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  • Rotary helps bring health care to Mexico

     Michael Young

    Nevada City Advocate 

    Eleven members of the Nevada City Rotary recently flew to the southern part of Mexico’s Baja peninsula recently where they took part in health screening on more than 300 school children and families.

    The effort was part of the Nevada City Rotary’s mission in rural Mexico to improve the conditions of its residents, especially children. It was the fourth time the Nevada City Rotary made the trek to Mexico’s East Cape along the Sea of Cortez. They left on April 19 and returned April 23. 

    They were joined by members of the Los Barriles Rotary, the Fair Oaks Rotary and a handful of local health workers, including event organizer Charlene Wenger, a retired U.S Army nurse, who runs the East Bay Health Care clinic in Los Barriles for underserved residents. Adults are charged a nominal fee and children are free. The clinic relies on grants and donations to sustain.

    In past years, the Rotarians focused on repairing the schools. But last year Dr. Christine Newsom, a retired Nevada City physician and Rotarian, suggested to Chris Geyer of the Los Barriles Rotary that a general health screening was necessary.

    “A recent study showed that Mexico has the highest incidence of obesity in the world,” she said. 

    The team not only tested glucose levels for diabetes, but also blood pressure, vision and dental.

    “We saw a lot of obesity among the children,” she said after the screening was over. “The results on glucose were highly abnormal. When they return for their definitive tests, some will be shown to have borderline diabetes.”

    Dr. Cliff Straehley, a physician from the Fair Oaks Rotary, said a number of children had a “significantly impaired vision. It could be a challenge to learning.” 

    The health team also drove to the isolated rural community of El Cardonal where they screened a number of families, with some patients in their 80s and in need of health care.

    Wenger, a nurse practitioner who deals daily with poor patients, stood in the road waving people into the testing site. She said some residents in the isolated areas are fearful of seeking medical care .

    Records were kept for all the testing and those who appear to need further care will be called back to the clinic. A dentist from Los Barriles will contact those in need of dental care to repair the damage. Children will be fitted for glasses. People with high-blood pressure will be put on medication.

    Geyer is considering doing a Rotary project on potable water in the rural areas of the Southern Baja, of which there are 2,300 communities of fewer than100 residents who are unaware their water is befouled or don’t maintain filters properly.

    Geyer, who lived in Nevada City on and off for 12 years and is passionate for community service, hosted the event for the Rotarians.

    “The testing was a baby step but we need to take baby steps before we can walk,” he said.

    About the photo: 

    Nevada City Rotary club members take a break from their efforts to help the families of the Baja peninsula receive health-care screening.