Partners In Health began as a small group of people willing to do whatever it took to bring high quality health care to poor communities. Since 1989, PIH has been helping the organization El Equipo de Apoyo en Salud y Educación Comunitaria (EAPSEC, The Team for the Support of Community Health and Education) carry out the same mission in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico.
A small team of about a dozen people--including a number of volunteer community health promoters (CHP)--serve a patient population of roughly twelve thousand people, scattered among 20 communities. Lacking a permanent medical facility, physicians Dan Palazuelos and Hugo Ernesto Flores Navarro and their team deliver care from the back of a pickup truck.
The team travels to the isolated villages to stitch cuts; treat cases of severe diarrhea and coughing; provide pregnant women with prenatal vitamins; remedy infections; and attempt to stay several steps ahead of tuberculosis outbreaks, while also teaching patients how to administer basic first-aid. With the nearest trauma hospital located about six hours by car from many Chiapas communities, knowing something about emergency medical care is also invaluable. And like PIH’s partners around the world, the EAPSAC team sometimes finds itself providing not just medical care, but also work that addresses poverty--an underlying cause of ill-health.
Last summer, an especially harsh rainy season washed out many mountainside roads, which were already in poor repair. The small communities served by EAPSEC, already burdened by poverty, were literally cut off from markets and other sources for food and income generation, reported Hugo. In response, Hugo and his team procured six tons of corn flour and made roughly 600 trips between the regional warehouse and stranded villages. The team drove the pickup truck--the same one that serves as the region’s mobile clinic--to the edge of the waterlogged roads. Locals would carefully lead donkeys down the muddy mountainsides, and load them up with corn flour. These deliveries likely staved off malnutrition for many families in Chiapas, said Hugo.
Thankfully, the roads are now repaired and for now, the Chiapas team and their truck have returned to delivering medical services instead of corn.