Published onGlobal Health Update
In 2019, the Niños Primeros en Salud (NPS) program celebrated 10 years of improving children’s health in the Dominican Republic (DR). NPS, a partnership between Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Centro de Salud Divina Providencia in Consuelo, DR, provides world-class pediatric primary care and community-based education in the underserved neighborhoods of this rural town.
Eleven years after the program’s 2009 inception, we reflect on its impact by sharing the stories of two families that have been part of the program since its beginning.
Amalia’s Story: Getting to the Root of the Problem
Amalia’s granddaughter, Claribel, was one of the first children to enroll in the NPS program, which provides pediatric care to children under 5.
“My granddaughter was 1 year old and was experiencing malnutrition when we heard about the program,” Amalia remembers. “I enrolled her and started taking her to regular appointments. The NPS team would come to my house to follow up and give health talks. They provided medications and care as well as nutritional supplementation until she grew. Now she is a healthy 11-year-old,” she says.
Amalia is one of the program’s strongest supporters; five of her grandchildren are currently enrolled. “I go to all the health talks that they offer in the neighborhood,” she says.
Amalia’s other granddaughter, Rubelis, was helped in a big way when she was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition as a baby. “Dr. Chloe Turner identified the problem,” Amalia says. “They gave her close follow-up until they could refer her to the capital for heart surgery. Today she is doing great.”
Now the NPS program is giving a healthy start to more than 450 children under 5. By offering quality pediatric primary care, the NPS team provides early diagnosis of a wide range of conditions. If a condition can’t be treated in the primary care clinic, as in Rubelis’ case, the team helps the family find expert care elsewhere, while continuing to offer ongoing primary care, follow-up and education.
“NPS discovers the root of the problem,” Amalia says. “Sometimes they figure it out before you have to go to a bigger hospital. If you do have to travel, they provide support for the trip. And they take the time to explain what the problem is.”
The NPS program’s focus on both clinical care and education has made a real difference for Consuelo families. NPS treats many common health problems, diagnosing children and managing their care while also educating families on how to keep their children healthy.
Miriam and Lucy’s Story: Serving the Whole Family
Miriam has lived in Consuelo for 20 years, and she clearly remembers the moment she learned about the NPS program. Parents were invited to enroll children under 5, and community members of all ages were encouraged to participate in regular health talks about preventing illness.
Miriam’s two children, then 10 and 7, were past the age of eligibility for the program. However, Miriam lives in a housing complex with many family members — sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews — whose children were eligible, and she encouraged them all to join. Miriam also attended the community health talks whenever she could and noticed that support for NPS was growing quickly.
“This program is of great value for the neighborhood,” she says. “Everyone appreciates it so much.”
The NPS clinic provides routine checkups and care for a wide range of health issues, and all consultations, medications and laboratory tests are provided free of charge. Quality pediatric care is rare in the DR, and before 2009, it was even less accessible in Consuelo. Though there is a public hospital in town, there is not always a pediatrician on duty; before the program was founded, most children were not regularly seen by a pediatrician in the crucial first five years of life.
Miriam’s daughter Lucy, now 20, has a 6-month-old baby boy named Raimon, who is cared for by the NPS team.
“Once my son had such a stuffy nose that he could not breathe well,” remembers Lucy. “I took him to the NPS clinic, and they diagnosed him quickly and prescribed a medication to help. Everything went well, and he got better quickly.”
The NPS program provides care for healthy children, too. Parents are encouraged to bring their children in for regular checkups, particularly in the first few months of life. Lucy brings Raimon regularly. “They always take good care of him,” she says.
Help NPS Care for More Children
The NPS program is dedicated to providing opportunities for education, training and research for both the community and the next generation of pediatric service providers. In 2009, the program served two neighborhoods. It now serves eight and plans to expand to a ninth. Our goal is to eventually provide expert pediatric care and health education throughout Consuelo’s 30-plus neighborhoods. You can support our work in the Dominican Republic with a donation to the Global Health Center.