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13th Apr

2018

I was lucky to receive an NMA scholarship to aid me in my travels to the rural town of Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I spent four weeks taking part in a women’s health program in a region where maternal mortality rates are double the national rate. For the first half, I was placed in various community clinics located 30-40 minutes away from the town centre. These were small, with only 1-2 doctors, 1-2 nurses and/or a health ‘promoter’ – who was a member of the community without any formal training. I was lucky enough to accompany one of the doctors to meet with the mayor one of the small surrounding towns, where we discussed the fact that the clinic currently was low in medication, had no examination lamps, had no gas, and had run out of purified water. I spent the second half of the placement in the hospital of Puerto Escondido, which had recently re-opened after being closed for a year due to strikes over lack of funding. I discovered that many women don’t use Western health services – and I learnt a great deal about the culture of Mexico and how this impacts on the health of its people. Religion plays a major role, as do gender roles. For example, men often don’t want any other person to touch their pregnant wives so don’t allow them to see a doctor. For this reason, many women don’t have any routine antenatal care – and present extremely late in the pregnancy, some only presenting for the first time for delivery and others not at all . One of the most interesting aspects of this placement was learning about the cultural values of the Mexican people and the importance they place on traditional ‘curanderos’ or healers. We visited one of these women in her home and workplace. She was 92 years old and still working as a traditional healer and midwife. These healers are trained by members of their family. Some of them attend additional training in nearby hospitals by doctors, however others do not, and this poses dangers to patients who attend to them for care. Overall, this was an amazing and invaluable experience and I’d like to thank the NMA for it’s generous support.

Alex Ricci at Puerto Escondido, Mexico

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