Child Family Health International (CFHI) provides community-based Global Health Education Programs for health science students and institutions. Our unique model fosters reciprocal partnerships and empowerment in local communities, transforming perspectives about self, healing and global citizenship.
Global Health Immersion and the Work of CFHI
CFHI intentionally works to make its Global Health Education Programs into Global Health Immersion Programs. This change in wording implies an emphasis on immersion into the culture and immersion into the healthcare system. The relationships within the CFHI global family offer participants in these Global Health Immersion Programs an active observer role at the front lines of the delivery of healthcare in a given country.
Building strong, long-term relationships with underserved, resource-poor communities is the foundation of our work. At CFHI, we believe finding and building on the strengths of the local community is the best place to start.
Instead of just conducting a needs assessment to find what a community is lacking, CFHI takes more of an asset mapping approach to begin with a community’s strengths rather than its weaknesses. We believe this is the more sustainable approach. As the work is driven at a pace that is consistent with local capacity, the community takes ownership much more quickly, and an inherent check is placed on the donor organization from imposing its agenda, consciously or unconsciously. We also find that it is a healthier approach. Participating in projects that consistently approach issues from the perspective of what the community doesn’t have can create a mindset that unconsciously promotes a neediness and dependence on help from outside the community. Tackling the same issues by intentionally seeking, celebrating, and building on the strengths of the community can engage people in a process that implements successful development, while at the same time builds self-esteem, and local pride and ownership.
Local Heroes and Heroines
Many local communities in the Global South (be they urban or rural) have their own health professionals who work every day with very few resources and in difficult working conditions to care for their communities. They are strongly dedicated to serving their people, and have decided to remain in this service instead of emigrating to more lucrative environments. CFHI seeks out these local health professionals who have a life of commitment to their own communities. These are the local unsung heroes and heroines whose work we are proud to help support. Often they go unnoticed and give their professional lives in great service with little recognition because they do not seek it. We have found their contributions to be remarkable, and we believe others can learn a great deal from their examples. This creates an important learning ground for the health professionals of tomorrow to learn from the dedication of the present and a commitment rooted in the past.
Many international health rotations find students from ‘developed’ countries heading to the Global South, where they have great and profound experiences, while people in host communities are left with feelings that remind them of colonialism.
CFHI’s strength-based approach attempts to address this problem by recognizing the local health professionals as the experts in their own environments. We tremendously value the local health workforce and ask them to share their commitment, dedication, and knowledge with our students. This creates a culture of respect from the initial encounter that we hope permeates our organization and each of our programs so that students are learning respectful engagement, cultural humility, and a sense of perspective that will serve them in their future careers. We know that this kind of engagement also produces a tremendous sense of success, satisfaction, and a new-found local respect for the community’s own medical professionals that exponentially increases the strength of the local community and its own belief in itself.
Hope for a Better World
So as the world becomes smaller and as the global threat of disease increasingly permeates borders, we hope that global health immersion experiences will create a global family of health professionals, at all levels, who are uniquely enabled to allow knowledge, innovation, and the lessons of local successes to permeate borders at an ever increasing rate and thus improve not only the heath of local communities but also the health of the world community.
CFHI currently runs Global Health Education Programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Mexico, Uganda, South Africa and the Philippines for undergraduate and graduate students. Learn more at our website.