Our Healthy Schools Program provides primary students in the Palajunoj Valley with free annual clinical care accompanied by education aimed to encourage life-long healthy habits.
Primeros Pasos was originally founded to specifically address the health issues confronting school children in the Palajunoj Valley. In our first year, we provided approximately 1,000 children in the Valley with free medical examinations and treatment. From these exams we discovered that there were extremely high rates of gastrointestinal parasites, contributing to the prevalence of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases. The Primeros Pasos team developed a plan of action combining clinical exams and laboratory analysis with health education that remains the core of our Healthy Schools Program today. In 2015, the program has been adapted to more comprehensive approach that expands health education workshops and training to schools principals and teachers as well as to parents so that entire communities will make improvements to their health and instill healthy habits in their daily lives, improving the quality of life of their children, their families, and their entire communities.
Education and Mobile Clinics
Currently, the Healthy Schools Program serves nearly 4,000 children in 10 schools and 5 daycare centers in the Palajunoj Valley each year. We do this through a series of activities spanning a few days to several weeks depending on the size of the school.
First, the team gives workshops to the parents and teachers of the schoolchildren about safe hygiene practices, nutrition, and parasite prevention. Second, the team provides lessons to the schoolchildren on age-appropriate themes such as personal hygiene, nutrition, self-esteem and peer respect, domestic violence, drug addiction, and
reproductive health. Third, the children are provided with containers to return the following day with fecal samples, which are then tested in the laboratory at Primeros Pasos. Lastly, the team sets up the mobile clinic at the school. During the mobile clinic, children and their parents consult with our Guatemalan doctors and foreign medical volunteers about the child’s lab results and other health concerns. Appropriate medication and treatment is provided at no cost, and every child is sent home with a toothbrush and soap.
Participation in the program enables students to receive: free medical and dental check-ups, testing and treatment for parasites, and an interactive health education class focused on basic hygiene and nutrition. The Healthy Schools project not only provides medical treatment to children who otherwise may never see a doctor, it also gives them the tools to become healthy adults.