The old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Preventative education is key to any successful health effort. Without it, you can only hope to keep treating the same health issues again and again. Our organization's public health team employs methods of surveillance by networking with local and international physicians and birth workers. This helps to ensure we are ahead of disease trends and reduce occurrence of disease among our workers and those we work with.
In Delhi, India's capital region, the infant mortality rate ranks the worst in the country. 30 deaths occur of 1,000 births, and 68% of those deaths happen in the first 28 days of birth (Time, 2014). In India, midwives, called “dais" is strongly discouraged by the government. Through our relationships with village dais, we are privy to how pregnant women who can’t afford to have a hospital birth are being cared for by birth attendants with little to no training. In response, midwives and childbirth educators from our organization are providing training to these birth attendants, starting with a 5-day seminar this December. This essential training will significantly reduce the number of newborn fatalities in the local area.
In El Salvador, a nurse practitioner from our organization recently worked in the rural village, getting to know other village health workers and training others in preventative care. By doing door-to-door visits to neighboring families, she was able to identify and quantify the diseases that are affecting the area where we work. This is key in planning further public health education and clinical efforts to reduce incidence of both chronic diseases, like diabetes, and infectious diseases, like dengue. In addition, by training cooperatives to screen for health issues, we empower locals to do the work of educational prevention.
In the US, we have become accustomed to being untouched by many of the infectious diseases that still plague the developing world. However, due to globalization, things are not so clean-cut, and we are not so easily immune. With recent diseases like Zika making the headlines, the world is no longer an ocean away from these diseases. This summer our Primary Health Education Center in Nashville, TN is developing a program to equip health care workers in laboratory diagnosis of tropical infectious diseases like malaria and other parasites endemic to the areas we serve.
While our efforts to treat the sick must always be compassionate and urgent, we can’t ever lose sight of the preventative education necessary to empower others to get healthy and stay that way. Health is found with a proper marriage of care and prevention. If the power of prevention really does outweigh a cure, we have to make sure our health care efforts are focused accordingly.