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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Recently, several diseases once thought to have been almost completely eradicated have reappeared. For example, a measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest this year prompted new and contentious discussions about the need to vaccinate all children.
Typhus and tuberculosis have also made a resurgence. Their reappearance requires the retraining of EMTs and paramedics to recognize and understand the symptoms of these two illnesses. At the same time, typhus and tuberculosis have created a new need for community paramedicine programs.
Community Paramedicine Model
The community paramedicine model is a relatively new concept that is gaining attention across the country. According to Rural Health Information Hub, this model “allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to operate in expanded roles by assisting with public health and primary healthcare and preventive services to underserved populations in the community. The goal is to improve access to care and avoid duplicating existing services.”
Programs created using community paramedicine are beneficial in various ways. They allow sick or injured victims to be treated more quickly and they lessen the strain on first responder resources.
Tuberculosis and Other Diseases Can Drive Communities Deeper into Poverty
Public health officials understand that tuberculosis can run rampant in communities without access to first-class healthcare and in areas with poor sanitary standards. Tuberculosis is a particular problem in poor communities and among the homeless.
TB Alert, for example, warns that tuberculosis can drive entire countries, not just the people within them, into ever deeper poverty. TB Alert also adds that tuberculosis is more common in countries where many people live in abject poverty. These populations are more likely to:
- Live and work in poorly ventilated and overcrowded conditions, which are ideal areas for tuberculosis bacteria to spread.
- Suffer from malnutrition and disease, particularly AIDS, which reduces resistance to tuberculosis.
- Have limited access to healthcare. Just one person with untreated, infectious tuberculosis can pass on the illness to 10 to 15 people annually.
Although many EMTs and paramedics are aware of the symptoms of tuberculosis, they may not be aware of some other once-dormant illnesses. Ultimately, EMTs and paramedics must learn more about diseases we thought were no longer a threat to the health and wellbeing of our communities.
The community paramedicine model has changed how resources are utilized in towns and cities where the model has been adopted. It can also be a valuable resource for homeless communities, particularly those where such illnesses have largely been eliminated.
If ambulance agencies use the community paramedicine model in more poor and homeless communities, a new avenue will be created to prevent infectious diseases from spreading.