Team Heads to Kyrgyzstan to Boost Maternal, Child Health Care

November 05, 1998

Physicians and scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center are heading to a former Soviet republic to discuss ways to keep children and their mothers healthy in one of the most remote, mountainous regions of the world.

Timothy Dye, associate professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, and five other scientists from the University are leaving for Bishkek this weekend, along with two other specialists in maternal and child health issues. The conference is being sponsored by the Albert Schweitzer Institute for the Humanities in collaboration with the Open Society Institute.

The team will discuss practices involving maternal and child health and will compare customs in western countries to those in several Islamic countries that were formerly part of the Soviet empire, including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Items on the agenda include low levels of immunization; high rates of infant and maternal mortality; training of midwives, who commonly deliver children in these nations; and the challenges of providing high-quality care across the vast, rugged rural area high in the Himalayas of Central Asia. Sixty health care professionals from Kyrgyzstan and its Central Asian neighbors are expected to attend.

The team includes both medical doctors and public health professionals. Presentations will include a session on using the Internet so that, even in the remotest of places, health care providers can take advantage of the latest information available from the world’s most sophisticated medical centers. The team includes pediatrician Julius Goepp, obstetrician Fred Howard, midwife Caroline Burtner, graduate students Tener Goodwin-Veneema and Mark Hostetler, Pam Akison of the New York State Department of Health, and women’s health expert Roselyn Payne Epps of Howard University.

"There’s a real concern that health care in these countries is just falling apart," says Dye, who is director of the University’s Division of Public Health Practice. "In some of these nations health care was highly centralized as part of the Russian system, but that structure is not there anymore.

"The information won’t be flowing just one way -- we will be learning, too," says Dye. "These people are experienced at providing services to a very rural population that can be hard to access. They have faced challenges that we could learn from in delivering health care to our own hard-to-reach populations, both urban and rural."

The Schweitzer seminar and conference series began in 1994 as part of the organization’s larger mission to continue the legacy of the great physician and humanitarian. The institute is currently one of the largest providers of ongoing clinical seminars in Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia. This year the institute has organized 17 seminars and conferences in 13 countries, addressing such topics as pain management, emergency medicine, oncology, media and health care, pediatric epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, and AIDS.

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