Disease Prevention

More Than Skin Deep: Patients in Mexico Receive Dermatological Care

Sr. Audelio, who developed an unrelated vision problem four years ago, became distrustful of medical care after a prescription worsened his symptoms. Nearly 15 years later, he agreed to seek dermatological care and undergo much-needed treatment. (Andrew Testa/Unilever photo)
Sr. Audelio, who developed an unrelated vision problem four years ago, became distrustful of medical care after a prescription worsened his symptoms. Nearly 15 years later, he agreed to seek dermatological care and undergo much-needed treatment. (Andrew Testa/Unilever photo)

Nearly 15 years ago, Señor Audelio was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis, a skin condition that causes rashes and joint pain and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

When he was first diagnosed, Audelio sought medical treatment to manage his psoriasis. However, he abandoned treatment after an improperly prescribed medicine worsened his symptoms.

That experience led Audelio to endure the painful symptoms of his condition for more than a decade without seeking dermatological care.

Finally, with the encouragement of his family, Audelio visited a clinic in Chiapas.

Chiapas is one of Mexico’s poorest states. Fortunately, the region is home to a network of rural public health clinics that aim to reach marginalized highland communities and provide critical health services to those who need it most. The network is operated by the nonprofit Compañeros En Salud (CES) or Partners In Health.

CES started working in Mexico in 2011. Its central office is in Jaltenango de la Paz, a city in the Sierra Madre mountains of Chiapas where half the population lives below the poverty line. Beyond providing care in these rural clinics and the maternity ward of a community hospital, much of CES’s work involves addressing the obstacles that patients face in accessing care and successfully being able to adhere to treatment.

CES trains local women as community health workers (CHWs), who visit patients in their homes to ensure that they understand their conditions and treatment plans, and that they have the resources and support they need to adhere to them. CES also links patients to specialized care when needed, whether outside the community (through its Right to Health team that manages referrals to hospitals, attends patients’ medical consultations, and provides all transportation, meals and lodging so that patients can get the care they need), or by facilitating visits from specialists to patients in their communities.

Community health worker Guadalupe López visits a patient in a rural community in Chiapas. (Photo courtesy of Partners In Health)

As part of the Vaseline® Healing Project, medical missions were conducted in the region to bring dermatological care to people without access. With support from Direct Relief and the Vaseline®brand, a team of healthcare providers joined local clinicians and specialists in providing comprehensive care and treatment to patients.

Patients wait to receive medical care at the Compañeros En Salud health clinic, located in the highland community of Honduras, Chiapas. (Andrew Testa/Unilever photo)

All consultations and medications were provided free of charge.

With a goal to improve staffing and supply clinics with critical health resources, CES works to close the gap between Mexico’s universal health coverage and limited medical support. (Andrew Testa/Unilever photo)

Over the course of three one-day clinics, more than 150 patients were treated in centers throughout Chiapas, including the Honduras health site. Señor Audelio was one of those patients.

In addition to caring for and treating patients, the medical mission offered dermatological training for doctors in the region. The objective was to provide local physicians with knowledge so they could continue providing quality care to their patients.

Dr. Caren Aquino, a dermatologist from Chiapas’ capital city, Tuxtla Gutierrez, joined the three-day mission. With the goal of improving staffing and linking vulnerable communities to more specialized care in Mexico, CES welcomed Dr. Aquino for the first time.

Her presence was invaluable.

Dr. Aquino provides dermatological treatment to a patient as part of the Vaseline Healing Project and assisted CES in mentoring physicians to properly diagnose and treat common skin conditions. (Andrew Testa/ Unilever)

In addition to bridging the gap between specialized care in hospitals and rural communities, Dr. Aquino provided hands-on training to local clinicians.

Among the 150 patients served during the medical mission was Audelio. After a visit with Dr. Aquino, he received the medicines and treatment needed to manage his disease.

Though Audelio’s plaque psoriasis is not curable, his symptoms can be managed. Medications and topical ointment can offer pain relief and prevent infection. (Andrew Testa/Unilever photo)

Nearly 15 years after his initial diagnosis, Audelio finally found much-needed relief from his plaque psoriasis.

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