Saludos a todos!
We are on the last leg of our trip, and have learned so much about chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Nicaragua. The purpose of our project was to survey communities affected by CKD as well as gather data from medical records from an occupational health and research clinic in Leon, Nicaragua to determine the relationship between CKD and occupation. Though we began working on this project months before the trip–reading literature and analyzing mortality data–what we learned from the communities ravaged by this epidemic as well as the doctors working diligently to find the cause has been invaluable in comparison.
Here are some of the both interesting and upsetting things that we’ve learned during our time in Nicaragua:
- CKD is affecting very young agricultural workers, mainly sugarcane workers, which is the primary occupation for men in the communities we surveyed. Many patients are in their early 20s.
- Though chronic dehydration is thought to contribute to the development of CKD, some of the residents we surveyed were very aware of the importance of drinking enough water and took care to drink a lot of water throughout the day. However, others relied heavily on soft drinks, coffee, and juices as their main fluid intake, assuming that it is sufficient hydration.
- Many members of the community are convinced that the water at the sugarcane plantation is contaminated with pesticides and are hesitant to drink the water. However, bottled water is too expensive for most of the community members to buy on a regular basis.
- The families we interviewed were all so kind and open to strangers asking them health-related questions. We are so grateful for their participation because we learned so much from each family. Hearing the stories of CKD patients was incredibly moving and motivating. We hope to help a group of MS1s continue the project next summer, as there is so much potential for this project to continue and grow.
- There are many projects in progress within Nicaragua–which is very hopeful–and there is room for students from many disciplines to contribute, as this is clearly more than a health issue. It has become a huge political, social, and public health issue that can benefit from a multidisciplinary solution.
The mere fact that this is also a sociopolitical issue made us realize that, as future health practitioners, we will be caring for patients who might be in similar situations as those we met in Nicaragua. It is these experiences that will encourage us to approach health care in an interdisciplinary way, and utilize our resources to empower our patients and their communities.
We’ve learned so much on our trip and are extremely grateful to UCI and our PI, Dr. Anton-Culver. If you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to ask. We would love to talk about our experiences in Nicaragua.
-Sherry, Cristina, Cynthia, Alejandra, Krystal, and Kyle