We saw many children touched by challenges with developmental delay, epilepsy, migraines, neuromuscular weakness, genetic/metabolic syndromes, cerebral palsy, etc. Although the level of care is different in Lao compared to USA....the compassion is probably higher at LFHC in Lao! The parents asked the same types of questions that parents in USA ask and the concerns based on love are no different. Absolutely not one iota different – that was somehow surprising to me but perhaps I should not have been surprised at all.
These times are overshadowed by the eagerness of the Lao staff to learn, the way they embrace the model of compassionate care, and all of the random moments at the end of the day when they taught me Lao dancing, about Lao food, and Lao culture. LFHC has grown so much during my time here; I can’t wait to come back and see how it continues to grow. You too should think of coming!
Friends Without A Border opened a new pediatric hospital during a Grand Opening ceremony in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) will be the first full-service pediatric hospital outside of the country’s capital and, when it opens, will provide free care to all children.
LFHC is a project by Friends Without A Border (Friends), a not-for-profit organization based in New York whose mission is to provide high-quality and compassionate health care to children in Southeast Asia. Friends’ first children’s hospital, Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC), opened in 1999 in Cambodia and has since treated over 1.3 million children, trained hundreds of local doctors and nurses, and provided medical outreach and education to communities all over the country.
Friends’ founder Kenro Izu started the organization after witnessing the tragic death of young girl in a Cambodian health care facility. “The little girl was the same age as my daughter at the time. I just remember being so shocked something like that could happen. There she was, in a hospital with doctors and nurses nearby, and yet she did not receive treatment because the girl’s father couldn’t afford to pay two dollars for her care.”
After opening, word about AHC quickly spread. Today, AHC treats an average of 450 patients a day, is a nationally trusted pediatric teaching hospital, and a model in the region for sustainable high-quality care.
In Lao PDR, pediatric health care is an urgent concern. Children suffer from treatable illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria, as well as from injuries sustained by unexploded ordinances which are leftover from conflicts more than 30 years ago, yet still blanket many parts of the country.
The new hospital in Laos will adopt the same model of holistic care used at AHC, with a focus on treatment, education, and prevention. “When we opened our first hospital, we quickly realized the importance of addressing the education and prevention aspects. We wanted to help create a healthy community, not just provide Band-Aids.” Izu said.
LFHC’s Executive Director, Dr. Jonathan Spector, says, “We are building a hospital to where any of us would feel perfectly comfortable bringing our own children. We will deliver safe, high-quality care with respect and empathy for our patients and their families.”
Recently, Izu and Friends were recognized for their work by the World of Children Award. Considered the “Nobel Prize for Child Advocates”, the World of Children Award named Izu the Health Honoree.
To ensure the future doctors and nurses of Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) are providing the best care possible, Friends Without A Border is conducting a baseline medical survey (BMS) in the Luang Prabang Province. We are excited to be working with Dr. Jeffrey Measelle, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, who has been published extensively in the area of early childhood development. Dr. Measelle is donating his time and talents for this project.
Overall Goal of BMS: Collect health data to establish baseline child health metrics in advance of patient care at LFHC.
Long-Term Goal of BMS: Over time, repeated assessments will enable LFHC to evaluate changes in the health status of children in Luang Prabang and measure LFHC’s impact.
The collection of both biological and survey data will help to prioritize medical services at LFHC, and will also provide a point of reference from which to gage the impact of LFHC. Additionally, the objective of the BMS is consonant with the UN’s 8 Millennium Development Goals.
As the survey teams closes in on the completion of the first phase of the BMS, Dr. Measelle shares with us a status report:
A total of 4 teams, each with 5 team members – 1 supervisor, 2 interviewers and 2 biomarker data collectors – are surveying the Luang Prabang District, the Chompet District, and the Phonxai District. In all, the teams will be visiting 90 preselected villages, 30 per district. To date, the teams have been active for 2 weeks and have collected data from approximately 48 villages.
The number of households in villages with children under the age of 5 varies widely village to village. When entering a preselected village, the goal is to collect data in 7 different randomly selected households, each with at least one mother of a living child under the age of 5. On occasion, there are multiple mothers and children in a single household; in this case all of the family constellations are interviewed. Using sampling procedures pioneered by the World Health Organization, the goal is to build a representative sample of the 3 targeted districts in this first phase of the BMS.
During the visits, each family is also given tooth brushes. The mothers are very enthusiastic about receiving the tooth brushes, and often ask us for extras for all family members. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Dilshad Sumar-Lakhani, who provided the survey teams with an ample quantity of toothbrushes, the survey team has been able to provide entire families with new toothbrushes.
Data collection has been going remarkably well on most fronts. Teams report that a clear majority of the children are comfortable with the types of data we are collecting. Although we don’t push children if they are visibly upset, over 90% of the infants and children in the BMS have been able to complete all of the biomarker procedures thus far.
Teams’ reports from completed villages, coupled with early reviews of the data, suggest that many of the children participating in the BMS are clearly sick. Persistent respiratory issues, low weight, and troublingly high levels of anemia are clearly apparent. When our teams enter the villages, many mothers are asking for medical care for their children. The need for pediatric healthcare is very apparent in virtually all of the villages participating in the BMS.
Shira Einstein, a student at Oregon University, is helping with the BMS and has chronicled her team’s progress through her personal blog: Shira’s Blog.