Issue - December 2008

December 2008

In this month"s issue Victoria Cowell took a trip and visit the amazing weavers project in Candelaria; Dental Health is important, John Arnos shows us an interesting initiative being taken by the City Hall on Dental Health; Healthy Living is something to think about, especially closer to the Christmas celebrations; a folk craftwork more...

December 2008

Escuelas Saludables

John Arnos
Projects Abroad volunteer
Massachusettes - United States

‘We only have the support of the city government and from some specialized doctors…We have no links to major hospitals or volunteer organizations´ stated Dr. Vargas.

Escuelas Saludables is the publically funded health and dental health project currently running in Cochabamba. Created in 2006, this project aims to improve the health of the children who attend the public primary and secondary schools in Cochabamba.

Doctor Ana Vargas, one of the founders of the project and a practicing dentist in Cochabamba, explains that ‘The program is divided into two different areas, dental care and general health care. We have 37 different offices throughout the city which provide free health and dental care for the students attending public schools.’

In addition to the actual medical treatments, a number of doctors and dentists also visit the schools throughout the city to educate the children about dental hygiene, and to encourage them to visit the Escuelas Saludables locations. The children are educated in the schools on proper dental hygiene ranging from concepts as simple as daily brushing and flossing to creating balanced diets that are conducive to good dental and general health.

This program has encountered much success over the past three years, as the number of cavities among the general population of the youth has decreased from an average of seven to an average of five. ‘We mainly encounter cavity problems…but we have actually found some very serious and complicated problems which often require surgery,’ explained Dr. Vargas. In some cases the dentists of Escuelas Saludables have to receive help from more specialized dentists that can conduct the required surgeries. Although, these specialized dentists also instruct and train the other dentists on these more complex treatments. There have been roughly 60 cases where outside dentists have been needed, yet, the treatments are still free of charge for the children.

The program has been focusing on treating the children in the outer regions of the city, which, in general, require more attention and treatment. Due to the high level of need in the outskirts of the cities, Escuelas Saludables has established many of their locations in the outside regions of the city due to the high level of need in these areas.

Aside from the tangible accomplishments of the project, the community appears to be reacting positively and the improved dental health of the youth has also encouraged the adults to devote more time to dental hygiene. Prior to the creation of the project the state of dental health in Cochabamba was quite poor, and now not only have the physical statistics of cavities and treatments improved, but the dentists feel that ‘there is a better level understanding and concern in regard to dental health among the adults as well as children.’

Despite the continued success of this project, the possibility of rejection for renewal by the City Hall still exists. Each publically funded project is assessed every year by the City Hall in January to evaluate its effectiveness and need in Cochabamba. Due to the program’s popularity among the citizens of Cochabamba, many feel that the project will be renewed without hesitation and that it will remain a part of the city-wide health care system for a number of more years.

‘We only have the support of the city government and from some specialized doctors…We have no links to major hospitals or volunteer organizations,’ stated Dr. Vargas. The lack of funds from other sources occasionally allows resources to be low, however, the project continues to proceed with success. Even with limited funding from the city government, and no outside financial links, Escuelas Saludables remains to be a model for effective and accessible public health in Bolivia. This program is a step in the right direction for Cochabamba as ‘There is a general lack of good health care in Cochabamba… programs like this are needed, especially for children to benefit from,’ affirmed Dr. Vargas. As many Bolivians struggle to afford insurance and to receive adequate health care, this project stands as one of the few programs actually providing Bolivians with high quality and accessible health care.

The quality and effectiveness of Escuelas Saludables has caught the attention of other public administrators in cities such as La Paz, Potosí, and Santa Cruz; these other cities hope to institute similar programs in the future.

Healthy Living
Too many sweets and heavy meals? Too much drinking and not enough walking? Losing the battle of the bulge? Here is how to start remedying the situation and applying Hippocrates' 2000 year old wisdom "To let food be your medicine and your medicine your food!" ...
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