On a house visit in the rural mountainside community of Rayan, the first thing we notice is the man’s stumble as he walks into his home. Marcelino, a gentleman in his fifties, has a pronounced limp and winces with each step. He reports that he has had pain in his upper left leg for a month. Valentina, Rayan’s promotora (community health worker), asks Marcelino about his activities. Did he have an accident while attending to his animals? Did he fall down the narrow and steep paths that surround the community? Has he been sleeping the wrong way?
In much of the Sacred Valley, access to hospitals and clinics is limited. People in isolated communities such as Rayan often have scanty health knowledge. Sacred Valley Health provides basic health education and frontline care. Although Valentina and her fellow promotoras are not medical professionals, they provide first aid and share information on topics such as nutrition and disease-prevention. Promotoras make home visits to answer health questions and address health needs. They provide referrals to the nearest clinic when a patient’s condition indicates that he or she needs more advanced care.
Questioning patients about symptoms can save lives. When Valentina asks Marcelino about injuries preceding his leg pain, Marcelino points to a lesion on his foot that is clearly infected. “My leg stopped working around the same time that this cut happened.”
Valentina recognizes that Marcelino’s foot requires immediate medical attention. She convinces him to seek advanced care at a clinic before the infection worsens. Marcelino will receive appropriate treatment in a timely way because of Valentina’s gentle but persistent questioning.
– Written by Rosanna Giorlandino