With all SIT programs, students finish classes earlier in the semester and have an entire month to select an independent study project (ISP). My ISP period began this past week and I’ve decided to study the differences in oral health between rural and urban regions. After looking over ISPs from previous years, I was shocked to learn that no one has ever studies oral health (salud bucal) through this program. I’m really looking forward to the next month because a big component of my project is studying the preventative health programs offered by public health centers and going with dentists to schools to give free care and teach about oral health. The dentists drive around this truck called “Móvil Dental” which has one operating seat in it and put fluoride on children’s teeth (those who don’t have cavities). Those who do have cavities take a form home to their parents to sign and the following day, the dentist drills out the cavity the and seals the hole. Currently in Chile, all citizens have a right to free dental care at ages 2, 4, 6, 12, and 60. But what happens to everyone else? Dental health is one of the most expensive medical services in Chile and combined with the poor nutrition of most Chileans has lead to almost 100% of the adult population having cavities. I am interested in seeing what I discover about the differencesbetween rural and urban locations over the next month.
In addition to having the entire month to only focus on research, I also decided to move out of my host family’s house and into a new apartment with 3 of my girlfriends from the program. I’m excited to be living more independently because I now have the opportunity to eat healthier and don’t have to feel like a guest all the time. I did enjoy my time with my host family and found that it was a better way of improving my spanish than courses, but I definitely prefer my independence. A $1 taxi ride away from our apartment is the AGRO or huge farmers market of Arica. I cannot believe how many different types of fresh vegetables and fruits they have available (and for SUPER CHEAP). Definitely the best mangos, kiwis and chirimoya I’ve eaten in my life.