Per the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization, chronic, non-communicable diseases are a major factor in managing public health in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Ranking high on the list are the diseases of hypertension and diabetes. Government campaigns have been created and executed through the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment as well as the addition of the medical clinics around the country. It's working, too. Over time citizens are taking greater and greater action in knowing their relevant medical data and taking steps to manage or correct as needed. Trinity's AMSA chapter is taking part in a unique way, to combine patient interaction skills with community outreach.
To further support Vincentians in their goals, the Trinity chapter of the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) has been conducting pop-up health fairs in the nation's capital city, Kingstown, where shoppers and staff going about their day can take part in screenings.
At the latest clinic earlier this month, the AMSA teams organized a number of stations in Kingston to check basic vitals; temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Each patient then left having received both a hard copy of their latest results and recommendations on where to proceed.
The event was a success and heavily attended by locals. When asked to comment, Trinity student Chelsea Travis said, “This morning has been very steady but we were able to talk with people and get as many people through as we could. The response by the community has been great and that’s always encouraging with events like this to know that you’re doing something that people want and need for their health.” Chelsea continued, explaining how the work at the pop-up fairs connected to her own drive to medicine, “I definitely take the fight against chronic disease personally. Back home we have a lot of the same battles to fight with chronic conditions, so I see this as actually able to make a real difference in people's health and quality of life. It's great to see the community so engaged, too. Almost everyone we talked to asked a lot of smart questions about next steps and their current status."
Similarly, Trinity student Charity Kimes added, “I feel great to be in the fight against hypertension and diabetes. When we do fairs like this, people come out in numbers to know how they can stay in, or get back into, the 'safe' zones. That’s what we’re helping them do. We’re asked questions all the time, ‘Is this OK?’ ‘How can I get it better?’ 'What do you think I should do?’ A lot of times we see that a blood pressure or blood glucose is elevated, we refer them to the doctors at Milton Cato. They take it seriously and take action. I think it's really helping.”
In describing the way in which the activity progressed, AMSA vice president Rachael Cotton noted, “Today I only saw one person that had such a high blood sugar that it couldn’t read on the glucometer. It turned out that person had diabetes and didn’t take their medicine today. The two or three people I’ve seen with alarming blood pressure also forgot to take their medicine this morning. Every single person that had high blood pressure or diabetes, but had taken their medicine today, had great numbers! I think that that boils down to the education the government and, to some extent, what we are trying to do. Knowing their numbers, taking necessary medication consistently, and generally monitoring their health and fitness is a major help in the fight against chronic conditions like these."
AMSA leadership was very pleased that the health fairs put on by AMSA were well attended. Cotton in particular noted she was happy they seem to be answering a need on the island and giving back to the people that welcomed them, as Trinity students, into their community. She also noted that both the citizens of St. Vincent and Trinity's medical students benefit from the exercise. “We try to do this regularly because it gives us the chance to extra work on the ground [outside of Milton Cato] instead of being totally immersed in our course work. We learn every time, a new way to communicate, to get our point across, to practice our skills. I’m so thankful that we’re able to do it with AMSA, through Trinity.”
Trinity's AMSA chapter will continue its outreach when it joins forces at the end of March with the Diabetic and Hypertensive Association of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Trinity's students will be performing health assessments prior to the annual charity walk.