ITW Engaging the Village Health Teams!
As part of the education and outreach team, Lindsay Thornton and Chris Duncan, have been working with county health leaders to develop a plan to effectively bring breast cancer awareness and knowledge of the ITW model to the local villages. Emotionally jarring conversations with the health leaders revealed that the local population has a complete lack of breast cancer awareness, dangerous myths regarding breast cancer exist within the community, and patients often intentionally forgo treatment due to cost considerations and perceived hopelessness.
During our discussions, we found that one of the most effective methods for addressing these issues and educating the community about breast healthcare is through the Village Health Teams (VHTs). VHTs are pairs of individuals that are tasked with disseminating relevant healthcare information among their local villages. They were originally developed to spread information about HIV, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and are highly effective as they are trusted members of the community, rather than foreigners or government agents.
Every three months the VHTs meet in Nawanyago to discuss village health reports and necessary future actions. Fortunately, today was one of the three month meetings and over 50 of the VHTs met to discuss the implementation of a medication in the villages to prevent Filariasis, commonly known as Elephantitis. We arranged to present the breast cancer program at this meeting and introduce our organization to the VHTs as well as to have a discussion with them regarding potential cultural issues that may arise with the program. We are happy to report that the presentation turned out terrific! The VHTs were extremely excited about the idea of breast cancer education and treatment coming to their villages and wanted us to start immediately. Almost a dozen questions were asked by the audience and their engagement was palpable. We left the meeting incredibly encouraged and excited to involve the VHTs in the ITW community education and outreach!