The Institute for Women’s Health has developed a global outreach component in women’s health organizing initiatives at VCU to foster partnerships for international research, and health and human services. The Institute seeks to foster collaborations between Virginia Commonwealth University and international organizations at home and abroad in order to enhance the global experience for faculty students and departments, as well as to provide expertise on women’s health to international partners.
Midwives for Haiti (MFH)
Nadene Brunk, Founding Executive Director
Project Start Date: February 2014
Project End Date: ongoing
Faculty Lead: Janett Forte
Community identified need addressed by the project
In Haiti, about 75 percent of pregnant women lack skilled care attendants at their delivery, 7% of children die before age 5, thus this partnership aims to expand Midwives for Haiti’s volunteer network of health professionals, addressing maternal and infant mortality, by creating a sustained study abroad connection with VCU - residents, medicine and other health discipline students to work alongside Haitian doctors, students, midwives, matrons and U.S. based volunteers increasing awareness of global health disparities; motivating students to be active global citizens; and providing much needed health services in the central plateau of Haiti.
The Institute for Women’s Health formally partnered with the Richmond based non-profit, Midwives for Haiti in the winter of 2014 to develop a sustainable connection to this global women’s health program in Haiti for ongoing student study abroad opportunities and faculty support and mentoring of students interested in maternal health. The partnerships is developing outreach, research and service opportunities for VCU collaboration and resource/expertise sharing
The VCU partners provide and share their diverse women’s health expertise including clinical skills, culturally appropriate training, capacity building, best practice models and practical support with the local Haitian program addressing pre and post-natal care for pregnant women and their infant children. Students develop a deeper understanding of healthcare in a resource poor and fragmented system, increase awareness of the importance of communication skills, the challenges of language barriers and the rewards of working across disciplines with midwives and other local health providers and community leaders.
Outcomes to date
In the Winter/Spring of 2015 nine students including an OB/GYN resident, four medicine students, social work, psychology, occupational therapy students and a midwife traveled to Haiti through this community engagement/ learning project. Feedback suggests students have a deeper appreciation for public health issues and cultural sensitivity and competency, the challenges of true community engagement and partnership building and the shaping of personal and professional goals through an experience viewed as transformative. The group is developing a second phase of service to continue to foster the relationship with Midwives for Haiti and the families of Hinche, Haiti.
Training – June 2015
During June 2015, a 5-hour training on women’s circles was provided to nine Haitian midwives and matrons. An epidemiology doctoral student and a health psychology doctoral candidate facilitated the training in English. The training and related materials were translated into Haitian Creole, the native language of participants. An interdisciplinary team, comprised of individuals with backgrounds in social work, health psychology, nursing, midwifery, and epidemiology, developed this interactive training.
Training –March 2016
The plan for 2016 is to adapt the training so that it could use it for the current class of 30 students providing a facilitative skills training for the two groups of Midwives for Haiti student class as part of their class work. Discussion has begun about finding dates for the Spring of 2016 and would include bringing another VCU OB/GYN resident or medical student as part of the team.
The team plans to finalize the health education curriculum including the simplified 4 session overviews incorporating feedback we have received from midwives in Haiti on content and cultural relevancy. We would then l need to get them translated and made available for the use of mobile clinic midwives.
Haiti Project Poster Presentations:
Janett Forte, MSW, LCSW, Institute for Women’s Health, Pamela Palma* , Supraja Rajagopalan*, Barbara Saber*, Jeffrey Woo*, MD Candidates, VCU School of Medicine, Class of 2015. VCU - Haiti Maternal Health Partnership. VCU Global Health Showcase 2015. April 20, 2015.
Janett Forte, MSW, LCSW, Institute for Women’s Health, Pamela Palma* , Supraja Rajagopalan*, Barbara Saber*, Jeffrey Woo*, MD Candidates, VCU School of Medicine, Class of 2015. VCU - Haiti Maternal Health Partnership. VCU Women’s Health Research Day, Institute for Women’s Health. April 2, 2015.
Eighteen projects receive Quest Global Impact Awards to advance VCU global priorities – 2014/2015 Awards
VCU Partners with Midwives for Haiti to Reduce Infant and Maternal Mortality
OT Student Perspective http://wp.vcu.edu/occupationaltherapy/2015/05/02/hello-from-haiti-my-journey-on-a-womens-healthcare-team/
Sixteen projects receive Quest Global Impact Awards to advance VCU global priorities
Community Partner: Association of Highland Women (AMA) Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano
Guadalupe Celeste Ramirez, Founding Director AMA http://amaguate.org/
Community Partner: Highland Support Project
Rachel Triplett & Guadalupe Ramirez Blevins http://www.highlandsupportproject.org/
Faculty Lead: Janett Forte
Association of Highland Women (AMA) Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano
Guadalupe Celeste Ramirez, Founding Director AMA
Highland Support Project
Rachel Triplett & Guadalupe Ramirez Blevins
Faculty lead: Janett Forte
Community identified need addressed by the project
In Guatemala over 40 % of the population has no access to formal health care thus malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality and chronic illnesses are devastating rural indigenous communities. This global women’s health partnership provides a forum to address health, education and capacity needs by building networks and shared experiences across cultures, countries and disciplines through a service learning exchange model focused on empowerment, social justice and solidarity.
Annually, the Institute for Women’s Health, in partnership with Highland Support Project in Richmond and the Association of Highland Women (AMA), offers a service learning study abroad experience to VCU faculty, staff and students to work with indigenous midwives & health promoters in the Highlands of Guatemala, to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the Guatemala region. The multidisciplinary team with expertise in maternal health, childbirth and women’s health work together on community identified projects that empower and support traditional midwives and community members.
The VCU multidisciplinary team provides and shares its’ diverse expertise, culturally appropriate training, essential equipment, and practical support with local service providers and community members. The team works to address community identified gaps by providing health education, training and clinical services that support women and children in the Guatemalan villages we visit. Students receive real world experience in how to appropriately work with global communities, the influence of culture on healthcare delivery and how multidisciplinary teams collaborate to leverage resources.
Outcomes to date:
Since 2010 eighty participants from diverse backgrounds including nursing, social work, medical, engineering, public health, education, anthropology, and community members have traveled through this service learning project. Post trip evaluations have overwhelming defined the experience as transformative and instrumental in informing personal and professional goals. Our Guatemala partners have found the teams influential in addressing health services in villages, contributing to financial support of ongoing health programming and supporting additional partnerships in areas such as arts, fashion, stove building, and connecting other VCU student groups to our partners.
Mali, West Africa
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations funded an HIV project in Mali (investigators Nixon, Cummins, Masho, Kornstein, Jallo). This grant has led to multiple new faculty collaborations around global health research involving VCU faculty and Malian researchers.
Gates Foundation funds HIV-related study