In August 2010 we visited the rural area in and around the Indian village of Chinamuthevi to check the hygienic conditions of children living there. The medical staff consisted of two specialists in pediatrics and a dental technician.
The check ups were carried out on the children residing in the village and in the nearby rural villages, also children from nearby tribal families received health checks. The childrens age ranged from a few months to 18 years, divided fairly equally between males and females. All children were part of families, most attend the Native Upper Primary School, some go to state schools. Others were not in any school system. The total number of children the doctors saw was around 300.
Each child was given a full health check, including the measurement of height and weight, also eye tests (including cover-test, convergence, and stereoscopic visual acuity test bilateral), and a control of the dental hygiene. Each child belonging to the Native Upper Primary School received a personal medical card which has been developed to record all the children’s vaccinations and health information.
The results were quite satisfactory. The general condition of the children was generally good. We found in almost every child a lower level of growth in weight and height in relation to children in the West of the same age. This is mainly due to a genetic condition, recurrent in the South-East Asian populations and in particular Indian. This is generally due to an unbalanced diet with excessive intake of carbohydrates (rice in the first place) and protein deficiency (meat and fish). Many had a minor iron deficiency (iron), resulting in hypochromic anemia (always linked to the type of food). In any case the problem if compared to other neighbouring regions already assessed, appeared to be less serious.
The diseases highlighted were very few: some diseases of the respiratory type infection (treated with antibiotics), a case of heart murmur (sent to a specialist), some cases of bone malformation type scoliosis, some orthopedic outcomes of polio which would need physiotherapy treatment. Two cases of infantile paralysis (probably related to problems related to childbirth) and two cases of motor-mental retardation (due to genetic conditions of unions between blood relatives), a case of allergic asthma (previously treated by a specialist). Several cases of ocular deseases, some cases of myopia, strabismus) that have been referred to specialists for treatment.
In particular, there weren’t many serious infectious diseases or malformations and the child population was assessed as averagely healthy . In particular we found a very small number of skin infections only those related to insect bites or infected injuries, diseases which are very frequent in these areas. There was only a single case of scabies which had previously been treated, and few cases of head lice. We found this quite extraordinary given the poor sanitary conditions in which people live. This is obviously due to the presence of the family with parents sufficiently caring about the conditions of their children, because they have no drinking water and no sanitation. They live in homes often made of mud, with no sewerage system only open dumps, and no waste system.
The oral hygiene was not so good, (this in general throughout the population) with the presence of gingivitis and periodontal disease from poor cleaning, lots of decay, destructive for young and old teeth, all kinds of dental problems. The situation is certainly linked, to the lack of dental hygiene, to the difficulty of access to regular dental care which is usually because of economic reasons. Because of this we "tried" to give every child (and adult) some health education and encouraged them to follow the rules of cleanliness for their teeth. We gave a new toothbrush and toothpaste to everyone. Furthermore we had prepared a presentation of basic health education in English,based on the normal hygiene practices reported, applying the programme to the reality in which this population lives. This program was shown through a projected Power Point presentation for two nights in two villages and the local communities followed it all with great interest. We left the presentation with the leaders of the Christian community so that they can, in the future, organize more teaching sessions. The work done as far as possible in such a limited time, seems to us satisfactory, but of course a longer stay would have allowed greater action.
We want to thank the Christian communies in the Chinamuthevi village and nearby villages for giving us the opportunity to "help" in some way the resident population and their willingness to organize our work. We also want to thank everyone, the pastors and their families, all the school teachers and children, and all the village people for their hospitality, for the gratitude, warmth and affection that was deeply shown to us. This experience will remain in our hearts as something precious not only from a professional point of view, but especially in terms of human emotionsl.
Thanks again for everything ....
With our love and affection dottore Franco, dottoressa Valeria, Luca, Antonella, Anne-Marie, Annalisa and Caterina