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Belize - Medically Speaking

Pictured is Tyler Cook with Ms. Messer's Health Occupations students.

On December 18, Tyler Cook, certified physician assistant, spoke to the Health Occupations, World History and U.S. History students about his recent medical internship in Belize.  Students not only learned of the many medical challenges faced by the people of Belize, but also learned about the immersion process for visiting medical personnel.  

Scabies, worm infestations (due to poor sanitation and contaminated water/food) and tooth decay are some of the medical conditions seen most often in the clinics of Belize.  Mr. Cook relayed how many residents of Porta Gorda could not practice basic oral care due to the lack of toothbrushes and toothpaste.  Many children lose their permanent teeth before the age of 12.  As part of his medical internship in Belize, Mr. Cook worked in a clinic during the morning and provided care to various remote village residents during the afternoon.  During these visits, the health care personnel did not just see the sick patient, but checked the entire family.  Interestingly, Tylenol is the strongest pain reliever that residents had available to them, and surprisingly, it relieved their pain much better than residents of the United States due to its lack of overuse.  Residents were also treated prophylactically for malaria, but there were very few cases of malaria reported each year.

Mr. Cook also spoke of how the visiting medical personnel became immersed in the culture by visiting the markets on a daily basis.  With no refrigeration, fruits and vegetables were fresh and inexpensive.  For example, bananas were 50 cents per pound, whereas cheese costs $15 per pound!  Meals frequently consisted of rice and vegetables grown by local farmers, a diet that is drastically different from most Americans.

Miranda Winfield and Logan Held both noted that hearing about health care in Belize made them thankful for the health care system we have available to us here in the United States.  According to Amber Davis, "Mr. Cook made me realize how little some countries have available to them in regards to health care."  Students such as Nicole Bayha further reflected that visiting other countries can allow people to grow by seeing different cultures and how health care is delivered in those different cultures.  

Globalization and the study of international cultures is a focus of Union County Public Schools, and students were able to see firsthand how this is important to people in the medical field, especially during internships and foreign exchange opportunities.

Written by: Jill Messer, Health Occupations Teacher
Posted: Jan 03, 2012 by Donna Helms

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