Category Archives: Global Health Education

Toward Planetary Health

By Anne-Gaëlle Jacquin

What could a phycologist (an algae researcher) possibly do at CFHI? If you type this query into an Internet browser, it will probably ask “Do you mean psychologist?“ The link between global health and algae doesn’t seem obvious at first but there are definitely some common threads, specifically around sustainability.

I am a marine biologist. When I was in grad school, there was a daily barrage of news about the unprecedented scale of environmental and ecological damage  to our planet. While working on my PhD in algal biotechnology, what struck me was how algae had so much potential to help mitigate some of our sustainability challenges. Inspired by this, I founded The Algonauts Project in 2010 to chronicle algae innovations for sustainability. I met with more than 150 specialists, whom I call Algonauts, living in over 17 countries. These Algonauts are scientists, entrepreneurs, NGOs, fishermen, farmers and inventors. They develop applications with algae which help with food production, wastewater treatment, environmentally friendly aquaculture, CO2 offset, biomaterials, new medicines and many more innovations. To help spread their knowledge and enthusiasm about algae, I document these innovations and the stories of the Algonauts at www.algonauts.org.

When Dr. Evert, CFHI’s Executive Director, told me about the concepts of Planetary Health and One Health, I wasn’t familiar with them. In the subsequent weeks, the more I learned about these concepts, the more I found myself jumping with the excitement of a breakthrough!

Over the last few years, a common theme has emerged in sustainability science: to reach universal objectives of sustainability and address the complexities of global problems, there is a clear need for transdisciplinarity approaches and an integration of knowledge from experience and from science. The archetypal convention of separating natural and social science in academia had conducted in an incomplete understanding of nature-society interactions and the integrated dynamics of the ‘Earth system’ as a whole.

And often times, in such transdisciplinary work, weaving a compelling narrative across complex disciplines isn’t always possible.

This is where the concepts of Planetary Health and One Health make so much sense – they offer a powerful bridge between very different disciplines – health of the human population and the health of our environment, including animal health. This emphasis on the human health consequences of the degradation of natural systems throws into sharp relief the urgency and fragility of our current situation, and emphasizes that the health of one can not be examined without examining the other.

The concept of Planetary Health, recently formalized through the launch of a new journal, The Lancet Planetary Health, is defined as the achievement of the highest standard of health, wellbeing and equity worldwide. It encompasses a wide spectrum of disciplines for investigating not only the effects of environmental change on human health but also the human systems (political, economic, social) that govern these effects.

One Health recognizes human, animal and environmental health as interconnected and particularly emphasizes the interdisciplinary collaboration between human and veterinary medicine.

CFHI has long been committed to the promotion of Planetary Health and One Health and the diversity of its nearly 40 programs offer students and faculty the possibility to explore these transdisciplinary and integrated approaches and to acquire an intercultural literacy which is also fundamental for sustainability.

Offerings include the “Community Medicine from Rainforest to Coast” program in Ecuador, where students gain exposure to rural and community medicine in both rural and urban settings, exploring chronic, acute, and infectious and tropical diseases. The program provides anthropological insight into indigenous communities by learning the unique worldview of the Shuar tribe and their uses for traditional medicinal plants combined with spiritual practices. In this program, students will learn from local experts about a wide range of environmental disciplines (botany, animal husbandry, forestry, entomology) and the sociocultural and political aspects of jungle preservation.

In Kabale, Uganda, with CFHI’s “Nutrition, Food Security, & Sustainable Agriculture” program, students learn about veterinary approaches developed in the Rabbit Breeding and Training Center in Kabale, exploring how proper care and hygiene for raising rabbits are the grassroots for integrated economic, social and health improvements. Students also learn about ground-breaking integrated approaches for improving food security and nutrition. From primary care clinic to rural communities, students observe and contribute to the implementation of practical solutions in health, farming and education and the positive impact of these programs on maternal and child health.

You can explore CFHI’s offerings in Planetary and One Health here: CFHI Planetary Heath & One Health Initiative

Looking at sustainability through the lens of global health has been a very enriching experience, opening lots of new prospects. I can foresee algae in some of them and can’t wait to explore them further!
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Anne-Gaëlle is a marine biologist from Plogoff, a village in Brittany at the Western tip of Europe where the ocean is all around! In this end/beginning of the land, there is wilderness, quiet, wonderful lights and powerful storms. Anne is fascinated by nature, the universe and life as a whole, from the complexity of cellular mechanisms to human societies. She obtained her PhD from the University of Western Brittany in France and afterwards she felt the need to look at the bigger picture.  She saw that microalgae and seaweeds are fundamental in ecosystems and could play an even bigger role in the future for sustainability. After her PhD, when the reputation of algae was very negative due to green tides, she started a journey around the world to share the wonders of algae.  Learn more about her project at www.algonauts.org

Getting One Step Closer to a Unified Global Health Curriculum


The term “Global Health” can be an all encompassing, and sometimes, vague term.  Individuals from the fields of public health, medicine, and more have all defined this term in different ways.  That is why when the Consortium of Universities for Global health convened in 2008, one of the items that members called for was to define the field of global health and standardize required curricula and competencies for the emerging discipline.

We are excited to announce that, as of this week, we are one step closer in providing that definition as the Global Health Competencies Sub-committee of CUGH released a new toolkit that brings together resources from a wide array of subjects and authors in the field of global health.  All this under the leadership of CFHI and our Executive Director, Dr. Jessica Evert.  Thank you for this great effort across dozens of institutions and fields!

Referred to as the CUGH Global Health Competencies toolkit, the resource is designed to help Global Health faculty build curricula and competencies that may stretch beyond their immediate area of expertise.  As the field of Global Health grows in its maturity as an academic field, we here at CFHI are proud to be at the vanguard.

 

CFHI Impacts: How Local Communities are Transformed

By Lyndsey Brahm
Program Coordinator

Child Family Health International (CFHI) has always prided itself on fostering honorable and long-lasting relationships with its international partner communities. Communities feel empowered and confident that their partnership with CFHI will contribute substantially to their developmental goals and will pave the way for a promising future. CFHI uses several mechanisms to support its partner communities: global health education programs, research and advocacy, and community health projects.

CFHI Community Health Projects build and reinforce the importance of passion within resource-restricted communities. They use an asset-based community engagement approach that focuses on strengths rather than needs and weaknesses. These projects help to bring solidarity, financial support, material support, and exposure to innovative ideas that are led by local health care workers, community leaders, and other native change agents, thus building local capacity, skills, and fueling passion to create a better tomorrow.

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CFHI is currently supporting seven community health projects within five countries, in addition to professional development opportunities that arise for CFHI partners. In July 2016, Dr. Geoffrey Anguyo and Martin Ngabirano, our local partners in Kabale, Uganda, attended the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa as part of their commitment to fighting high HIV rates within southern Uganda. This opportunity not only provides momentum for their grassroots based initiatives and aims to improve the livelihood the community members, but it also sets an example for incoming CFHI participants to learn from.

The number of mothers and children attending the Young Mother’s Empowerment Center in El Alto continues to rise each year, since opening its doors in 2013. The center now provides a safe haven for six mothers and 10 children, a place where the women can access quality child care opportunities, health care services, support groups for victims of domestic violence, and advice on employment and educational opportunities. The women feel solace is having one another as support and more confident seeking out means of improving their lives and that of their children.

40 traditional midwives-parteras-attended an annual continuing education training in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico this past summer. This 4 day training is hosted each year by CFHI, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Oaxaca Ministry of Health and has been running since 2010. There is a unique energy and fervor amongst the midwives about being able to access educational tools to improve the care they provide for a high percentage of women in Oaxaca’s coastal region.

Midwife Training in Oaxaca, Mexico

Midwife Training in Oaxaca, Mexico

CFHI devotes significant time and energy to honoring the skills, expertise and commitment its international partners have to their own communities. It’s important to recognize the potential of individuals within the communities and those that have an unshakeable determination create positive and lasting change. We salute to that!

Ethical Dilemmas in Global Internships: Lessons from the GIC 2016

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by Robin Young
Assistant Director, Africa and Asia

“The first year that the Northeastern Students came to the Tunaweza Children’s Centre in Uganda, it was wonderful!” shares Titi Pamela Kakonge, founder of the Centre, which offers a range of therapies for children with disabilities. “But then they left, and all the local parents withdrew their children from our school. They thought that since the Mzungus (white people) had gone, the program was over.”

The vacuum left by the departing students was gaping, despite the fact that the Centre was led and staffed by a robust local team. After that, Ms. Kakonge and Northeastern University worked together to find ways to ensure that the community saw the local staff as the leaders and the teachers, not vice versa. Today the Centre runs year-round, successfully receiving interns from Northeastern and other institutions, with clear local leadership and well-defined job descriptions for the physical and speech therapy interns.

I heard Ms. Kakonge speak at the Global Internship Conference in Boston earlier in June, at a session titled “Tunaweza Children’s Centre- We Can: An Interprofessional, International Partnership with Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences.”  Ms. Kakonge founded the Centre while searching for adequate care and services for her daughter who was born with disabilities. The challenge that she highlighted above has been well documented.

Pamela Roy, Farzana Karim-Haji, and Robert Gough call this the ‘revolving door’ nature of exchange between students and hosts, and propose several ideas for host communities to address this ethical dilemma, all of which Northeastern is now utilizing. They suggest making certain that students are sufficiently prepared for the experience, taking steps to ensure that host community needs are truly being met through the internship, and equipping students to listen, observe, and learn from the host community.

During their session at the GIC, Roy, Kaim-Haji, and Gough, drawing on their experiences at Aga Khan University, Western University, and the Consultancy for Global Higher Education, highlighted a new, open-access resource they have developed, titled “Building Ethical Global Engagement with Host Communities: North-South Collaborations for Mutual Learning and Benefit.” In it, they compile recent findings and summarize the ethical dilemmas that challenge all of us who engage in North-South Global Internships, including mobility inequality (in which students from the north have more access to the south in terms of professional development and career opportunities than vice versa); exploitation of the host community as research participants; and unethical marketingand advertisement to promote global internships, to name a few. The resource offers definitions of these dilemmas and offers a series of recommendations that can help all of us in the field to improve our global internship offerings.

At CFHI, we’re always thinking about how to offer internships that, to quote a recent publication on short-term global health experiences, “Optimize community benefit and learner experience.” From where we stand, an internship should only take place if we can ensure that it benefits, within an ethical framework, our partners around the world, as well as the intern.  We do this by engaging in fair trade learning practices, ensuring that our partners are fairly compensated for their work and have substantial leadership and input into all internships and programming; by requiring our participants and interns to complete the Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety modules, preparing them to engage in ethical medical practice that prioritizes patient safety at all times; and by inserting interns into existing healthcare and social service systems, with local leaders who focus on assets rather than deficits in their communities. I had the opportunity to share some of these resources during a session at the GIC alongside Moira Mannix Votel, Associate Co-op Coordinator & Director of Cooperative Education at Northeastern University’s Bouve College Cooperative Education.

At CFHI, we strive to close the ‘revolving door’ referred to earlier.  It is important to us to create leaders for the future who understand a larger view of the world beyond their own.  We are continuously pushed and encouraged by the input of our colleagues in this field and look forward to moving this conversation forward at any opportunity.


Rorobinyoungphotobin joined the CFHI team in 2015. As Assistant Director, Africa and Asia, she provides program management and support for CFHI’s programs, helping to ensure program safety and quality, best practices in international education, and strong institutional and global partnerships. Robin’s professional background includes extensive work in international education, global health, and asset-based development. Robin holds an MBA from Florida International University and a BA in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Ethnic Studies from Lewis and Clark College. She completed a course at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, helping to inform her interest in increasing intercultural competency in global work and education, and subsequently co-authored the Cultural Detective Dominican Republic series. Robin received a Fulbright Fellowship grant in 2007 and spent a year researching gender-based violence in the Dominican Republic, where she ended up living for nearly 5 years. Robin is passionate about supporting thoughtful, ethical and asset-based strategies to address health disparities and support underserved communities. She lives in the Bay Area and loves backpacking, riding her bike, and spending time with family and friends.

 

A Recap of CFHI’s Time at PEGASUS 2016

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CFHI was proud to send their Program Coordinator, Lyndsey Brahm, to the 2016 PEGASUS Conference that took place in Toronto over May 13th to 15th.  PEGASUS is an acronym derived from the conference’s three main themes of peace, global health and sustainability. Leaders, change-makers, professionals and students from multiple disciplines convened to share their expertise in research, education, field experiences, advocacy and policy in order to address unacceptable levels of poor health nationally and internationally.

CFHI hosted a workshop on asset-based community development (ABCD) and introduced our vision into how recognizing assets within a community as opposed to what is lacking can prove to be a successful global engagement approach and can lead to communities feeling more empowered. CFHI has numerous partnerships throughout ten different countries and prides itself on fostering sustainable relationships and not being “fair weather friends.” We want the communities we work with to take ownership of their own development and to be enthusiastic about sharing their expertise with our global health scholars who come seeking new perspectives in health and medicine, outside of their own system.

Program Coordinator, Lyndsey Brahm asserts, “We want people to challenge their way of thinking and to see past what may initially appear as image2chaos and devastation; to lend time towards learning about innovative ideas already in place and community strengths that are critical to overcoming health challenges that persist within their community.”

A buzz was in the air as this thought-stimulating conference carried on throughout the weekend. One presentation that stood out from our perspective belonged to Matt DeCamp, Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and in the Johns Hopkins Division of General Internal Medicine. He spoke on the subject of global health ethics, encouraging students and trainees to go abroad for longer, and the development of appropriate pre-departure materials. He shared his experience about a global health trip he undertook as a medical student at Duke University, where he faced challenges cultural differences and was exposed to human rights. He remembers feeling unequipped and under prepared to deal with such circumstances. He now contributes to the development of adequate pre-departure materials for those seeking an international health experience and runs focus groups for returnees at Johns Hopkins University.  CFHI recently gave a webinar on this very subject.  Which is available by clicking here.

CFHI was excited to be a sponsor for this year’s PEGASUS conference.. It is a valuable space for CFHI and others within the field to challenge one another and generate new ideas, actions and policies to improve the health and well being of the world’s citizens, whether on a small or large scale. The commitment is fierce.

Seeing India Through New Eyes: An Indian-American Student’s Study Abroad Experience

In December 2014, I left the comforts of San Francisco to take part in the Public Health & Community Medicine in India program through Child Family Health International (CFHI). During my 4 weeks in northern India, I had the opportunity to engage with and learn from various non-governmental organizations that are tackling public health challenges like injection drug use, sanitation, and prostitution. For the first week, we worked with a WHO-recognized organization in Chandigardh that focuses on women and children’s health care. One of my fondest memories from this experience was being able to interact with the female sex workers that this NGO helps. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Aditi*, who told me how her hardships from back home forced her to become a sex worker in order to keep her children in school. Listening to Aditi’s story really put my life into perspective. Aditi, who is a mom, sister, wife, and daughter, was literally sacrificing her own body for the sake of her children, something only a strong individual would be able to do. I couldn’t help or stop Aditi from being a sex worker, however what I could do was be someone she could talk to, someone who would listen to her, even if only for a short amount of time. It was an exchange of hellos, an exchange of respect, and an exchange of appreciation that I could give Aditi, and ironically, in the end, what she gave me. This experience taught me that it is impossible to understand a public health issue like prostitution without understanding the human beings whom it affects.

DeepaWhen I embarked on this experience, it had been 6 years since my last visit to India. The transformation I saw in the country was phenomenal. I noticed improvements in infrastructure and cultural changes. Years ago, the topics of HIV/AIDS or sex workers were very taboo. No one liked to acknowledge any health risks and the government wasn’t doing much to spread awareness of such issues. Visiting the country now and witnessing the many programs the government has implemented within each state was inspirational. Programs such as NACO have made such a difference in the lives of countless people across northern India by providing necessary services and supplies to lead a healthier and safer lifestyle. Apart from HIV/AIDS, I also witnessed changes in the caste system in India. In this system, “untouchables” are deemed to be the lowest caste because of their occupation of being scavengers (individuals who clean up human waste from homes due to lack of toilets). This program gave us the opportunity to work with a UN-recognized social service organization based in Delhi that is committed to getting rid of the untouchables caste by creating a toilet complex system to implement in villages across the country.

Being an Indian-American, I was able to appreciate India in a manner I never had before. I had always heard about various problems in India, whether it was about the spread of HIV/AIDS or the controversial caste system, but I always felt helpless living more than 8,000 miles away. Through CFHI, I was lucky enough to meet people like Aditi, and listen to their stories to understand what really is going on in the world outside of our own bubble in America. Often times, I have heard my very own friends and family who are Indian-American comment on how “backwards” India is in terms of development and simple progressive ideology about issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS. By experiencing India first hand, I now have the knowledge and experience to educate my friends and family and help them be more aware of important public health issues. Reading and hearing the news about India is one thing, but actually being within India’s space and engaging with the people of that country helps put these issues in perspective.

UntitledAs a senior graduating college soon, I am at the crossroads where I have to choose what I want to pursue for the rest of my life. After my 4 weeks in India, I realized that this trip wasn’t coming to an end for me, it was just the beginning.  CFHI not only gave me clarity, but also a sense of direction. The CFHI program solidified my decision to pursue a career in the field of public health. Prior to the program, I knew that I wanted to obtain my MPH, however I wasn’t clear on what specialty to emphasize in. This trip exposed me to the world of global health and made me realize that it would be the perfect field within public health for me. CFHI not only helped me fall in Iove with India again, but it also helped give me a sense of purpose that I perhaps would not have found without this trip.

*Name has been changed to respect privacy. 

Special thanks to our guest blogger, CFHI alumna Deepa Mistry, for authoring this post.

CFHI Unveils Inaugural Alumni Advisory Board

Over the past 23 years, Child Family Health International (CFHI) has transformed over 8,000 participants’ lives through our Global Health Education Programs in 7 countries. CFHI Global Health Scholars experience competency-based education and asset-based community development, while contributing to the transformational ways that CFHI’s partners address health and healing.

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As experts in this approach, CFHI welcomes our alumni to contribute to our global health efforts in a new and influential way. CFHI is now accepting applications for its inaugural Alumni Advisory Board (AAB). Through the AAB, CFHI alumni will help shape our organization’s advocacy, education and development efforts, as well as the impact that CFHI Global Health Scholars have long after they return from their international programs.

The Alumni Advisory Board provides a structure to facilitate alumni interaction with CFHI, including soliciting alumni opinions and input, mobilizing alumni on CFHI’s behalf, encouraging intra-alumnus mentoring, and providing alumni an opportunity to stay involved in global health and CFHI in a formal/professional development fashion.

The AAB is 12 members with diverse professional background at varying stages of their career. The board will increase collaboration between CFHI alumni, staff and international partners—all committed to advancing CFHI’s mission and building the next generation of global health leaders.

AAB members will engage and benefit from the experience in various ways. For CFHI alumni in the early stages of their career, the board will provide an opportunity to build leadership skills, network with like-minded students and professionals, and further build their global health experience. AAB members who are further along in their careers can lend their expertise, mentor other CFHI alumni, or serve in a senior leadership role on the board. The AAB will enable our alumni to build on the cross-cultural relationships that were created during their CFHI experience and apply that knowledge to their personal and professional endeavors.

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CFHI is seeking a diverse pool of applicants for the Alumni Advisory Board of a variety of professional fields, education levels, and backgrounds. In addition, CFHI welcomes all skills including graphic design, social media, event planning, etc. AAB members will be a voice for their CFHI host community, therefore applicants will be chosen from CFHI’s 7 country sites—Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Uganda.

Applications for CFHI’s inaugural Alumni Advisory Board are due by April 1st and can be filled out here. A committee consisting of CFHI Staff and Board of Directors will select AAB members for the 2015-2017 term by June 2015.

For more information, please contact alumni@cfhi.org.

Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Alana D’Onofrio

Alana D’Onofrio participated in CFHI’s program Exploring HIV & Maternal/Child Health in Kabale, Uganda in September 2014. She is an aspiring physician assistant and recent graduate of Northern Arizona University, where she majored in Biomedical Sciences.

Q. How did you hear about CFHI? What attracted you to the Uganda program?

I heard about CFHI through the study abroad program at Northern Arizona University. CFHI was highly recommended to me. It had always been a passion of mine to volunteer in Africa and experience the culture there—that is what attracted me to the Uganda program.

Q. What were your goals going in to the program? How did CFHI help you in achieving those?

IMG_8705My goals going into the program were really to gain knowledge—whether that be medical or healthcare knowledge, or knowledge of a different culture and how people live, eat, dance, work, etc. in a country completely foreign to me. CFHI helped me accomplish these goals. Their partner organization in Kabale has some very special staff members who were willing to teach me so much. They allowed me to ask any question, explained everything about the people of Uganda and their culture, and made me feel very comfortable.

Q. How did the program impact you?

The program impacted me greatly. It solidified my goals of wanting to go into a healthcare career because I learned how much I love working with patients. I also feel more worldly. I now know so much about a country in Africa where very few Americans travel to. I know about the people, the food, the music, and the languages of Uganda. I saw how amazing the people that live there are, how simply they live, and how much they enjoy life no matter how hard it is. The people there inspired me to live my life like them and to never take anything you have for granted.

Q. What were the highlights of your experience?

I have so many highlights of my time in Uganda. One highlight would be heading down to the clinic everyday, excited to see the staff and looking forward to what I was going to learn or see that day. The relationships that I established with the staff are another highlight. We had amazing conversations and always had so much fun. Other highlights include traveling to villages for outreaches to treat people who could not make it to the main clinic in Kabale, hiking the Muhavura Volcano in Kisoro, and going on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Q. How has the program changed your perception of health? 

IMG_9148I now understand the diversity of health. Health in Uganda is very different than health in America, yet there are many similarities. There are diseases unique to East Africa that I was able to see and study. There are also differences in the way people are treated and diagnosed for these conditions. The diagnostic tests in Uganda are much more limited, therefore many cases are not solved. Certain conditions and diseases that are treated easily in America are not easily treated in Uganda and are sometimes fatal because people do not have the money to pay for healthcare services or because they wait until that last minute to get checked out.

Q. Who was the most inspiring person you met on the program?

The most inspiring person I met was Allen. He is a medical officer who works under Dr. Anguyo at the KIHEFO clinic and he is the preceptor who I shadowed. He has such a passion to help and treat others. The clinic is very understaffed and Allen wants to go back to school to become more qualified in certain areas such as radiology, so that he can help the clinic even more. While he treated patients, he was so patient and always took the time to explain things to me. Overall, he was a great teacher and such a passionate healthcare worker.

Q. How has your worldview changed?

I knew so little of Uganda and even the continent of Africa before my trip. Africa is not at all like what is portrayed of it on the news. Obviously there are parts with war, disease, and extreme poverty, but there are also amazing things about Africa that I was able to see. I no longer associate one country of Africa with the whole continent. Each country is unique.

 

Special thanks to Alana D’Onofrio for allowing us to interview her for this post.

Applying Competency-Based Education to Global Health Electives

For those who have participated in a service-learning trip abroad, you understand how life changing it can be. Visiting and learning from a community and culture different from your own can affect you in deep and meaningful ways. But programs and experiences vary widely. Some may claim opportunities for personal and professional growth, yet transparency and best practices are not always the reality on the ground. Also undermining quality, few programs provide true long-term benefits to the host community. One way that medical service-learning trips, or global health electives, can ensure quality is by applying a competency-based framework.alwar2

What is competency-based education?

Competency-based education (CBE) is not new, but the concept is receiving renewed attention in many fields, including global health and medical education. One distinguishing feature of CBE is that it begins with the end in mind. This means that the first priority when creating a competency-based curriculum is identifying the desired characteristics and qualities of a competent graduate. Once these characteristics are defined, they are broken down into building blocks, called competencies, which students master as they move through the curriculum. Unlike traditional education, competencies do not have to be course-specific or based on a specific number of course hours; instead, they integrate everything that the student is learning at a given time and build upon each other throughout their schooling. The amount of time required to master the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to achieve each competency may vary, but competence must be demonstrated before students are able to progress in the curriculum.

The beauty of CBE is that it is fluid and flexible, promoting critical application of the course material with a focus on what students should be able to do, as opposed to a singular emphasis on knowledge. The ability of CBE to produce graduates who are competent professionals has made the approach increasingly popular among various health fields. In fact, The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and the Canadian Medical Education Directives for Specialists (CanMEDS) have all developed core competencies for their programs.

 Competency-based education in global health:

CFHI Students with Local Physician

CFHI Students with Local Physician

Over the past decade interest in global health has surged. Many health professions have integrated global health into their curriculum by applying a competency-based framework. The ASPPH created a Global Health Competency Model that builds on their established core competencies and the Joint US/Canadian Committee on Global Health Core Competencies established a set of six competencies for medical graduates. Even as competencies for global health education become more prevalent, little attention is being paid to global health electives (GHEs). This is puzzling considering GHEs are the primary way students gain experience in global health and in 2013, 30.2% of graduating medical students participated in a GHE.

It is easy to understand why GHEs are increasing in popularity. GHEs provide benefits to students, improving cultural competence, strengthen clinical skills, and increased appreciation for prevention and providing care to the underserved. However, opportunities for growth are not always guaranteed as they are based entirely on program quality. Unfortunately, little effort has gone into determining the structure and educational objectives for GHEs. One way to ensure GHEs meet the needs of students and host communities is to apply a competency-based framework built around the health needs of the host community. Even though most GHEs take place in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), current global health competencies are primarily developed by professionals from high-income countries and little research has explored the effects of GHEs on local communities. In order to develop positive, reciprocal relationships with host communities, colleagues in LMICs need to be engaged in conversation to identify local health priorities and relevant competencies to address them. Students thinking about participating in a GHE can promote responsible global health education by choosing a program or organization, such as Child Family Health International, that has strong international partnerships and is dedicated to protecting the interests of host communities.

Bottom Line

Global health electives that promote cross-cultural partnerships and emphasize competencies addressing the health needs of the local community can provide incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth, while simultaneously offering benefits to the host community.

 

Special thanks to CFHI Intern, Emily December Latham, for authoring this blog.

CFHI Convenes Pre-health Advisors for Workshop on Global Health Best Practices

Advising Students on Health Experiences Abroad

On June 26th, I collaborated on a workshop entitled “Beyond the Basics: Advising Students on Health Experiences Abroad,” led by Child Family Health International (CFHI) Executive Director Dr. Jessica Evert and Tricia Todd, MPH, Assistant Director of the University of Minnesota Health Careers Center. The workshop coincided with the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) Annual Conference, held this year in San Francisco. Advisors arrived at CFHI’s San Francisco headquarters in to a full house with over 20 attendees representing 15 different colleges and universities. Small Liberal Arts colleges from Maine were particularly well represented, with advisors from Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby College in attendance.CFHI Advising Health Students Workshop

As a grad student of International Education Management, I was interested to observe the backgrounds represented amongst the attendees. Some were faculty in science departments, some staff from career development offices, and others from programs specifically geared towards global health. What everyone had in common was knowledge of issues relating to advising pre-health students, and all expressed worries regarding the growth of an “industry” to meet the rapidly growing demand from students seeking health-training programs abroad.

Health Students Doing Too Much, Too Soon – How to Choose Reputable Programs

The issue of the commodification of education abroad, which I was familiar with from graduate courses, took on greater significance when discussing health-related programs where issues of medical ethics and patient safety come into play. In such cases, not only are students being sold an education abroad “experience”, but unethical program providers tell students that they will be able to perform clinical work that exceeds their training and “change the world” through their work, effectively putting patients’ lives at risk.

Advisors were eager to discuss strategies for guiding students towards reputable programs and avoiding companies and experiences where students are encouraged to “do too much, too soon.” Case studies were presented, based on actual incidents from the field. Some were particularly alarming: undergraduates delivering babies, students conducting hospital rounds unsupervised, even instances of students scrubbing in for surgery! Unfortunately many students are under the erroneous impression that participating in this type of hands-on clinical experience will give them a leg-up in the competitive world of medical, nursing or other health professions school admissions. Part of the messaging to pre-health professions students therefore needs to focus on how performing clinical duties beyond what they are authorized to do here in the U.S. is highly unethical, and could jeopardize their own careers.

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Before the evening was over, Dr. Evert, playing the roll of the advisor, and I, playing the part of a well meaning (but naïve) pre-med student, acted out an all too common scenario for the group. Fortunately, in our fictional advising session the student wasreceptive to ideas. The advisor convinces the student to re-examine motivations for wanting to go abroad, and suggests the right questions to ask when choosing a global health education program. The role-play emphasized the many tools available for students to examine their motivations for taking part in a health experience abroad. I think advisors in attendance left the CFHIUMN Health Careers Workshop with new resources, a feeling of community, and a better sense of how to guide students to help them make better decisions for their global health education.

 

Special thanks to our guest blogger, CFHI Intern Alex Nichol, for authoring this post.

Making Sure Global Health Education Doesn’t Perpetuate Disparities

“Global health education is at a crossroad. The landmark Commission on Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century highlighted the substantial disparities in health education worldwide and proposed reforms to enable all health professionals to “participate in patient and population-centered health systems as members of locally responsive and globally connected teams”.

This quote was taken from the Lancet article entitled ‘Equitable access for global health internships: insights and strategies at WHO headquarters.’ The Lancet Global Health article highlights the need for broadly accessible global health internships— ones that allow for exposure to community-engaged programs by students from a variety of socioeconomic and professional school backgrounds.  The barriers to access to global health educational opportunities are real and require the global health education community to embrace novel approaches, alliances, and funding mechanisms.

CFHI Ecuador Global Health

CFHI global health interns with local physician in Ecuador.

Child Family Health International– CFHI a leader in global health education programs for over 20 years, is mindful of these barriers. As a nonprofit running global health internships that advocate for ethics and social responsibility, we recognize there are significant costs associated with global health internships and provide fair compensation to local communities and professional mentors that shape the intern experience through their time, energy and expertise. This follows best practice guidelines set out by the Working Group on Ethics Guidelines for Global Health Training (WEIGHT).  However, program fees needed to provide resources for host communities and to support and educate interns can be a barrier to equitable access to reach beyond students from resource-rich backgrounds.

Like the WHO, CFHI utilizes scholarships in an effort to seek out candidates that may have greater financial need, limited opportunity to travel abroad, and those whose are under-represented in our programs. Scholarships and funding initiatives such as these are key to making real strides in south-to-south participation in global health internships and reducing their exclusivity as the domain of the wealthy.  In addition, CFHI provides a crowdfunding platform to make it easier for students to raise funds through friends, family, mentors, and wider social media networks. Crowdfunding is growing, and is a powerful tool that should be considered by WHO and other global health internship providers.

“For sustainable improvements in internship access and improved global health education, academic and professional institutions need to partner with the public sector and foundations, donors, and governments to channel resources to achieve this aim. However, the scale of this task necessitates the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Who else will step up and contribute to a growing movement towards equitable access for training, educational, and networking opportunities in global health? And who should lead this transition and monitor its success?”

The article is ‘right on’ with its call to arms.  If global health education programs and internships to not focus on equity, access and diversity, we risk perpetuating the same power imbalances and disparities that the global health community strives to eliminate. Child Family Health International commends WHO and the Lancet article authors for highlighting this issue and remedying it with action and advocacy.

 

How can we ensure that more students have access to global health and other professional and international internships?  Comment on the Lancet blog or tell CFHI what you think below!

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.

International Experiences: Witnessing the Merger of Public Health & Medicine

 

“Global Health is Public Health”

Nothing makes for fodder amongst academics and medial professionals like definitions.  In the case of global health there are more than a few.  One definition was put forth for the Executive Board of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) by Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, a physician, author and academic.  Another definition, offering a challenge to the often idealized concept, was proposed by a physician from the Global South as “a concept fabricated by developed countries to explain what is regular practice in developing nations.”  During this, the 19th annual National Public Health Week, let’s consider the definition of global health that appeared in The Lancet, “Global Health is Public Health.”

Students in Ecuador Attending a Reproductive Health Information Fair

Students in Ecuador Attending a Reproductive Health Information Fair

Abroad, physicians and other practitioners in resource-restricted settings act simultaneously as caregivers for both individual patients and populations as a whole.  The marriage of public health, clinical medicine, and health systems is cost-effective, pragmatic, and successful.  Slowly the US is catching on, as primary care physicians start to look at their patients, not only individually, but also as panels with certain disease profiles that can be monitored for population-based perspectives.  Similarly, experts have called on medical schools to be accountable to their communities in the Social Accountability of Medical Education movement, suggesting schools success cannot be measured without considering impacts on their own community’s health status.

Discovering Public Health in International Experiences

As head of Child Family Health International(CFHI), students interested in CFHI’s Global Health Education Programs often approach me and ask “What programs are focused on public health?” or conversely, “I want a program solely focused on clinical medicine, not public health.”  What they soon learn upon beginning their CFHI experience, however, is the important reality that in many low and middle-income countries the lines between public health and biomedicine are very much blurred.   This is largely out of necessity demanded by sparse or finite resources, as well as evidence-based and systems approaches to health.

International experiences focused on global health such as CFHI’s have so many proven benefits—studies have shown increased cultural competency, better understanding of caring for people with limited supplies, and a nurturing of lifetime dedication to underserved care.  Importantly, they also increase board scores in public health.  So, rather than asking “how can I find an international experience focused on public health?” consider the question, “how can I find the public health in my international experience?”

How have you found the public health in your international experiences?  Let us know in the comments below.

CFHI Commended in Chronicle for Higher Education Article

 

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Over the past decade, the number of American students in health fields going abroad has nearly tripled, with many opting for programs that take them out of the classroom and into clinics and hospitals. But as participation has increased, so, too, have educators’ concerns.

Far too often, experts say, students are providing patient care—conducting examinations, suturing wounds, even delivering babies—for which they have little or no training. Indeed, as competition intensifies for medical-school slots, some students may actually be going overseas for hands-on experience they could not get in the United States, in hopes of giving their applications a competitive edge.”

The article is entitled “Some Global Health Programs Let Students Do Too Much, Too Soon,” and here at Child Family Health International (CFHI) we couldn’t agree more!

CFHI India Student on ProgramCFHI programs are highlighted in the Chronicle article, including quotes and reflections from CFHI’s Executive Director encouraging students to think about ethical implications of their experiences, and shaping student expectations for what is ok to do abroad.

As the field of global health continues to grow, so too are programs and options available to health students of all fields, often promising opportunities to “help” and engage in hands-on experience beyond their training, skill level, or licensure.  From the beginning CFHI has used an asset-based approach for engaging with communities abroad, and encouraging students to “Let the world change YOU.” In this way we position participants of Global Health Education Programs to learn, reflect, and realize that many times the most powerful impact they have in their role abroad is to form connections and relationships with local expert physicians and patients that will serve them in their future careers, as well as learn about the multitude of health determinants and complex global realities that underlie global health challenges.  We’d like to extend a big thank you to the Chronicle of Higher Education for helping us spread the word and advocate for social responsibility in health and medical education.

What do you think should be students’ role in health settings abroad?  How can students balance enthusiasm for learning while respecting ethical boundaries in clinical settings?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

CFHI Announces New Program in East Africa

CFHI’s Newest Programs in East Africa: Be Part of “An Activated Community” in Southwest Uganda

It is exciting when CFHI finds a partner so well aligned with its values of addressing broad determinants of health, engaging communities to help themselves, and strengthening local capacity for health care and community activation.  The Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (KIHEFO), a non-profit organization operating in Kabale, Uganda, is fighting disease, poverty, and ignorance by creating “An Activated Community.”  In partnership with KIHEFO, CFHI’s new Uganda programs HIV & Maternal/Child Health and Nutrition, Food Security & Sustainable Agriculture offer students from all academic backgrounds a firsthand learning experience addressing health, poverty, and education.CFHI Uganda Homepage Slide

Uganda is a country in Sub-Saharan East Africa facing many serious health problems and challenges, including high rates of maternal mortality (only 30% of women give birth in a health facility), HIV and child malnutrition. There is a shortage of medical professionals working in Uganda, along with equipment and medications. With the majority of the population living in rural villages and earning around less than $2 a day while subsistence farming, access to healthcare services is a severe challenge.

KIHEFO’s mission is to fight disease, poverty and ignorance in an integrated, sustainable manner. This means not only delivering healthcare, but helping communities deliver themselves out of poverty and reducing the problems causing sickness and disease. The team is large, “an activated community” made up of staff, former-patients and supporters worldwide mobilizing their communities for improved health and economic well-being.

CFHI Student’s Role in Uganda

Through CFHI, students from all academic backgrounds and levels have the opportunity to work closely to learn first-hand about child and maternal health, HIV, malnutrition prevention and rehabilitation, food security, sustainable agriculture, empowerment of women’s groups, micro-credit savings and community mobilization.

Students observe and learn from healthcare professionals working at the General Clinic, at the HIV/AIDS Clinic learn from counselors and former HIV positive patients about testing and counseling HIV+ patients, and participate in a monthly HIV outreach.

At the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre, students learn from social workers and nurses about preventing and rehabilitating malnourished children, and participate in nutrition assessments to measure patient’s growth and progress. Additionally, students learn about sustainable agriculture practices, including permaculture, and the importance of crop diversification and growing food closer to home.

KIHEFO believes there is no single cause of disease, much like there is no single solution.  Mirroring the CFHI approach they believe initiatives must be integrated, community-based and sustainable. Join CFHI’s Uganda Programs to learn from the people behind the “community activated” model for improving health and livelihoods.

Learn more.

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.

CFHI Voices: One Northwestern Med Student’s Summer in the Himalayas

In July of this year five students from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine traveled to rural India as part of a unique global health program organized by Child Family Health International – CFHI, the second trip organized through their unique partnership.  Funded by Northwestern’s  Center for Global Health we set out to learn about public health, increase our cultural competency, and develop clinical skills by participating in a four-week clinical shadowing experience across Northwest India. We rotated in different settings, from tiny villages like Patti tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas to the bustling city of Dehradun, in both public and private healthcare sectors.  During our time in the clinics, on the wards, and in the field we witnessed healthcare disparities as they are manifested between rural and urban regions, between private and public sectors, and between different socioeconomic groups. We were able to see, for cultural and economic reasons, how differently medicine is delivered half a world away.DSC_0918

That month spent in India was an unforgettable and magnificent experience: the medicine we witnessed, the physicians and nurses we worked with, and the patients we got to interact with brought the kind of perspective to my medical education that only an actual, immersive experience that being abroad could bring. We didn’t stay in hostels or hotels – we lived with Indian families in their homes or in dormitories within the hospitals.

Nothing can beat that kind of immersion; nothing can beat waking up in a tiny mountain village everyday at 5:30AM with my fellow travelers to do yoga, or getting woken up in the hospital by a nurse to aid in a delivery or assist in the emergency department. We explored palaces and temples, hiked through jungles, and sampled the multitude of sights and smells, the cacophony of sounds, and the delicious and exotic foods.  India brought piece and calm to my mind and body, it gave me perspective on the doctor/patient relationship, and reminded me what medicine is really about – one component of the greater endeavor to help ameliorate human suffering in the world.

India left a lasting impression – one that no doubt will shape my medical career, but also my personal life. It left me wanting to return to the more disenfranchised parts of the world to practice medicine, it left me a with a firmer perspective and appreciation of my own upbringing, and it left me with fond memories of a country I would dearly love to visit and explore again in the future.

Jason Chodakowski

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

MD Candidate – Class of 2016

How it All Began: The Early Days of CFHI

The Early Days of CFHI Featured at San Francisco Film Festivalfilmfest

This past July the documentary film “The Most Distant Places” was featured amongst others at the Bay Area Global Health Film Festival. This story, directed by Mike Seely, is depicted from the perspective of Ecuadorian doctor Dr. Edgar Rodas, then a medical school Dean in Cuenca, Ecuador. The film chronicled the importance of constructing a mobile surgical clinic and the team involved in bringing mobile care to remote communities in Ecuador.

The film festival was organized to shed light on a critical message in need of a strong voice: access to the most basic surgical care is a human right, not a luxury. Dr. Rodas shared his story and expressed an unwavering commitment to his fellow Ecuadorians. As the film came to an end and the audience allowed the weight of the story to settle, he delicately reminded everyone that every effort produces a result. These efforts would eventually result in CFHI- Child Family Health International as we know it today.

A Chance Meeting

A young Evaleen Jones, in Ecuador.

A young Evaleen Jones (right), in Ecuador.

As I sat across the table from Dr. Evaleen Jones, CFHI’s Founder and President, I marveled that even after twenty-one years, she tells the story of CFHI’s beginning with energy and excitement. She reminisced about her time in Ecuador as a third year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine. At the time, Stanford University did not readily offer International Health opportunities abroad with a student focus. To best serve patients living in densely populated Latino communities within the Bay Area, Evaleen knew that Spanish language and cultural competencies were essential. And so, with only a modest amount of money she embarked on her first adventure abroad.

Once in Ecuador, Evaleen’s efforts to connect with local physicians led her to Dr. Edgar Rodas, the doctor who would be featured in the Distant Places film many years later.  She came to know him as a simple man who exuded a deep-seeded commitment to the well-being of his fellow countrymen.  As a surgeon he rejected the notion that a person cannot have an operation simply because they don’t have enough money. Regardless of the enormity of such an undertaking, he felt the status quo would not suffice.

As chronicled in the film, Dr. Rodas’ goal was to build a mobile surgical clinic. Evaleen, sensing the strength of his presence and understanding the value of his quest, jumped in headfirst and agreed to return to the States to arrange funding for construction of the mobile clinic.  According to Evaleen, “There are some people who you can sense very quickly are special individuals.” Even after only a week of knowing Dr. Rodas, she allowed her instincts to propel her forward.

CFHI Begins

The start of her fourth year in medical school Evaleen hit the ground running. Every conceivable connection was utilized- donations of all kinds– designing and constructing a surgical clinic, shipping the mobile unit. Evaleen’s fearlessness in asking gave her the edge that ultimately convinced others to help. Each someone told her “absolutely not Evaleen, this is impossible,” it motivated her to continue.

It was during this time that CFHI came to life. Approaching potential small-logo2_pngdonors as a recognized NGO lead to greater success. Evaleen had also not lost sight of her original intentions: CFHI was to be a platform to provide medical students (and later students of varying fields interested in health) with learning opportunities abroad, and to increase language and cultural competencies. Dr. Jones states again and again that the world is a classroom and students should pay for the privilege of learning.  Uniquely CFHI, she also saw that students could be a sustainable source of support for locally-run health care efforts that don’t breed reliance on Western ‘aid.’ While placed in the global classroom, students are encouraged to open their minds and listen well, and let the world change them. Even with the passing of time, Dr. Rodas and Dr. Evaleen Jones remain faithful to their belief that, “It has always been about the people, not the projects.”

 

–Lyndsey Brahm

Special thanks to CFHI alumna and volunteer Lyndsey Brahm for her work on this post.  Lyndsey will be attending the University of Copenhagen, School of Global Health in 2014.

Have some ideas and interested in blogging for CFHI?  Email info(at)cfhi.org for details.

Exploring the “Family” in Child Family Health International

You may have heard people refer to CFHI and those involved in the organization as part of a global family.  Our ‘family’ is made up of wonderful volunteers, health care providers, devoted  staff (stateside and abroad), as well as the fastest growing part of our family– more than 7,000 CFHI alumni and counting!India-Hands  We have been growing our family and projects for over 20 years.

CFHI is not only a global family, but we serve families.  Two projects that come to mind when I think about how our work affects families are projects that target the long-distance trucking industry in India and the illegal sex workers that support this industry.

In India, young men, and boys barely out of school, travel the highway system connecting the most distant corners.  The work is hard, the hours long, and the travel dangerous on the over-crowded highways connecting coast to coast.  While away from home for 2-6 months at a time, many truck drivers engage in sexual activities with prostitutes.  Two National Aids Control Organization (NACO)-based foundations that target this population are the Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) and SWACH (Survival for Women and Children Foundation).

Actors performing skit on STD awareness at truck stop in New Delhi, India.

Actors performing skit on STD awareness at truck stop in New Delhi, India.

Both do amazing outreach and fieldwork with peer educators, some once truckers themselves. They captivate the young audience by performing skits (see photo, right), playing card games, leading monthly health camps, and offering the men free hair cuts and shaves while they talk about safe sex.  SWATCH peer educators target the high-risk female sex workers~ often widowed women (some still in their teens) who have been forced into sex work to support their children. Their main activities include teaching why condom use is important, the importance of regular HIV testing and resources are available if they test HIV positive.  They even teach the woman how to put on a condom on men in the dark by demonstrating how to put a condom on a model blind-folded!  Challenges ahead include rehabilitation training for the sex workers.

The family in Child Family Health International is both our global family of staff and local health care providers that make CFHI Global Health Education Programs the amazing experiences they are, and the network of folks, our alumni, who have been touched by CFHI’s transformative programs, as well as the families served by CFHI programs and reinvestment in host communities.