Vitamin Angels began working with the Haiti Health Initiative (HHI) in January, 2011. We are pleased to learn of the positive impact the vitamin A and prenatal vitamins are having on the rural populations in Haiti and together, we plan expand the project!
Below are excerpts of a summary about HHI’s initial project roll out from Dr. Marc Johnson the Vice President of Haiti Health Initiativeas well as a doctor and ophthalmologist who joined them in Timo, Haiti.
“Haiti Health Initiative (HHI) is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the health of those living in rural Haiti. Our group has taken on three trips to a remote mountain village called Timo. We provide medical and dental care, and seek not only to treat acute conditions, but to prevent disease through improved nutrition, education, expanded access to clean water, better agricultural practices, and vitamin supplementation. One of the most prevalent chronic medical diseases in rural Haiti is anemia. Though the causes are potentially numerous, we believe the most common causes are vitamin A deficiency, poor nutrition, and intestinal worms. We received a generous donation from Vitamin Angels and began a program to distribute vitamin A, along with a deworming medicine called Albendazole, to all children under 5 years of age. This target population is most likely to suffer from vitamin A deficiency and intestinal worms. Over the course of 3 trips to Timo from March 2011 to March 2012, we have administered 581 doses of vitamin A and 405 doses of Albendazole to children under 5 in Timo. HHI has also undertaken an anemia study, in which we check hemoglobin levels (blood counts) on all children under 5. The average hemoglobin levels have increased from 9.7 in March 2011 (which is considered to be significant anemia) to 10.00 in March 2012. We plan to continue this study and hope to continue to see improvement. Vitamin Angels has also donated prenatal vitamins, which we have distributed to all pregnant and lactating women. HHI has distributed a 6 month supply of prenatal vitamins to 456 women in this population. There are many other benefits from distributing vitamin A, Albendazole, and prenatal vitamins which we are not measuring. Currently we have only undertaken the study of anemia. Our organization is very grateful for the generous donation we received from Vitamin Angels. Those we serve in rural Haiti echo that sentiment.”
One of the HHI doctors reflects on the trip as follows:
“Each trip like this provides ample opportunity for reflection on our own state of relative prosperity and our inner desire to reach out to help others with greater physical needs. I have often wondered what it is that drives us to leave the air-conditioned, indoor-plumbed, cellophane-wrapped comfort of our homes to attempt the often frustrating delivery of modern medical care in primitive conditions. Always, I find that it is the human connection that draws us back. One cannot help, in the midst of such poverty, to recognize and marvel at the happiness and humanity one witnesses in the faces of those who sit patiently on rough plank benches, waiting their turn in the clinic. Gone is much of the sense of importance, entitlement, and hurry so common in both patients and providers in our own clinics back home. Here, the practice of medicine is reduced to its simplest and purest form: one human being reaching out to relieve pain, suffering, or disability in another human being, and being uplifted, refreshed and inspired in turn. Who is to say which of the two receives the most from such an exchange? But I suspect that as long as I continue to feel the same gentle, uplifting stirrings of the soul provided by these experiences, I will continue to return.”
And from their ophthalmologist:
“71 of the 212 patients (33%) that were examined by ophthalmology in Timo had complaints of dry eye symptoms, a percentage far higher than that seen in general ophthalmology practices. A few of these patients were also found to have Bitot’s spots, a conjunctival area with a foamy‖appearance that is typical of vitamin A deficiency. Based on these unusual findings, and the known high incidence of anemia and vitamin A deficiency in the children, we postulated that these dry eye symptoms were an indication of xerophthalmia, or dry eyes due to vitamin A deficiency.
Based on these findings, we treated patients with dry eye symptoms with a single high dose of vitamin A (which is stored in the liver and lasts for six months) and counseled them to increase their intake of foods with a high vitamin A content. We have kept a list of these patients, and have assigned a local partner to visit as many of these patients as possible to reassess their dry eye symptom level and see whether this intervention has proven successful.”
All images courtesy: Haiti Health Initiative.