PRT Hopes to Improves Health, Mortality Rate in Paktika through Preventative Medicine

Regional Command East Combined Joint Task Force 101 Story by 1st Lt. Emily Chilson

PAKTIKA, Afghanistan (May 16, 2011) – The Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team held a medical education training session for more than 30 Afghan doctors and midwives at Sharana Hospital May 12.

The PRT conducts the training sessions on a regular basis to assist local medical professionals in extending basic healthcare to the population of Paktika.

The PRT medical team coordinates each session through the provincial director of public health and invites a different guest speaker to lead each session.

This session’s guest speaker was U.S. Army Capt. Melissa Galazin, a medical officer with the 801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, and resident of Onstead, Mich., who presented basic preventative medicine and disease control.

“I focus on studying what causes disease among populations,” Galazin said. “Preventative medicine is the most effective and least expensive way to prevent disease.”

Galazin discussed the identification of diseases through assessing a patient’s symptoms and susceptibility, as well as treatment options. She emphasized the importance of basic sanitary habits like hand-washing, wearing clean clothes, vaccinating children and brushing teeth.

“By changing behavior, you’re going to decrease respiratory illness among your population,” Galazin told the doctors.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Doug Thompson, PRT medical noncommissioned officer-in-charge from Dayton, Ohio, tailors each session to take on a provincial-perspective.

“We’re trying to get them to look at public health for all of Paktika, not just the one patient,” Thompson said. “Afghan doctors don’t have regular medical conferences to attend like we do in America.”

The sessions provide two-way communication between coalition forces medical professionals and their Afghan medical counterparts so the PRT knows exactly what type of training to provide.

“What they’re going through right now is what we learned in the U.S. in the 1800s,” Thompson explained. “We’re teaching them personal hygiene and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), education we take for granted in the U.S.”

Thompson said he was particularly pleased with the turnout at this training session because it was twice the normal attendance and, in addition to the Sharana doctors, it included doctors from the Urgun and Sar Hawza Districts.

According to the World Health Organization website, average life expectancy in Afghanistan 48 years old, and 23 percent of children die before reaching the age of 5.

Thompson said premature deaths are primarily caused by preventable diseases like dysentery and dehydration.

“Hopefully (the doctors) will pass on what they learn to the whole province so the mortality rate will go down,” Thompson explained. “If we can break the trends and prevent disease with standard education, then everybody gets better and the culture will thrive.”