During our investigation on the impact of short-term medical clinics in Iquitos, our first objective was to understand the structure of the community. Iquitos is an impoverished city of about 370,000 people located in northern Peru, with no roads leading into the city. This isolation has contributed to the stunted development of certain areas of the city. We researched communities in Punchana, San Juan, and Maynas, all chosen because of their lack of resources.
Through semi-structured interviews with community members, some whom have attended the clinics and others who haven’t, we gain valuable information regarding general thoughts on the clinics, and about the Peruvian health care system. Overwhelmingly of the people who were familiar with clinics, community members were very pleased and grateful for the volunteers. The single consistent criticism we were offered was that the clinics should return to their community more frequently and regularly. This criticism piqued our interest as to why these communities value the clinics so highly. Upon further discussion we learned that the clinics provide better treatments and medications than their own government-funded clinics known as postas. Treatment at the clinics is also free compared to the postas, which is made affordable for people living in extreme poverty through an insurance policy known as SIS, or Seguro Integral de Salud. Individuals with SIS are able to visit the postas without charge, but must pay for many essential medications out of pocket. With clinics offering better treatments and free medications, we found people in the community were profusely thankful.
Finally, we experienced the nuances of field research. We faced challenges with co-authorship and how to best represent thoughts and opinions of our research participants in constructing a holistic narrative. In carrying out our investigation in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community, we grappled with issues surrounding language, translation, and interpretation. Still, we learned about the logistics involved in administering a survey in communities with very little structural organization. In short, our investigation was on impact of medical clinics in Iquitos was intellectually riveting and quite productive. With the information we’ve gathered and the stories we’ve heard, we will offer recommendations to our partner NGO in Peru on possible ways to improve the structure of their medical clinic program. We also intend to further pursue other questions that have arisen from this investigation such as how these medical clinics fit within the larger context of the healthcare system in Peru.