Published on in Global Health Update
Every June and November, as part of the Global Health Allies Program, employees from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have the opportunity to share their knowledge with community health promoters — women who model good health practices and educate families in CHOP’s pediatric global health program in Consuelo, Dominican Republic (DR). And in the process, the CHOP staff inevitably finds that they, too, grow as professionals.
The Allies team that traveled to the DR in November 2017 included nurses Michelle Daly, BSN, RN, and Jennifer Jacob-Freese, RNC-NIC, BSN; occupational therapist Michelle Hagenbaugh, MS, OTR/L; dietitian Susan McGowan, RD, CSP, LDN; Spanish-English interpreter Maria Rey, BS; Global Medicine operations coordinator Hana Saed, BA; and executive assistant Tanya Tyler. They prepared together for four months leading up to the trip to create a thoughtful curriculum that covered topics such as nutrition, domestic violence, health promoter turnover, and GI, respiratory and ear infections. The lessons incorporated visual aids, interactive exercises and skits. At the end of the training, all of the health promoters rated the topics highly — the skits were especially popular!
Connecting with the community
The Allies also visited the barrios (neighborhoods) served by the program, where they worked alongside the health promoters and saw first-hand the important role the promoters play in their communities. The Allies serve as role models and trusted sources of health information.
Each afternoon, rain or shine (and indeed, it did rain most days!), the team set up community health fairs, rotating through five different neighborhoods, including some of the lowest-income areas in the town. They provided important preventive health services, including measuring weight and blood pressure, applying fluoride to teeth, and distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste for children. Thanks to the health promoters, who had effectively spread news about the health fairs throughout the community, nearly 600 people participated in the fairs.
“I had an amazing time with the children in the barrios," says Saed, who works with patients from other countries, including the Dominican Republic, at CHOP. “And the health promoters were so eager to learn and take that knowledge back to their barrios — it was so inspiring.”
A breakthrough for Maivelyn
The team also followed up with children who received walkers and wheelchairs during a 2016 Allies trip. Hagenbaugh, an occupational therapist, assessed the children and provided suggestions and materials to help them benefit even more from the devices that help them sit, eat and move. For example, 2-year-old Maivelyn, who was born blind and with cerebral palsy, had received a walker one year earlier — and on this trip, Hagenbaugh noticed that Maivelyn was walking tentatively and couldn’t take steps without a caregiver’s help. She suspected that Maivelyn was having trouble gripping the handles of her walker, and created some simple straps on the spot to support Maivelyn’s hands as she used the walker. As soon as Maivelyn had the support for her hands, she walked faster and more smoothly, and with less support from her caregivers.
“I was excited that a small change gave Maivelyn the confidence and support she needed to walk with the assistive device,” says Hagenbaugh. “Each time she attempted to walk, she did it with more authority and control than the time before. I am hopeful that my small contribution will help her to engage more easily with her environment and with her peers and family.”
By all accounts, the trip was a success: The health promoters learned new strategies to share with their communities, and the Allies learned about healthcare challenges the community faced — and about how they can make a difference. The Global Health Allies Program is an example of the breakthroughs that are possible when two groups unite with a common mission: to improve healthcare for every child.
“The beauty of the CHOP Global Health Allies model is that it thoughtfully and successfully matches needs in the community of Consuelo with skillsets at CHOP,” says Adriana Deverlis, CHOP Global Health coordinator. “We plan many months in advance, including working with the health promoters and Ramona Cordero, their nurse leader, to choose health teaching topics that are most relevant to keep children in Consuelo well. Additionally, after each Global Health Allies trip, we carefully gather feedback from both health promoters and Allies. This informs future trips helping to maximize impact.”
How you can help
Teaching is an essential element of a successful, sustainable global health partnership. In addition to providing clinical care for patients, the CHOP Global Health Center trains and educates local healthcare professionals and community members, including the inspiring health promoters in Consuelo, DR. These women serve as beacons of hope in their community and share their expertise with neighbors and friends. As their children age out of the program, so do they, giving an opportunity for women to be trained as health promoters and, over time, the CHOP Global Health promoter program will equip scores of mothers in the lowest resource neighborhoods of Consuelo with the skills to keep their children well. In time, these same women will become grandmothers, and will share their knowledge with the next generation of parents. The CHOP Global Health Allies Program is just one example of how we are having an enduring, inter-generational impact on this community.
Join us as a Global Health Ally. Help us provide more training opportunities to the health promoters and community in Consuelo by kindly making a gift to CHOP’s Global Health Center today.