Global Health Allies: November 2016 Visit to the Dominican Republic

Published on in CHOP News

The Global Health Allies Program provides opportunities for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) employees to apply their expertise to global health projects. One of these opportunities is a semi-annual, one-week trip to the Dominican Republic (DR) to work with local health promoters and nurses. In the months preceding the trip, Allies prepare lessons and activities to maximize the team’s in-country experience.

Global health team in the Dominican Republic Group photo of Health Promoters, Allies, and Ramona (NPS program nurse). From Nov. 6 – 13, 2016, a group of six CHOP employees traveled to Consuelo, Dominican Republic, for a trip to change lives — not only those of our Dominican partners, but of the CHOP Allies themselves.

The list of educational topics requested specifically by our Dominican partners included birth defects, developmental delay, malnutrition, infection prevention, and pediatric cardiac abnormalities, to name just a few. The wide range of subjects required a diverse Allies team. Melissa Duran, RN, MSN, CRNP (Neonatal Nursing), Linda Vu, RN (Neonatal Nursing), Jennifer Penston, PT, MSPT (Rehabilitation), Tatiana Prado-Montero (Patient and Family Services), Amanda Evans, MPH (Government Affairs), and Robin Greving (International Medicine), were selected for their variety of skills that together aligned with the goals for this visit.

After three months of preparation, the team traveled to our partner site in Consuelo to spend an intense week working with the Niños Primeros en Salud (NPS) pediatric clinic staff, particularly with the 10 community health promoters. The NPS health promoters are women, each of whom has a child in the NPS program, and are leaders in their communities. They advocate for preventive care at the community level by conducting regular home visits and educating their neighbors about important child and family health topics.

Mornings were spent in a small group setting. The health promoters and the CHOP Allies together delved into topics that deeply affect the local communities. Through a variety of didactic methods, ranging from presentations to hands-on exercises to games and skits, the Allies worked together to share their expertise and experience with the local group. The health promoters — each of whom follows 35 to 50 of the program’s nearly 500 patients ages 0 to 5 years — left with more information and confidence that they could serve their communities even better than they already were. One of the promoters, in a feedback survey, said it best: “I believe that everything I learned this week will be useful in my community. Thank you!”

Afternoons were spent delivering key health messages in the six neighborhoods covered by the NPS program. The health promoters and the CHOP Allies worked alongside one another to talk to parents and grandparents about optimal nutrition, good hand washing practices, how to play appropriately with children of different ages, how to maintain a healthy pregnancy, and many more topics.

CHOP Allies and health promoters also took advantage of their time in the communities to apply fluoride dental treatments to all community members present, primarily women and children, as families in Consuelo do not typically have access to this service or to fluoride-treated water.

Between 200 and 250 community members were impacted directly by these sessions. And given that additional family members and neighbors will learn and benefit from the participants’ new knowledge, the effects of these sessions will likely impact hundreds more.

The visit also allowed for continuation of the work of Children’s Hospital physical therapists in Consuelo. During the June 2016 Allies visit, Helen Milligan, PT, MSPT, visited children with developmental delays and assessed their needs. Back at home, she coordinated with her department and with Jennifer Penston, the physical therapist who participated in the November trip, to send wheelchairs and walkers to help five children sit with more support, learn to walk in spite of a delay, and allow them to move around with the help of a family member when they were previously homebound. The positive impact of this new equipment was huge — some parents were brought to tears by the fact that they’d been able to improve their child’s life through access to assistive devices that are not readily available in the Dominican Republic.

The success of all of the Allies trips to the Dominican Republic is based on a foundation of bidirectional exchange in which both parties learn and benefit from each other. This group of dedicated CHOP employees furthered the program’s momentum of fostering sustainable, local capacity by offering their time, skills and passion for this work.

The Global Health Center recruits a group of four to six CHOP employees to travel to the Dominican Republic twice a year to build upon the work of both our in-country partners and previous Allies groups.