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San Juan Health Department Implements Outreach Programs

Más Salud and Alivio Dorado; will also help compile statistics


February 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

San Juan’s new Director of Health, Alfredo Escalera, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS about his plans to help the municipality’s poor and elderly via outreach programs Mas Salud and Alivio Dorado. The two programs will also help compile statistics, which, according to Escalera, are currently nonexistent.

The programs are expected to be in full throttle in about 100 days.

"Most low-income families don’t put health at the top of their list of priorities. This is because they lack information on the importance of proper medical care," said Escalera. Consequently, he has embarked on a plan to bring medical assistance and health education to the poor communities via the two outreach programs.

A celebration of the launching of Más Salud took place recently at Plaza Barbosa in Barrio Obrero. "We are celebrating this kick-off activity so people can begin recognizing it and open their doors when we visit them," said Escalera. "Más Salud will be composed of health clinics, HIV tests, Hepatitis C tests, nutrition evaluations for children, general medical evaluations for adults, and more."

Más Salud will also develop vaccination campaigns, sex-education programs, and preventive health activities for the homeless, according to Escalera.

Escalera emphasized that this is only a kick-off activity to let the people get to know what Más Salud is all about, and that once established, the program will consist of follow-up visits to San Juan’s poor communities. "We will be visiting the communities sporadically, going from door to door to evaluate specific conditions, such as the incidence of mental illness, diabetes, cholesterol, etc."  

Some of the San Juan communities where this program will take place are: Cantera, Plebiscito I & II, Trastalleres, Bitumul, Israel, and Shanghai.

The other outreach program, Alivio Dorado, will focus on the elderly who are not necessarily poor, but who cannot afford the medications they need. "Many people who have worked hard all their lives begin receiving Medicare benefits when they’re 65. And maybe they can afford a supplemental health plan to complement Medicare benefits, but the supplemental health plan does not always cover medication expenses. There are a lot of elderly going through this situation in Puerto Rico. We concentrate on getting proper medical attention to the indigent, but we have forgotten those who have paid taxes all their lives so the indigent can receive medical services," explained Escalera.

Alivio Dorado is sort of a social justice program in which those who have worked all their lives may be able to acquire the medications they need at 50% or 60% below the regular cost, said Escalera, adding that he is already negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to obtain discount rates on medications.

Both outreach programs will provide San Juan with the added benefit of compiling statistics on the prevalence of conditions and medications that are most widely used. Escalera said that at the moment no statistics are available. "Don’t even ask me how many asthmatics, diabetics, or mentally ill people we have in San Juan, because we have no statistics that provide that information," said Escalera, noting that statistical information is essential to be able to obtain federal grants or to establish goals in health programs.

Escalera also pointed out that San Juan is developing strategic alliances with insurers and pharmaceuticals. This way, insurers and pharmaceuticals can help out by sponsoring the outreach programs or by supplying technical resources.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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