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Rotarians bring health care to Mexico


Michael Young

Nevada City Advocate

For the fifth year in a row, a contingent of Nevada City Rotarians flew down to the tip of southern Mexico’s Baja peninsula last month to take part in health screenings for local residents.

More than 400 school children in the town of Los Barriles and families in remote outlying areas were tested for glucose levels as a precursor for diabetes, blood pressure, vision and dental. Records were kept and follow up visits will be held for those with immediate medical needs. 

“We found a lot of bad eyesight,’ said Charlene Wegner, a former U.S. Army nurse who founded a health care clinic in Los Barriles and helps organize the screenings. “We need to get them in to see an ophthalmologist. One woman had cataracts.”

The Rotarians brought down a number of eyeglasses to distribute to those who need them for reading.

Wegener said they found a couple of people with high blood sugar who “should be in the hospital with an insulin drip.”

“There were a number of kids with elevated blood pressure and blood sugar,” she said, and children with dental needs. A local dentist and her staff also volunteered to do that screening and will be contacting those who require further care.

According to studies, Mexico has the highest obesity rate in the world, much of it attributed to diet, Wegner said.

Carolyn Feuille, who directs international projects for the Nevada City Rotary, said 14 Rotarians and spouses made the trek this year, leaving on March 21 and returning March 25.

“This was the largest contingent we ever sent to Mexico,” she said. “Because of its size, we were able to do a lot more screening of children and adults.”

In addition to the town of Los Barriles, the screeners also drove to the isolated communities of El Cardinal, El Campamento and San Bartolo where there is no health care.

The residents were appreciative of the efforts of their local medical practitioners and of the Rotarians. Two retired Nevada City physicians, Drs. Christine and Bill Newsom, were among those performing the tests. In addition, a number of Rotarians spoke Spanish, which made it easier to communicate with the patients.

In the past, Rotarians flew down to the Baja to work on repairing buildings, such as schools. But two years ago, Dr. Christine Newsom suggested to Chris Geyer, of the Los Barriles Rotary, that health screenings were needed. Geyer, who previously lived in Nevada City, then helped organize the new mission.

His Rotary club, which is a sister chapter to the Nevada City group, is also working on a project to improve potable water, especially in the remote areas.

“Clean water is a huge issue in these communities,” he said. “They have found naturally occurring arsenic in the water and it needs to be filtered.”

About the Photos: Previous Page: 

Rotarian Cathy Wilcox-Barnes with a student from Los Barriles elementary 

school in Mexico. 

This Page;  NC  Rotarians Carolyn Ingless (l) and  Carolyn Feuille (r) help a man get fitted for some much needed glasses.