Promoting healthy habits and providing access to basic and specialized medical services to children in vulnerable communities is the mission of “Proyecto Creceré,” an initiative unveiled Tuesday by the Extra Bases Foundation — established by famed Puerto Rican baseballer Carlos Delgado — Merck, the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Pharmacy and the Association of Pediatricians of the West.
Since early 2012, more than 70 children between the ages of six and 17 and participants of Casa Juan Bosco, one of the entities that receive help from Extra Bases, have improved their quality of life as a result of getting educated on health issues, greater prevention, evaluations, specialized medical care and ongoing treatment for a year.
“‘Proyecto Creceré’ isn’t a health clinic that happens once a year. We joined forces with Merck two years ago to evaluate alternatives for how to improve the community’s health,” said Delgado during a news conference Tuesday. “Today, we announce it with tangible results. Not saying what we’re going to do, but what we have done. And it fills me with great satisfaction and pride to see these children healthier and happier.”
“Proyecto Creceré” began with an initial pediatric evaluation of the children, followed by prevention and health education for their parents. During 2012, hearing and vision clinics were offered as well as follow-up visits by pediatricians. The initiative also offered specialized treatment, including surgery for some children who needed more complex care. As a result of early intervention, particularly through education and prevention, health complications were avoided and their quality of life improved, initiative representatives said.
To do its part, Merck contributes its scientific and business knowledge, in addition to human and financial resources. Merck also liaises with the medical community and academia, and through its multi-sector partnership model serves as a unifying body among the groups that make up this initiative.
Besides the physical and social benefits of projects like this, there is a positive impact to Puerto Rico’s economic development.
“There are clear trends in the research that has been conducted on health and economics. There is a close relationship between health and economic performance: an improvement in health indicators has a positive effect on economic growth and vice-versa,” said Miguel Soto-Class, president and founder of the Center for the New Economy.
“Both the economy and health require short-term and long-term measures to achieve sustainable development. Because there are no shortcuts to health and the economy, both require a plan that starts with the accurate diagnosis and more than justify the investment,” he said.
The economic advantages of having a healthier population are not achieved only by addressing the needs of working-age people. Childhood health has a significant impact on future economic opportunities, as healthy children develop better cognitive, physical and educational capacities, he said.