Health Education Programs

Health Education is Core to Creating Sustainable, Local Health Care Programs

The primary purpose of PHH's volunteer clinics is not to provide temporary health care, but rather preventive health education. The teaching happens both one-on-one and in groups in the clinic lines. Project Helping Hands has developed culturally appropriate education materials for all the countries served. Educational sessions are held on topics as diverse as preventative dental care, body mechanics, safe sexual practices, nutrition, and water hygiene. This education is re-enforced by PHH team members during individual encounters in the clinics.

It is encouraging when we return year after year to communities to find that they have implemented preventive health measures. When we teach a community how to build a latrine to decrease the spread of disease and we return the next year to find a latrine, we know we have succeeded.

In our years of work in the third world, we have found the health care to be sub-standard in medical facilities in many countries. The local health care providers use outdated medical procedures, and do not provide evidence-based or quality care, even when they have the resources to do so. For example, when we went to Uganda last January and worked side by side with local providers, we saw these providers give patients diagnoses and medicine after merely looking at a rash or other physical symptom. The providers never touched patients or gave thorough examinations before making their determinations.

By training physicians, nurses, health workers, and administrators in settings of poverty, we are developing a new generation of healthcare providers able to deliver comprehensive, community-based care in even the poorest and most remote places. Training starts with our own clinical staff (volunteers) and with our partners in the communities where we work – the patients and community health workers whose participation and leadership are essential to our success. And it starts with the assumption that we all have a great deal to learn from each other, not just about the latest diagnostic techniques and training protocols but about the needs and resources of the community and the value of genuine partnership and shared commitment.

PHH trains providers on the following subjects: how to diagnose patient health; respiratory diseases, diarrhea and dehydration, infectious diseases, vector transmission, medications, domestic abuse, and the sick child. Hands-on activities with providers include: mixing rehydration fluid (water, sugar, and salt), the Heimlich maneuver, body mechanics, splinting, dental care, and bandaging/ controlling bleeding. Each village representative also receives a copy of the book “Where There is Doctor.”