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News | Aug. 31, 2010

MEDEL teams with El Salvador to deliver care

By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Rojek Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

The Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element conducted a medical civic action program in El Salvador Aug. 24 and 25.

A team of U.S. military and Honduran medical professionals worked alongside the El Salvador military and Ministry of Health to bring health care to more than 1,200 people in the remote villages of El Pichiche and San Carlos Lempa.

With the 1-282th Aviation Regiment flying the team to each location from El Salvador's Ilapongo Air Base in San Salvador, the team was able to bring medicine, vitamins and other health care necessities to the villagers. While all of the equipment and supplies were necessary, the preventative medicine specialists, who were the first team the villagers met, taught the people that proper health care really starts in the home.

"The number one reason for infections and acquiring diseases is basic personal hygiene," said Spc. Christopher Black, a preventative health specialist with MEDEL. "Just the basic things like washing hands, brushing teeth and showering as often as possible are essential."

After receiving a preventative health briefing and bags that included items like vitamins and soap, the villagers then visited the health screening team. This team assessed the patients' levels of need, providing treatment for complaints like coughs or headaches, or sending them to the physician team if the problem was more severe. This allowed the doctors could spend more time treating people with more complex problems, while at the same time ensuring a large number of people received some kind of care.

"The goal of this mission is to provide as much medical care as we can with the medication and services we offer to help these people with problems they're having," said Staff Sgt. John Bartlett, a medic with MEDEL. "These villages are so far away from a hospital."

After seeing the doctors, most people then visited the pharmacy, while others made extra stops to see dentists, gynecologist or mental health experts. This "huge house call," as one doctor put it, not only brought tangible benefits to the villagers, but also provided training and a sense of purpose for the MEDEL team.

"I've always wanted to have the opportunity to help people on a humanitarian mission," said Spc. Christopher Black, a preventative health specialist with MEDEL. "So, for me this is the best experience of my life. I get to see firsthand that I'm doing something good."