When thinking about doing a medical mission trip most people will ask themselves questions like, where am I interested in going, how long can I be away from home, or do I have to speak the language? This are all valid questions, and ones that only you can answer.
But particularly in the developing world, a question to ask yourself is, can I provide community health education? Medical and health education is by far one of the most important aspects you can bring to a medical mission trip.
Since many places lack trained healthcare providers, setting up clinics to get people to see a physician is important. But, equipping more of the population with knowledge to be health advocates for themselves is essential.
Community health education is mainly concerned with the prevention of disease. It can help to bring about change in indicators of health to a wider swath of people. You can help train locals on what in their environment could cause adverse health effects, what symptoms looks like for a disease, what those symptoms mean, and what they can do about it within their closed circuit health system.
For example, if a patient is complaining of eye pain, providing a small bottle of eye drops won’t be sustainable or effective long term, because soon that bottle will run out. Instead, teaching the patient that the smoke trapped inside their homes from cooking could be causing irritation and to create a vent for the smoke to escape outside. Or teach them to make their own eye drops by boiling water and adding salt.
Health education in developing countries means you’ll have to think on your feet and be creative in your approach. It means understanding what’s practical and beneficial to the population you’re serving. And it means remembering that what’s commonplace at home may not be out in the field.