Author Archives: Crystal Lander

What is a Community Health Center (CHC) Anyway?

“A community health center is defined as a community-based and patient-directed organization that serve populations with limited access to health care.” For people living in Port-au-Prince Haiti a CHC is so much more. On Tuesday, December 16, the Congressional staff delegation went to visit an urban community health center in Petit Place Cazeau, operated by the SSQH project and funded by USAID.  The first thing you notice when you walk into the clinic is the crowds of people organized into stations for services.  Video screens are in every waiting area to make sure patients and their families are “learning while waiting,” videos today focused on sexual violence and what to do if someone has been violated. As you continue walking around the clinic, it’s clean, open and quite welcoming. Another thing you notice is the men in the clinic, many are holding their children or simply waiting with pregnant partners. This clinic provides a fully integrated package of health services but most women are here for prenatal services, including HIV screening. Often men are not integrated into clinic visits due to space; in this clinic there was room for men and other family members to accompany their partners.

Years ago, I was the clinic director for a similar type of clinic in Houston, Texas. Women, many needing subsidized services, came into the clinic to find out if they were pregnant or to receive prenatal services. Very early on, one of the things that was obvious  was the need for space for children and other family members to accompany the women. Simply having enough chairs helped women stay longer and come more frequently. Another tool to maximize time in the clinic was the use of educational videos on topics such as support for victims of violence, long term birth control methods, and prenatal health. My visit to Petit Place Cazeau was a reminder that women and their families, no matter where they lived in the world, want the same access to quality health services and how important these services are to so many.

Funding for programs like these clinics, both in the US and around the world, not only help provide lifesaving services but they also promote the basic principle that “health is a human right” for everyone.

A mom and her baby at the SSQH clinic. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

A mom and her baby at the SSQH clinic in Petit Place Cazeau. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

We have all heard this saying many times: walk a mile in her shoes then judge. Well on Monday, December 15 congressional staffers visiting Haiti with MSH traveled to Calebasse, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, to spend the morning with a community health worker (CHW) with the Services de Santé de Qualité pour Haïti (SSQH) project, funded by USAID. The SSQH project provides about 50% of the Haitian population with basic health services. The CHW, with the team in tow, visited three families and a group of women, where children were immunized for polio and other key vaccines and mothers received their monthly depo provera shots and prenatal checks.
The delegates follow a CHW on her home visits in Calabasse, Haiti.

The CHW leads the way to one of her home visits in Calebasse, Haiti. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

The CHW is nominated by her community and receives extensive training on how to give basic vaccines and how to use local mobile technology in her daily visits by following a specially designed app in Creole. The data collected during the visits, up to 15 daily, is then uploaded to a larger program database for tracking. The community health worker program is part of the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population’s National Health plan and the goal is to expand the program exponentially.
The delegates and SSQH staff during their first site visit.

The delegates following the CHW in Calebasse, Haiti. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

The true stars of the visits were the faces of the very healthy babies whose moms happily reported that they were exclusively breastfeeding their children.

The CHW weighs a baby during one of the home visits in Calebasse.

The CHW weighs a baby during one of the home visits in Calebasse. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

We only walked a mile in the shoes of one community health worker but it was enough to realize how hard this woman works and the tremendous impact she is making in her community.