Is There Value in Medical Missions?
By Dr. Mark Spiro
I am a part of a medical team sponsored by International Health Services (IHS) providing medical care for the population of Rus Rus and the surrounding area in the Mosquito Coast area of Honduras and Nicaragua. Our team included me (a physician), nurses, a dentist, pharmacists, a radio operator, translators, and other helpers. A team where any of us can and will step up and do whatever is necessary to fill a need.
|This won't hurt.|
But before writing about what we are doing, I want to address the overall value of medical missions. The detractors call it “medical tourism” – a group of comfortable westerners that come in for one or two weeks. The detractors claim we are not here long enough to understand the needs of the population. Our medical treatments are meaningless as it will not change the lives the locals. They say our efforts should be geared to larger public health issues, such as vaccinations of the children and sanitation issues. I can’t argue with that logic. Water purification can drastically reduce many common illnesses. Ascaris is a worm that affects over one billion individuals or 99.9% of developing countries with poor sanitation. Fixing these problems care indeed most important.
During our two weeks here we will touch well over 1000 individuals in just this area ranging from infants of two days to very senior citizens. We are treating so many of the children with the round belly of worms and other minor trauma. We are removing teeth that reduce pain in these individuals and a multitude of other medical problems both acute and chronic.
If we were not here, maybe the one month old infant with a fever and difficulty in breathing still will have survived – but maybe not. The out of control diabetic, the hypertensive patient with malaria may have still done well – but maybe not. Maybe our patient education efforts on sanitation will be of no value – but for some it will be.
I feel the individual personal connections of two very different cultures do make a difference, for both the medical team and the rural Honduran/Nicaraguan population.
Maybe it is “medical tourism” but I know that we have made a positive difference (even if small) for many of these individuals. That is what much of what I believe medicine should be all about; a lot of individual connections. Besides, it’s very satisfying to see their smiling faces alight with thanks as they leave.
We have until February 25th to see as many as the team can see. There's not much time left. Please continue praying for the IHS team as they help this under reached people group. Pray also for the safety of those traveling to and from the hospital.
We will include an end of the week report when this brigade is finished with more photos. Thank you for your continued love, prayers, and gifts of support to help us reach out with His love extended.
Joyfully In His Service,
Westley and Denise Wiles