Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going to Haiti to Provide Aid or Healthcare? Some Helpful Reading about Haitian Health Beliefs . . .

I'm not going myself, but was contemplating the scenario that many humanitarian delegations will be embarking on over the next days, weeks, and months. I've never been to Haiti, and I've never been part of a massive disaster recovery aide mission.  As a registered nurse with a great interest in public health, I surely understand the cultural implications of healthcare delivery. Whether it be a disaster or not, it's always necessary to respect the cultural beliefs and practices in the host nation. 

For those seeking information in advance of their deployment to Haiti to render aid, I'm sure you are Googling for information.  I know you will find many scholarly articles that discuss some aspects of cultural relevance in the Haitian culture. Most notably the articles I've seen address HIV-related treatment, diarrhea in children, and influenza vaccination.  I'm not linking to any of those articles since they require a paid subscription to read them and my budget (and perhaps yours) won't accomodate the luxury of unlimited access to those scholarly articles at this point. (As a side note, wouldn't it be a wonderful and valuable altruistic gesture on the part of publishers to release those Haitian-related publications for full-access at a time when the world attention is focused on wishing to help the unfortunate victims of this disasterous earthquake?)

Here are a few (for the most part free) readings that may augment your current knowledge about Haiti and the healthcare practices and beliefs of the Haitian people.
Haitian-American Article

Please feel free to leave a comment with advice based on your personal experiences or links to information that will help caregivers heading for Haiti.

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1 comment:

Carolyn Cooper, MPH, RN said...

Yesterday my family happened to meet an RN who has traveled to Haiti three times in years past as part of a church-related health mission. She talked briefly about her past experiences and told us that she may be returning in March if her group's trip, planned pre-earthquake, gets final approval. All the chaos there makes it uncertain.

In our brief chat this nurse painted some vivid images of pre-earthquake Haiti
. . . a country where ambulances, first responders, and other emergency services simply didn't exist before the earthquake
. . . where there are no highways to connect the major cities, just a long dirt road
. . . where hospitals were antiquated to begin with--with cushions on the floor for patients instead of beds
. . . patients had to pre-pay the hospital gate guards before they could be admitted for treatment. She said there was often a dead body or two just outside the hospital gate--patients who got close, but couldn't pay to get in.
. . . once the pre-paid patients were admitted into the hospital and were examined, the doctor would give family a prescription to be filled--whatever the doctor needed was on that prescription, from antibiotic medications to sutures and dressings. Someone in the family had to come up with the money to take this list to a pharmacy in town and bring back the supplies before the treatment could commence.
. . . She explained why food and supply drops in hard-to-reach parts of Haiti would be likely to fail due to an "every man for himself," "survival of the fittest" mentality; such lifesaving supplies would become property of the strong--not shared with those in need unless a significant payoff was proferred.
. . . Desperation was a dangerous threat to health-care delivery even in the pre-earthquake clinics that her mission presented. "We had to have armed guards accompany us, because they'd mob us just for our Tylenol. Usually young men, but sometimes women, too."
. . . This nurse mentioned the permanent aid organizations that were already in Haiti, such as "Feed the Children." She wistfully remarked that those organizations, with their already existing feeding stations and presence in Haiti, should be strongly supported and funds should go to keeping those established institutions going strong right now instead of bringing in aid workers who will "drink the limited water and eat the limited food" despite their fervent wishes to help.

Just thought I'd share these thoughts and hope others will share theirs also.