Category Archives: Cultural Humility

Cultural competency or a cultural awareness and sensitivity

Why Global Health Ethics Matter: A Personal Story

Image result for antigua guatemala

In the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college (undergraduate), I participated in a medical volunteering program for 2 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala. As a pre-med student, I knew I wanted to do something during my summer that involved medicine and figured volunteering in a hospital or clinic would be my best bet. Unfortunately because I had a mostly full time job, I was unable to secure any type of volunteering program locally since they all required a certain amount of hours that I would not be able to complete before returning to my university in the fall.

I then decided to look online at volunteering abroad, and found a myriad of programs that fit my time constraints perfectly. I honestly did not do too much research and just clicked on the first organization I found that had a solid amount of positive reviews and wasn’t too expensive. Looking at the cheapest options, I saw that in Latin America they offered an affordable medical program in Guatemala. While scrolling through the program description, the phrases “gain hands on experience” and “provide check-ups and basic medical care” piqued my interest as the idea of actually getting to perform medical procedures sounded incredibly appealing to myself as a student interested in a career in medicine. I imaged working in a hospital with doctors and nurses and getting the opportunity to experience medicine directly. The program description made it seem that these “poor” communities needed any help they could get, so I figured that I could kill two birds with one stone-help this underserved country while also gaining medical experience. Even though there were red flags consistently throughout the program description-the program oozed “voluntourism” and provided very brief and limited information on what actually would take place during participation- I wasn’t suspicious at all because I didn’t expect anything that involved volunteering to be problematic.

After signing up, there was a very brief pre-departure guide I had to complete before embarking on my trip. The guide was just a general guide and mostly focused on the logistics of getting there (ie. visas, packing list, etc.). There was a short list on my responsibilities, but it didn’t really mention anything about ethics. There were also 2 optional pre-departure training modules that were more informative on ethics, but were brief and took less than 30 minutes to complete. I didn’t really feel that prepared for my program, but figured I would get more instruction and guidance once I arrived.

Once I finally made it to Guatemala, I started to see problems and holes within the program. Before starting my rotation, I met with the medical coordinator for the program to have orientation. The orientation was pretty short and consisted of a powerpoint on the kind of care we could provide. After telling him I had had no prior experience in medicine, he told me that I would act somewhat like a nurse, taking weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, making beds, cleaning, talking with patients, preparing materials and sterilizing equipment. Even though I told him I didn’t know how to take blood pressure or heart rate, he assured me the other visiting volunteers at the clinic would teach me. This orientation started to leave me a little hesitant about the program since he asked us to provide medical care, but expected other volunteers to teach us instead of himself as a doctor showing us.

After arriving to the clinic where I would be volunteering at, I was sent to work at the nurse’s station. At my rotation, there were 2 other volunteers placed there as well who had been there for about 4 weeks. One was applying to medical schools in the United States and the other was a 3rd year medical student at a university in Ireland. Luckily, one of them spoke spanish fairly well and was able to translate for us when we interacted with both the nurses and patients.

After the other volunteers briefly taught me how to perform the basic nurses duties (blood pressure, height, weight, and temperature), I was mostly on my own. It was definitely very nerve wracking having these duties when I’d never done them before and was even more difficult considering I spoke very little of the language. I was especially confused on taking blood pressure and while I immediately should have said that I wasn’t sure what I was doing, I was embarrassed to tell the other volunteers since they insisted it was an easy task and that I’d get the hang of it eventually. This is definitely something I wish I could’ve gone back to and done differently because there is a large possibility that patients’ information was recorded incorrectly due to my lack of experience. This was when I started to realize that gaining hands on experience wasn’t what I imagined at all. In my head I thought that everything would go smoothly and I would be ready to help the professionals in anyway possible. In reality though, my lack of experience became even more apparent to myself and I started to become suspicious that the “help” I was providing wasn’t all too helpful.

Image result for antigua guatemala crossWhile my lack of training may have led to incorrect patient information being taken down, there were other pre-med volunteers who were given duties that were even further beyond their scope of understanding and led to medical complications for patients. Since there were other volunteers working at my clinic, they cautioned me right away that I shouldn’t help with procedures such as giving stitches or injections since we didn’t have the training for that (I think they figured taking down patient information was harmless enough that my inexperience wouldn’t be an issue). I was very thankful for that advice since I was already feeling uncomfortable with the duties I had, I couldn’t even imagine how stressed I would have been if I had to perform anything more advanced. However, other volunteers weren’t as reserved. I remember this one other volunteer bragging to me about how the doctor had allowed him to give injections to a patient. He said that he didn’t really know what he was doing and he ended up piercing her 5 times because he kept doing it wrong. Another volunteer told me she helped stitch a patient up and said she was concerned that her stitches weren’t done right since she had never done it before. It was at this point that I really started to question the program we were on. Why weren’t there more regulations enforced by the program? Why were the duties of the volunteers so ambiguous? Why was I starting to feel so uncomfortable with what I was doing and why weren’t the other volunteers having the same questions I was?  

Besides just the volunteer aspect of the program, there were a lot of problems with the program as a whole, in particular when it came to safety. We were warned to never travel by ourselves at night. In keeping with those rules, two volunteers on my program walked home together one night after hanging out downtown. On their way home, someone pulled a knife on them and took all their belongings. The volunteers were traumatized and felt very unsafe about what had happened and contacted the program to let them know of the situation. The program responded incredibly insensitively and told them it was their fault for walking home late at night and didn’t provide any support for the two. Their response to an emergency situation such as this really made me concerned about the legitimacy of this program. They had told us it was okay to be out at night as long as we weren’t alone, yet blamed the volunteers for what happened instead of offering emotional support and/or more information on how we could stay safer while out at night.

I left my program feeling differently than I had expected. While I loved the country I was staying in, I felt disconnected from what I was actually doing. I felt uneasy about what myself and other volunteers had done without any medical experience and questioned my helpfulness. My experience showcases how easy it is for medical volunteering programs to be problematic and harmful for the communities they’re situated in when there is not an emphasis on global health ethics.

 

Note from CFHI: Many thanks to Zoe for sharing her story. If you have questions about ethical engagement in global health experiences please visit the publications page on the CFHI website (https://www.cfhi.org/publications) or listen to a recent webinar (https://www.cfhi.org/cfhi-webinars). We are also always available to answer questions about ethical global health engagement- contact us at students@cfhi.org.

CFHI at the Forefront of Ethical Standards in Global Health Education

As global health programs increase in popularity among students based in the Global North, an important conversation around “voluntourism” and intentionality in international health-related programs has emerged. Voluntourism often consists of students engaging in short-term volunteer work that they are not professionally, socially, or culturally equipped to take on, and – though well intentioned – often perpetuates hurtful stereotypes that low and middle-income countries need help from high-income countries. At their worst, global health voluntourism programs may offer students opportunities that end up harming patients and other community members. The pitfalls of voluntourism have been widely critiqued, including through popular satires such as the “Barbie Savior– The Doll That Saved Africa.”

How then, as an organization that promotes global health education, does CFHI make sure that our programs – as well as health-related global education programs more broadly – are ethical in theory, approach and practice? Part of the answer to that question is by getting global health organizations on the same page, ethically, and giving them the guidelines needed to run quality health education programs abroad.

CFHI Executive Director Jessica Evert, M.D. has recently co-authored two sets of internationally recognized guidelines for health-related experiences abroad which outline standards in programming that can improve global health programs for students and global partners. These guidelines shift the focus of global health programs away from hands-on clinical work (which can be dangerous and have long-lasting negative impacts for patients and visiting students) and toward cultural and contextual education of healthcare in different settings globally, as defined by local experts and community host partners. They also provide key frameworks for establishing long-term partnerships with host communities rooted principles like reciprocity, local leadership, and fair trade.

Guidelines for Undergraduate Health-Related Experiences Abroad was released by The Forum on Education Abroad, a conglomerate of US colleges and universities, organizations and foundations aimed at establishing standards of best practices in international education programs. Their newly updated set of guidelines is the first of its kind set forth by the Forum and is meant to be used along with the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad in order to promote ethical practices specific to health-related international education experiences.

In addition to the Forum Guidelines, Dr. Evert also recently co-authored the article “Guidelines for Responsible Short-Term Global Health Activities: Developing Common Principles” in Globalization and Health, which helps to summarize existing standards and guidelines in the field.  With the release of both sets of guidelines, Dr. Evert and colleagues focus on creating a common ground between institutions and organizations involved in global health education. With clear and concise standards of best practices in global health, organizations are given the opportunity to improve the ethical standards of their programs, and to keep the best interests of host partners and student trainees in mind.

By contributing to standards of best practice in global health education, CFHI is challenging the narrative around health-centered international experiences and pushing other global health organizations to do the same.

Global Health Reflections with CFHI Alum Meghan Brombach

One of the best ways to get to know CFHI is through the experiences of the students who attend our programs. Here you can find a story from Meghan Brombach, a 3rd/4th year med student from the AT Still University of Health Sciences – Chicago School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Meghan joined CFHI in Bolivia for a 4-week program in order to grow her experience of global medicine and to understand how to prevent and treat infectious disease pathology not common in North America. She was one of the CFHI AMSA Global Health Scholarship recipients.  This award is presented three times annually to outstanding students from the American Medical Student Association who are attending a CFHI program.  I recently had a conversation with Meghan about her time with CFHI and some of her reflections on her journey:

In her blog, available at https://medicinainlapazbolivia.wordpress.com/, she sums up her experience:

“I have seen extreme pain and poverty in this place. I have had days where I didn’t know what to do with what I saw but I have also had days where the beauty has overcome it and I 
have found peace in just being where I am. Within the present moment, devoid of judgement for yourself and others is truly where I believe the most fulfilling life exists and where we learn and grow most. That is also where inspiration exists to see the light and keep pushing through the overwhelming need that exists in the underserved (which is the majority) of our world. I really can’t put into words what this time in Bolivia has taught me, nor how much I have been affected by the kindness and vibrant culture I have experienced here. I leave Bolivia with a deep gratitude for all of the teachers and generous souls who have opened their hearts so widely and shared with me their Andean world.”

A CFHI Reflection for World Refugee Day

CFHI is honored to receive interns from around the world at our offices in San Francisco. This summer we have the pleasure of welcoming Amani Ruiz from Rice University. Amani is passionate about understanding health disparities and exploring how CFHI’s programs can help bring awareness to the social and environmental determinants of health globally. In recognition of World Refugee Day, Amani has written a piece highlighting the important work taking place on her campus focused on the staggering 65.6 million displaced people in the world today.

Hi everyone! I’m Amani Ramiz, a CFHI intern from Rice University.

Since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, America has accepted over 3 million refugees.

For World Refugee Day, I wanted to focus on a project showcased at Rice’s Moody Center of Arts earlier this year: Olafur Eliasson’s “Green Light— An artistic workshop” and a brief history of Houston’s refugee involvement.

Olafur Eliasson’s “Green Light— An artistic workshop”

In this exhibit, local refugees and migrants from various countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Cuba, united to build “Green Light” lamps from recyclable and sustainable materials. Rice University was chosen as the first location for this workshop in America, which has now expanded internationally to other countries. The workshops are site-specific, helping refugees transition to their new community.


Pictures 1&2: The green lights are sold as individual units, but can be stacked to form larger shapes.

Green light serves as a metaphorical representation of hope and purpose for refugees, who are celebrated as survivors rather than victims. According to creator Olafur Eliasson, “there is a very strong tendency to see refugees as resourceless. One of the strategies of the ‘Green light’ project is to promote the idea that refugees are also resourceful; they’re full of potential.” (1) This potential serves as encouragement for refugees as they search for work in their local communities.  Refugees are often seen as victims needing aid rather than self-sustainable. They arrive in a new country where they don’t always speak the language, often resulting in miscommunication. The persistence amidst loss and hardship is rewarded with hopes of a better future for their families and themselves. “Green light” serves a green light for refugees that they are protected now, in a country that will try to help them acclimate and follow their dreams. With multiple refugee services in Houston, refugees are provided with resources to transition smoothly into American life.

This artistic workshop is an immersive experience that goes beyond lamp creation. It includes language courses, seminars on cultural displacement, a film screening of a recent release, and initiatives accustomed for the local community. For example, Rice baseball players taught refugees about the American sport of baseball. Sharing tips and practicing pitches with the players, refugees are integrated into the local community and American life. The “Green light” also gives back to the refugee community, with proceeds benefitting local NGOs dedicated to refugee and migrant assistance. The exhibit is currently in Venice until November (2)

Houston- Refugee Center and Most Diverse City in America

The United States received 71 percent of U.N.-referred refugees between 2010 and 2014. Houston welcomes more refugees than any other city in the country. Houston alone welcomes about 25 of every 1,000 refugees, which is more than most nations. If Greater Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement (3).

Houston began a refugee resettlement program in the 1970s, resettling 200,000 Vietnamese migrants after the Vietnam War (4).  Since then, Houston has welcomed refugees from more than 40 countries.

With Houston’s sustained efforts for refugee resettlement, Rice University was the perfect location for “Green light” in America. The refugee community comes from diverse backgrounds from different countries, time periods, and struggles. Hence, the refugee resettlement is what makes America great. It produces a blend of culture and traditions, the melting pot that America has always been famous for.

——————————————————————————————

Sources:

  1. http://news.rice.edu/2017/03/27/olafur-eliassons-green-light-welcomes-refugees-to-houston-and-rices-moody-center-for-the-arts/
  2. http://theartnewspaper.com/news/eliasson-s-green-light-to-welcome-refugees-in-venice-and-houston/
  3. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/The-refugee-who-welcomes-the-refugees-6468958.php?t=5f776781bd438d9cbb&cmpid=email-premium
  4. http://www.sbnation.com/2017/2/1/14473536/super-bowl-2017-houston-refugees-trump-travel-ban

Refugees and the Desire for Education

by Caity Jackson
Director of European Engagement

img_2247

Unusually hot weather welcomed me to the town where The Beatles famously made their debut. Coincidentally, the theme of the conference was ‘Imagine’, with a strong emphasis of thinking outside of the box and engaging everyone’s imaginative side in relation to European and international education.

But ‘imagining international education’ had a more serious tone this year, with the presence of sessions focusing on refugee education and how to increase inclusivity in all aspects of the recruitment, delivery, and evaluation of the educational process. How are we making international education possible for all?

This year, the EAIE conference held a track focusing on refugee education, in an attempt to address and respond to the refugee crisis in Europe. These 13 events focused on fair admission, recognition of international educational attainments, and how Germany is responding to the influx of refugees through intercultural certifications and integration programs.

Not only being represented through sessions and posters, refugee education wove itself into the opening and closing plenary of the entire conference. Kilian Kleinschmidt began his keynote address with harrowing figures: 1.2 million people have been displaced from their homes over the last year, with the total budget available for all aid, including refugees, natural disaster assistance, etc, worldwide, adding up to approximately US$20 billion. “Compare that to the money spent on real estate development and you understand why aid is the wrong concept. Aid is an arrogant concept of charity”, Killian asserted.

Photo by: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

Photo by: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

‘Imagining’ again that education for all is within our grasps, sessions focused on overcoming the barriers international education recruiters/marketers, administrators, and alumni coordinators face when it comes to a mobile population. How can we value our prospective and current students and erase the dollar sign universities associate them with? How can we increase diversity on campus while ensuring students have all the services they need to succeed at their fingertips? In only a few days, participants left with imaginative answers, if not even more questions to guide their work.

Diversity has always been a focus of the work that CFHI has engaged in. We imagine a world in which there are no barriers to the enriching experience cross-cultural learning can give. Our many scholarships aim to address these barriers and we are proud of the breadth of diversity in our scholarship applicants and successful candidates and we are honoured to walk side by side with our partner organizations.

Wrapping up this event that saw over 5000 professionals from over 90 countries gather in the spirit of increased global cooperation, Melissa Fleming of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told stories of those that our work has not reached. These stories from some of the most dire situations of the world, where the hunger to learn is beyond any of our comprehensions, was the inspirational closing we needed. Melissa began her talk with an account of her experience taking her own daughter through the steps of studying in France. She then told us about Esther, a young refugee whose main aspiration is to become a neurosurgeon. The contrast, in terms of opportunities for these two equally young and motivated women, is evident. If education offers life opportunities, why are we failing to provide this to those who need it most? As Melissa put it: “my daughter’s future is in her hands, Esther’s is in ours.”

Travel vs. Transformation: Career Impacts

Travel and Cultural Intelligence

“Where are you from?” is often the hardest question for me to answer. Do I give the short answer, the long answer, or settle for “it’s complicated” like a provocative Facebook relationship status? Yet that dilemma is a small price to pay for all I’ve gained through experiences living and traveling around the world.

A study from the journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science found that those who engage in multicultural and international environments are more likely to be offered jobs. At surface value, this comes as no surprise; in any arena these days—school, job, socially, or otherwise—it is beneficial to set yourself apart, and “multicultural experiences,” are a great way to do so. But simply accumulating stamps in your passport is not enough. In an article on the study, David Livermore writes “If business travelers spend their time at international hotels and offices; and if study abroad students spend their free time on Skype and Facebook, travel may have little positive benefit for improving CQ (cultural intelligence) and career opportunities.”  Travel creates a possibility for transformation through exposure to new cultures and ways of life. But it is easy to pass up that opportunity and flock toward familiarity instead, to head to a Starbucks in a foreign country or find solace from strange surroundings amongst fellow visitors.

The Transformation: How You Engage

Transformative travel requires openness. As more and more and more people seek programmed multicultural experiences— study abroad, volunteering, or simply sightseeing—it is important to evaluate your own goals and the goals of the organization. Responsible international travel necessitates embracing the discomfort and challenges of unfamiliarity, and also willingness to let go of your own authority: to follow the leadership of the locals and see the positive aspects of a community rather than perceived negatives.  To me, the most striking overseas experiences have involved connecting with people through common humanness despite apparent differences. These experiences, not traveling itself, are transformative.CFHIMapWhite

I was drawn to work with Child Family Health International (CFHI) because their global health programs promote an immersive experience through community-based projects and perspectives. Interning here and learning about CFHI programs over the past month has made me reflect on my own international experiences. I was born in the U.S. but since age nine I have lived abroad in different countries with my family. Though I have spent much of my life overseas, some who go abroad for shorter periods of time have had more intensive and challenging cultural experiences than mine. It can be easy to entrench yourself in an expat community and become complacent about pushing beyond that.

The study suggests benefits of international travel for your career; I don’t see my experiences overseas as having made me marketable, though I can’t complain if that is a byproduct. Rather, I see travel as the defining aspect of my life that has provided more unique challenges and rewards than anything else. CFHI’s motto encourages students to “Let the world change you,” instead of trying to change the world. It has and will continue to change me throughout my life. And maybe even get me some jobs too.

 

Special thanks to our guest blogger and CFHI Summer Intern Karoline Walter for authoring this post.

Internationalizing Medical Education: Shaping Healthcare Providers for Global Health

Internationalized Medical Education: How do we develop competency-based education and realize its full potential?  UN-recognized NGO Child Family Health International (CFHI) has been running global health education programs for over 20 years.  We have seen a lot along the way since our beginnings in a small garage in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Global Health and Study Abroad See Upward Trends

CFHI Uganda Program Photo Woman

Fast forward to 2014.  Global health has become a buzzword, conjuring up images of Bill and Melinda Gates projects and Partners in Health initiatives.  Once a field that rallied for press, global health is receiving increasing limelight.  Take a look on the Kaiser Family Foundation webinar on U.S. spending towards global health initiatives or the entire Center for Global Development event devoted to discussing Best Buys in Global Health. Global health teaching in undergrad and medical curricula is also increasing and the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, states study abroad by U.S. based students is steadily increasing and is at an all time high.   The Association of American Medical Colleges data demonstrates that 35% of US medical students participate in international experiences.  Spurred by increased participation, global health education is evolving from a phenomenon of one-off volunteer experiences to a field of educational theory and practice, shaping the world’s next generation of healthcare providers with skills demanded by an increasingly inter-connected world.

Looking at Competencies in Medical Education & How Students Engage

A study in the journal Academic Medicine shows the structure of global health programs, the degree to which they are imbedded in local health care systems, and having a capacity-building agenda, affects what students learn.  In an era where competency-based education is dominating pedagogy in medical education, we must leverage the richness of global health experiences to meet accreditation standards and competency-based outcomes.  Like studies have shown and CFHI’s 7,000 alumni can attest, global health exposure and international experiences make for better practitioners and global citizens.  CFHI’s approach leverages asset-based engagement and encourages students to “Let the World Change YOU.” stethescopeglobe

As we strive to meet demand and look at the nuances of programming, we must continue to examine students’ international experiences. This month thousands of international educators will gather at the NAFSA conference and discuss these topics at the Colloquium on Internationalizing Education for the Health Professions.  Here and on our own we must consider key questions—what competencies does a globalized health practitioner need?  What competencies are nurtured during global health programs? How do we wed international global health and what is taking place in our own back yards?  Just as important, not all global health experiences are created equal.  As educators and leaders in the field, we must advocate for socially responsible and ethically sound approaches to placing students in health settings abroad.

Truth in the Spoof: Medical Voluntourism in The Onion

Truth in the Spoof: An expose of voluntourism in The Onion.

By: Aditi Joshi, MD

Newsflash!  This week’s headlines report a new humanitarian organization ‘Doctors Without Licenses’ will start providing substandard care by putting together a group of “decertified physicians, pre-medical undergraduates, and ‘people just interested in the human body’.” The organization states it will be sending their staff to conflict zones and underserved areas to incorrectly provide medical care.

Image from The Onion satirical article

This news was reported in The Onion, a satirical weekly publication, so it is, of course, facetious. The sad truth is that it refers to a very real phenomenon.

Voluntourism and Medical Voluntourism – Repercussions

Searching ‘voluntourism’ on Google, one finds a number of hits for organizations that set up volunteer opportunities for well-meaning individuals to work in underserved communities. Medical voluntourism refers to doing medical care within these communities; these volunteers can be physicians, nurses, residents, medical students and a growing number of organizations offer hands-on opportunities for pre-medical students, as well. More and more research as well as anecdotal reports state that these short term volunteer trips do more harm than good to the local community.  (If you’re interested in a great contrast between voluntourism and global health—this article is a must read. The volunteers may be providing direct patient care, giving medications, and doing procedures. In cases where the volunteer has no formal training, and would not be allowed to do the same in their home countries, this type of care is unethical whether or not the results are disastrous.  Even for those who are trained and skilled, the lack of knowledge of local infrastructure, drug formularies, culture, language and historical frameworks can actually lead ‘good’ actions to having negative consequences.

Solutions and Social Responsibility

Proposed solutions vary as the scope of the problem is large and not fully realized. However, organizations such as Child Family Health International – CFHI, try to decrease harm by giving students the opportunity to immerse within the culture, focus on broad global health competencies, observe native health care providers who are dedicated to their communities long-term health. This prevents the student from being a short-term ‘band-aid’ health worker or trying to get patient care experience that they are not licensed to undertake. The students are able to understand health concerns in other countries while minimizing possible harmful outcomes.

Voluntourism is most likely here to stay, however the importance of finding ways to reduce harm while giving the local community the help it requires is an ongoing challenge.

 

Thanks to our guest blogger, Aditi Joshi MD, ER Physician and Former President IFMSA-USA for authoring this post.

CFHI Salutes Medical Director Dr. Raj on World Social Justice Day

February 20th is World Social Justice Day. We would like to take this day to highlight one of our partners who has been working to achieve social justice. Dr. Rajagopal has been helping to reform the Hospice and Palliative Care laws in India through his organization, Pallium India.Through both personal visits to patients, and by building a strong system of doctors across the nation, Dr. Rajagopal has highly improved the state of Palliative and Hospice Care in India. Access to Morphine and Pain Killers is an enormous problem in India because of previous problems with morphine addictions. India has the highest amount of victims for mouth cancer, and it is estimated that less than 3% of cancer patients get proper pain relief. (1)

Dr. Raj conducting a home visit, Trivandrum Southern India

Dr. Raj conducting a home visit, Trivandrum Southern India

Fortunately, laws in India have been changed. Now, a policy has been set so that in Kerala, doctors with at least 6 weeks of training, such as Dr. Rajagopal, can prescribe morphine for palliative care. (2) The rule was introduced in June 1998 in Trivandrum, the capital city of the state of Kerala. Since then, the central government has recommended this new rule to all the states in India. The idea of easier access to morphine and other pain relieving drugs was initially recommended by organizations and committees such as WHO Collaborating Center for Policy and Communications in Cancer Care (Wisconsin, USA). The Center is currently attempting to simplify complicated state narcotic regulations to further improve the availability of opioid analgesics.

Through his organization, Pallium India, Dr. Rajagopal strives to provide Palliative and Hospice care to those that need it. Not only does Pallium India provide medical care to patients, but the organization also provides resources such as food and sewing machines to the patient’s family to help them get back on their feet. CFHI has partnered with Dr. Rajagopal to launch the Palliative Care In Southern India Program in Trivandrum, India that centers around Hospice and Palliative care. The CFHI participants involved in the program are given the opportunity to visit the patients and experience first hand how patients are treated and managed. Pallium India and CFHI have worked together to reform India’s Hospice and Palliative Care system.

(1), (2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573467/

 

-Special thanks to guest bloggers Alexandria Tso and Nayanika Kapoor for contributing this article.

CFHI vs. Brigades: Defining “Helping” in Healthcare Abroad

A Doctor Walks Into a Community..

For healthcare professionals or those on that path, it’s tempting to drop into a community abroad and start treating patients.  The stark realities of poverty, lack of resources, and unaddressed illness provides an often disturbing (and therefore motivational) contrast to our Western frame of reference.  We are often shocked and saddened.  As a consequence, we want to help.

An important question arises however, when we are students or even when we are credentialed professionals visiting a faraway community, what’s the best way to help?

Two Approaches to Global Health aamcacademicmed

An article profiling Child Family Health International – CFHI’s Global Health Education Programs in the current online edition of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ journal Academic Medicine contrasts two interpretations of ‘helping.’  The article contrasts CFHI’s program structure to that of brigades.  Brigades are short-term (often lasting one or two weeks) international activities that set-up clinics in parallel to or completely outside of existing health systems.  These temporary establishments are meant to see many patients in a short period of time. Commonly, medications, often drug samples, are brought down from the home country of volunteers and dolled out to patients.

The students writing the article draw an important contrast between the two definitions of ‘helping’ represented by CFHI Programs and brigades.  Brigades aim to ‘help’ by directly treating patients using Western physicians and students.  But they do so often at the expense of follow-up and continuity of care.  Brigades define ‘help’ in a very immediate sense.  Contrastingly, CFHI defines helping as empowering local communities and using Western funds to develop and elevate the stature of the native health care workforce.  CFHI positions local physicians, nurses, and community members as local experts, in a unique role to teach outsiders about their approach and insight. CFHI  believes they are the sustainable solutions to global health challenges.

Humility and Knowledge Key

CFHI Student with Local Doctor, India

CFHI Student with Local Doctor, India

CFHI’s definition of helping is perhaps more humble, believing we need to first respect and attempt to understand the complexities that underlie global health challenges, rather than trying to address these challenges with immediate auxiliary patient care.  This admiration of local health care providers and the goal of first comprehending the complexities of global health disparities is fundamental to shaping the collaborative global health leaders of the future.  Before we try to change a reality, we must begin to understand it.  This understanding is afforded by CFHI’s Global Health Education Programs.

Social Justice: Embracing Global Health Complexities

Internationalizing Medical & Health Education

At the recent NAFSA Conference for international educators, the Colloquium on Internationalizing Medical Schools proved to be a forum marked by many thoughtful remarks, especially those of the opening speaker Edwin Trevethan, MD MPH.  Yet nothing struck me as much as the name of the school he heads–  Dr. Trevethan is dean of the St. Louis University College for Public Health & Social Justice.  The social justice part piqued my interest.  Social Justice is a term that did not receive enough exposure during my undergraduate and medical education, despite dedicated studies about global health, underserved care, and health equity. jessicanlauren nafsa 2013

Importance of Social Justice in Health Evolving

Why hasn’t this term gotten the play it deserves?  What does it mean anyways?  One of my favorite definitions of Social Justice is a “historically deep and geographically broad” understanding of gross inequities, power imbalances, and underlying causes of ill health.  Dr. Josh Freeman, the creator of the blog ‘Medicine & Social Justice’ offers further insight into definitions of justice, social justice, and how they relate to health and health care.  Social Justice has also been studied as one of the key ethical principles for students wanting to be involved in Global Health.  Increasingly there has been discussion on whether social justice should be a factor when selecting students for admission into medical school.

I think the reason Social Justice has not always made it into our medical and educational syntax is that it encompasses the utmost complexity.  Particularly in medicine we like things that we can boil down to cause and effect, test while controlling for variables, and fix with evidence-based antidotes.  Social justice doesn’t allow us to be logical and create such neat solutions.  Social justice demands we consider a host of influences on health, wellness, and disease.  It requires that we humble ourselves.  It requires we admit that problems causing health inequities worldwide defy the scope of one solitary discipline, or the involvement of just one prestigious university.

I want to commend St. Louis University and Dr. Trevethan’s leadership for their insight in going so far as to include social justice in name of their school of public health.  They, alongside other leaders such as CFHI partner association American Medical Student Association, demonstrate the fundamental ability to embrace the complexity of global health, and not unlike CFHI persevere with programming and partnerships that give social justice its due attention–both as a goal and as a lens through which to understand health.

At the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference CFHI was represented along with over 8,000 professionals who come together in late May each year to network and learn about today’s issues related to the fields of study and interning abroad.

Student Essays Reflect Realities and Impact of Global Health

Student Essay Contest Winners with CFHI Executive Director Jessica Evert, MD (far left)

Student Essay Contest Winners with CFHI Executive Director Jessica Evert, MD (far left)

At CUGH’s Annual Meeting last week in Washington, DC educators and students from over 60 countries met to discuss the global health landscape.  Perhaps one of the most powerful and emotional sessions was one that captured power of reflection in global Continue reading

International Women’s Day- A Story From CFHI India

alwar2Evaleen Jones, MD is the founder of Child Family Health International (CFHI) and Clinical Faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine.  Today, on International Women’s Day we feature an experience from her recent visit to CFHI partner sites in India, and a story from a woman she met while there.  Her story  carries the message of community empowerment that CFHI embodies.

January 31.  Today we visited Continue reading

CFHI Featured at AAFP Global Health Workshop

Child Family Health International’s  Quito, Ecuador Medical Director Dra. Susana Alvear and Global Medical Director Dr. Jessica Evert were featured in the closing keynote address of the 9th Annual AAFP Global Health Workshop.  Nearly 300 attendees from 25 countries attended to share ideas, evidence, and inspiration on topics ranging from global health education at US institutions to the proliferation of family medicine around the world to the ethical challenges of global engagements.

Drs. Alvear and Evert presented on the realization of ethical aspirations- breaking down ethical concepts into practical topics and tangible actions.  The presentation was warmly received.  Dr. Dan Ostergaard,  AAFP’s Vice President for Health of the Public and Interprofessional Activities emphasized the application of CFHI’s motto “Let the World Change You” for all trainees, faculty, and physicians active in global health.  He also emphasized the concept drilled home by Drs. Alvear and Evert that we should really speak of “Toward Equity” rather than “Equity” itself given the gross disparities around the world.  Drs. Evert and Alvear emphasized the ability of institutions and individuals from developed countries to highlight the value of assets in developing country contexts—for example, richness of culture, strong traditional medicine practices, resourcefulness, rather than emphasizing the disparities of financial resources in order to ‘level the playing field,’ a concept originating from CFHI’s former Executive Director, Steve Schmidbauer.

Great respect and admiration were expressed for CFHI’s leadership, program structure, and partnership model.

New MCAT Means Greater Need for Global Health Exposure

The New MCAT – Shaping Future Physicians for the Better

For pre-medical students their life choices are often defined by the MCAT—the often-dreaded U. S. medical school entrance exam that determines whether their professional dreams are dashed or realized.  Rarely do we consider that what we test and emphasize on such exams determines what is prioritized in undergraduate education and consequently Continue reading

Students Asking Difficult Questions on Global Health Engagement and Development

During the Western Regional International Health Conference I had the privilege of lunching with a group of inspirational and innovative undergraduate students from the University of Washington and University of British Columbia.  At University of Washington students have created the Critical Development Forum (CDF),  a think-tank creating Continue reading

World AIDS Day 2011

On this 30th anniversary, World AIDS Day gives us a time to pause and take in the enormity of this disease that has ravaged so much of humanity.  There will be much written today about how we are turning a corner and that the epidemic is showing signs of coming to an end.  It is important to celebrate and salute the great accomplishments in the fight against AIDS but it is also important to note that we are a long way from taking a victory lap.  We do need to build momentum in the fight, so the accolades are helpful as long as they help generate enough buzz and enough energy to follow through by implementing and building on the advancements that have been made.

Unfair

The latest numbers show that there are about 34 Million people with HIV world-wide.  At CFHI, because of our international partnerships, we are acutely aware that among all the world’s AIDS statistics it is particulary sobering to note that 60% of all cases are in Southern Africa and that South Africa has the horrible distinction of being the country with the most cases.  Also it is important to note that statistics shoe that among all Asian countries, India has the most cases.  When we look at global health disparities in general, we see how unfair the realities of burden of disease and access to healthcare are but in the context o this particular disease, it is somehow even more shocking. Try to take some time this World AIDS Day to educate yourself.  The World Health organization has a wealth of information, you can start at this link.

One of the great privileges for me as part of CFHI, is the opportunity I get to visit doctors, nursers, and other healthcare workers in the field.  As you really cannot even begin to imagine, communities where the prelevance of HIV/AIDS is very high, are impacted in a variety of ways.  On World AIDS Day, I think back on the doctors and nurses in hospitals that are inundated with patients due to the epidemic yet they still push on, they still show up even when success is not a common part of their day.   Finding local health professionals who are dedicated to their own underserved communities and trying to support them in their work is at the heart of what we do.  We see them in hospital wards that are overflowing, we see them on strenuous trips to rural areas to test, educate, and treat -thus making treatment and  healthcare accessible to  more of the population.  We see them in hospitals where the staff room has become a small ward or infection control area thus leaving them spending long hours working with no place to go for a break.  We see them in clinics working tirelessly as as line of patients stretches out the door and down the street, more than a city block.  We see them morn the loss not only of patients but of so many of their colleagues, and yet they continue.  We see them in these situations every day, and we see them more dedicated and more earnest in their efforts each day.  These are real heroes in this global fight and we salute you on this World AIDS Day and we pledge our continued efforts to help support and champion your work.

On this World AIDS day, 2011, it is particularly wonderful to note that a new film is debuting in South Africa.  Inside Story: the Science of HIV/AIDS will be premiering across South Africa.  A wonderful attempt to target the exact population that the epidemic is targeting –young people.  Using live action, computer animation and, yes, football (soccer), the goal is to educate through entertainment.  Actors from different African countries are participating in hopes that the film will gain audiences across Africa.  In addition to a love story and a sports story, the film shows through animation what is happening inside the body as HIV and AIDS run their course.  The effort deserves a two thumbs up even though we have yet to actually see the whole film.  We hope that this film can be more effective than any drug at combating the disease.

CFHI’s Model for Global Health Electives Included in Oxford University Press Publication

Oxford Handbook on Neuroethics

Oxford Handbook on Neuroethics

“Global Health Ethics is once again in the forefront of discussion with the recently published Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics chapter emphasizing the relevance of biomedical, clinical and public health ethics within the global medical and academic community.  Child Family Health International’s (CFHI) Evaleen Jones M.D., Jessica Evert M.D., Scott Loeliger M.D., and Steven Schmidbauer co-authored the chapter on the importance of establishing and sustaining an ethical framework for educational global health programs.

With growing interest in Global Health Electives among the medical and academic community, there are genuine concerns regarding equity, justice, and sustainability within underserved communities.  CFHI’s chapter discusses global citizenship via a socially responsible framework to create positive global health educational experiences for students and host communities, connecting students with local health professionals and through direct investments in local community based projects.  ”

So reads the beginning of the Press Release for CFHI issued today.  Needless to say, we are all very proud and very happy to have this recognition especially from such a noted publisher as Oxford University Press.  The portion that CFHI contributed to this chapter on Global Health Ethics is an attempt to describe our model of working in underserved communities by identifying local experts and building on the inherent strengths of the communities.  We have seen over and over again low-resource settings where amazing things are being accomplished every day in patient care due to extremely dedicated local professionals.  We see their deep commitment to serving the people and we join together with the local health professionals to design Global Heath Education Programs that are open to international students and trainees.  You can read our submission here but I want to take this opportunity to thank all our international partners who have chosen to work with us to develop this model and make it successful for the last 20 years.  No partnership is one-sided and we are deeply indebted to all the local doctors and nurses, hospital and clinic staff, local coordinators, host families, language teachers, drivers and many others who make our international programs function so well, even in some very challenging circumstances.  Our hats are off to all members of the CFHI global family –you all share in this recognition!

Read the full CFHI Press Relase and Chapter.

Empowerment Means Having a Voice

Voices of empowerment from women in rural Northern India

About an hour outside of the north Indian city of Dehradun, the terrain starts to change as you begin to enter the foothills of the Himalayas.  Paved streets give way to winding dirt roads, some seemingly carved into the incline of the mountain like the etches of a screw and only wide enough for one vehicle.  Luckily almost no one in this area has a car, so we are usually sharing the road only with the monkeys and the goats.  On this particular trip, the monsoons have not yet released India from their grip and our vehicle struggles on the loose dirt and gravel as the torrents of rain pour down.  Oddly enough, here, about as far away from an urban setting as you can get, I’m reminded of a car wash because the sheets of rain are hitting the car so hard that you can feel their force on the hood of the vehicle like the power washes you can get back home.

CFHI Logo SmallLuckily, as we reach the village of Patti, the torrents subside and we are able to disembark without getting too wet.  CFHI has supported the operation of a clinic in this area since the late 1990s –it is the base of the CFHI Rural Himalayan Global Health Immersion Program.  In the last seven years, we have trained women elected from the surrounding villages as health promoters.  Previous to these efforts, there was no organized healthcare happening in this area.  Today is a meeting of the health promoters, some having walked as many as five hours for the event (a fact that always humbles me greatly).  An initial three year training effort took women with little or no formal education and taught them the basic skills of health promotion.  Many of them come from a long line of traditional birth attendants, so they already had some experience in the area of health.  After the initial training, they have been able to monitor women throughout their entire pregnancy.  Additionally, they instruct their communities on many topics: sanitation, nutrition, immunizations, hygiene, and family planning, to name a few.

As the rain began to intensify once again, we huddled around two tables pushed together on a porch, under a metal roof, next to a rice field.  The sound of the rain caused everyone to move in closer and lean in to hear.  My many previous visits over the years have been in more extreme dry heat when we sat spread out in the shade as we

CFHI Health Promoters Meeting in the Village of Patti, Northern India

CFHI Health Promoters Meeting in the Village of Patti, Northern India

talked.  –Of course I need to stop here and say that since I have no capacity in Hindi, the CFHI India Coordinator, Ms. Hema Pandey, was gracious enough to do the translation, and her easy, relaxed, yet professional manner also contributed greatly to the level of the conversation.  Maybe it was this more close huddling, or maybe it was just the product of seven years of meeting them once or twice a year, but for whatever reason, this time the conversation took a more intimate track.  Over the years, our meetings have been about stories of the work the Health Promoters are doing, each in her own village.  I’ve always been moved by their commitment and dedication as the women are all volunteering in this role and, at times, it can occupy a lot of their time and energy.  We always talk about what they need and we try to line up successive training experiences for them.  Today, however, I somehow felt like I could ask them more about themselves.  Now, all these years into their work, I could see in them their own sense of being experienced –that they are really settling into their roles.   It also helped that there was a young 18 year old woman who had joined us for the first time, as she now wants become a Health Promoter.  The older women took her under their collective wing as she found it hard to answer any direct questions –not used to being asked her opinion.  “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” was the message as all the older women laughed.  “We were all once like you,” one of them told her, “not knowing how to speak, not sure what to say … you’ll learn.”  It was also touching to see the older women buoyed in spirit by her interest.  There was more of a general feeling –not only of pride, but also of purpose, and an almost palatable sense of hope for the future in the smiles of the older women, broader than I have ever seen them before.

I asked the women what they liked most about their work.  They answered with the stories of what they have been able to do.  “And for you,” I asked, “what do YOU like about it.”  There was some discussion amongst the group. They said that they like “feeling empowered.”  “What does it mean,” I asked, “to feel empowered?”  “It means that now I can speak,” said one, motioning to the new recruit whose personal growth and self confidence the women will now each personally see to.  “It means I can teach,” said another.  “It means improvement, progress for the whole village,” said another.    This spawned a longer conversation of the feeling of satisfaction they have in seeing the results of their work.  They see women having healthier pregnancies; they see children growing up stronger and healthier.  One of the biggest changes, they report, is that now, even the men of the villages will listen to them in a way that never happened before.  The women told me that the men have come to see the women as possessing knowledge and understanding as a Health Promoter that no one else has.  What was even more remarkable than the statement itself was the body language, the tone of confidence, and the feeling of accomplishment that came through in these statements, none of which required the skills of a translator to be successfully communicated.