Health Screening Pays Big Dividends in Mexico

Post a Comment » Written on October 21st, 2008     
Filed under: News
TEHUANTEPEC, MEXICO (October 21, 2008) – More than 3,500 students here will get health screenings that could alter their future, thanks to children who attended Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs at Evangelical Covenant churches this past summer.

According to the Department of World Mission, children raised $32,970 to benefit Semillas de Salud (Seeds of Health), a Covenant ministry that provides basic health screenings to children who attend local schools. The screenings are important to identify health conditions that might adversely affect the children as they grow.

BabyFor example, failure to treat anemia can lead to difficulty concentrating in school and fatigue, says Covenant missionary Dr. Cindy Hoover. If amblyopia (lazy eye) is not detected before age five, it is virtually impossible to adequately treat later. This could mean loss of vision in the affected eye as well as loss of depth perception. Loss of hearing is a similar threat.

Conditions such as anemia can easily be corrected, Hoover says. As a result, children will fare much better educationally and socially.

Money from the VBS offerings has paid for technical equipment as well as items such as lancets. It costs three dollars to test each individual.

A team from Harvest Ridge Covenant Church will travel next month to help Hoover conduct screenings at area schools. They will check for anemia, height and weight, regular vision and binocular vision.

They will test children who are three to five years old, Hoover says. “It will give us a chance to catch issues.”

Hoover wishes they could screen children younger, but working with the schools is the most effective way of reaching a large group of children. The testing is done in the United States when children are between the ages of nine months and one year.

Hoover says children need to be tested only once. They probably won’t develop anemia as they get older. She adds that the testing will be easier in the future because testing of the older children will have been completed.

KidsThe work next month is the expansion of a pilot project that had its genesis when physicians traveled from Redeemer Covenant Church to the area to provide screenings at a local school. The parents and school officials responded overwhelmingly to the work.

In addition to giving children access to important care, Hoover is excited about the ministry because it will be training parents to do some of the testing, such as height and weight, and vision. Much of the other work such as testing for anemia and hearing initially will be modeled by visiting volunteers, but eventually done by local medical staff and lay people.

Hoover also believes local enthusiasm for the program will lead to its sustainability after the initial financial investment from churches in North America.

The first tests will be done in a “very, very poor” fishing and shrimp fishing village outside Tehuantepec. Workers will travel as much as five hours to get to some of the schools.

Hoover was scheduled to present a paper on the pilot project to the Faith and Health Caucus of the American Public Health Association during its annual meeting in San Diego, California, on Monday.

In Mexico, where the division between church and state is greater than in the United States, Hoover had to gain the trust of school and other local officials over time. It also was important to bring together key players.

“They had just never worked together before,” says Hoover, adding, “The powers that be in the health system have taken note.”

Even though the workers are unable to initially share the gospel with families verbally, the project is providing a first step. “We get a lot of questions – Why are you doing this? Why do you care?” Hoover says.

“Our goal is to touch every child with the love of God,” Hoover says, adding, “ They may not appreciate it because the touch is a finger stick.”

Individuals can assist the project financially. Checks may be mailed to the Department of World Mission, Evangelical Covenant Church, 5101 N. Francisco, Chicago IL, 60625. To designate the gift for this project, write VBS 2008 in the memo line.

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