Educating a Village the Healthy Way
What is health? By Merriam-Webster's definition, it is "the condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit, especially, being free from physical disease or pain." A large number of people understand this concept and know how to ensure their health, even in the most basic ways. However, an even larger number of people do not. Three years ago, the people of a rural village in Guatemala might have identified as the latter. Thanks to the work of Dr. Roxanne Amerson, the students from her community health class and a Creative Inquiry group, this small town in Guatemala is becoming more educated on the basics of good health.
Stemming from her travels to Guatemala to teach health, Amerson wrote a grant proposal to receive funding for health education in the community. With the help of Grace Wielicki and Joellen Spicer, two seniors in Amerson's Creative Inquiry group, the proposal was submitted to the National Institute of Health (NIH), and awarded funding for the project.
The funding provided will be used to develop a curriculum for the health education program in a rural village in Guatemala. Before developing the curriculum, Amerson and her team needed to better understand the culture and literacy level of the people by doing a community assessment. Amerson knew the importance of this assessment and, through reading other studies, had stumbled across the idea of creating a visual map of community resources and key facilities (also known as data mapping). Other researchers had used survey equipment to create graphic representations of communities. Amerson and her Creative Inquiry students began brainstorming about how to develop the same type of visual maps for their community in Guatemala.
Last fall, Wielicki and Spicer traveled with Amerson to Guatemala to begin the community mapping process which entailed mapping the coordinates of the clinics, pharmacies, casarios (villages) and water sources. The only map found in the area was hand drawn with markers, so the team had to get creative and develop a more accurate and efficient way of mapping the community. Using an iPhone and Google Earth, Wielicki and Spicer traveled to the different casarios, mapping out the rural community by dropping and labeling pins at the various locations. The completed data map shows the spread of the casarios, the resources available to the people and the number of people living in each area. The map not only shows the need of health education and resources but also ensures that Amerson and the Creative Inquiry group are able to educate people from all the regions.
Now that the initial data mapping is completed, Amerson and her coinvestigator, Dr. Rachel Hall-Clifford, have conducted interviews and focus groups to expand their knowledge of the eight regions so that the curriculum can be developed to suit the needs of the people. In July, Amerson will travel to the rural village to present the curriculum to twenty women from various regions in the community. Those twenty women will in turn go out and educate ten families within their community, spreading the health education throughout the area.
Through this Creative Inquiry, the students have been faced with many challenges, allowing them to combine what they learned in the classroom with critical thinking. Traveling to Guatemala has not only challenged Wielicki from an educational standpoint but has given her an appreciation for third world countries, both of which Amerson had hoped for her students when she began the Creative Inquiry. For Wielicki, the most exciting aspect was being able to see and imagine the impact that the program could make. "The potential difference that there is to be made is astronomical. If it's something that we can teach them about, and that it really can make a difference; the health of the entire community could change."