Fighting Vitamin A Deficiency in the Dominican Republic
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and raises the risk of disease and death from severe infections. In pregnant women VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality. VAD is a public health problem in many developing countries. Supplying adequate vitamin A in high-risk areas can significantly reduce mortality. Conversely, its absence causes a needlessly high risk of disease and death from such common childhood infections as diarrheal disease and measles.
Because of anecdotal reports from Creighton medical students (on externship rotation) of an increase in night blindness in children in the Dominican Republic (DR), the Office of Health Sciences, Multicultural and Community Affairs (HSMACA), in collaboration with the Institute for Latin American Concern (ILAC) at Creighton University and volunteer efforts of the President and CEO of Fountainhead Enterprise in Denver, Colorado prepared the trip to address this problem.
The team was made up of Dr. Kosoko-Lasaki (Ophthalmologist/ Public Health Specialist), Terri Lynch, RN, MA (ILAC Director) and Dr. Gbolahan Lasaki (Volunteer). Other team members were Dr. Leopoldo Careterra and Dr. Ramon Antonio De Leon (Dominican ILAC MDs) from the ILAC team in the Dominican Republic. ILAC trained Primary Health Care Workers (Cooperadores) received a whole day’s training on the clinical signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, its effects on childhood morbidity and mortality and preventative strategies. The teams emphasized the benefits of breastfeeding and encouraged the consumption of foods rich in vitamin A such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, mangoes, papaya etc.
Children were screened for the eye signs of vitamin A deficiency and the vitamin A capsules (200,000 IU) received from SIGHT AND LIFE were distributed.
Other activities included ocular examination and treatment of twenty-eight adults, a lecture to the family health care physicians at the local Catholic University, Pontifical University of Mother Mary. The lecture was given by Dr. Kosoko-Lasaki. A dinner was hosted by Radalme Peha, Executive Director of the ILAC Center, Mercedes Carmen Capellan and Marcel Morel, Dominican MDs and ILAC Board of Director members, to discuss the magnitude of the vitamin A deficiency in the Dominican Republic.