continuity of care.
This area, the Marcala region, is known for its community engagement and environmental commitment. There are many local cooperatives producing, for example, tilapia, chickens, honey bees, and coffee. These Lencan communities share responsibilities for fire suppression, water protection, agriculture, road and cemetery maintenance, education and health concerns. This is also one of the poorest areas in Honduras according to the World Health Organization, with a malnutrition index of 47%.
As in most of Honduras, there is one clinic which serves these 17 barrios. The one dentist is only allowed to treat pregnant women and children under the age of 14. Although they have minimal staffing and equipment, the clinic is very clean and well organized. Each month the local health promoters (a designated woman from each village) come to the clinic to review goals and coordinate planning for education. Additionally, they provide maternity programs to promote and ensure healthy pregnancies. The health promoters also chart the growth of each child from birth to age 5 in order to monitor malnutrition.
This is a proud, self-sufficient population with a rich history. They honor their old traditions, and yet are progressive in their approach to maintaining and preserving resources.