USF Health students are making strides towards healthier communities on a global level. Students and faculty from all five colleges of USF Health are starting a new initiative in Nicaragua called forwardHEALTH. Founded in December 2012, forwardHEALTH is a partnership between Mana Project International (MPI) and the colleges of USF Health. The aim of forwardHEALTH is to improve the overall health and well-being of the community of Cedro Galán, Nicaragua, and to take care of treatable and preventable medical conditions so the community can focus on living, growing and moving forward.
July 2012: The project began when USF Health Morsani College of Medicine student Nicole Teal participated in a summer internship with MPI from May-July 2012. During this time, Nicole and MPI Program Director Christin Stewart completed a needs assessment in the community of Cedro Galan. Findings showed that the community prioritized the lack of access to health care as the number one problem facing their population.
February 2013: USF Health and MPI conducted health-centered focus groups to identify cultural models of health and disease, describe the difficulties of proper health maintenance, understand previous encounters with healthcare providers, and illicit community suggestions for healthcare improvement programs.
April 2013: A group of USF students traveled to Nicaragua to announce plans for a primary care clinic and support the election of a community advisory board to promote community ownership of the project.
June 2013: The inaugural USF Health & Manna Project International Summer Interns completed research projects in the Cedro Galán community.
July 2013: President and Founder of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Diabetes lead the first community health worker training.
The last few months have brought some exciting developments for the forwardHEALTH team. On October 21st, forwardHEALTH opened a primary care clinic in Cedro Galán which offers health services to an estimated 3,500 individuals who previously did not have access to care.
Furthermore, students and faculty from forwardHEALTH recently earned first place in the USF Research Matters Community Engagement competition. The winning poster was titled “From Need to Intervention: A Community-Guided Holistic Clinic Founded on Population Health Strategies.” The poster presented information on a number of research projects completed in Cedro Galán including a needs assessment, keys informants interviews, community mapping, a PhotoVoice study and a water, sanitation and hygiene study. The same week, forwardHEALTH also won a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to assist with start-up costs.
On October 25, forwardHEALTH launched an online fundraiser called 25 in 25, hoping to raise $2,500 to be matched in 25 hours. The group exceeded their goal and raised a total of $10,000 in less than the allotted time. The momentum continues as forwardHEALTH prepares for an upcoming fundraiser with a partner organization, Lacrosse the Nations, which supports Nicaraguan lacrosse students and helps fund forwardHEALTH’s clinic and health programming.
Want to get involved? Student who work with forwardHEALTH have a unique chance to enhance their competencies. Students will have the opportunity to:
- Be a part of USF’s first international primary care clinic
- Implement a sustainable, community-centered and holistic approach to healthcare through a partnership with a longstanding local NGO (Manna Project International)
- Gain experience living abroad and improve Spanish skills
- Hone physical and diagnostic skills in a resource-limited setting
- Complete community or epidemiological research