September 2020 Newsletter

Newton G. Osborne, Chiricano Making a Difference in the World

We Salute, Newton G. Osborne, one of Club Rotario de Boquete’s founding members, for his contributions to the community. Doctor Osbone was born in Puerto Armuelles and grew up in La Concepción, Chiriqui. After he graduated from the Univ. Hospital of Panama, he studied at Yale where he received a master’s degree in molecular biology and biophysics. He received his first PhD in bacteriology from the Univ. Connecticut and his MD from the Univ of Michigan. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Univ. of California Hospital, San Francisco. He has co-authored five books and published over 370 articles in medical journals. He has been a consultant to numerous international health organizations such as WHO, CDC, PAHO and FIGO. With the limited amount of space in this feature, we will end this shortened list of accomplishments by mentioning that he received the First Educational Leadership Award in 2014, Master Ramón Guerra in the City of David.

Newton Osborne faces life and death everyday in the hospital, but he cannot accept the tragic and needless death of girls and women from childbirth. The majority of maternal and infant mortalities in Panama occur in the Comarca (indigenous reservation) population. The statistical rate of maternal death in Panama’s Comarca is equal to the most impoverished countries in the world. Osborne also knows tha,t in addition to issues with prenatal care, medical support and education, there are cultural issues; and these may be the most challenging of all to overcome. Osborne feels that if the indigenous population were educated in managing child birth through awareness and birth control, the mortality rate would reduce dramatically.

 

Two  years ago, Osborne approached Club Rotario de Boquete with a proposal to work on the issue of maternal and infant mortality in the Comarca. Club Rotario de Boquete developed the Maternal & Infant Mortality Prevention (MIMP) project . Initially, the Club proposed a mobile health clinic that would service remote areas of the Comarca. After visiting the Comarca, it was clear that a mobile clinic would have had a difficult time traversing some of the undeveloped, steep dirt roads during the rainy season. As well, the cost of what would be required for such a venture might have been out of our Club’s reach. Members of the Club decided to revisit our initial ideas and to research what was being done in other Latin countries faced with similar issues. The Club members were determined to find a way to help address this important health issue.

 

 

Maternal & Infant Mortality Prevention (MIMP) Meets with Phalarope

Club Rotario de Boquete learned about Phalarope, a non-profit NGO based in Savannah Georgia, that has been working with Guatemalan indigenous people with health and cultural issues similar to the Comarcas in Panama. Phalarope is also steeped in Rotarian culture. Dr Miriam Rittmeyer, Phalarope’s Director of the Maternal and Child Program, is a Rotarian in Skidaway Rotary Club in
Georgia.

The Phalarope model of effective community assistance in Guatemala focuses on a system of training and education of local indigenous health providers and midwives. For its initial step, Phalarope made an assessment of the knowledge base and current level of care given by midwives including their level of literacy, training, and use of traditional methods. From this information, training modules were developed specific to the needs of the target population. Recognizing the limited formal education of many of the midwives, Phalarope developed practical and effective instructional methods to convey important medical concepts.

Phalarope identified the best candidates from the community to attend their training to become “Health Promoters.” They play the key role of delivering the training programs to the local midwives. Certificates were given to trained midwives and, though not considered officially, they empowered midwives to network with other area midwives to lend advice and support. The Guatemala Health Ministry actively supports Phalarope’s program.

Following the success of the initial program, plans have been approved to expand to an additional twelve communities pending the ending of pandemic restrictions.

Health Promoters are trained and tasked with providing educational and training classes for the community and for midwives in the Comarca. The target audiences are: 1) community members who are invited to receive information on general health and wellness; and 2) midwives who are intensively trained in health and wellness with specific emphasis on pregnancy and delivery and infant care. Training in the understanding and use of basic diagnostic equipment such as blood pressure monitors, gluco-meters, stethoscopes and doppler imaging is emphasized, since these are the tools that allow midwives to detect potential preexisting conditions and problem pregnancies so that physician referral, intervention and hospitalizations can be arranged in advance.

Nutritional guidance is another critical component of health training. A host of other complicating health factors including parasites, diarrhea, HIV, flu, a n d C O V I D – 1 9 w i l l l i k e l y b e encountered by these health providers.

Dr. Rittmeyer uses survey tools for assessments. Follow-up data are constantly collected on pregnancies and births. The most significant barometers of success are the improvement in early intervention and recommendations in cases of complications.

The Phalarope organization designed its program to encourage self-propagation with moderate additional investments as midwives and local health promoters share their training. These programs, established within Guatemala indigenous communities, have proven to be effective in improving health outcomes.

Club Rotario de Boquete has a unique opportunity to participate in a project that could significantly improve the health of communities in the Comarca for generations to come.

Currently, our Club is identifying the communities to target for our project initiative based on needs, infrastructure and accessibility. We are also gathering information on potential collaborators such as US Rotary Clubs, local organizations such as Floating Doctors,Peace Corps, ASASTRAN and other organizations currently working in the Comarca.

 

 

The Bag that Keeps on Giving

Update on EOL’s Tablet-Lending Program

Club Rotario de Boquete’s Equal Opportunity for Learning (EOL), Ta b l e t – l e n d i n g p r o j e c t continues to navigate the twisty COVID-19 road. We have met many challenges with prolonged school closures. In last month’s Newsletter we spoke of how EOL was inspired to start a math program in private households who had struggling math students. At the same time, a struggling math student with one of our tablets could share the tablet with siblings who could
use it for their schoolwork.

These were all great concepts until we realized that the cost of keeping the Tablets loaded with unlimited data enabling internet access on an ongoing basis was unsustainable. Just when we were about to abandon the idea of financing unlimited data, MADUCA, the Panamanian Ministry of Education, and the major cellular providers established a national program offering unlimited data SIM cards to all students if they applied for it online. When we heard this news, the EOL committee was ecstatic; now all we need to do is to provide Tablets to students!

With the new online school curriculum, the immediate need of students in rural Panama for Tablets became obvious. EOL decided to postpone the math-learning requisite of the Tablet-lending program. We decided to lend Tablets to families who do not presently have internet access for their students during the day.

Currently, we plan to purchase an additional one hundred Tablets to lend out. We will wait for a couple of weeks to see how our Tablets fare in private homes since our initial plan was to use them in a controlled school setting.

Mr Candelario Pineda, principal of Valcancito Primary School and Ms. Juanita Espinoza, teacher at Jaramillo Abajo Primary School are the first recipients of EOL’s Tablet-lending program. Candelario said, “I have a family with ten children, and all of them go to school, but the father is the only one with a cell phone. Often the father does not get home until 10 pm at night. Therefore, the children are not participating in school at all because they do not have access to their classes during the day.”

Ultimately, once schools reopen, we will recall all tablets on loan and resume our initial pilot project plan of introducing KhanAcademy.org in primary schools.

Our Club Rotario de Boquete bags were used to provide food for people in quarantine. This time, Club Rotario de Boquete bags contain the vital tool students need to participate in school learning. It is truly a bag that keeps on giving.

Our website update has not yet complete, but check back in a couple of weeks. The website will include a fund-raising section so that you can support the project of your choice with your VISA card.