Monday, February 22, 2016

Filling important roles in communities

Uganda Village Project’s reproductive health outreaches are for women to learn more about safe pregnancy and child spacing, and receive contraceptives if they would like. Why would a woman who had gotten a tubal ligation years ago come to an outreach?

That’s the question we asked this month when a woman showed up at the outreach in Nabirere A village. The answer was that she was sick, she had nowhere to go, and she trusted UVP. The nurse who accompanies Maureen on family planning outreaches examined the woman and declared she needed to go to the hospital. She was sick and she desperately needed a blood transfusion. Everywhere you would expect to see blood vessels running under the skin, she was simply pale. Ultimately, she decided against going to the hospital, although we were prepared to take her in the UVP car as we left the family planning outreach. She wanted to get her household in order before leaving, and we reluctantly left without her.

UVP works on education, access, and prevention. We don’t provide clinical care and our role is to refer people to treatment instead of provide medical advice. The simple fact is that we are a small organization, and we have to choose where to place our focus because we can’t do everything. This story could be about the gaps this creates, but instead it highlights the broad impact we have in rural communities.

First, the Village Health Teams in this community are clearly doing a good job at spreading awareness about the outreaches. This woman wouldn’t have been seeking out information on reproductive health, since she’d had a tubal ligation, but she still heard about the outreach and arranged to attend. Second, communities trust us. It’s hard to admit when you’re sick and seek help, but this woman made an effort to come see us and ask what she should do. Our goal is to pass on this role to the Village Health Team members so they can continue to be referral points in their communities. Third, we can’t do everything, but we provide a crucial link to additional services if we don’t provide them ourselves. In this case, we referred the woman to the hospital and we are following up with her to make sure she gets herself treatment. We do similar things when we pass on information to villages about traveling clinics for eye diseases or connect households with places to buy water filtration systems.

Access, education, and prevention. These words focus us, but they also encompass a wide variety of roles we play in rural villages. They are roles that we are glad to fill as we work with partners to ensure that communities have the opportunity to improve their health and well-being.

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