Weekend Snapshot: Promoción de la Salud en San Luis

Forget Men in Black, today’s post is all about women in blue.

On Saturday, June 6th, nursing students from Georgia Highlands University Health Science program geared up in their royal blue nursing attire and transformed the nearby San Luis community center into an educational health fair, complete with face painting and give-a-ways.

The event’s main objective was to increase awareness about causes and effects of both mental and physical health – and better yet – how to address them. Posters and pamphlets provided information, both in Spanish and English, about topics including mental health, dental hygiene, and nutrition.

Costa Rica is advertised as the land of pura vida, a light-hearted phrase commonly used as a greeting, meaning “life is good,” or “no worries”. However, although generally a cheerful crowd, not all Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they’re called, are necessarily stress-free.

“Here in San Luis many people suffer from stress and tensions,” community member Margot Fuentes said, in addition to admitting feeling stressed herself.

Stress has a number of physical effects including sleep disturbance and digestive problems. “It also causes people to come to the ER with anxiety and panic attacks,” Misty McClelland, GHU student, practicing nurse and paramedic, explained from behind her mental health poster.

The mental health posters not only described the symptoms of stress, but more importantly suggested how to cope with and overcome them.

“They show you exercises on how to manage stress. This is important for us mothers,” community member Edith Salazar said, cradling a child in her arms.

A number of the suggested tension-relievers included: enjoying the environment, listening to music, stretching, and deep breathing. Salazar said she will certainly try these tips when she feels her tension escalating.

Next to the mental health display, a jovial stuffed-animal lion drew attention to dental hygiene. As the lion opened wide, nurses demonstrated proper brushing techniques, letting parents and children scrub the pearly chompers, too.

“Many times we think we know how to brush our teeth but we don’t really know how, so here one learns a lot,” Fuentes pointed out.

Community members learned about the risks of plaque and poor brushing, eagerly taking the give-a-away toothbrushes and toothpaste. (One excited brusher was so enthralled by dental hygiene that she wanted to adopt the lion as the new family pet!)

The nutrition booth called for some interactive meal making. Ticos used cutouts of typical Costa Rican foods to assemble what they would consider to be a typical meal. The nurses then provided each family with healthy feedback, suggesting what could be added or subtracted from the meal to increase health benefits.

The event turnout was larger than expected! Special thanks to Georgia Highlands University for sharing your knowledge with us and the San Luis community and a special thanks to the UGA Costa Rica interns, who volunteered to attend the event as translators.

Blog post contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

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