Students often ask what happens to a community after a Medical Brigade leaves. How do rural families access medical care in-between Brigade seasons? What happens if there is an urgent medical situation in the evening after a Brigade has already packed up and left the community?
Global Brigades’ Community Health Workers (CHW) program seeks to address this situation. Founded in 2009, the CHW program is a sustainable health program that trains a selected group of local community members to serve as health advocates in rural Honduran communities. These trained, local volunteers help perpetuate a consistent level of care in the communities and improve access to health care throughout the year.
Under the leadership of Dr. Gustavo Soriano, the CHW program partners with communities in Honduras to provide intensive health worker training to selected volunteers. Topics addressed during the intensive 3-month course include: basic first aid, CPR, nutrition, family planning, pregnancy, and how to dispense medication.
In the communities Global Brigades works with, the need for the CHW program is strong. Most communities do not have any type of health center and certainly not a hospital. Communities that are fortunate enough to have a health center might only have it open from 8am to 5pm, and it might only be staffed with one nurse who is overwhelmed with serving a population of over a thousand people. Often times, families will have to walk for hours to reach a clinic that may or may not be open.
The CHW program developed its curriculum from the acclaimed training manual, “Where There Is No Doctor”, and from guidelines from the Honduran Ministry of Health. Currently, 15 community members have graduated from the CHW program and are providing basic frontline care. In addition to providing basic wound care, first aid, and providing nutrition and family panning information, one of the most important responsibilities for a CHW volunteer is to dispense prescribed medication to patients suffering from chronic illnesses. Volunteers ensure that chronic patients are taking their medication consistently and accurately, and they help monitor patients and report back to Global Brigades’ doctors if there are any changes in their condition.
This May, 15 more volunteers will be graduating from the CHW program. These 15 volunteers come from communities where Medical Brigades has a presence: Zurzular, Las Delicias, Palo Verde, Nueva Esperanza, and Trigales. These volunteers, who have to walk up to 2 hours each way to the training center, receive no compensation for their time commitment to the program (volunteers are required to attend 2 to 3 trainings each week for 3 months).
Once a CHW volunteer has graduated from the program, they are provided with a backpack filled with first aid supplies, pre-prescribed medication to dispense to chronic patients, and a cell phone to call GB doctors for consultation and follow up. Dr. Soriano also conducts regular visits to the communities after participants graduate to provide continuing education trainings, and to answer questions and remain in touch with the needs of the volunteers and community members.
The CHW program is one of the greatest examples of how Global Brigades provides sustainable health solutions in under-resourced communities. Brigaders, this amazing program needs YOUR help! Currently, the CHW program is in need of CPR manikins to more effectively teach community member correct CPR techniques. This is a perfect opportunity for you and your club to continue to stay involved with supporting communities after returning from your Brigade. If you are interested in starting a fundraiser to purchase CPR manikins for the CHW program, please contact Gustavo Soriano at Gustavo@globalbrigades.org.