A few months ago, I visited the Blue Hills community of Petite Anse in Cap-Haitien with Lucien Islande, a community healthcare worker (CHW) at Fort Saint Michel (FSM) Health Center. Her task that day was to visit new mothers who had delivered at home. Undoubtedly, it was an experience that made me think more about how we support the work of community leaders such as Lucien.
Lucien, who has been working at FSM Health Center for more than 10 years, works closely with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) who are embedded in the community. The TBAs are usually from the communities in which they work, so they know the local people very well. Over the years, they have developed relationships as trusted leaders of their communities. The TBAs work closely with the CHWs to ensure that mothers receive holistic support, which elevates the collective health status of women and children in the community.
The collaborative approach between the TBAs and CHWs requires consistent communication and is unique because of the systematic approach that has been created in forming the care team for the mother.
The TBAs visit women while they are pregnant to provide educational needs, allay fears and concerns related to home deliveries, and encourage them to seek professional medical care at the health center. They also provide essential supplies, including items in birthing kits, vitamins, and nutritional supplements.
Once the women have given birth, the TBAs connect with CHWs to ensure there are scheduled visits to check the health of the mother and the new baby. Collectively, there are plans to discuss breastfeeding, nutrition, hygiene, immunizations, and many relevant maternal and child health topics. Mothers are encouraged to attend vaccination rally posts in the area hosted by CHWs.
The overall goal of both the TBAs and the CHWs is to encourage the new mothers to seek professional medical care at a nearby health center or hospital. While this is often accomplished, at times it remains a challenge.
One of the challenges concerns infrastructure. The roads to the homes are sometimes flooded during the rainy season. The teams of mighty CHWs use rain boots to successfully visit the homes. Most families don’t have easy access to the internet to obtain information; therefore, everything must be done in person or through a phone call. The CHWs carry brochures/pamphlets in their back packs to distribute to the mothers so that they can access the information at any time.
We at Konbit Sante recognize these challenges, and are always looking for innovative ways to address the infrastructure issues that our partners face. We work with our teams to find ways to provide portable internet adapters and funds to purchase rain boots and coats so that they can easily walk down impassable roads, even in the rainy season.
Each month, CHWs serve about 10 new mothers to have safe deliveries and continuously care for their babies, which in turn enhances their health outcomes. According to Lucien, the support of the CHWs and TBAs has reduced the number of women who die during delivery by more than 50% and has reduced premature births significantly.
Champions such as Lucien continue to work through difficulties and provide quality care to patients to the best of their abilities. I remain in awe of her spirit to persevere in spite of the challenges. If you meet her and spend a day with her, no doubt you’d feel the same too!
If you are interested in supporting our work, please do so by donating to our website. Your donation will go a long way towards making a big difference to healthcare leaders such as Lucien.