Improving Nutrition10 April, 2018
The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs..-Thomas Edison
Paradoxically, although these regions are primarily agricultural, adequate nutrition remains a chief concern and is central to our efforts to improve the health of the population. The major contributors to food insecurity here are poverty and susceptibility to the effects of climate change. Weather extremes are seen in the changing seasonable patterns which affect subsistence farmers, who are simultaneously suffering the effects of a fungus (‘La Roya”) which wiped out most of the coffee plants in the western region three years ago. Children under the age of 19 represent 45% of the population of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The poverty rate is 68.2% (44.6% of which is severe) and over 25% of children under the age of 6 suffer from chronic malnutrition.
The importance of nutrition is incorporated and taught through a variety of initiatives. Our oral health curriculum (mandatory for participation in the fluoride program) is taught in each village school; educational programs taught by Honduran and visiting team members are offered for village “voluntarios” and health promoters for sharing with their home villages, and as patient education during clinic visits. CHP-H has conducted a nutritional survey of local children with the cooperation of the Lempira school in La Florida. The survey was put together by one our Boston University interns and edited by our community directors, both local teachers. Many of the families subsist on a basic diet of eggs, beans, tortillas, and rice. Although these staples are nutritious, they do not provide a well balanced diet for growing children or hard working parents. Almost none of the children bring lunch to school, many of them must walk long distances and it is not possible to return home for a mid-day meal. The Lempira school is making an effort to educate the children about the effects of sugary drinks, sweets and “churros,” which are available and cheap at the local pulperias (family stores), asking children to refrain from eating them one day each week.
Together we are working to understand and solve concerns about significant malnutrition and high pregnancy rates with young girls in one of the more remote regions in the highlands of Santa Ana. We have interviewed village health advocates in the respective villages to determine the source of the these concerns and work towards solutions. Our November 2016 team saw about 70 children who are at immediate risk for moderate to severe malnutrition. This was only possible because the local mayor agreed to provide transportation for these families and village advocates, as well as by encouraging them to visit the brigade doctors and facilitating the trust in our effort to help. We bring nutritional supplements owing to U.S. and Honduran donations. These supplements help bridge the gap for children and adults with acute nutritional concerns while we work toward more sustainable options. We look forward to increasing our own knowledge by working with local farmers and the Marcala based organic coffee collaborative, COMSA, on initiatives to improve food security.