by Dimitri Carol
Dimitri is one of Timmy’s long-term volunteers working in Quito, Ecuador. He recently graduated with a degree in International Cross Cultural Management from Bordeaux University in Bordeaux, France and is now working on marketing and communication projects with Timmy’s team abroad. This post highlights some of the sustainable practices that Timmy uses to train and support our team of community health promoters and outlines the objectives of our 1st Public Health team that traveled to Ecuador in April.
Owning knowledge is a good thing, but sharing it is even better. And that’s what Timmy Global Health is doing in Ecuador. We’re passing the torch, sharing knowledge, and using education and awareness to train capable and autonomous community health promoters to support our patients in the developing world. Of course, in an ideal world, Timmy would need to intervene in Ecuadorian communities, via health promoters or any of our other public health initiatives. But as you and I both know, this is no ideal world. Countless people are in need of support, and access to medical care is at the top of the list.
For more than fifteen years, Timmy has been working diligently to treat patients and provide year-round support to communities that otherwise have little to no access to primary care or advanced health services. A majority of Timmy’s work abroad involves treatment and follow-up care for patients that are diagnosed in their mobile medical clinics. But recently, Timmy has taken advantage of a new opportunity to partner up with university students to expand its service provision to include preventative health care practices as well.
The goal of prevention is to curb diseases before they start – to address the root of a health issue before it actually becomes a problem. We put this objective into action in April 2013, when we partnered with the University of Cincinnati Med School to launch our first public health trip to Quito and Tena. Working with U of C medical students, we called together the health promoters of the local communities to participate in health workshops or “charlas,” designed to highlight critical prevention methods that could reach every community member. Timmy’s health promoters are community leaders – men and women who establish the link between the local population and Timmy’s staff and volunteers. They are a critical part of Timmy’s public health initiatives because they are individuals that the community members trust with their health related questions and concerns, and they have an established rapport with each and every household in the community.
Throughout the public health trip we divided our time between Quito and Tena in order to to maximize the amount of health promoters that could attend the workshops. The idea was not just to teach the local promoters, but also to learn from them in a mutually beneficial exchange. The team quickly learned that they had to adjust their approach and adapt their message to the local way of living. Some of the biggest hurdles to public health in the communities we visited were a lack of access to various nutritious foods, no safe-water sources, and other money-related limitations.
Each workshop was led by a different group of medical students and/or medical residents. Through discussions, skits, and other interactive activities they tackled sessions related to diabetes, hypertension, geriatrics, mental illness, neonatal and infant care, breastfeeding, and hernias. At the end of the two-day workshops, the health promoters received a certificate to verify their participation and preparedness for community health initiatives. Although prevention was a central part of this medical trip, the team still set up mobile medical clinics as well, and continued to provide support and treat Timmy’s patients. Moreover, clinic days were a great opportunity for health promoters to practice what they had been taught!
Below is a photo essay highlighting different moments from the public health trip. I hope that it paints a good picture of the different kinds of capacity building and community development projects that Timmy is now integrating into its long-term service provision.