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Addressing public health abroad: Aggies team up to provide health services in Ecuador

July 30, 2015

This summer, an interdisciplinary group of Aggies – composed of students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy – spent a week abroad providing basic health services to residents of Guamaní, Ecuador.

A small community of about 39,000 residents, Guamaní lies on the southern outskirts of the country’s capital, Quito. A relatively new, incorporated community, Guamaní deals with many public health issues including water, sewer, transportation, safe recreation and reliable trash removal. The students wasted no time getting to work, and within the first two hours, created:

  • a triage center for medical and dental attention;
  • a pharmacy center for filling prescriptions after seeing a doctor, nurse and/or dentist;
  • an education center to teach positive nutrition and health routines;
  • a child care center;
  • and a public health training and interview center.

Throughout the week, students worked with community residents and leaders to implement a community health assessment, conducted focus groups and visited with families to discuss what public health means to them. Additionally, residents participated in a photo voice exercise, walking the community, photographing and simultaneously commenting on health conditions in Guamaní.

“Being on the ground and learning directly from residents about the public health challenges in Guamaní really allowed us to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom,” said Evelia Castillo, a student in the Master of Public Health program. “Despite the challenges, the people are resilient and resourceful. They are already working to address many of the challenges that were documented. I hope the work we completed in collaboration with Guamaní residents can be used to amplify their current efforts.”

The data will be consolidated in a report and sent to Guamaní leaders and participants for their use in creating and implementing future community health development projects.

— Holly Shive

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