Dr. Marilyn Jacobowitz and I just returned from a trip to Haiti to launch our new hypertension screen and treat program. The lack of reliable follow-up and consistent access to medication makes it especially difficult to treat hypertension in Haiti and contributes to already high levels of stroke, heart failure and premature death. Through HUFH’s hypertension initiative, we intend to eliminate these barriers through in country training of local nurses and other paraprofessionals. We will equip these health care providers with a simple, easy-to-follow protocol and a ready supply of prepackaged, clearly labeled safe and inexpensive medications.
We launched the program at the clinic in Dondon, a remote village with very little access to medical care. Our nurse practitioner, Wisly Lindor, is from Dondon, so with his connection to the village we were able to get full participation in the program. Patients were pre-screened one week prior to clinic by Wisly and Andrea Feddes, a HUFH long-term volunteer on the ground. Forty-five patients were screened with the goal of forty patients participating in the program.
There was so much anticipation leading up to today. Our team worked so hard in the US, with countless meetings and emails back and forth to Wisly and our Haitian team to set up the Hypertension Program. Copies and files were made, identification cards were ready and we were all familiar with the protocol and flow of the clinic.
After a 90 minute van ride, we finally arrived at Dondon, a remote, mountainous villiage. While the town has 2 clinics, most of our patients receive very little medical care. The patients were awaiting our arrival.
After Marilyn gave an introduction about hypertension, I explained our expectations for the program, and we were ready to begin.
Each patient seemed appreciative of the program and genuinely excited to be part of it. One particular patient’s story, however, made a particular impact on me. As I was completing her intake forms and ID card, she explained to me that her husband had died, as well as all of her children, and she was all alone. She seemed sad and lost, and was looking for support. I explained to her that I am so glad she is part of our program. Now she will have Wisly, our NP, to look after her and check in with her once a month. She no longer has to feel so alone. I also asked her if I could take a photo with her to take back to the United States so that I could remember her and think about her. She smiled a quiet smile, ready for our photo.
With an average blood pressure of 180/100, this program is desperately needed. I truly believe that this program will be life-changing for many of our forty patients. They will receive medication necessary to lower their shockingly high blood pressures, as well as have monthly access to consistent care by an experienced NP. There are so many programs that focus solely on children, and this is an example of an important program to guarantee health in the adult population.
I hope that as the months go by we see a downward trend in blood pressures. I also hope that our patients realize they are partners in their health. As we continue to educate about lifestyle changes, such as using less bullion cubes, as well as taking medication consistently, our patients will be able to recognize ways they can improve their health. Most of all, I hope that our patients know that we care. We want them to stay healthy and feel confident in our program. I am looking forward to expanding the program and reaching more patients.