On the occasion of World Health Day, we would like to highlight our commitment to ensure universal, equitable and quality access to health services through our work in Bolivia. In the rural areas of the country, access to basic services is limited due to a lack of resources, but also to a shortage of facilities, personnel and road infrastructure. The health sector also faces such challenges, with the result that in remote communities there is little to no access to health services. 

Therefore, with the aim of improving health conditions in Bolivia, through the National Health and Telemedicine Programme of the Bolivian Ministry of Health and Sports, we are working to overcome geographical barriers and ensure access to health in the most remote communities through telemedicine. For this purpose, we will run telemedicine awareness campaigns, train local medical personnel in the use of the related technologies, provide medical equipment, and install fixed and mobile telemedicine points to ensure a fair access to the service in hospitals but also through an itinerant modality. 

In the Community 7 de diciembre, in the department of Beni in the north of the country, 2 hours from the city of San Buenaventura - the nearest urban centre - and more than 10 hours by land from the capital La Paz, we had the opportunity to talk to Mrs S.M. who told us her story. 

Route from the Community 7 de Diciembre to the hospital in La Paz

"It's spundia (leishmaniasis), they told me. I went to the pharmacy, to the doctor, nobody treated me...'. 

With eight children to support, her leg injury has compromised her ability to carry out her work in the chaco: the journey to her farm field takes two hours, crossing ravines and muddy soils, and once she gets there, the work is physically demanding. 

Walk into the chaco
S.M. and her son while working

"I couldn't afford to stop working, otherwise what would we have eaten? In the end, Dr Santos (director of the San Buenaventura Hospital – 2 hours from the 7 de diciembre community) told me to look for the Telemedicine doctor. She helped me'

Thanks to a remote consultation with the specialist in dermatology at the Alto Sur Hospital in La Paz and thanks to the use of the dermatoscope (a digital medical device), Mrs S.M. finally got her diagnosis: she was given a treatment to follow, without having to go to the hospital for the consultation, located 10 hours away by land. In this way, she did not have to spend money on travel or accommodation, or face adverse weather compared to her place of residence, as well as being able to optimize her time and start the treatment early. 

Consultation with La Paz Hospital specialists

"I had the consultation two more times so that  the doctor in La Paz could checkon me through the screen. She told me that I'm getting better: you can clearly notice that by the appearance of my leg and it no longer itchs. Telemedicine has helped me!".