Every four months, HHI organizes one week of primary health care field clinics in our four partner communities in the Dominican Republic. International volunteers, community health workers, HHI staff, and local partners collaborate to provide preventive healthcare services, education, and treatment for both acute and chronic conditions to over 500 individuals during each clinic series. Our field clinics include pre-clinic case finding and appointments, a standardized medication formulary, medical records for all patients, basic diagnostic tools, next-day lab results, and a referral and follow-up system that operates year-round. The field clinic system acts as a gateway to facilitate continuity for patients who otherwise lack access to high quality primary care.
HHI’s Chronic Care Program is a key piece of our commitment to primary health care. Chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, account for 68% of all deaths in the Dominican Republic. Prevention efforts are crucial to decreasing the long-term burden of these diseases, as are comprehensive treatment and support programs for individuals who have already been diagnosed. Our Chronic Care Program provides patients with year-round access to medication, regular check-ups and monitoring, individualized medication adherence counseling, and support for health behavior change. Our current focus is on hypertension and diabetes management, and our prevention efforts focus on the risk factors of poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. The Chronic Care Program lies at the intersection of our Community Health Workers Program, primary care field clinics, and commitment to addressing public health challenges.
We have also developed a network of local health care referral partners to connect our patients to specialist consults, preventive care, surgery, diagnostic testing and imaging, and other follow-up year-round. Navigating the Dominican health care system is a challenge, so we prioritize one-on-one support and advocacy for our patients. Patients are referred by a physician during the primary care field clinics — then, HHI volunteers, community health workers, and staff work with each patient and family to ensure they are effectively connected to follow-up care. Health and the ability to access health care are influenced by social, cultural, and economic factors, so by serving as a medical home and providing community-based support, we ensure that HHI’s primary care programs treat each patient as a whole person.
Our goals for our primary health care programs are to:
- Increase access to high quality primary health care by establishing partnerships between underserved communities, HHI medical service trip teams, local community health workers, and the Dominican health care system.
- Partner with HHI’s Community Health Workers and International Program Team to ensure facilitation of follow-up care and connect patients with the existing health system.
- Improve health outcomes for all patients, particularly those at risk for, or already diagnosed with, chronic illnesses.
- Connect the expertise, resources, and passion of US health care professionals and students to the needs of the communities HHI serves, and inspire the members of HHI’s US chapters to advocate for and raise awareness of the issues they faced after returning to the US.