Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on September 23, 2010

Labels: Nicaragua , Partners

Throw a stone any direction in Nicaragua, and it will land on a health care challenge. Dr. Jorge Luis Prosperi, who heads the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) here in Managua, used these words to describe the health status of the country.

Dr. Prosperi has a valid point. Suicide among Nicaragua’s young people is a growing concern. Accidents on the roads are increasingly taking more lives. Pneumonia is the #1 killer in Latin American and a leading cause of death in Nicaragua.

Despite these and other alarming trends, I would offer a slight variation on Dr. Prosperi’s observation. Throw a stone any direction in Nicaragua, and it will fall on someone trying to address a major health care problem.

I will now demonstrate what I mean.

Throughout the past 44 years, Project HOPE has been addressing health care challenges in Nicaragua. Recently, HOPE and the Nicaragua Minister of Health launched an aggressive countrywide immunization program to protect adults over age 50 from the pneumococcal organism, a leading cause of pneumonia. The program is made possible by a generous donation of 1 million doses of the vaccine PNEUMOVAX from Merck & Co., Inc.

Today, Eduardo Cortes, Managing Director of Merck’s Central America and Dominican Republic Region, joined me in going to the homes of three special people in Granada, an hour’s drive from Managua, who had received the PNEUMOVAX vaccine – Jose, Isabel and Juanita. Isabel told Eduardo that he and his Merck colleagues have earned “a special place in heaven” because of this donation.

PAHO is another example of an organization marshalling its resources to make a difference in Nicaragua. Its health workers, under the leadership of Dr. Prosperi, can be found in each of the 17 Nicaraguan states, developing and implementing programs to improve the health of women and children.

Finally, Dr. Sonia Castro, Nicaragua’s Minister of Health, is leading a full-court press to address her country’s most pressing health needs. Don’t be fooled by her ever-present smile. Behind Dr. Castro’s smile is a passionate and determined leader who is driving the health care agenda of the country’s President, Daniel Ortega. Top on her list of priorities are:

  • Emphasizing “human warmth” in health care
  • Making access to health care a right for all Nicaraguans
  • Improving health care to women and children

You can see there are a number of health professionals, as well as organizations, standing shoulder to shoulder addressing Nicaragua’s health challenges. And HOPE is one of them, looking forward to continuing its 44-year legacy in the country for years to come.

Check back for more tomorrow.


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