Assessing Women’s Health Care in Belmopan, Belize
We want to discover the local needs so that we can collaborate on a plan, not just impose our will on a partner nation.
Holly Kirkland-Walsh is a family nurse practitioner from Sacramento, CA. Lindsay Zupancic is a nurse at Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera, CA; she is originally from Sacramento, CA. Nurses Kirkland-Walsh and Zupancic spent two weeks in May 2013 volunteering for Project HOPE on the New Horizons 2013 mission to Belize, where they worked to improve the quality of obstetric care.
Our team of Project HOPE nurses and U.S. Air Force doctors began our day with Betty, the public health nurse at Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan, Belize.
We split up and spent time working side by side with our Belizean counterparts at the prenatal clinic, learning first-hand how Belizean providers address basic prenatal care and acute medical threats to those pregnancies. This clinic provides the best care for this rural community of about 80,000 in western Belize.
Caring for this population is a challenge. The region is ostensibly assisted by many NGO’s and religious mission groups. Nurse Betty, however, held a different perspective of such medical endeavors.
“Many groups come to our region,” said Nurse Betty. “Some don’t even get permission to work here. Others just come in and hand out medications. They don’t even tell us what they did. Then they leave.”
But our team is different. Led by the Air Force’s Southern International Health Specialists Division, we want to know the problems in the Belizean health care system and how its local champions such as Nurse Betty are addressing them. We want to discover the local needs so that we can collaborate on a plan, not just impose our will on a partner nation.
“We are pushing for a new paradigm in global health engagement,” said Major Brian Neese, an International Health Specialist and one of our Air Force doctors. “We are here in Belize to train the US military, but we want to leverage that to meet host nation goals, to build host nation capacity.”
After the clinic visit, Nurse Betty took us to various rural health outposts in her region. We learned directly from the community health workers about the challenges of caring for a village. The community health workers visit schools to give immunizations, treat families for scabies and lice, and encourage optimal prenatal care and cervical cancer screening. The community health worker in Cotton Tree Village, a few miles from Belmopan, walks miles every day to meet these objectives.
We spent the rest of our day brainstorming about potential future collaborative projects, which we envision could take place in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Maybe I really was seeing, before my very eyes, the beginning of a new paradigm in global health engagement, a civil-military collaboration working to build a partner nation’s health capacity.