Shifting from Relief to Preventive Care

It’s time to shift our focus and resources from relief to preventive care. In the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, healthcare professionals from all over the world rushed to Haiti to bring urgent care. Because of crushed body parts from free-falling concrete walls and roofs, the needs for surgeons, orthopedics, anesthesiologists, and trauma specialists were huge. At the same time, people with chronic diseases and those with acute diseases associated with malnutrition and unsanitary living conditions need primary care. Before long, all this care was lumped into one concept: relief care.

What does relief care entail? We’d say urgent care, whether surgical or medical; makeshift facilities, such as tent clinics or hospitals; and mobile clinics. Relief care does not involve follow up or continuous care, nor does it involve preventive care. As we can see, relief care has its limits. The problem is, even 30 months after the quake, many health groups, particularly those involved in mobile clinics, continue to provide only relief care to no or low income communities. Every month, thousands of volunteers, with noble intentions, come to help, but in relief care setting.

It’s time prioritize preventive care. We need to do more mammograms, more PAP tests, more PSAs, more colonoscopies, more immunization, more LDL cholesterol tests, etc. Nowadays, those tests and procedures are not accessible to the majority of Haitians. For example, only seven vaccines are included in the Ministry of Health immunization program and available free of charge to people, whereas shots such as Chickenpox, Hepatitis, Meningitis, and others are available but at a stiff cost to the patient.

Because of the lack of preventive care, we have seen many cases of preventable childhood diseases, such as chickenpox and many cases of late-stage cancers, whether breast, cervical, prostate, or colon.
Now it’s time to help and serve wisely. Groups involved in bringing volunteers and missionaries here to help should aim at long-lasting interventions. Preventive care may not be as exciting and thrilling as relief care, but that’s what we need to have a healthier Haiti. Therefore, let’s converge our resources to make preventive care accessible to all in Haiti.