Kaitlyn McTernan, African Immigrant Health Promotion Lab

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.”  Preventative measures in health care can substantially decrease both the risk and likelihood of acquiring diseases, ones that are harmful and can potentially lead to death.  In HPRM-335: Health Promotion Program Planning, we learn the appropriate ways in which to develop, implement and evaluate health promotion programs.  There is a particular emphasis on health and lifestyle risk factors and interventions.  I have been able to use and implement a variety of these strategies this course has taught me in my own service work, to name a few: needs assessment, goals and objective writing and implementing appropriate preventative measures.

In working with the African Immigrant Health Promotion Lab (AIHPL), I have been completing my service work with Salem Gospel Ministry Church in Silver Spring Maryland.  The mission of AIHPL is promoting health through systematic research and evidence based community health promotion.  One of this organization’s main goals is promoting health behaviors among immigrants of African descent.  They go about achieving this goal by reaching out to immigrants of African descent to conduct various screenings, tests and health education programs.  Another goal of AIHPL is influencing health promotion paradigms and models among this population.  The models that they use are culturally competent and take into consideration social determinants of health in regards to current issues faced by immigrants. One of the main platforms of communication that they use are faith-based communities to achieve their overall program goals, which is why I have decided to volunteer with the Salem Gospel Ministry Church.  This church community is comprised of immigrants from Africa, with many of them being from Congo.  Among this population, there are high percentages of members with cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.  These numbers could be alleviated if awareness of these diseases increases and if more preventative measures are provided to the church’s congregation.

While volunteering at the African Immigrant Health Promotion Lab, I have been working on writing and implementing a health promotion plan that addresses ways to decrease the presence of cardiovascular disease, various strains of cancer and diabetes in innovative ways that are both culturally competent and effective.  The first stride I took to achieve this goal was writing and conducting a needs assessment to determine the needs or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or wants of the target population, in this case the immigrants of the African diaspora at Salem Gospel Ministry.  I analyzed the information that I obtained from this assessment to formulate a detailed program plan that addresses, educates and implements preventative measures for cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes with a goal of decreasing the severity of or number of members who have these diseases.  My program consists of a three-day workshop, with one day being dedicated to each of the three diseases.  Each day of the program has an educational component followed by an activity that reinforces what they have learned, which addresses the varying learning styles present in the community and allows all members to learn.  Additionally, after the conclusion of each day, preventative services, such as blood pressure tests, cholesterol screenings and many others will be offered to the members.

When first deciding to undertake this task, I was unsure of what to expect but was filled with excitement, as I knew it was a great opportunity to gain experience in a career path that I am considering pursuing in my future endeavors.  I expected to be confronted with the obstacle of overcoming the language barrier between myself, who only speaks English, and the members of this church who primarily speak French.  However, this was a hurdle that was easily jumped over as they have a translator present during all services and church related functions.  Additionally, this population is extremely welcoming to others who come from very different backgrounds than themselves. This experience was an extremely rewarding one that I have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience from.  Through working with this community, I have learned that education and prevention are key components in deterring the presence of diseases.  Overall, this program has solidified Ben Franklin’s wise words that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound, if not more, of care.

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