Tag Archives: child family health international

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.

AAB logo

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.

CFHI Advising Health Students

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.

Global Health Uncensored: Notes from Western Regional International Health Conference

I descended upon the city through drizzle in true Seattle fashion, the Olympic Mountains revealing themselves in the distance. A local next to me argued against Seattle’s reputation for unyielding damp weather and boasted that the previous four days were dry and full of sunshine.

Rain or shine Seattle was brimming with energy and dialogue, as The University of Washington hosted the 11th Annual Western Regional International Health Conference (WRIHC) April 4-6, themed “Uncensored: Gender, Sexuality, & Social Movements in Global Health.”  The largest student lead conference in the nation, nearly 600 attendees from around the country and the globe joined the dialogue around gender and sexuality, topics too often stigmatized and neglected. I was there as an alumna of three different Child Family Health International (CFHI) global health education programs, representing CFHI amongst an army of global health enthusiasts.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), boldly declared, “It is not an option to silence sexuality. It’s everyone’s business to talk about these issues and more importantly, we need to talk about the sex we actually have, not the sex we pretend to have.”

The conference kicked off with a fiery presentation by keynote speaker Stella Nyanzi, PhD. A native to Uganda and a seasoned medical anthropologist, Dr. Nyanzi has worked extensively on youth sexuality and sexual and reproductive health issues in East Africa and contributed notable social science research and academic literature surrounding these topics. She encouraged the audience to not waste any time and to ‘uncensor’ gender, sexuality and social movements –the hardcore issues. She wasn’t kidding and even stunned the audience with the use of curse words, repeatedly followed by, “Pardon me, but I thought this conference was uncensored?” The diverse crowd immediately took to her, listening intently as she urged all in attendance to mobilize against issues that, whether we realize it or not, are relevant to us all.

Simply being in that room meant we were all comrades in the struggle for global health no matter what our focus, being that gender and sexuality permeate all aspects of health. Don’t forget, she sternly reminded us, that health transcends the mere absence of disease. “Become radical in a radical way and stop doing business as usual. Global health is about the global North and South. Arrive in foreign lands with a teachable spirit and empower everyone involved.”

Those with a teachable spirit can learn more about sexual and reproductive health issues touched upon during the WRIHC event. CFHI’s Sexual Health as a Human Right: Ecuador’s Unique Model in Quito, Ecuador affords understanding of sexual and reproductive health issues in Ecuador, the first Latin American country to guarantee sexual rights in the constitution despite a conservative societal context. Participants learn and help devise and execute educational and outreach strategies to take out into the community.

Going forward it’s imperative to continue ‘uncensoring’ topics, such as sexuality and gender. Jessica Stern from IGLHRC reminded us, “Sexuality is not just homosexuality. We all have sexual identities and sexual health is a human right.” Carlton Rounds, Founder of Volunteer Positive, urged the crowd to “lead with your stigma.”

 

Thanks to three time CFHI alumna Lyndsey Brahm for authoring this blog post.

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.

Beyond International Women’s Day

Women’s Empowerment Beyond International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day, also known as United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace was March 8th.  Child Family Health International (CFHI) firmly believes, however, that we must reflect more than once a year on women’s empowerment, progress made, and steps we can take as individuals and organizations to push this initiative forward.  In fact, front and center in CFHI’s tagline we highlight the importance of this as part of our everyday mission: Transformative Global Health Education and Community Empowerment.  This includes working towards UN Millennium Goal 3 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.UN Millennium Goal 3 Photo

Just a few weeks ago, in partnership with CFHI, Winnie and James Chang of Palo Alto, California hosted an event celebrating the recent opening of The Center for Empowerment of Young Mothers (EMJ) in Bolivia. The Changs are spearheading fundraising and donations for this project based in Bolivia working to empower young mothers.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the education system is often underdeveloped. In addition, the rate of sexual violence is extremely high; 7 out of 10 female teenagers are assaulted.  Many of these young women become pregnant, some as young as 14 or 15.  To combat these issues and provide support to young mothers, the EMJ Center was created. It operates a facility in El Alto, Bolivia, staffed by doctors, nurses, administrators and volunteers and provides help to young women from all socio-economic backgrounds.  In South America, young mothers are often impoverished, socially isolated, and have little education. Understanding the importance of education and improving their self-esteem is key to mobilizing change. Because South American women are usually in charge of the family, they play a very important role in society. The EMJ Center in partnership with CFHI works through education and empowerment so these women will positively affect Bolivian society at large.

EMJ provides daycare services for more than 20 mothers, recreational activities for children and moms, and are launching a fair where mothers are able to sell crafts and handiwork they have created. Mothers at the center were interested in learning about family planning, so EMJ provides education on these issues as well as women’s rights and gender issues.

CFHI and the EMJ Center are physically far away from one other, yet they strive for the same goal – to empower women.

You can help this great cause and do your part to further United Nations MDG 3 and women’s empowerment by donating to support the EMJ Center.

Help support young mothers in Bolivia: http://www.emjcenter.org/donate/.

 

Thanks to guest bloggers Alexandria Tso and Nayanika Kapoor for contributing in part to this article.

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 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.

 

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