Hillside Health Care International (Belize)

Hello interested partner in health!

I am a volunteer and Board member of a US Based non-profit called Hillside Health Care International (www.hillsidebelize.net).  This has been an ongoing charitable pursuit since 2000.  In 2014 we will provide no-cost medical and dental care for nearly 10,000 low-income patients at a permanent health center in the Toledo District of southern Belize.  Hillside has international medical, nursing and pharmacy students rotating though the clinics on 4-week rotations to learn about providing global health. Our motto is: “Learning While Serving.”

Hillside is extremely grateful for the support of Henry Schein Cares Foundation in providing medical and dental supplies to assist in this venture.  HSC donated supplies including: Infection control products, Diabetes supplies, Basic medical goods and Dental exam articles like mirrors/tongue depressors/pen lights/bibs.  The HSC supplies were combined with donations from other caring institutions and all were used in the central healthcare clinic in Punta Gorda, Belize as well as a number of distant villages.

Hillside currently monitors and treats at least 120 adult diabetics.  Diabetes affects more than 16% of the adult Belizean population versus 10% of the US population.  Therefore, the donated glucometer supplies were very needed and put into immediate use.

The year-round medical clinic offers treatment in a variety of areas such as women’s issues, nutrition, family planning, community health, physical therapy and home hospice.  Of course, there are plenty of walk-in patients with various aches & pains plus injuries.  A more complete description of treatments delivered can be found at: http://hillsidebelize.net/explore/mailchimp/Fall%20Newsletter.html

As a practicing dentist, the rest of this report will be an update on the fluoride treatment program that began this last September for the 2014-2015 academic year.  As you may know, fluoride varnish is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association and it is promoted by the World Health Organization, particularly for children in low-income families with limited access to dental care as they are at higher risk for dental cavities.  These standards having international implications as well and the Belize Ministry of Health & the Ministry of Education have partnered with us to ensure we are reaching as many children in the Toledo District school system as possible.

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For this academic year, we began treatments two months ago and thus far have visited 6 schools in the Toledo District and treated 316 students.  We provide dental health education, learning activities and songs to promote an understanding of oral hygiene and its benefits.  Over the course of the last month we have also reached out into the schools in the more distant villages to treat even more children.

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Not only are we providing a great service to the people of Toledo District, but our Global Health students are learning how to provide health education to a variety of audiences — a skill essential to community health efforts!

One student wrote:

“In my 30 days in Belize I have seen more children with cavities than I ever have in the United States.  Many of them have multiple cavities or completely rotten teeth at a very young age.  With very little access to dental care in Belize, the best way to treat cavities and tooth decay is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.  Hillside is trying to prevent cavities in the Toledo district through educational presentations at local schools.

Each week students from Hillside go to local primary schools to paint fluoride varnish on children’s teeth and provide education on dental hygiene.  We strive to make the education we provide fun and interactive.  The children are taught how many times a day to brush their teeth, the mechanics of tooth brushing and what foods are good and bad for their teeth.  We then teach them a sing-along song to help them remember the things we’ve discussed.  Each student is given a toothbrush and toothpaste and they practice the new skills they’ve just learned by brushing their teeth in the schoolyard.  We immediately follow with a fluoride varnish treatment applied to each child’s teeth by a medical or pharmacy student to prevent future cavities.  I’ve found these presentations to be something both the local children and the Hillside students look forward to.  The children readily participate and demonstrate enthusiasm for brushing their teeth.  With the severity of dental decay I’ve seen in Belize, if our fluoride treatments and education prevent even a fraction of potential cavities among the children, it is well worth the time.”

Hillside Student 2014 Rotation 10

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