Empowering Patients & Global Communities Through Partnership

This is a post I have been very much looking forward to writing and sharing with you, especially to those in the pre-med community who are a little hesitant to step out of their comfort zone or just don’t believe that an experience like this will further their motivations to be a physician. Let me tell you, I started this fellowship in June feeling like the ultimate outsider, completely out of my element. At Bootcamp, I was surrounded by driven and passionate sustainable development majors, social entrepreneurs, non-profit directors, and artists. Individuals who truly believe in the potential of communities around the world. Individuals committed to the field of global development. Originally posted by aethelwin-blog Enter LIL OL’ ME. Microbiology major, little experience in development, about to commit 7+ years to the field of medicine. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere? Absolutely not. These last three months of studying curriculum and learning about Mama Hope’s Connected Development model has slowly made me realize that community development and patient care ARE VERY SIMILAR and if done the correct way, they can be incredibly impactful on the health of patients and the future livelihood of global communities. Along the same lines as my fellow Advocates, I truly believe in the potential of patients to live happy and healthy lives, and I am committed to making my local and global community a healthier place through connection, collaboration, and partnership. There are endless parallels I have noticed between human-centered development and patient-centered care, but I want to highlight two similarities I noticed that are especially important to remember: (1) In development, communities are more than just the apparent necessities they lack. Similarly in health care, patients are more than just values and symptoms on a chart. We need to stop viewing developing communities and patients as problems that need to be solved by experts. Instead, we have to start viewing them with dignity and respect, as valuable and capable partners. As I’ve shared with you, every one of Mama Hope’s global partners is a visionary leader who knows exactly what his or her community wants and needs to thrive into the future. All they want is to be able to collaborate, learn, and be heard. Likewise, patient health can be shaped by so many external as well as internal factors. What’s on the chart is just one part of the story, and the only way a medical provider is allowed access to the other part is by taking the time to get to know the patient. By creating a meaningful relationship based on trust, support, and respect, a patient is more willing to share their insight with you, leading to a better picture of their overall health. (2) Providing aid alone to developing communities is not a sustainable solution for progress. Similarly, prescribing medication alone to patients is not the best way to improve health outcomes. These short-term solutions are ineffective, costly, and create dependency. The best way to support and empower communities and patients in the long-run is capacity building and education. While aid can buy material goods for survival, developing the skills and instincts to adapt and thrive will build stronger and more self-reliant communities. Likewise, medicine may be very beneficial in keeping the worst symptoms of a chronic condition at bay, but disease is usually multi-faceted, attributed to lifestyle as much as biology. This is why patient education is so important. Understanding how diet, exercise, and other lifestyle interventions can lead to better health will empower patients to take steps to stay ahead of their illness, instead of just waiting for their next refill. Originally posted by mattsgifs How amazing/weird/miraculous is it that I stumbled upon an organization that operates with values and principles that align almost exactly with the kind of healthcare I saw being practiced at the Mobile Outreach Clinic in Gainesville. Both these experiences have reinforced my passion for educating and empowering communities through accessible and quality patient-centered health care. I’m exactly where I should be. WE MADE IT! Thanks for joining me on the last day of Blog Week. I have had so much fun launching this travel blog and giving you a small glimpse into my world as a Global Advocate in preparation for my time in the field. I have a ton of packing and prep left to do before my departure on the 27th, but be on the lookout for new content and posts in two weeks. Thanks for the support, and see you then!

Reaching Out – Maternal & Child Care Day

Dependence on bureaucratic systems anywhere can be troubling, but dependence on governmental health agencies in Uganda for the provision of supplies is maddening. Though Suubi has (a surprising amount of) enthusiastic support from the sub-county and district health offices which confer some supplies, these are not always on hand. Each month, Suubi holds an Outreach Day to expand services to outlying villages who would likely otherwise likely not visit our health center. But for the past few months, each time our director or in-charge has attempted to retrieve necessary governmental goods for these Outreach Days, they have been unable to furnish us with what we need. Nurse Bonnie opens the doors to our Maternal and Child Care Day! Instead of reveling in this frustration or spending far beyond our budget for the April Outreach, we evolved this month’s Outreach into something different. We went back to our roots—the true focus of and inspiration behind Suubi lies in improving maternal and child healthcare in the region. Though Suubi provides low-cost services every day, on Wednesday April 8th Suubi hosted a Maternal and Child Care Day offering free antenatal care for pregnant mothers, free checkups and medicine for children, and free immunizations. 63 children received examinations and medicine and 72 received a round of immunizations. Additionally, 70 pregnant women obtained free antenatal check-ups and drugs, which more than doubled the number of mothers who’ve accessed these services since Suubi’s inception. Suubi Midwife Nepoline during one of 70 antenatal visits For the first time, Suubi used strictly its own resources to mobilize the community instead of accessing the government VHTs (village health team). Each Suubi Woman rallied her neighbors, family members, and friends by giving them small slips of paper which contained the relevant information for the day. Mukisa brought announcements to local churches and mosques to publicize over the holiday weekend. Our ambulance driver spent Tuesday riding around the villages with a pre-recorded message blasting on a megaphone. These tactics were cost-effective, community-based, and brought together more women and children than I possibly imagined would come. The brains and heart behind Suubi, Mr. Bernard Mukisa. With so many young mothers together in one place we also held a forum discussion, led by two of our spirited and knowledgeable Suubi Women, for pregnant women to discuss their needs, problems, and experiences. They talked together for hours in an open and accepting environment. They expressed their desires for supportive husbands and compassionate midwives, affordable treatment and comprehensive care. After the success of this dialogue, our team eagerly brainstormed ways to continue providing psycho-social support for pregnant women in the community. With the new Budondo Community Hall set to open in the next month, it will be home to a regular discussion group for these women. Additionally, we hope to hold sensitization seminars for young fathers on their roles and responsibilities to their children and families. Forum for pregnant women, led by our amazing Suubi Women I’ve always vaguely recognized that motherhood is possibly the most thankless and demanding responsibility a person can endure. But living in Budondo and witnessing the tireless effort that women put into caring for their large families has been humbling. The work is hard, but the community here is strong and the struggle is not isolating. As mothers around the world do, they make considerable sacrifices for healthy babies and nourished children. I’m keen to watch this program grow into something beautiful and to watch Suubi more deeply develop its reputation as a hub of love, trust, and compassion for women and children.   Baby Praise is unhappy now, but this minute of pain will improve her lifelong health! 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


When it comes to international development we tend to set our sights on the future. Even in my work I have always been forward focused – building, developing, educating. By investing in the next generation we are helping provide access to the tools needed to bring change to a community. There is even a very noticeable trend in international giving; supporting organizations serving children and education. While this does bring amazing opportunity for future change, we are overlooking a population that exists in every community whose needs are often being left under-resourced. Two weeks ago, during an NGO fair, I struck up a conversation with the organization African Impact. Among many other projects African Impact is partnered with Langoni Old People’s Home, locally known as “Wazee” (pronounced Wah-zay, meaning “elderly person” in Swahili), an elderly care facility based here in Moshi. Intrigued by a program outside of my usual education/child-development work, I met with Gill, the program manager, to learn more about their partnership. Here in Tanzania, it is a part of the culture that as the elderly get older they are taken care of by their children, grandchildren, or other family members. However, due to conflict, injury, death, financial strains, and many other reasons, there are a number of individuals growing old and finding themselves without a family to help support them. Wazee is a government funded elderly care facility that was set up in the late 80s/early 90s and currently accommodates 15 residents. Staffed by 1 manager and 4 women, the employees work long hours tending to the basic needs of residents: cleaning and cooking. This leaves little to no time to focus their attention on community building and daytime activities for the elderly. After years of living as neighbors, many of the elderly didn’t even know each other’s names. Gill explained to me that when they first visited Wazee it was a dismal place, a place for the elderly to simply watch the final years of their lives pass by. In 2013 African Impact partnered with Wazee. Working to fill the need for community building programs, their time is focused on stimulating the residents physically, emotionally, and mentally. While the staff continues their work of general operations, African Impacts runs daily group activities such as Arts and Crafts, newspaper reading, seated exercise, ESL classes, a variety of games (yes bingo is a big hit here too), and a community garden (helping diversify the nutrition available to the residents). This past week I volunteered with African Impacts to get a better understanding of their program and impact. Starting our day by greeting each of the residents one by one, we slowly made our way from home to home chatting, sharing jokes, and discussing current events. Through the conversations I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I was reminded of visiting my own grandfather at the home he stayed in before he passed away 2 years ago. I realized how important it was to my mother and me to choose a place for him that would exercise his mind and body, ensuring that the last years of his life were ones of value and joy. So why should this level of care be different for anyone else in the world? After greeting each of the residents at Wazee, the rest of the afternoon was spent doing seated exercise. A mix of stretches and aerobic games to get everyone moving. We were not only ensuring their bodies remain healthy and active, but also providing the space for the community to laugh, chat, and interact together.   Where before there was little to no interaction, now when you visit Wazee you will see all residents together chatting under the shade of a tree, sharing stories, and enjoying their final years together as a community. A few years ago a resident at Wazee passed away. With no funding for a funeral or a tombstone this person would have been buried in an unmarked grave, with no celebration or time for mourning. African Impact decided that they would pay for the funerals of the residents at Wazee. After this first funeral African Impacts was receiving feedback from the residents who stated, “you are here with us in life, you are also here with us in death, you are our family now. 0 0 0 Vulnerable communities come in all different shapes, sizes, and ages. When considering community development we must think of all members of the community. Yes, it is important to invest in the next generation, but it is important to not hold such a narrow focus on the future. There are individuals today that deserve equal attention. For centuries, cultures around the globe have respected the advice, wisdom, and guidance provided by the elderly. It is important we also respect their need for our support as they continue to age, ensuring their final years are ones of comfort and peace. Call to action One of the major issues found at Wazee is theft. With no wall surrounding their space, the residents are left unprotected from thieves coming to take advantage of the vulnerable residents. One woman’s three-year-old toothbrush was even stolen. African Impact is currently raising funds to help build a wall around Wazee. If you would like to support the their efforts please click here.