Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Reflection on MEDLIFE by Kate Spencer

This past week, Jenn and I met with a national organization called MEDLIFE, thinking that many of their missions might be similar to GlobeMed. This was set up through the sociology department and we thought it might be a useful tool.

            While MEDLIFE is a very reputable organization and does have very outcomes with their work, Jenn and I both left feeling very happy we work with GlobeMed. MEDLIFE does a lot of medical brigade trips and tries to use ground staff and engage in other community projects in the areas they visit, all of which are great initiatives that should be applauded. But I still left so satisfied with GlobeMed.

            Health issues in developing countries and even in developed ones frequently have preventable causes. Why are TB, malaria, diphtheria, and other infectious disease less prevalent in the US? What makes developing countries more susceptible?

            One major reason is poverty in relation to standards of living. Living without clean drinking water, in close quarters without proper sanitation, living without a toilet and without adequate nutrition and often without access to immediate and preventative healthcare are all aspects of poverty in these developing countries. All of these factors contribute to poor health and high rates of infectious disease. How can we hope to rid of these diseases that have such devastating effects?

            The answer that many organizations have is to treat health problems. GlobeMed’s partner organizations’ however, are always looking to prevent at the grassroots level. Prevention is most key in this sense. By eradicating poverty and increase living standards we are decreasing the risk for all of the diseases that are national epidemics in the countries all the chapters work with.

            The NGO I worked with this summer’s main goal was to eradicate rural poverty in India. They did this through a 5 pillar system: job creation, citizen and women empowerment initiatives, education, health programs and the environment. There is no better way to eradicate poverty than by attacking it at different angles. While many of the NGOs our chapters’ work with focus on health, they are still looking at the root of poverty. In many ways, this is simple: eradicate poverty and improve health conditions.

            So how can we do this? One of the major things that struck me with the NGO I worked with and with a lot different GlobeMed chapters it the commitment to sustainability. There is no way we can eradicate poverty by simple donations- this is not sustainable. We need to empower those living in poverty by creating jobs, giving loans instead of just money, making sure affordable health care and education is available to all and not just to those that can afford it. For example, constructing toilets is a great thing in terms of improving health and living conditions. But just giving a person a western toilet in a donation fashion will go to waste. If, instead, we give them a loan to construct their own toilet, they are not only more involved, but they are also more likely to use and take care of it.

            While medical treatment, brigades and free care are also vital to improving health, we will never get to the root of health problems in the developing world unless we get to eradicating poverty and improving conditions. The grassroots organizations GlobeMed works with are doing just that. That is why I am so happy to be a part of this great organization truly making a difference in the world we live in.