by Anielka Medina, Executive Director
As we continue moving the The Lily Project forward in Chacraseca, a vast, rural area outside of Leon, I have had an opportunity to reflect on the women and their needs in regard to their health. I have been absolutely amazed by the number of women that have shown up to participate! One day, in a community within Chacraseca called El Mojon, we had 42 women show up for the exam. Just to be clear, government hospitals and clinics normally don't even offer more than 15 exams a day for women seeking the Pap. The fact that we were able to do a visualization (IVAA) or a Pap exam on 42 women in one day was nothing short of a miracle!
The question is why are these women so eager to come and participate with us and yet the local hospitals and community clinics struggle with getting 20 women a MONTH to complete an exam? Initially, I had thought a key part of this project was offering the exam and treatment at no cost; however, I now understand the bigger reason for such high participation. It boils down to two key items: service & delivery of results.
First of all, many of us understand the situation of the government-run hospitals and clinics. They are over-crowded and under-resourced. The fact is that public hospitals have the responsibility of addressing all issues, and unfortunately the response is usually reactive rather than proactive. When someone is searching for a proactive solution, their priorities are over-shadowed by the reactive work that is being done to literally save a life at that moment. The Lily Project is proactive in its approach...period. We are offering exams and treatment to ensure women never have to worry about having cervical cancer. So when women hear about the project and come to us for a proactive solution, we are patiently waiting and ready to deliver the service. Additionally, the service we provide is truly more than an exam or treatment; we are listening, teaching and counseling. We believe our purpose transcends traditional service by truly delivering care for the women and their well-being.
While I believe the quality of service has been a critical factor in the increased participation, most importantly for the women it has been the promise to deliver the results. I've talked about it before, and I understand now more than ever: the system of results in regard to women's health in Nicaragua is broken. You may or may not know, my background is in bio-analysis. As a bionalyst, I pride myself on the results that are delivered. Accurate, timely results are the key in my industry to ensure the health of a patient. Unfortunately, the traditional system women must use if The Lily Project is not available cannot provide accurate OR timely results. More than anything, this has led to the epidemic in my country of cervical cancer. Proper tools are not being used to take samples, and the deliver of results take up to 3 months. I'm proud to say that The Lily Project has created a system that utilizes techniques such as visualization (VIAA) and specific methodology with the Pap that ensures results are timely (no more than 48 hrs) and accurate.
The fact is when we walk into a new community and talk about The Lily Project, the service and the delivery of results, we now have an abundant turnout of participants eager to take the exam. I believe women want to stay healthy and stay happy for themselves and for their families. We just need to work together to make it happen!