Focusing On Maternal Health in Ecuador

29-1On the final day of our our recent Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador we visited the community of Lirio San Jose, a small village set deep in the rolling hills of Ecuador’s Andean highlands. Upon arriving at the schoolhouse where our Clinic would be hosted, our student volunteers were surprised to find a small team of local health professionals that would also be visiting patients that day. This team was comprised of employees of Ecuador’s state-run medical system, and they were in the community of Lirio San Jose conducting wellness checks on pregnant women and newborn children in the area.

After speaking with the team, our student volunteers found that Ecuador had recently introduced a new program designed to encourage pregnant women to give birth at local hospitals or health centers, rather than in their own homes. Another effect of the community’s physicial isolation, in addition to limited access to general health services, is that many women deliver their children at home rather than traveling to a hospital. This program keeps tabs on pregnant women in the region, assessing their health as their pregnancies’ progress, and providing education and incentives to encourage women to visit a hospital to deliver their child.

The team expressed enthusiasm about the potential benefits of the plan, which is still in its early stages of implementation. However, one obstetrician also highlighted another, more deeply set cultural issue that was affecting the welfare of local families: local women, even those who delivered their children at a hospital, were simply having too many babies! She explained that a family with ten or more children was hard-set to come up with the resources to provide for all — for instance, to nourish all children sufficiently, or to direct resources to higher education for each child. In order to escape the cycle of poverty, husbands and wives will need to set themselves towards reducing the number of offspring they produce.

We were happy to see that a team of local, government-sponsored workers was delivering aid to such a rural village. The program they described has the potential to reduce the rate of infant and maternal mortality in the region in relation to childbirth. Yet, many more changes — including changes in cultural values — need to come in order for these families to fully release themselves from the constraints of poverty.


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.