(Sept. 30, 2014 – Evanston, Illinois, USA) Guatemalan health leaders and government officials joined Rotary volunteers in a special ceremony recently in Guatemala City, Guatemala officially unveiling the third of 29 planned digital x-ray units that are being distributed to clinics in Guatemala in an ambitious effort to serve needy populations in that country. The new digital x-ray unit will serve patients in one of the most underserved areas of Guatemala City.
Digital x-ray services will be offered at a clinic in Guatemala City as a part of the Rotary HealthRays initiative, organized by members of Rotary clubs and districts in the United States and Guatemala in partnership with Guatemala’s Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The project is being spearheaded by Rotary District 6440, which represents more than 70 Rotary clubs near Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Guatemala’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jorge Alejandro Villavicencio, was on hand to formally dedicate the new x-ray unit August 21 on behalf of the Guatemalan government during the special ceremony.
Two other digital x-ray units have been installed in Guatemala since the summer of 2013 and plans for a fourth unit are under way. Organizers of the project are now raising funds and recruiting new partners for the purchase and installation of the remaining units, which will be operated by local Guatemalans and will be connected to regional hospitals via the Internet.
Organizers of Rotary HealthRays expect the digital x-ray project to expand dramatically the reach of health service to rural and poor Guatemalans by allowing their x-ray images to be read by physicians far from the physical location of remote medical clinics, via the Internet.
Rotary District 6440 estimates that its project could eventually impact more than one and a half million people in Guatemala. In addition, it will benefit Guatemala’s economy by creating new jobs at the 29 medical clinics and by potentially improving the long-term health and work productivity of Guatemalans through better access to medical care.
Guatemala, one of the world’s poorest countries, is among the countries most in need of digital x-ray technology, with health outcomes among the worst in Central America. Poor, rural people living there are impacted by injuries and other maladies that could be easily cured – or at least properly diagnosed – with x-ray technology.
The HealthRays initiative is based on a unique partnership model, in which a single Rotary club or district enters into a formal agreement with a sovereign government to address a public need – making the effort precedent-building in the Rotary world.
“This is truly groundbreaking – and Rotarians in Illinois are making it happen,” said Pamela Kerr, past governor of Rotary District 6440 and co-chair of the committee overseeing the digital x-ray project. “Literally billions of people around the globe have little or no access to simple x-ray technology, which is taken for granted as a basic health tool in most industrialized nations. We believe that the foundations we are laying in Guatemala can lead to a model that will help them lead healthier lives.”
Kerr said HealthRays has begun a new effort to identify new funding partners to help achieve its long-term goals. The project is anticipated to cost $2.5 million to complete.
“This model proves that the most effective way to address global health issues is by cooperating across sectors and across borders,” she said. “We are engaged in encouraging discussions with potential funders and we are very optimistic that our momentum will continue.”
Rotary districts that are providing support for Rotary HealthRays include District 6600 — Northern Ohio, USA; District 7150 — Central New York, USA; and District 7610 — Northern Virginia, USA.
For more information about the digital x-ray project, or to learn how to provide financial support, please call 847-475-1283 or visit www.healthrays.info.
Rotary International is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world. In more than 200 countries and geographic areas worldwide, approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 34,000 Rotary clubs. To learn more, please visit www.rotary.org.