By Missy Crittenden and Abby Paine
The health assessment activity was our first interaction with the children attending Ban Yang Kaew School in Omkoi. Most of the students participating had no previous experience with this kind of exercise but, this did not affect their ability to successfully perform the assessments. There were ten parts to the assessment: eyes, ears, nose, teeth, throat, hair, bones, skin, height/weight, and injuries.
The process was smooth and did not take much time. All of the kids were very cooperative and many of the older students helped the younger students. For example, at the ear station, an older girl helped explain to the other children that they had to let the American student know they could hear when they snapped their fingers next to their left and right ears. We, as American students, had a lot of fun interacting with the kids in this manner and it was easy because no clinical or medical experience is needed because we were looking for basic symptoms.
The two most common issues we found were cavities in the teeth and lice in the hair. Minor scrapes, cuts, and bug bites were also common but not concerning. We estimate that almost all of the students had major cavities, especially the younger ones who still had their baby teeth. Additionally, almost half of the students had head lice. Changing these trends are not as easy in Thailand as they would be in the United States.
Head lice is easily managed through shampoo treatments however, it spreads very quickly and the parents in this village would likely have to make a large effort to prevent future cases. This would be done through consistent cleaning of linens, clothing, and buying new hair brushes/combs, and by isolating children with head lice temporarily until they are fully treated. The hygiene of the students would also need to improve, which is not a priority for most people living in rural areas.
Managing cavities is also difficult in these situations. The drinking water does not contain fluoride like it does in the U.S., which contributes a lot to dental health. Brushing their teeth is also not a priority in the village. Since the village is so rural and a decent distance from the town of Omkoi, it can be hard to obtain things like proper toothpastes, flosses, and toothbrushes.
However, at the end of the assessment, any students with irregular symptoms could access medical assistance from a few individuals with clinical and medical experience. For example, any students with lice were given shampoo treatments two days after the assessments. Even though this will not eliminate the problem it will relieve some discomfort temporarily. The medical professional, Bright, also administered bandages and antibacterial ointment to those who needed it. Overall, these assessments showed us that fancy medical equipment and extensive medical experience is not always necessary for preventing and identifying health issues in school children.
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