Puerto Escondido was named one of The New York Times top 52 places to travel in 2017 (#32). Venture south to the coast of Mexico to immerse yourself in rich Oaxacan culture and language and get acquainted with life in a small, tranquil coastal city, nestled against the breath-taking Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range.
Mexico, the most populated Spanish speaking country in the world, retains influences from Mayan and Aztec culture, as well as remnants of European colonialism. Mexico has experienced rapid changes over the past century, including industrialization, urbanization, and movement towards a more open democracy. Yet far from Mexico’s developed urban areas is the southern state of Oaxaca, home to four magnificent mountain ranges and various indigenous populations. Oaxaca is one of the most underserved regions in the country, with 52% of Oaxacans living in rural areas. An estimated 42% of Oaxacans have no access to healthcare and in 2012 the maternal mortality rate of 103 per 100,000 live births was nearly double that of the country’s rate. The average Oaxacan lives on less than $1.25 a day.
Puerto Escondido, meaning hidden port and commonly known as Puerto, is an idyllic setting on the southern coast of Oaxaca, home to over 45,000 inhabitants and spectacular tropical beaches, coastal lagoons, and a vibrant night life. It has preserved its small town charm, reliant on local fisheries and markets, even as a popular surf hub for some of the world’s most renowned surfers. Yet despite the idyllic setting, health challenges such as mosquito-borne illnesses, malnutrition, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, as well as the persistance of social challenges, such as alcohol consumption, teen pregnancy and domestic violence. It’s not uncommon for teenage girls in Oaxaca to marry due to cultural attitudes, adherence to traditional gender roles, and lack of education. In addition, corruption in the political system imposes significant hardships on Oaxacans, including severe shortages of supplies and an inability to retain well trained health professionals, which further augments the barriers Oaxacans face in ensuring their right to quality care.
As a CFHI participant you will dig deeper into the healthcare system and Oaxacan culture by rotating alongside local health professionals in government run primary care clinics known as Centros de Salud, a more intimate and personable experience with preceptors and patients, and visit a secondary level hospital, as well as a reputable traditional midwife, who is widely respected in Puerto Escondido and neighboring communities. The focus of the program is on community-based care and access to primary care services provided to low-income populations. It’s also an opportunity to understand access to care as related to socioeconomic status and how it differs between Puerto’s low-income and high income populations.
CFHI participants live with a local family in Puerto Escondido, take Spanish language classes, and are encouraged to take advantage of local beaches for surfing and enjoy “coastal life”.