Had a memorable global health mission in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in partnership with the YMCA of the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic has a population of over 10 million people. It sits on the island of La Hispaniola which is one side Dominican Republic and the other side is Haiti. Santo Domingo is a modern and cosmopolitan city. It is an attractive and versatile city with modern shopping malls and entertainment. The people are also very warm and hospitable.
The YMCA of the Dominican Republic / ACJ-Republica Dominicana just celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. It was formed in 1967. Their focus is more on early child development and youth educational programs. They have a fitness center at their headquarters in Santo Domingo, where they also offer swimming. They operate a number of branches in Santo Domingo and have programs in other parts of the country.
Our work in Dominican Republic:
The goal of the Global Health Fitness Initiative (GHFI) is to inspire the world to health, fitness and wellness, with a focus on preventative medicine. Our efforts in Dominican Republic focused on physical activities such as Zumba and dance fitness classes, with biometric health screenings. During this trip, we were only able to perform a few biometric screenings due to limited supplies and human resources. We were able to take blood pressure readings, body composition measurements which include height, weight and body fat. We also gave health advice based on the person’s screening results.
From our observation, Dominicans love to look good so they do take their fitness seriously. People are mostly within their healthy weight. However, during our health screening sessions, we had a lot of cases of people with high blood pressure, mostly due to blood pressure. High blood pressure is a silent killer and most people have no clue if they are a walking time bomb until they get regular health screenings.
Dominican Republic Health Profile:
The Dominican Republican government only spends about 5.9% of GDP on health, in comparison to 7.6% for the region and 16.2% for the United States. The world average is 9.9%. However, Dominican Republic has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the Caribbean. While at the airport on the way to Dominican Republic, our team member met two people who were traveling to Dominican Republic for “Medical Tourism” as they called. One of them was going to a rehab house for six months to get help with their addiction. The other person was going for a weight loss surgery. Their reason for choosing Dominican Republic versus the USA for these services was because it was much cheaper and the quality of the service was comparable to the USA.
The Dominican Republic’s health care system is three-tiered. At the bottom, the poorest in society are guaranteed access to free, socialized care. People who work in the Dominican Republic and earn less than RD$4,000 a month make social security contributions through their paychecks. As a result, they are automatically entitled to government health care services. Also, many employers provide something called an “Iguala” which is a monthly subscription to use the services of a specific clinic at no cost. Most people still end up paying out-of-pocket for medical supplies and other services because the government doesn’t spend enough on health care so the people have to pay a big chunk of their healthcare out of pocket. In public, government operated hospitals, patients often need to provide their own supplies. Friends and family tend to look after them when it comes to meals and other needs.
According to the Center of Disease Control, the top causes of Death in DR non-communicable diseases and lifestyle related:
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Road Injury
- Lower Respiratory Infections
- Prostate Cancer
- Hypertensive Heart Disease
- Preterm Birth Complications
The Life expectancy at birth is W 77/M 71 yrs. The Infant mortality rate is 31/1000 live births.