Monday, April 8, 2013

Holistic Dental Health in Nicaragua

By Dr. Belinda Forbes

Orlando Jacobo receives a certificate of participation in the dental worker
training facilitated by Dr. Forbes and AMC.
Courtesy of Acción Médica Cristiana

Orlando Jacobo Cristobal is Miskito indigenous and comes from the community of Dos Amigos on the Prinzapolka River in the remote part of the North Autonomous Atlantic Region (RAAN) of Nicaragua. Dos Amigos has 378 inhabitants among 54 houses. Twenty years ago the community held an assembly and elected Orlando as a health leader. Since that time, he has been participating in trainings offered by
Dental worker Orlando Jacobo treats a patient.
Dental worker Orlando Jacobo treats a patient.
Courtesy of Acción Médica Cristiana
Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC) in first aid, dental extractions, and administration of essential medicines. The only medical doctor is in Alamikamba, hours away by rowboat, so health leaders along the river like Orlando serve as local doctors, attending to primary care needs in their communities. Orlando has participated in the recent dental health refresher training workshops facilitated by me and AMC. In my last newsletter I shared that in the RAAN there is only 1 dentist for every 50,000 people, so Orlando’s services are eagerly sought out. In March he joined a mobile dental team to the Prinzapolka River. Dr. Dean Gregson of Portland, Oregon, brought members of his staff and family to help AMC serve 6 communities with extractions, cleanings and even fillings using a solar powered drill. Orlando wore several hats during the trip; organizing patients, translating Miskito-Spanish, and delivering health care to patients. Orlando says of his work with the team, “I am so grateful to you for helping me. I am working in so many areas; I cannot meet the demand for dental care on the river.”

Orlando is an extraordinary example of the community health system that AMC has been developing for more than 25 years. Not only can he extract teeth. During our stay in Limbaikan a sick patient arrived, carried by his family in a makeshift hammock. He was severely dehydrated and his family had traveled 6 hours in a boat to get him to this community. The health leader was away but his family provided the solution which Orlando placed intravenously, monitoring the patient until he was well enough to go home the next day. This kind of first response has saved countless lives all across the regions where AMC is present.

Mission intern and nurse Sarah Frazier helps students on the
Prinzapolka River brush their teeth.
Courtesy of Acción Médica Cristiana
The professional skills and materials that Dr. Gregson’s team could offer complemented not only Orlando’s dental skills but his knowledge of local culture, language and people to create a holistic approach to the care offered, and with greater impact. Dr. Gregson remarked at the end of the trip, “Thank you so much for an amazing experience, we felt safe, cared for and useful.” The best help a short-term team can offer is to work with a local partner and help build the capacity of those on the ground who give the ongoing first response to health needs. Orlando is now serving as treasurer on the Territorial Council, a leadership role that has impact on public policy and municipal development plans.

Published in News from Nicaragua Easter 2013, missionary newsletter by Dr. Belinda Forbes, Global Ministries missionary assigned to Acción Médica Cristiana, Nicaragua.

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