Maya Health’s first projects were focused on the provision of medical care to the elderly in semi-urban indigenous settlements. Over the years, this has evolved into a more general focus on the care of chronic diseases of adulthood. In particular, we focus on diabetes, which has a strong genetic component and is highly prevalent in Maya populations.
As a typical chronic disease, diabetes saps energy, well-being, and economic productivity from adult populations, endangering not only their own health but also the security of their dependent families. High-quality care for diabetes is rare in Guatemala, and medications are expensive. We collaborate with community health workers to provide long term medical care, free pharmaceuticals, and nutrition and lifestyle education to diabetics in multiple highland towns.
Since we are largely a referral diabetes program, patients tend to come to us after having failed to achieve adequate treatment for their diabetes elsewhere. As such, when we first meet our patients they are often already quite sick and require a lot of individualized attention. In fact, many of them end up coming to us because they’ve been turned away by other clinics that feel they are too advanced in their diabetes to be treatable.
Recently, two patients had to start peritoneal dialysis, because their diabetes was so long-standing and had caused such damage to their kidneys. This would normally be an insurmountable barrier, both financially and logistically, for the average patient in Guatemala. However, our excellent social workers guided both patients through the entire process, accompanying them to their medical visits, picking up medication prescriptions, and so on. Our excellent nursing staff taught the patients how to watch their diets, prevent infection, and manage their home dialysis sessions. Our excellent logistics staff made sure that each patient had an appropriate place in the home to initiate dialysis safely.
We are very excited about plans for our diabetes programing. We’ve just hired some new staff to expand our capacity, including a volunteer Guatemalan physician. This has become very important lately, as our panel of diabetic patients has continued to grow. In particular, we are now managing a core group of patients with long-standing diabetes who are dealing with significant diabetes-related complications, such as kidney failure. Intensive management of these complex patients requires dedicated and competent local staff. Fortunately, we believe we have the best staff in Guatemala.
Cost of Program: Our estimated annual cost of this program is $40,000. With 165 diabetics in our program, the cost amounts to approximately $250 per person, per year.