Health / NCHC

Oral Health Initiative a Success

January 29th, 2018

Dr. Reeder Lanzas teaching children in Los Robles how to prevent cavities.

Dr. Reeder Lanzas, our resident dentist, led and completed the first phase of our oral health initiative with the goal of working with local health volunteers, teachers, and students to identify best strategies to change oral hygiene practices. Over 2000 students participated in 54 educational talks and 1500 students received fluoride treatment in 4 rural communities: Los Robles, San Esteban, Datanlí, and Pueblo Nuevo.

In 2018, we launch the mobile dental clinic to expand our reach and improve the dental hygiene of 500-800 more students. With this clinic, Dr. Lanzas will be able to provide full dental attention, including teeth cleaning services, extractions if necessary, consultations, and preventive oral health education.

We look forward to working with dental brigades this coming year and welcome new academic partners interested in supporting our Preventive Oral Health program. If you would like to become involved, or know someone who would, please email us at info@comunidadconnect.org. Learn more about our dental hygiene initiatives by watching our Preventive Oral Health video and see Dr. Reeder Lanzas’ vision for the mobile clinic.

 

Students excited to use their new toothbrushes and toothpaste after attending Dr. Reeder’s oral health educational talk at the primary school in Los Robles.

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New Year, New Dental Mobile Clinic

January 3rd, 2018

Over the past ten years, Comunidad Connect has helped over 10,000 Nicaraguans live healthier lives. We do this by breaking down barriers to isolation and connecting people to local and international resources that otherwise would be near impossible to obtain. This new year, we invite you to join us in a spirit of global citizenship to help launch our new project: a mobile dental clinic.

Most rural communities in Nicaragua do not have access to dental care. The majority of rural Nicaraguans, aged 15 and up, are missing adult teeth. Cavities are present at an extremely high rate in every age group, requiring many individuals to have further extractions, surgeries or restorations – problems entirely preventable with proper oral hygiene and health education.

Through our new mobile dental clinic, we can bring dental education, teeth cleaning services and consultations to new rural communities, reaching 500-800 students. Watch our Preventive Oral Health video to learn more about Dr. Reeder Lanzas, Comunidad Connect’s resident dentist, and his vision for the dental clinic.

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We’ll Go Farther, Together: 2017 Holiday Campaign Kick-Off

November 30th, 2017

Tania America Picado is the mother of Crisbell Gutiérrez (far right), one of the beneficiaries of our Neurological and Pediatric Patient Project in Los Robles.

Over the past ten years, Comunidad Connect has provided thousands of Nicaraguans with access to health services, youth development programs, and improved living conditions. We are thankful for your financial support this year, without which this incredible impact would not have been possible.

As we begin our next decade of work driven by our collective experience in Nicaragua, Comunidad Connect kindly requests you to consider extending your impact further by participating in our Holiday Campaign. Your contributions will allow us to expand our programs to reach thousands more residents of isolated communities in Nicaragua and connect them with critical resources and services.

Take for example the family of 9 year old Crisbell Gutiérrezwho we met in the community of Los Robles in 2015. An accident at 2 months old left her partially paralyzed with frequent seizures, while her single mother struggled to provide for her 4 children. Through our health and service programs, we connected Crisbell to Drs. Ben and Karen Thrower who helped provide the appropriate medicine and monthly check ups. Today, Crisbell has increased mobility, seizures are now rare, and her mother is happy knowing her daughter’s special medical needs are being met.

Connecting vital resources to those who need them most is what Comunidad Connect does best, but we cannot do it alone. I invite you to watch Crisbell’s story, share it with others you know and consider making a contribution to our Holiday Campaign. Each of us can be a piece of the solution…and we can indeed go much farther, together.

Keep a look out for more videos in our three-part video series and stay updated with our Holiday Campaign!

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Nursing Student Gains Greater Insight into Rural Poverty

November 6th, 2017

Written by Brandon Spratt, Doctor of Nursing Practice Candidate at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Brandon came to Nicaragua in December 2016 with a group of nursing students from Emory University.

As my first true experience outside of the US, Comunidad Connect’s opportunity to volunteer in southern Nicaragua was an escapade I’ll never forget. Then a second-degree student in nursing at Emory University, Comunidad Connect reached out to the School of Nursing to offer students a one-week trip to Nicaragua to invest in opportunities of service within the healthcare systems that aim to increase civic engagement in certain areas. Following my several years of in-country cross-cultural service during my first undergraduate degree, I was ready for such an experience on different soil.

My arrival to Rivas, a southern city of ~40,000 not far from the border to Costa Rica, started with a tour of a local hospital that let me see first-hand the striking difference between the healthcare system here and the one I was used to back in the States. Obviously a lower-resource facility, I was struck at the resilience and versatility that was demanded of the healthcare staff as the nurses were often tasked to 25 patients per nurse. In asking one of the nurses how one could possibly keep up with this demand, she simply smiled and said, “you have to be an octopus to do our job!”.

Our next stop took us to Tola, a smaller community near Rivas that housed a health post for local members to receive basic curative services. It was here that we learned about Nicaragua’s MOSAF healthcare model that capitalizes on community health workers to have an intimate knowledge of the health history of each household in their community to gain insight of the current trends of disease and predict related risk factors. I was impressed at the level of detail that each worker was required to memorize for each household and found this model to be quite intriguing.

While these experiences were quite fascinating and interesting, the most impactful memory I had came from a small, rural community called El Tambo, not far from Tola. It was in this place that I really understood what poverty really is. It is not some tangible idea that can be gleaned from watching videos or reading books, but rather a felt sensation that one only understands when one is in its midst. Dirt floors, tin roofs, and a barren yard were all that many of these villagers owned and while paralyzing at first, I began to see the internal beauty and richness that these people had to offer.

At their request, we gave several presentations about how to understand and address some of the chronic health problems many of their members face. Following this, the villagers did something I will never forget: a great feast. Although our baseline luxuries in America would easily surmount this offering as mediocre in the States, it was obvious that this was no ordinary gala. Out oftheir poverty and of what little they had, their presentation was immaculate. Toiling for days, their cooked chicken, gallo pinto, and juice was displayed before us in banquet-like fashion. Yes, indeed, the food was delicious, but that was not the overarching message that was clear that day. Instead, what was seared into my mind is a life-long lesson that that I will never forget: when poverty-stricken communities come together collectively and harmoniously, it breeds a spirit of generosity.

 

El Tambo’s generosity is a lesson I will take with me wherever I go and for that I am grateful to have learned such a valuable nugget of truth in the larger arc of life. I hope that others may be able to encounter similar experiences in their lives. I’d like to thank Comunidad Connect for making this possible and hope that they continue the great work they are doing in those communities.

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Brigadistas Receive First Aid Training in Rural Health

October 12th, 2017

Last week we had a successful first aid workshop with the Brigadistas (community health workers) of Los Robles, Datanlí, Pueblo Nuevo and San Estéban. The Brigadistas received training and first aid kits to ensure immediate health response in their communities. Comunidad Connect partnered with MINSA, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, to administer this workshop.

Nurse Francis Aguilar, who works with Comunidad Connect and MINSA, comments, “This training was important because the Brigadistas live in areas that are hard to reach, increasing high health risks due to a lack of resources. Emergencies can happen at any hour, so the Brigadistas will be the first to respond immediately to those injured.”

Over 15 women participated in this first aid workshop and are excited to share their new knowledge with their respective communities. “The health workers learned lots of skills during the training, like what to do in an emergency, how to treat wounds, and immobilize patients,” notes Francis.

Thank you to all the participants and staff for making this event possible!

 

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Local Volunteers Invest in Community Health

October 3rd, 2017

Since 2016, local volunteers in rural Nicaragua have invested over 5800 hours of community service to earn preventative health projects, such as our painting initiative to decrease the number of mosquitos in the home. Specially formulated paint reduces mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which allows children to miss fewer days of school and helps families live happier, healthier lives. Thank you to all of our local and international volunteers for supporting this initiative and enhancing community health!

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Volunteer Spotlight: KSU Nursing Student Lindsey Harbison, pt. 1

September 4th, 2017

 

Interview with Lindsey Harbison, Nursing Student at Kennesaw State University

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I am currently in my last semester of Nursing School at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. I moved here from Snowmass Village, Colorado, but am originally from Nashville, Tennessee! I have a background in Baking & Pastry and I ran a bake shop in a hotel in Colorado, before moving here to further pursue Pastry with the Ritz Carlton.. I have always loved Nursing and I come from a family full of medical professionals and health care givers. I decided to switch gears a few years ago and pursue Nursing and here I am about to graduate with my BSN and I feel that life has given me so much more than just another degree. I have been given opportunities, life changing experiences, and friendships that I will always cherish.

What brought you to Nicaragua?

Nicaragua was a study abroad trip through KSU for our Community Health Clinical rotation. The goal was to assess the health beliefs, values, attitudes, and practices of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations and to provide spiritually and culturally appropriate health care. However what I learned was how the community of Nicaragua are not just individuals, they are families that make up a larger family called community, and each family is a vital source to the well being of their “community family”.  

This May, Lindsey traveled with a group of nursing students from KSU to Nicaragua to learn about the health care system and serve in rural communities around Jinotega.

What expectations did you have before coming on your trip?

I expected to see a resource poor country with households inside of rural communities that battle daily struggles with just living. I expected to see homes that were in poor condition, and families with chronic illnesses; Maybe even families that have no drive to help themselves and weren’t thankful for the help they did receive. What I had read, and researched did not present a country with community members that pride themselves on self-sufficiency, resilience, optimism, and hard work. What I was taught was not about how each family and every individual and even the animals are pieces to a bigger picture, and that every animal, individual, and family mattered so that the picture was complete.

What I learned while in Los Robles was that cleanliness, education, and hard work created the foundation for a prosperous life for many families. Being grateful wasn’t just saying the words “thank you,” it was explaining how you have affected their lives for the better, and how you will be kept in their prayers; and whatever the action or the item was that was given to them, how it will help each family member in some way. So I guess one could say I had unrealistic expectations, and thankfully what I expected was not reality.

 

What observations of the health care system, or health in Nicaragua in general, stood out to you?

Nicaragua sees health and wellness as a lifestyle and not an area in which your life revolves around. They aren’t focused on diets that result in an illness that requires medication management, like diabetes and obesity. They don’t see health problems as a common issues that one just lives with. The people I interacted with spoke of eating healthy, and using herbs and more holistic remedies for ailments. They seemed to be aware what unhealthy lifestyles resulted in and made it a priority to not succumb to that. They are focused on preventing health issues and generally seeking out a lifestyle that keeps them in good health.

What experience had the greatest impact on you?

I assisted with a family interview for the basis of composing a health assessment with recommendations on how to better the family’s overall health. I sat with an older woman who had 5 adult children and numerous grandchildren. She spoke of her son’s health and a tumor on his brain he was receiving treatment for. She told us of how she didn’t have minutes on her phone to even call to see if he had made it through surgery the previous day. She continued and explained that she had faith that God would provide for her and her family, but she also understood that didn’t mean not trying to help herself.
She knew that by working hard and supporting her grandchildren and those in her community, others might support her in her time of need. She was a Brigadista, and gave her community aid when needed and selflessly opened her home for little to no compensation. This to me was true community. Everyone was interconnected, everyone helped each other in their community, and there was such an environment of thankfulness and grateful hearts. They may have a life of less, less material things, but they had more in the way of appreciation and love. That is something that impacted me the most. Coming back to Georgia, I looked around at all the ‘stuff’ I have and how full my pantry was, but yet I wasn’t as grateful as those in Los Robles were for water filters and pilas. Learning to appreciate was something I learned from them, and something I will always cherish.

The students from KSU loved playing with kids in the community and sharing a cultural exchange with families in Los Robles.

What experience(s) brought you closer to the people of Nicaragua?

Being welcomed into the homes of some of the residents of Los Robles allowed for a great cultural immersion. Also while leading charlas for women, I was able to play with their children and got to experience what fun and games they play. Although there was a language barrier, making music out of rocks and bamboo, and playing makeshift volleyball, it was apparent that music and sports speak a universal language.

Check in next week to see how photography played a role in Lindsey’s trip!

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Ohio State & University of Calgary Researchers Mark Preliminary Findings of Maternal & Child Health in Los Robles

August 11th, 2017

 

Over the last two months, students from the University of Calgary and Ohio State University have been carrying out research, providing a more holistic understanding of health in rural Nicaragua.

Natasha Hoehn, a graduate student from the University of Calgary, has been presenting preliminary results of her research to community members in Los Robles this June and July. After two years of researching the health of mothers and children in this area under the direction of Dr. Warren Wilson, Natasha and her team have generated data on child growth rates and digestive health. A brief summary of their primary findings are shown in the table below. Their research also looked at levels of food security, diabetes, and mental health of mothers. With the completion of additional sample analyses by Dr. Jason DeCaro at the University of Alabama, the results of this two-year study will soon present a more comprehensive picture of health in Los Robles.

Primary Report of Maternal & Child Health in Los Robles

Los Robles, Jinotega Nicaragua Regional
Child Stunting 14% (2015) 22% (2012) 22.9% (Global, 2016)
Child Overweight 13% (2015) 6.2% (2012) 19-37% (Latin America, 2007)
Mothers with diabetes 26% (2015)

22% (Mexico, 2014)
Mothers with food insecure households 93% (2015) 75% (León, 2015)
Mothers with poor mental health* 44% (2015) 20.7% (León, 2016)° 20% (Global, 2014)°
*Anxiety-related, depressive, and somatoform disorders
° Individuals who have experienced a common mental disorder in past 12 months

 

Ohio State researchers Alba Mayta and Helena Fox organize their research samples at the end of the day.

A team of anthropologists, public health students, and veterinarians from Ohio State University also began researching how households’ domestic animals affect diarrheal disease in children living in rural Nicaragua. Also based in Los Robles, these students, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Piperata, conducted household surveys and collected samples of gut microbiota, which will be analyzed back at Ohio State. Results from this study will give insight into how a child’s environment affects their microbiota and disease risk. This information will be useful to the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and rural communities in this region to enhance children’s health. Stay tuned for more updates and results from both studies in the next few months!

Thank You Donors!

August 9th, 2017

A committebeauty, travel, service, health d group of donors we call our NCHC Advocates make recurring financial contributions to ensure our good friends in Los Robles and surrounding communities have access to health care services and education.  Strategic partnerships and critical funds generated by Advocates help cover the cost of health related programming and staff. including:

  • In-home monthly case management of 26 special medical needs patients
  • Oral health outreach and education to over 1,000 students in 2017
  • Sexual and reproductive health training for 20+ high school students
  • Nursing services at the health post in Los Robles for up to 30 patients daily
  • Support and coordination of ongoing research and data collection

A special thank you for recent support from Connie Bryans and the Julia Hunt Good Samaritan Fund, Decatur Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and HOI.  Academic partners like Emory, GA State, Kennesaw State, University of Calgary, and Ohio State (among others) have also provided incredible in-kind and financial support.  Without these partners, the communities we serve would continue to struggle to meet their basic health needs.  Thank you to all donors, supporters, and advocates!!

Kids Are All Smiles During Dental Hygiene Talks

August 9th, 2017

 

Dr. Reeder LanDentistry zas has been spreading smiles across primary schools this past month. Dr. Reeder had great success with his dental hygiene talks, working with 56 students in San Esteban and 680 in Datanli. In his health talks, students learn how to take care of their teeth and prevent illnesses. Dr. Reeder notes that working with kids and adolescents is one of the greatest challenges in dentistry, because the majority of kids are afraid of dentists. However, “this is what makes our work more interesting,” Dr. Reeder states, “especially for me, being able to teach these kids and adolescents aDentistry nd seeing how they put this new knowledge into practice is very gratifying.” During the first weeks of August, he will expand these dental hygiene talks to Los Robles, where he will work with over 630 new students. We are excited to see this program growing and watch these kids ready to tackle dental hygiene in their communities.

 

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