COPH Graduate Student Observes Community-Led Indigenous Health Training in Panama
During the first week of her International Field Experience in Panama, Morgan Hess-Holtz had the opportunity to join Dr. Arlene Calvo and Dr. Arturo Rebollón of the USF Health & Education International Foundation on a 3-day visit to the rural Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous territory, in northwestern Panama, where Dr. Calvo is leading a multi-year indigenous health training project.
“It was so amazing,” remarked Hess-Holtz, “to see… the passing of the torch to the community with the materials and experience to keep this network of health promoters sustainable.” This trip was special as it was the first time the indigenous health promoters who had received training earlier in the project would be training a new cohort of promoters. Project staff were available as a resource, but the local health promoters, who were also members of the community themselves, taught the material.
Drs. Calvo and Rebollón have worked with members of the Ngäbe-Buglé community over the last two years to develop customized health education material and to train indigenous health promoters throughout the region. The health promoters who received training through this project have already reached over 5,000 community members, covering nutrition, hygiene, environmental health, pregnancy and newborn care, the role of the midwife in the community, and domestic violence.
According to Hess-Holtz, “There was a tangible enthusiasm of not only the well prepared teachers, but the new trainees as well. There was heavy participation especially during the section on domestic violence.”
Hess-Holtz is currently a graduate student at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, where she is working towards the completion of a Master in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. As part of her International Field Experience, Hess-Holtz has contributed to the implementation of a GIS component to the indigenous health training project, and she looks forward to continuing to support the work being done in Panama by the USF Health & Education International Foundation until she returns to Tampa later this summer.
About Arlene Calvo, PhD, MPH, CHES
Dr. Arlene Calvo holds joint appointments with the Departments of Community and Family Health and Global Health. She earned a doctorate in community and family health from the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
About USF Health Program in Panama
The USF Health Program in Panama is located in the City of Knowledge, an international complex of organizations dedicated to education, research and innovation. The City of Knowledge also hosts regional offices of the United Nations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Pan American Health Organization, the Peace Corps, Save the Children, and many other international organizations. The USF Health & Education International Foundation exists to increase collaboration in education, research and patient care between the faculty and students of USF and of academic and research institutions in Panama, as well as other health professionals and organizations throughout Latin America.
For more information about opportunities for international field experiences and other programs in Panama, please contact Stephen Church (email@example.com), Director of the Panama Initiative & International Programs, in the Office of International Programs.