Belize is a country in Central America with a population of more than 340,000. It also has the 89th highest ranked infant mortality rate in the world, less than one physician per 1,000 people and is rated the 15th highest in the world based on the adult prevalence of obesity, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. Now, through a study abroad experience, a group of Georgia College students are trying to change those numbers.
Eighteen students are traveling from Milledgeville to San Ignacio, Belize to help educate on healthcare.
“I had always hoped to study abroad and this opportunity is going to be a perfect fit for what I want to do after college,” said Heather Prochaska, senior exercise science major and health education minor. “Everything we’ve learned up to this point in our classes has given us the knowledge to prepare to serve the people there.”
The group, which consists of students from the health sciences majors, will work with different partners throughout their time in Belize. They will volunteer at a hospital and orphanage, host a health fair marketplace, give occupational and physical therapy sessions to the elderly, and run a coaching clinic— all to encourage better health for the native people.
“I am really excited about the healthcare marketplace because it will be so hands on,” said Claire Williams, sophomore pre-nursing major. “We will do blood pressure screenings, glucose tests and much more. We also made the pamphlets to handout and will be collecting data from the patients we see to find out if we are impacting the overall health of the people there since Georgia College groups go each year.”
The course Exploring Health Perspectives integrates concepts from various interdisciplinary fields including sociology, history, international relations, government, politics, cultural studies and ethics through a health science perspective. The students participate in service projects in conjunction with Sacred Heart Junior College and various other health related organizations. They also visit a wide range of Belizean historical, archaeological, health and cultural sites.
“I know it will be a humbling experience that will help us to better appreciate the medical care and technology we have here in the U.S.,” said Prochaska. “I hope to bring my knowledge and understanding of healthcare to those less fortunate to be able to improve their overall health.”
That type of learning experience is the exact goal for the trip, according to Dr. Kevin Hunt, assistant professor of health and human performance.
“During these 12 days, I hope that students will both gain an understanding of how fortunate we are with our health care as well as the challenges people in many other countries face. The service-learning component of the trip is also key, as students use the knowledge from their courses in a real-world setting to help those in need,” said Hunt.
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