Ghana Blog: Scrubworthy

July 6th, 2015

What do you get when you put an unfinished church, a group of pre-med students, and a crowd of Ghanaians together?  A community clinic experience like no other.  We had planned and practiced everything we were going to do, but after we set up our stations, the moment of truth was here: our first patient.  Bekki started out by greeting him and handing them an educational handout.  The patient would take this handout to each station and we would fill in their health statistics.  It also contained culturally specific information about lifestyle change, nutrition and exercise.  Next he moved onto Caroline’s station.  She had him stand on a special height and weight combo scale where she took their height in centimeters, weight in kilograms and calculated their BMI.  This is the best indication of overweight or obesity which could be a precursor to chronic disease.  After, he went to see Erin who took their blood pressure.  High blood pressure is another indicator of chronic disease so it is important to screen for it as well.  Then he made his way to Julia’s and my table where we were testing glucose and hemoglobin levels.  High glucose is an indication of metabolic syndrome or diabetes, which can be controlled by diet.  Hemoglobin levels are also measured to ensure that people are getting the proper nutrients from their food.  If children came to the clinic we would only test for this because it is a good sign of proper nutrition.  Also at this station we would look at all of their stats and determine if they had to go to the lipid station.  If they had a history of hypertension or diabetes or had a combination of high BMI, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose, then we would send them to the lipid station.  This is a more difficult test so only patients who have or are likely to have a chronic disease would be assessed a lipid panel.  Lastly, he would go talk to Dr. Anderson about his results and how he could change his behaviors to improve his health if need be. 

The line quickly grew long as the morning got later and word spread of our work in the town.  I pricked finger after finger, finding my rhythm.  It was exhilarating putting into practice all that I had learned, even explaining what the health statistics meant to the people.  Everyone worked so hard this week to serve all the people who came to the clinics.  Sweat, blood, and tears were all shed, but just as Caroline said, it was all in the service of others.  It was great seeing the patient's growing awareness of their health.  As a health promotion major, I’m passionate about helping people better their health through lifestyle behaviors and encouraging them to take an interest in their well-being. Everything from the hardships to the joys were shared by all, student and patient alike.  The Ghanaian community is infectious and I believe I will be a better healthcare worker for it.  

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