Theresa Chan, MD of Ashland, Oregon is volunteering for three weeks in the Philippines as part of Rotation 4 of our disaster recovery efforts in Tapaz, the Philippines. She is augmenting local health care capacity and performing medical outreach in more remote areas of the island.
From the moment I arrived in the Philippines, my time has been devoted to topics related to maternal and child health. My first stop was at the Festival of Santo Nino, which was being held at the center of town. I watched demonstrations of traditional dances and marveled at the composure of the little boy who had been chosen to represent the Santo Nino. I'll admit I was a bit woozy from culture shock, but my reception was so warm and kind that I soon settled into life at Project Hope's lodging.
The next day our volunteers were carried to the top of the mountains around Tapaz by Philippine Army helicopters. They dropped us off at two of the most inaccessible baranguays, or health care districts. This was a rare opportunity to see what life looks like in a remote village, where people live closer to a pre-industrial agrarian lifestyle than a modern one. Without the generosity of the Army we would not have been able to travel to these remote baranguays, which are only accessible by foot or occasionally, by bicycle. There are seventeen local midwives who rotate through these baranguays to provide support and supervision of the community health care workers--and they must walk 6-8 hours over difficult mountain paths to get there!
Fun, games and helicopter rides over, we immersed ourselves into the task of preparing to teach a dual curriculum of “Helping Mothers Survive” and “Helping Babies Breathe”- two programs developed to train health care providers in resource-limited areas to manage post-partum hemorrhage and abnormal breathing in newborn infants. It was a crash course for all of us, but we managed to conduct an informative and interactive class for eight new nurses.
The next day, we helped augment the services at Tapaz District Hospital, where I was lucky to participate in the birth of a baby girl. Amy Kogut, CNM, attended the delivery, while I acted as doula. Project Hope is collaborating with the hospital in technical exchanges of information relating to management of normal labor and delivery, as well as management of common complications of birth, such as post-partum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal mortality in the Philippines.
During the upcoming week, I am looking forward to preparing guidelines to screen for higher-risk pregnancies. These will be designed for distribution to community health care workers, many of whom have limited literacy but still serve an important role in the health surveillance of their communities. Meanwhile, our team of volunteers will also be working on technical exchanges with Tapaz District Hospital on programs to promote early initiation of oral hygiene practices in children and on programs to screen and manage chronic hypertension. Along the way, we will be continuing our support for the staff at the local hospital and clinic and enjoying the kindness and hospitality of the Filipino people.
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