Two weeks ago, I was invited at the Kigamboni Health screening camp as a medical volunteer.
The camp was organised by a group of local organisations including MaishaNjema Foundation, Karbala 72, G1 Security and Lions club of Dar-es-Salaam who were the hosts. This camp was for both adults and children and the main activities included diabetes screening, eye check-ups and screening and dental checkups for adults as well as pediatric checkups for children.
The camp featured several professionals such as General Practioners, dentists, pharmacists, ophthalmologists, optometrists and pediatricians from various hospitals across the country who dedicated their time and resources for this noble cause.
This camp served thousands of residents of Kigamboni and above all it was free of charge.
The event was graced by Hon. Dr. Faustine Ndugulile, the Deputy Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly & Children (MoHCDGEC) who was the Guest of Honor.
I started my day at the blood pressure section where we screened to check for hypertension and as you’d expect, we found quite a significant number of people having elevated blood pressures (hypertension) and were neither aware about the condition, nor were they on any antihypertensive medications.
Since physical exercise like walking can raise your BP temporarily, we did consider that the individual might have been walking for a while to reach the camp location and this might have raised their blood pressures temporarily so we made sure individuals rested before we checked their blood pressures.
Sadly, we still had quite a few new cases of hypertension diagnosed at the camp. Perhaps the most interesting and shocking cases were of these two women who had extremely high blood pressures which we call ‘hypertensive urgency’ where the BP is above 180/110millimeters of Mercury.
These women were not taking any antihypertensive medications and were at a very high risk of getting organ damage like strokes or kidney damage and we decided to put them on urgent therapy to lower their BP’s and reduce that risk.
I then moved to the diabetes screening section where we tested the blood glucose levels of the locals.
Surprisingly, I found that quite a few locals also had abnormal blood glucose levels but were not at all aware about it. Some had lower glucose levels than normal which we attributed to skipping breakfast but the more concerning cases were the ones with higher than normal glucose levels. Sadly, these people might have had diabetes for a long time and because they were unaware, the disease might have caused more complications internally. There were also a few cases where the patient knew they had diabetes and were prescribed medications but did not strictly follow the regimen (had poor adherence) and so, had abnormally high glucose levels. Others were prescribed medications but couldn’t afford to buy their prescriptions any longer.
Following this, I moved to the dental checkup area and in general, most locals don’t take oral hygiene too seriously and so, the dental status of most Tanzanians is not satisfying. There were numerous cases of patients with cavities, bad breath and patients who needed root canals and other treatment procedures.
The dentists also advised patients on how to keep their teeth healthy with tips like brushing twice a day and taking calcium-rich foods. They also did numerous tooth extractions where necessary.
Around 2000 boxes of toothpaste were distributed at the camp also free of charge.
I then moved to the eye checkup area where the professionals used a certain eye chart called a Snellen’s chart which is a series of alphabets which reduce in size from the largest size at the top to the smallest sizes at the bottom to measure visual acuity.
For patients who had vision problems, free glasses were provided at the camp. At the end of the two days, more than 520 glasses had been distributed for free and around 65 cases of cataract were identified and have been sponsored for surgery.
Patients who had certain conditions were also prescribed eye drops and other oral medications.
Following this, I moved to the pharmacy where different drugs were being distributed by the volunteer pharmacists based on the patient’s condition.
In total, we had a team of 100+ volunteers who managed to screen more than 1400+ residents of Kigamboni area and saw numerous cases from diabetes & hypertension, overweight patients, fungal infections, constipation to dental and visual problems. I realized a lot of locals cannot really afford to pay for services like blood glucose measurements and eye tests and thus, are unaware on their condition when they get them. This is especially true for diseases with no symptoms or vague symptoms like diabetes where people get tired easily which most people link to work related exhaustion and stress. Seeing how quite a few of the patients were unaware of their conditions just because they didn’t have any symptoms shows just how important routine health checks can be in diagnosing and identifying diseases.
In all, this was a fantastic initiative by the organizers since it helped diagnose a lot of people especially those who could otherwise, not be able to afford these medical screening services and this camp may have potentially saved a significant number of lives.
The author is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.