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An instructor shows an Iraqi child how to brush his teeth at the Sitcher Iraqi Police Station in Karmah, Iraq, Dec. 27. Marines and sailors with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, conducted a combined medical engagement to instruct Iraqi citizens on proper hygiene, dental care, and staying away from unexploded ordnance.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Geoffrey T. Campbell

A different approach to healthcare

27 Dec 2008 | Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis

Marines and sailors with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, conducted a “health fair” combined medical engagement in the Sitcher area of Karmah, Iraq, Dec. 27.

 Roughly 300 Karmah citizens attended the CME to learn basic, preventive healthcare.

 Navy Lt. Richard Ellis, the 33-year-old battalion surgeon from Panama City, with 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, said CMEs traditionally facilitated engagements between Iraqi physicians and people without healthcare capabilities and to distribute basic medications to people in need.

As Iraq increases its local healthcare capabilities, service members have begun to focus their efforts toward educating the local populace.

“No matter how many physicians or clinics Karmah has, we need to educate the people in order for long term success,” Ellis said. “When we gave them medicine, there was no real, long-term benefit. The new approach to [CMEs] is a grassroots effort in the most preventive level of healthcare. It’s going to help overall healthcare in Karmah drastically.”

During the CME, service members demonstrated how to effectively combat the spread of easily avoidable common illnesses and methods to improve Iraqis’ overall well-being. They also stressed the importance of avoiding explosives, wild animals and polluted water supplies.

Focusing on basic preventive healthcare advances Iraq’s medical system by reducing avoidable illnesses and it promotes a more efficient healthcare service in the area, said Ellis.

 Service members are hoping their new focus of educating Karmah’s citizens in preventive medicine will broaden the medical system by preventing unnecessary hospital visits, simultaneously reducing strain on local health clinics in Iraq as it becomes increasingly capable of providing for its citizens. 

 A contributing factor in Karmah’s overall development is proper healthcare, said Lt. Jacob Gray, a 26-year-old operations officer from Essex, Vt., with Company C, 1st Bn., 3rd Marines.

 “We’re trying to teach them how to become self-sufficient – vice just giving them the goods,” Gray said. “It’s a necessity for a country to grow economically and improve overall quality of life.”