This article was originally published on Kari Grady-Grossman's blog on 08/31/2015
The votes have been cast and the verdict is in!! Community members, health professionals, and organizations agree on the public health needs of the Tra Paing Chor Commune. The top four include: the need for more trained medical professionals, access to medications, and relief from reoccurring digestive disorders and respiratory infections.
After conducting community focus groups, I was shocked that only 2 out of approximately 30 people had ever utilized the local health center, built two years ago. As I probed deeper in my quest to identify reasons behind this lack of utilization, majority of people express the same concerns, “I went to the health center but no one was present during the afternoon hours of operation”, “I heard from my neighbor that there are no medications for treatment”, “the health center is too far and I do not always have access to transportation”. These concerns are valid. Upon discussion with health center staff, I learned that they run out of medications 1-2 times per month. In addition, even though there are over 22 services the health center is supposed to provide, lack of a doctor and enough midwives severely limits the services related to sexual and reproductive health. At the time the health center cannot preform deliveries due to lack of midwives. This forces pregnant women to travel to the regional health center, 20 Kilometers away, creating a significant strain on women’s ability to give birth in the presence of a skilled birth attendant, as transportation is a common barrier in seeking services.
Last on the list, but certainly not least is the provision of education and structural changes that will support the elimination of reoccurring digestive disorders and respiratory infections. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) are still a problem in Cambodia despite the on going efforts to improve access and quality of these resources. Several community members still do not have access to the use of a latrine or proper facilities to wash their hands correctly. In addition to the need of improving WaSH, USAID and other organizations are conducting research with the intention of learning how to effectively integrate WaSH into multiple sectors. The innovations and implementation of these programs are much needed, especially in the rural area of the Tra Paing Chor Commune.
As I look at the public health landscape with a critical eye it is extremely important to be culturally aware and not cease to remember the countless assets this community has to offer. From what I have observed, the Cambodian culture is one of collectivism and respect. I have observed an innate since humanity amongst the people I have worked with and there is a beauty that shines through from their souls. In addition to individuals’ strengths, the community as a whole offers resourcefulness through the collection of rainwater and growing their own food, ability to adapt to change, and willingness to work together.
If WE can build upon what this great community already has to offer, I am positive we can work together to create a sustainable difference. The difference I am referring to is substantial. It is the difference between health and disease, access to clean water and drinking dirty water, privacy and open defecation, and in some cases the difference between life and death.
I will leave you with this thought… Solutions are not created overnight, while there are certainly many needs in the Tra Paing Chor Commune, let’s address the most dire needs, while we work to build upon the strengths of the community.
Thank you for your involvement of this project (even if your involvement is reading my posts and creating awareness) and I look forward to working with you in the future!
"What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it." ~C.S. Lewis
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