A Focus on Community Health Programs…
The Timor-Leste Strategic Development plan 2011-2030 reports that,
Chronic malnutrition among children in Timor-Leste is still very high, although the situation is improving. One third of children under the age of five years and one third of all women suffer from anaemia.
Infant mortality and child health problems continue to be major health issues although some improvement is being achieved. Infant mortality per 1000 live births is reported to have decreased from 88 in 2001 to 49 in 2004 but rose again to 61 in 2005. The latest UN figure we have noted is 55. The statistics do not seem very reliable but maternal and infant health are obviously still big problems.
Margaret Hall was able to initiate a number of much needed proactive community health programs, especially for mothers, infants and the primary school children. Margaret coordinated with other health professionals to train locals who volunteered to participate in the community health work. This work has since been led by Sharon Hearns who is working to integrate the operation into the Atabae government health clinic. We hope that this will lead to wider adoption of these cost efficient and effective means of improving vital health services more widely in East Timor.
The opening of the Community Health Centre building in Atabae in August 2008 was another major milestone for improved health care services in the area. It led to even more involvement of others from Bairo Pite Clinic and elsewhere for the provision of additional health services. Outreach services to other villages developed slowly but are now working better with good collaboration with the Government health service.
FPET members were extremely grateful for the US$30,000 grant from GRM International to help finance the expanding health program for a year from late 2008.
Health services provided include:
- preventive programs covering ante-natal, infant health, hearing, school visits and assessment of students health, general health issues affecting women, men and the elderly;
- therapy programs for special needs babies and infants;
- blood testing eg for tuberculosis and malaria;
- therapy for fine and gross motor problems;
- education on public health issues such as water supply quality and sanitation; and
- home visiting to complement the above services.
The initial thrust of the program was to train local people to lead and conduct these services so they are sustainable into the future with much less external support. Two early trainees have progressed extremely well and are now very competent team members and leaders.
The main objective now is to work towards the integration of these proactive health services into the government health care system. In this way the general health of the community can be improved and money saved by the reduced need for curative health services.
Many Atabae health problems are associated with the often limited and poor quality water supplies. David Hall worked with the community to seek solutions to the water supply problems and introduced rainwater tanks at selected sites. David and Jose also looked at sanitation problems, especially at Damlaran, but more work on this issue is probably warranted.