When we think of public health, we think or populations of people, whether in a village, city, country, continent or theworld. In fact, the motto of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where I recently received my Master of Public Health degree, is “Saving lives, millions at a time”.  As Christians, however, we are to be concerned about the well-being of every individual. So where does that leave us as Christian public health practitioners? I believe it is our responsibility as Christians to demonstrate the love of Christ to all those in need, especially the most impoverished, through our actions, as well as our words. But, it is also our responsibility to be good stewards of the resources the Lord has entrusted to us, in carrying out our service of love to others. And, this means trying to improve the health and change the lives of as many people as we can, with the resources we have been given. In order to see if we’re doing our job well, we need to have a way of measuring our impact. As in other fields, the measurements we use are called indicators, and in public health, we measure health indicators. In a previous newsletter, we talked about an indicator used to measure maternal deaths called the maternal mortality ratio. Another indicator we commonly use to evaluate the health of a population is the under-5 mortality rate, in other words, the number of children who die before they reach the age of 5 years for every 1000 children born. In Haiti, this rate is very high. 174 out of every 1000 children born today in Haiti will not live to see their 5th birthday. The greatest causes of death in this age group are diarrhea and pneumonia. Deaths from diarrhea can largely be prevented by teaching mothers to use oral rehydration fluid when their infants have diarrhea. If parents are taught some simple signs of pneumonia, they can seek treatment with a local community health agent, and prevent deaths from pneumonia. These are just two ofthe ways that community education and local treatment of early illness can have an impact on under-5 mortality. And, these are things that we plan to teach and do in our clinic and surrounding communities as our program develops.

Advertisements