Jennifer Grasso - Palacios, Bolivia

Palacios, Bolivia

Jennifer often found herself strolling through plantain and orange tree-ridden communities, equipped with nothing more than her paper questionnaire and voice recorder, searching for clinic patients and community members willing to be interviewed for her evaluation study.

Career goal: Community health outreach and programming and chronic disease prevention

Internship outline: Supported by a rural clinic in Palacios, Bolivia, Jennifer conducted extensive in-person interviews with Promotores de Salud (community health workers) and their service users (i.e. patients and community members) in order to qualitatively evaluate program status and development. The promotores were surveyed regarding their perceptions of their role, level of satisfaction and confidence in addressing health challenges in their community, connection with community members, the impact they feel their involvement has made, and areas of improvement they feel should be addressed. Service users were interviewed in order to assess the level of awareness of the existence and responsibilities of the promotores, level of utilization of their services and level of community investment in the program as a whole. Responses were coded and analyzed to create a comprehensive summary of promotor and community sentiments and to provide a proposal of feasible action steps for improving the clinic’s community outreach program.

Value of experience: It was incredible to be back in Latin America and involved in health promotion programming again. I was able to gain a holistic approach to my evaluation of the program by having extensive conversations with local health leaders, learning about the most serious health challenges facing their communities and brainstorming ways to address them, and obtaining accounts from the counter perspective of the patients and community members. My Spanish has continued to improve through this internship which will also prove to be a valuable asset in my future pursuits.

Best moment/experience:
The best moment of my internship was actually on my last full day in Bolivia. This was the day when I felt all of the stressful preparation, tireless data collecting, and hours of coding my 159 interviews had culminated into an overall truly valuable experience for me, for the clinic staff, and the Promotores de Salud. I had worked for nearly a week constructing a coding system to extract preliminary data and compile in a PowerPoint presentation for both the clinic staff and promotores de salud to present my summarized results to them. I was anxious and fearful of how my results would be received as well as presenting in my second language. To my delight, the promotores and clinic staff were thrilled by what I was able to accomplish during my short time in Bolivia and asked for more detail about my results, for my opinion about certain programmatic decisions in the future, and even requested that I return in the future! The clinic director expressed his genuine gratitude for my work and his commitment to seeing my recommendations come to fruition. This day affirmed for me that my project really will have a positive impact on the clinic and the surrounding communities which I have come to love.

Funding source: Global Health Initiative Field Experience Award and Latin American and Iberian Studies Travel Award

Jennifer Grasso