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Public health assistant training

Learning how to make and apply a splintOn April 28 and 29 the team of nine UPLFT Haiti volunteers taught 44 young adults a “Public Health Assistant” class in La Colline. The students live in various communities within the La Colline area.

Doctors and nurses with previous experience in Haiti had developed and expanded the class material over a period of several years. Judith translated the material into Creole and first compiled it into a course manual in 2004.  Shorter versions of the class had been taught in Baradères in 2005 and Gros Morne in 2009.

The new manual includes more information about health conditions and illnesses in Haiti. The hands-on component of the class also expanded to include more emphasis on proper assessment of vital signs, splinting fractures and the incorporation of medical technology.

Students were divided into two groups. One group spent the first day in a lecture-conversation format, while the other received hands-on training.  The next day the groups traded places.

Students who completed the public health assistant trainingSteve, Judith and Rodney taught the didactic portion each day.  Denise, Lydie, Francesca, Marc and Sterne taught the hands-on skills training—how to take blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, and how to apply splints and bandages.  Rodney, Judith and Sterne also served as translators for Steve and Denise. 

Health conditions discussed in the class include athlete’s foot, eczema, head lice, water-borne illnesses (worms, dysentery, skin infections), mosquito-borne infections (malaria, dengue, lymphatic filariasis) and infections transmitted by blood and body fluids.

During the didactic portion of the training, we discussed lymphatic filariasis in great depth.  This incapacitating and disfiguring disease, also known as elephantiasis, affects 5 to 25 percent of Haitians depending on the region of the country and the age of the person.  

Few people in Haiti are aware that lymphatic filariasis has an infectious cause: parasitic worms  transmitted by mosquitoes. The parasites cause blockage of lymphatic channels, leading to swelling of the chest, legs and genital area.  

A drug called DEC kills the parasitic worms, or expels them from the body.  This is why we introduced to the students the concept of a co-fortified salt known as Bon Sel, used in many areas of Haiti to combat filariasis. Bon Sel is table salt treated with DEC as well as iodine (to prevent iodine deficiency).

The students learned many hands-on skills. These included measuring vital signs; caring for wounds; applying a sling; splinting fingers, wrists, arms, ankles and legs; and demonstrating how to take a drop of blood from a finger for medical testing—exemplified by a blood glucose meter.

All 44 students had a finger pricked for a drop of blood and a test of blood glucose.  The students found this aspect of the training to be very interesting. Many asked how they could help a family member with diabetes undergo routine blood glucose screening.

Students also asked how they could use their new knowledge and skills to improve their lives and those of the community.  We encouraged them never to give up on their dreams and, in order to give back to the community what they learned, to seek volunteer positions in the La Colline clinic.


UPLIFT Haiti, a Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, organizes teams of volunteers to travel to Haiti to work with local communities in accomplishing sustainable projects for improving health, education, employment, and the local economy and infrastructure.

Copyright 2009-2018 UPLIFT Haiti

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