By James Beckerman, MD, FACC
We just got back from Honduras.
Sort of a different type of summer vacation. Howler monkeys, sand fleas, and the occasional hurricane made for an exciting off-the-grid experience for me and my family — particularly my two little boys.
Whenever I travel, I try to imagine what life would be like if I had been born under different circumstances — in a different culture or country with different access to health care. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with greater than 50% of its population below the poverty line. Sanitation and clean water are constant problems. Few people have access to preventive or interventional medical care. There are an estimated 157 physicians per 100,000 people. I see that many doctors in our hospital cafeteria every day.
But one thing that I did notice was that people do carry cell phones. And from what I could tell, many of them are smart phones that can be used to go online. I feel like there are some opportunities here. While providing health care in developing countries seems insurmountable — we are having trouble getting the job done here at home — prevention can begin with education. And education can be provided easily online, with videos, articles tailored to culture and schooling, and links to what resources might be available.
While I do expect that this is already happening on some level in countries like Honduras by their own leadership, I also see an opportunity for us to share what we already have. It’s just a question of helping people understand that it’s available.
Nearly 1.2 million people in Honduras already use Facebook to keep in touch with friends. It would be amazing if websites like WebMD and others that provide content and community could partner with existing social networking sites to reach more people and make a positive difference — for free.
Because it turns out that you’re never really off the grid.
I’d love to hear what you think — please add your comments below. Ultreya!