How to Teach Health: Providing Quality Primary Healthcare to Impoverished, Rural, Isolated Communities

By John Straw, Executive Director at Concern America and Instructor for the Village Earth Community-Based Health online course

Village Earth’s Community Health course focuses on the many challenges, but also opportunities, related to health care (or the lack thereof) in materially impoverished regions of our world.  The course explores a range of insights and actions from methods for determining health needs to creating community-centered approaches for bringing care with/for regions lacking this important human right.  One hopeful program is Concern America’s Health Promoter Practitioner model.  The organization has just self-published a 35-book set of training manuals and student guides in Spanish titled “Cómo Enseñar Sobre La Salud” (How To Teach Health), a resource for organizations wanting to implement comprehensive community health programs in which the people themselves are the health care providers.  The books will soon be sold through The Hesperian Foundation, publisher of the well known resource “Where There Is No Doctor.”

THERE EXISTS A MODEL OF COMMUNITY-BASED, PRIMARY HEALTH CARE THAT IS AFFORDABLE AND EFFECTIVE.  IT IS A MODEL THAT ENGAGES COMMUNITY MEMBERS IN ITS PROVISION: “THE TRAINING AND ACCOMPANYING OF HEALTH PROMOTER PRACTITIONERS”.

In the U.S., the term “health promoter” often refers to individuals who provide health education and basic health care follow-up under the strict supervision of a medical doctor.  In the regions of Latin America where Concern America works, these Health Promoter Practitioners’ depth of knowledge, skills, and ability to provide primary health care, in their native languages, is comparable to the work of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the U.S.  As a result, in villages located hours away from health care centers and whose residents earn less than $2.00/day, high-quality, low-cost health care is a reality, saving and sustaining innumerable lives, using few resources.

In places like Chiapas, Mexico; Petén, Guatemala; and the Lower Atrato region of Colombia, the health care providers who give daily care in hundreds of villages and towns are not doctors or nurses but rather Health Promoter Practitioners.  These amazing community health care providers, many with less than three years of primary school, have been successfully trained as their communities’ medical practitioners who diagnose and treat patients, administer a wide range of medicines, and even perform surgeries like the tendon repair described above.

The series of books, entitled CÓMO ENSEÑAR SOBRE LA SALUD, employs the wisdom of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy, building on each student’s knowledge and understanding when teaching complicated medical concepts and procedures. There are 35 books in all and three levels of training: a teacher’s guide and a student handbook for each health care theme (e.g., Digestive System) taught over three years.   What is described, presented, and taught in CÓMO ENSEÑAR SOBRE LA SALUD has been fashioned by and in use by Concern America field teams in Latin America over more than 30 years and found to be extraordinarily effective in providing quality primary health care to impoverished, rural, isolated communities.  We want to multiply this model, which is why Concern America is writing CÓMO ENSEÑAR SOBRE LA SALUD.  It will eventually be translated into French and English and, hopefully, adapted to many indigenous languages.

 

FIRST LEVEL OVERVIEW

The Teacher Guides

Each First Level Teacher’s Guide covers important topics such as:

  • How to organize a course and how to teach Health Promoters
  • How to organize community groups
  • How to teach about the use of medicines
  • How to teach about respiratory and digestive diseases
  • How to teach about nutrition and environment

Student Handbooks

Each reference book for the Health Promoter student contains informative documents about how to prevent, diagnose and treat the most common sicknesses and when to refer a patient.

  • The language is simple.
  • The illustrations are clear.
  • The treatment and diagnostic guidelines are easy to understand.

SECOND LEVEL OVERVIEW

Teacher Guides

Second Level Teacher Guides cover the following topics:

  • How to teach about accidents and traumas
  • How to teach about reproductive health
  • How to teach about pregnancy and delivery
  • How to teach about chronic diseases
  • How to teach about dental and oral care

Student’s Handbook

  • The language is progressively more complex.
  • The graphics are explicit and educational.
  • The treatment and diagnostic guidelines are still easy to understand and to adapt.

ELECTRONIC ANNEX

AND THIRD LEVEL OVERVIEW

An Electronic Annex is included with the Teacher Guides. It is an educational tool where the teacher can find:

  • Pictures to project and ready to use Power Points documents
  • Sounds to listen to and recognize symptoms
  • Videos
  • Ready to print games, tests/evaluations and worksheets
  • Ready to print Student Handbooks with and without page numbers, giving flexibility to the teacher to build one’s own customized Student Handbook
  • A PDF of each one of the Teacher’s Guides and Student’s Handbooks from the “Cómo Enseñar Sobre La Salud” series
  • Third level handouts

THE ESSENTIAL MEDICINE INDEX

A vital part of the series “Cómo Enseñar Sobre La Salud,” the Essential Medicine Index (Índice de Medicamentos Esenciales) is THE REFERENCE BOOK of medicine for Health Promoters.

Its very simple and easy to read format and content makes it an indispensable every day tool for beginners and advanced Health Promoters. It contains information about the most prescribed essential medicines. It contains information about the most prescribed essential medicines recommended by the W.H.O.

 

For more information or to purchase the books, please visit Concern America Health Manuals.

To enroll in the Community-Based Health Course click here. Now enrolling through February 28, 2017.

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