Discussing Public Health with the Former Prime Minister of Peru


Last week, our student volunteers in Lima had the opportunity to hear about issues such as poverty and public health in Peru through the eyes of a promient public figure.

Thanks to the efforts of our student volunteer Daniel Muller, MEDLIFE staff and volunteers attended a private discussion hosted by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a Peruvian politician, public administrator, and economist. He has served as Peru’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Minister of Economy and Finance, and as Prime Minister. He was also a candidate for Peru’s Presidential Election in 2011. At the talk last week, he spoke to the students on how issues such as the economy and infrastructure relate to public health in Peru.

Though the GDP in Peru is still increasing, only a small percentage (around 4%) of that is spent on healthcare for its citizens, resulting in the poor public health that pervades the country. Another contributor to some of Peru’s low health indicators is the country’s lack of infrastructure. Peru is a large stratified country with three distinct regions — the coast in the west, the mountains in the center and the jungle in the west — so adequate infrastructure has been difficult to establish. Water systems throughout the country do not reach every house and there is a lack of proper fluoride in the water, in addition to insufficient sanitation. All of these factors increase health problems, such as parasites.

According to Kuczynski, Peru produces a surplus of doctors, but they are severely underpaid compared to doctors in other countries. This means many doctors in urban locations are forced to search abroad if they want to earn a well-paid salary. Conversely, rural areas are cut off from urban doctors and experience a shortage of medical facilities. There is a pressing need to establish proper clinics and hospitals so that the health of these rural populations can be properly addressed.

After he finished with his talk, students and MEDLIFE staff alike  were invited to ask him questions.

“I found the talk very interesting as not only were we hearing about the problems that the country faces from a Peruvian, but also from someone who can and has made changes to improve life in Peru and amend these issues,” said Elizabeth Beattie, a year-long intern who attended the talks.

Despite many of its problems, similar to those of other developing countries, Kuczynski wanted to let his audience know that Peru is changing rapidly and is working hard toward a better future.

“Peru is making headway with positive changes in many areas,” Lizzie said. “Though Peru faces much poverty, it is hopeful to see that there are people fighting to improve the conditions for all and that the resources are there to enable this positive change.”



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.