Latin America is in the midst of an ongoing healthcare crisis. For example, half of Guatemala’s population lives below the poverty line, and nearly 16 percent live in extreme poverty. The limited existing healthcare is largely inaccessible due to financial burdens. Guatemala has 8 million people in its public healthcare system, and the medical budget per person amounts to approximately $55 compared to $3,500 spent per person in the United States. Moreover, these funds are spent in the major cities of Guatemala, leaving the rural areas with little or no access to healthcare. While the rest of Latin America has varying statistics in this respect, the medical needs are enormous. In response, HELPS International has developed a system of volunteer medical teams to address the healthcare crisis in rural areas of Latin America. These teams are comprised of about 70 members, from physicians and surgeons to nurses and support staff. HELPS’ teams are organized by a system of local chapters throughout the United States.
Problems faced by rural Latin Americans:
- infant and maternal mortality
- communicable disease
- sustainability within the existing system
- lack of financial resource makes receiving healthcare unattainable for most
Together, physicians from the United States and Latin America staff these facilities and provide comprehensive care. HELPS medical teams are fully equipped to provide, as close as possible, US standard healthcare and after years of service have begun to better understand the healthcare crisis. In addition to providing direct healthcare, HELPS implements further programs in an effort to secure better long-term health.
HELPS’ Medical Program began in 1988 when an eight member US plastic surgery team traveled to a small village in the northern highlands of Guatemala. With unstaffed hospitals already situated in remote areas of the Guatemalan highlands, HELPS worked in cooperation with the Guatemalan government to make use of these facilities. The HELPS medical teams quickly gained momentum, spreading through Guatemala and covering a much larger area of the country. Since then, the programs have grown immensely, gaining the support needed to move beyond the walls of the hospitals. Many of our doctors have continued to support HELPS medical teams for decades, continuing to embrace the people and culture of Latin America and to alleviate the tension of their healthcare situation.
- Since 1988, over 190 Volunteer Medical/Surgical Teams have worked in the Guatemalan Highlands
- Over 215,000 patients have been attended to (including outreach to nearby communities)
- Over 16,000 general, plastics, OB-GYN, eyes, and dental surgeries have been performed
- Over $190,000,000 in direct medical aid to Guatemala has been donated through HELPS mission teams
The Comadrona Project:
According to the World Health Organization’s 2009 Statistics, 75% of deliveries in Guatemala are attended by midwives. HELPS is working with professional midwives and gynecologists to educate people of rural areas on proper technique:
- instrument sterilization
- infant resuscitation
- Prevention/control of hemorrhage
Developing basic knowledge of Preventative Health in the community through educational visits:
- personal and family hygiene
- environmental awareness
- waste management
- family planning
How to Volunteer for a Medical Team
If you would like to go on a medical trip or form your own medical team, click here to fill out an application. If you would like to speak with us please call (972)386-2901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To see our HELPS Teams in action please watch our healthcare videos.