My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Child Family Health International, Oakland, CA, USA
My initial discovery of CFHI's global health programs surfaced in a conversation I had a few years back. A good friend of mine (who also happens to be an RN) had just received her nursing license. We were out for a celebratory dinner discussing the motivating factors that propelled her into the health field, the RN program specifically. Of the examples she named, CFHI's Reproductive Health program in Quito, Ecuador was one that she regarded as having a deeply important impact on her health perspective. Her month-long participation in that program helped solidify her passion to pursue and provide quality health care as an RN.
Years later I found myself with a window of time and opportunity to embark on the very same global health path she so highly and warmly regarded. In Fall 2010, I spent 2 full months (October and November) participating in CFHI's Reproductive/Women's Health Program in Quito, Ecuador. I chose this program in particular because of my long-term employment at a family planning clinic, and because of my passion for working with clients who are seeking knowledge, skills and empowerment to best protect their health. My medical career goal is to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, and since there wasn't a specific global health program with this focus, I chose the area of health I felt most familiar with: Reproductive Health.
Over the two months I spent participating in CFHI's global health program, I learned a wealth of information about health that extended beyond the Reproductive realm. Each week in Quito I was assigned to a specific preceptor in a specific health center providing services not limited to Women's Reproductive health; I'd spend one week making rounds on newborns/mothers in the Pediatrics ward, learning about post-natal care expectations; the next week I'd scrub in on surgeries in the military hospital. I certainly sat in on a fair number of OBGYN preceptors conducting women's health consultations, but it was what I learned during that unexpected time served working in areas of health I was unfamiliar with that left a huge impact on me.
I learned a lot about Ecuador's healthcare system by discussing health care access, education, socioeconomic class and ethnic background with my mentors and preceptors. These mentors include the CFHI's Quito Medical Director and local homestay coordinator with whom I spent a great deal of time interfacing with. Talking with them about what I saw and experienced in the health centers helped bring me clarity about their country's healthcare stratification; what % of the population uses insurance or private pays for services, what % needs and utilizes government assistance, SS, or free healthcare.
I learned about how religion, education and customary social/cultural schools of thought (i.e. machismo) weigh heavily on Ecuador's society, and individual minds; I saw how the cultural "way" dictated the population's attitude towards healthcare, especially in Women's Reproductive Health. Healthy sexual practices aren't discussed openly between parent-child or in schools, contraception isn't widely accepted or used for the sake of upholding religious belief systems and satisfying patriarchal demands.
Spending one week in Quito's public adolescent maternity hospital exemplified a country's level of education and a value system heavily entrenched in Catholocism. Each moment I spent with a newborn baby was a reminder of this, and I was truly fascinated by being on the other side of the coin---- my work at the family planning clinic primarily focused on prevention: pregnancy, STI, breast/cervical cancer; in Quito I spent the bulk of my time observing life circumstances that were past the prevention stage. It gave me the chance to examine culture in America, in the west (California), and within my immediate social circles (friends and family.) It also made me aware of my personal convictions re: healthcare. What aspects of health in Ecuador's culture really tested my notions of "acceptable, normal" and who was I to determine what was "right", "wrong" or an act of "miseducation." The moments that caused me to question belief systems in place within myself really stretched me beyond limits I never knew possible. and it is these reflections upon the state of health care in Quito that can broaden my understanding of client needs, beliefs and culture here in the states. It helped me better understand where the need IS and helps me narrow down where I want to focus my medical efforts once I am a practicing ultrasound care: the public sector for underserved, impoverished populations.
I left Quito, Ecuador realizing that I am in complete agreement with my friend with the RN license. My experience with CFHI left me energized, inspired and ready to complete the medical path I started; it made me aware of health conditions and beliefs surrounding healthcare that I will be sure to consider when serving future populations in my role as ultrasound technician. I want to best serve the client's needs, not my own.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
the insight I've gained into health care access, conditions and beliefs about health in a latin american country. I will continue to inform myself, self-educate and keep abreast on the state of Ecuador's healthcare system because I've invested much care and interest into the people/patients I encountered while living there. Also, my experience in Quito, Ecuador helped solidify my decision to pursue a career in health (Ultrasound Technology.)
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
If possible, it would be great to see CFHI create more global care programs for specialized health professions; I was impressed to see a Dental Health program in Quito, and I would have loved to see expansion into mental and social health programs as well. I am well aware of how much work, time and money is invested into each anchor (program) so my suggestion of this is something I would love to see in the future as CFHI continues to grow and gain more global support.