HealthBridge works with partners world-wide to improve health and health equity through research, policy and action.

Experiencing Yen Chau: Reflections from a Public Health Intern

March 29, 2018 Written by a HealthBridge guest blogger Health care, MNCH, Vietnam Post a comment!

This role-playing exercise aims to prepare village health workers to provide comprehensive at-home consultations with mothers and fathers during pregnancy.

By Josiah Marquis, an intern with HealthBridge Vietnam

What does it mean to be “healthy”? The World Health Organization defined “health” almost sixty years ago as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” But, how can individuals and communities achieve complete physical, mental, and social well-being? What are the barriers that prevent “optimal health”?

While studying public health, we are taught about the social determinants of health, and how public health professionals often face barriers when trying to support individuals to overcoming challenging environments. Two examples include health literacy and cultural competency: the need to provide information that matches the current understanding of your target audience, while also tailoring the message to compliment an individual’s cultural beliefs. The process of knowledge translation is streamlined when the message supports the actual needs of the target audience. A successful public health intervention should always prioritze the unique needs of the target group.

HealthBridge’s “Saving lives of mothers and children in Nepal and Vietnam” project provides training to health workers to encourage culturally sensitive care when providing support for maternal and child health. Workshops are delivered to local health workers to strengthen their understanding of the nutrition and healthcare needs for mothers and infants during and after pregnancy. These workshops focus on providing culturally-sensitive care for ethnic minority women and families, as their needs and preferences are not always supported within the health system. After participating in this training, health workers are provided with the tools and supplies needed to deliver training in their own communities.

Health is not just something that happens to us - it is an ongoing process that we continuously experience. Our health behaviors are influenced by many factors, including our culture, our physical and social environments, and our access to health services. Providing evidence-based information for health workers in a practical and engaging format can be a powerful step towards improving the health and wellbeing of the community. Health workers can be trained and encouraged to address the specific challenges that at-risk individuals are experiencing, and support them to achieve optimal health.

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