Poor health affects how much children can achieve in school. Children who suffer from malnutrition and other health issues have diminished cognitive function, perform worse in school, and miss more days due to illness, which leads to higher dropout rates and repetition of grades. Furthermore, if a family member is ill, often a child will experience pressure to earn an income and forego their education.
Healthcare in Guatemala
To understand the healthcare situation in Guatemala, one must look at factors that influence the healthcare landscape, like population, population density, government spending, and higher education.
In 2021, the population of Guatemala was over 18 million people, with eight million living in rural areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately nine doctors for every 10,000 people, equating to about 16,000 doctors. Comparatively, the State of New York has a similar population, with more than 53,000 doctors registered.
What’s more, access to doctors is not equal across the country. The Borgen Project states that 80% of the doctors work in Guatemala City, leaving rural areas severely underserved and disadvantaged. USAID states that, overall, six million people in Guatemala lack essential health and nutrition services in direct conflict with Guatemala’s constitution, which states that every citizen has a universal right to health care. Unfortunately, healthcare spending in Guatemala and other Central American countries remains low compared to the United States, which invests 7,000 dollars in healthcare per person.
According to recent data from Macrotrends, Guatemala spends $260 on healthcare per person compared to Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, which spend $176, $286, $289, and $910 on healthcare per person, respectively.
The intersection of poverty and health care
Poverty affects every part of a family’s life. The average income for a family in Common Hope’s program is $200/month or $2,400 annually. This level of poverty affects physical, nutritional, and mental health.
Guatemalans living in rural areas often have to travel long distances to receive care, which is costly. Traveling to receive health care is not affordable when someone must miss a workday and go unpaid.
- In Guatemala, one in every two children suffers from chronic malnutrition. In rural areas, 70% of children under five years old suffer from stunting (low height for age) due to malnutrition.
- Many Guatemalans die of preventable diseases and illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition. It is common for people to live years with problems like dental pain or a hernia.
- The infant mortality rate is among the highest in Central America.
- Community health education, particularly in rural areas, is not the norm. Many Guatemalans experiencing poverty do not have access to information to make informed health decisions.
Common Hope seeks to reduce the risk of family health crises threatening a child’s ability to stay in school through curative, preventative, and general wellness services.
At Common Hope’s clinic and through health partners in surrounding communities, Common Hope students and their family members have access to quality curative and preventative health care, including doctor visits and wellness exams, laboratory screenings, medications at the pharmacy, nutritional services, dental care, and prenatal care. Common Hope’s healthcare staff treats everything from common respiratory issues to infections to minor injuries and emergency care. Chronic diseases, like hypertension and diabetes, are treated onsite. Doctors also refer to specialists when necessary, and treatment comes at reduced or no cost to the patient.
Common Hope social workers meet regularly with each family and refer them to the clinic if they identify any health-related issues. Common Hope aims to help families address short-term needs to achieve long-term goals of a better life. Together we are working to make healthcare accessible for families in Guatemala.