Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maasai Medicine

The next best thing to travel and experiencing something new, is to have travelers come to you. I have been fortunate to be able to host a Maasai Cultural Dance troupe in my home this week as they perform in my town. Their mission is to uplift the villagers in Kenya, Africa by selling their beads and art and earning money that they take back home. That money is used for education and a better life for their families. Seleina and Sironka, the group leaders, are my guests and they both speak English. The difference between their lives in a small village in Maasai country and my life in the medically sophisticated U.S. struck me tonight as I questioned Seleina about health care in Kenya.

I attended a quality meeting this morning where we discussed a sentinal event. A sentinal event is something so rare, so unusual, that teams of professionals are brought together to evaluate it, dissect the components and institute processes to prevent it from ever happening again. This sentinal event was the death of a pregnant woman. In the U.S. that is such a rare event that it shocks the entire hospital. In Kenya, childbirth is a dangerous undertaking for a woman.

The Maasai village that Seleina comes from doesn't have a hospital close by. If they cannot make it to a distant clinic, childbirth takes place at home and the mortality rate is high. Their huts are made from mud and dung and have dirt floors. Pregnant women are told to eat very little so they will have small (easier to deliver) babies. Of course this contributes to anemia and poor health in both mother and baby.

I thought about our moms- to -be with prenatal vitamins and ultrasounds and realized how lucky modern Western women are to have the benefits of excellent health care and technology. We forget that at the turn of last century, the most common cause of death for women was childbirth. Sadly, that is still the case in many developing countries today.

The Maasai culture is wonderful and the people are beautiful with the same dreams, ambitions and love of their children as we have. I can't wait to learn more about health in their Country when we talk over dinner tomorrow evening.


Jonathan said...

It’s amazing that you should publish this piece on your Masai guests and ruminate on the differences between developed and under-developed nations’ medical systems, for just last night my wife and I were at the Herbst Theater to hear Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Kenyan parliamentarian, talk about her life and her struggles to promote peace and democracy in Africa.

My wife and I spent the remainder of the evening, motivated I suspect as you were by the vast and myriad differences between our world and that of Africa, to reflect on our fortune to live in the place that we do, despite its imperfections.

jd said...

This is amazing. What a great blog and perspective of the worlds. Thanks and tell us more about your experiences with the Massai.

Raymond Bouchayer said...

Thank you for making us all aware of how indifferent we all are of the poor conditions that effects the health of others around the world , especially in Africa.

Linda Cole Leighton said...

What a fabulous opportunity for you and for your family!! I used to teach my students about the Masai when I taught world history/geography (as well as English) my last few years of teaching. Can't wait to hear more!

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I think that it is so important,Everyone should have oportunity to get medicine, so I think that it is so interesting because the people on Maasai need some help.

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xlpharmacy said...

These people have a very interesting culture and lifestyle. However they only rely on their primitive alternative medicine which is almost always administered by their healer. They need better medical access to survive as a unique culture.

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