Health / NCHC

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.


Farewell to NCHC Fellow, Theresa Bailey

August 8th, 2017

After two years of supporting our Health Connections programs, Princeton in Latin America Fellow Theresa Bailey has concluded her time with Comunidad Connect and will begin her graduate studies at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.. Theresa’s contributions across a wide range of projects – including research, preventive and primary health care, health fairs, presentations, mentoring, translating, impact measurement, and communications – were a tremendous source of support for all stakeholders and have had a profound impact in Los Robles and the surrounding communities. Theresa worked closely with Dr Mayra Rivas, Dr. Lia, Dr. Alaniz, Dr. Reeder Lanzas, the Ministry of Health, and the network of brigadistas of Los Robles tirelessly to coordinate our collective efforts and improve health outcomes in rural Nicaragua.  

Spending her first year in Los Robles, Theresa formed strong relationships with community members and her co-workers. As fellow NCHC colleague Reeder Lanzas describes, “Working with Theresa was like working with the entire community. No one from our team knew the community better than her. She was also one of the best interpreters I have ever known.”

Theresa’s compassion for others, sense of responsibility, hard-work ethic, and friendship were greatly valued. Marketing intern Adam Rosendale remembers Theresa as a wonderful mentor and co-worker, wishing her the best with her studies back in Georgia.  

This fall, Theresa will continue pursuing her passion of global health as she begins a Master’s program at Emory University’s School of Public Health. We wish Theresa the best of luck and are excited to see the amazing work she will do in the future.

Q&A with University of Calgary Researcher, Natasha Hoehn

August 7th, 2017

Interview with Natasha Hoehn, Graduate Student at the University of Calgary

Jinotega, health research, Los Robles, public health, Nicaragua

Climbing to the cross in Jinotega with Daisi Iveth Gonzalez, one of the Los Robles mothers.

Can you give us a brief background of your research study?

I am interested in how the mental health of mothers may, or may not, affect the health of their children. Previous research has suggested that maternal depression may be associated with poor child growth, decreased cognitive development, and increased episodes of diarrhea. However, few studies have examined markers of physiological status that may predispose children to these adverse outcomes. By studying markers of physiological status, we can see vulnerability to disease before it manifests by taking a step back in the process of disease development. My research tests for correlations between maternal mental health and physiological markers of stress in children, which can offer new insight into the relationship between maternal mental health and child health.

Jinotega, health research, Los Robles, public health, Nicaragua

An accurate representation of how afraid I am of machetes (with Maritza de Jesus Romero).

How did your research go this summer while you lived in Los Robles?

While I spent two months in Los Robles collecting data in 2015, there was very little time dedicated to observing the everyday lives of mothers in the community. To gain the context necessary to help explain patterns in our “hard” data, I returned to Los Robles this summer to do participant observation research in a series of households. Participant observation, as the name would suggest, entails both participating in and recording everything that happens in a day. This involved cooking gallo pinto, hand washing clothes, and the occasional pig slaughtering (quite an experience for this city-raised vegetarian). Community members welcomed me into their homes, and allowed me to follow them around with a notebook for week-long periods of time. The insight gained from this experience will be invaluable in writing my thesis. Additionally, and more importantly, my experience this summer strengthened my connection to the women in Los Robles, and I hope the relationships we built together will extend beyond my graduate studies.

How did the community respond to results you shared from 2015?

The second goal of my time in Los Robles was to communicate preliminary findings from the data our team collected in 2015. To achieve this goal, I presented results in a series of community meetings that were organized and hosted by Brigadistas. While women were at times shocked by some of the more troubling statistics (4 out of 10 mothers may have problems with mental health, 3 of 10 mothers are at risk for developing diabetes. Etc.), they demonstrated an appreciation for the knowledge by asking questions about each point. Our team looks forward to continuing to work with the data, and being able to share more findings in the future.

What reflections do you have on experiences that stood out?

The people I spent time with in Los Robles were incredibly open and welcoming. My host family was always there to remind me that, even though I was away from my Canadian family, I had new Nicaraguan friends all around me. This was most evident on my birthday when I felt terribly homesick (and spent a good portion of the day wallowing in self-pity), only to arrive at a surprise party organized by my host mother. There were songs, and music, and special food, and I have never had such a special birthday celebration. While being away from home can be difficult, community members made it clear that they cared very deeply about me, and I will forever remember their hospitality.

Photo of Linda in performance dress on Mother’s Day.

Observations from Los Robles

August 1st, 2017

Written by: Pallavi Oruganti, MPH Student at The Ohio State University

Thank you Comunidad Connect for allowing me to share my experience in Los Robles with you! My name is Pallavi Oruganti, and I am currently a Master of Public Health student at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. My concentration is in Veterinary Public Health, and I’m specifically interested in global health, zoonotic diseases and human-animal interactions. This summer, I had the opportunity to work and live in Los Robles, Jinotega, Nicaragua as part of a interdisciplinary research team from Ohio State made up of students from Public Health, Anthropology, and Veterinary Medicine. Our project centers around infant and child gut micriobiomes, and how interactions with soil, water, animals, and others in the household may impact microbiome makeup, and ultimately diarrheal disease risk. To do this, we worked in the community with several households collecting biological samples of children, animals, soil, and water. Additionally, we observed children and babies  and conducted interviews with several moms in the community to ascertain cultural ideas of raising children and animals in Los Robles.

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

Our experience in Los Robles was incredibly rewarding and unforgettable. Partnering with Comunidad Connect allowed us to gain our footing in Nicaragua and the community, as they were able to arrange our stays with host families. The love, hospitality, home-cooked meals, and patience with our Spanish we experienced in our homes made our research possible and also allowed us to better understand daily life in the community. We are endlessly thankful for every single household  that agreed to partiicpate in our study, and for their genuine interest and willingness to share their experiences. We are also incredibly indebted to the Brigadistas of Los Robles for sacrificing their time to assist us with identifying households, sharing their public health knowledge, and becoming our friends along the way. One of the main observations we had about the community is the sheer strength and work ethic of the women in this community, and the Brigadistas are a testament to this. Thank you so much ladies for all you did for us the past two months!

My favorite memory of our time in Los Robles is the surprise going-away fiesta my host-family and neighbors threw for us. It was a great way to celebrate with the amazing people we have met in the community and it truly warmed our hearts that in such a short time we experienced such love and care.

We hope next year we are able to return to Los Robles to share the results of our study, reconnect with all the amazing people we met, and additionally work more with Comunidad Connect in identifying areas of outreach to further promote health and wellness within the community. It was tough so say our last “Adios!” but we are so thankful to Comunidad Connect and la comunidad for our incredible first experience working in Nicaragua.


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