By Kate Thanel, PIH's Haiti Curriculum and Training Specialist
In late August, PIH and Dominican Republic Ministry of Health (MOH) staff began training the country's first cohort of accompagnateurs. This group of community health workers (CHWs) will provide medical and psychosocial support to patients coping with HIV, STIs and Tuberculosis. Doctors, nurses, a social worker, a psychologist, and support staff from both Socios En Salud (SES), PIH's project in the Dominican Republic, and the Elias Piña MOH led and organized training exercises. Even the SES IT specialist participated to ensure proper collection and use of pre- and post-test data.
Using interactive and participatory teaching techniques, this diverse team introduced the new CHWs to the principles of PIH's sister organization in the neighboring country of Haiti, Zanmi Lasante (ZL), and to the model of patient follow up and community work that has improved health outcomes at PIH sites around the world. This collaboration is an example of how PIH draws on all available resources and partners with the public sector at every level of program development to ensure successful and sustainable intervention.
Teams in Boston and the Dominican Republic worked together to adapt the SES training documents used in Peru to the Dominican context, and the Haiti training team has provided materials, topical experts, and on-site logistical support for the training.
Over the course of the training, the new CHWs have shown impressive advances in knowledge and understanding of HIV, TB and the PIH model. New skills and knowledge combined with an intimate understanding of their communities, prepare them to promote health and improve access to care in the Elias Piña area.
"The enthusiasm of facilitators from both SES and the MOH has been tangible throughout this training and has inspired this first group of accompagnateurs who are visibly eager to improve awareness and access to treatment in their communities," says Dr. Jennifer Severe, SES's program director.
Finalized training materials updated during the pilot will be available publicly later this year for use by organizations wishing to implement the accompagnateur training in Spanish-speaking areas.
PIH's work in the Dominican Republic is a collaboration between the MOH and staff from Socios En Salud and Zanmi Lasante. As at other PIH sites, this work relies on a network of CHWs to support patients at the community level. These CHWs, of both Dominican and Haitian origin, will serve a border population that is typically vulnerable to lapses in follow up. Coordinating treatment and follow up on both sides of the border with ZL's site in Belladere will create the opportunity to provide consistent care.