April 15, 2015
Over 80% of the world’s population lives within 5 miles off a coast, but far too many communities still live in remote poverty without access to basic health care. Poorly charted waters and rugged terrain, political factors, social disenfranchisement, poor health knowledge, poverty and lack of infrastructure separate these communities from care.
Founded by Dr. Benjamin La Brot, the Floating Doctors medical team was formed to answer these challenges to health. Floating Doctors deploy medical teams by boat, packhorse or on foot to remote under-served areas, where we conduct ongoing health services and community development projects. To help them reach these forgotten communities, the sailing ship ‘Southern Wind’ was donated and rebuilt as a medical relief platform.
In 2010 Floating Doctors sailed for their first mission in Haiti with medical volunteers and 20,000 pounds of aid supplies to assist in the earthquake relief efforts. Haiti defined the capabilities and potential for Floating Doctors mission work—long-range response to disasters, self-sufficient operation platform on station, ability to bring health care to remote communities, tailoring care and assistance to the specific health needs of the community, creating partnerships with other groups, and engaging local agencies and communities to assist in making better health possible. Floating Doctors then traveled to work in Honduras, and returned once more to Haiti in 2011 to assist in the cholera epidemic.
In 2012 Floating Doctors sailed to Panama to serve the indigenous, Ngobe, population, in the Bocas del Toro region. As of now our team is building a permanent sustainable rural health service and community development assistance program over a 7,000 square mile area of jungle-covered mountain and mangrove mazes. The Floating Doctors are often the only attainable medical service available in this archipelago . Worms and other parasites, machete wounds, malnutrition, dengue fever, STDs, HIV, poor pre-natal health, shark bites, infected sores, malaria, scabies, lightning strikes and fungal infections are among the many conditions encountered. The absence of sanitation, electricity, clean water and other basic infrastructure combined with poverty and poor health knowledge compound every challenge to health care. Despite these challenges, to date over 40,000 patients have received care from their teams.
Floating Doctors utilizes a highly versatile approach to a dynamic health environment, to break down both cultural and educational barriers. Their programs address individual and community health—not only by providing acute and ongoing medical care, but also include education, training, community projects, supply donation, and preventive interventions to create sustainable improvements to health literacy, as well as health care. This includes delivering birth control and condoms and providing sexual health services and education. Their programs are continuously evaluated and adapted to ensure Floating Doctors focuses on the current key health issues identified in communities.
After over 1,500 clinical deployments the Floating Doctors model, and our ability to deliver results has been proven many times over. With a committed and experienced leadership and board, as well as key local and international partnerships, Floating Doctors has grown in scope every year since we first set sail on ‘Southern Wind,’ and has been able to continue to make a real impact in the lives of many.