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2021BlogCommunity Health WorkersGraduate StudentsInterns

Community Health Workers’ Roles in the Medical System of Developing Nations

Community Health Workers (CHWs) hold a unique role within the public health and medical systems. They provide a wide range of services and assist with several public health programs around the world. Many CHWs in the United States and high-income countries act as health promoters, educating community members about health-related topics.1 CHWs have an in-depth understanding of their communities, and they can engage community leaders and members and spread public health messages in a culturally acceptable manner. In this context, CHWs serve a supporting role to well-established medical and public health systems, and it is easy to imagine a sharp distinction between Community Health Workers and trained healthcare professionals.

In contrast, CHWs in developing nations often complement overstretched healthcare systems and provide a wide variety of primary healthcare services.2 The type and complexity of these services as well as incentives and pay will vary widely depending on location and level of education attained by the CHW.2 This can blur the distinction between a layperson volunteering and a healthcare professional providing a service as a career. A systematic review of research on community health workers found that CHWs could be generally classified into three levels from lay people with informal training to “paraprofessionals” with in-depth training.2 Each level has different roles within the healthcare system, but the authors note there is a lot of evidence that all levels of CHWs contribute to increasing healthcare coverage.2 This shows that pinpointing the exact role of the CHW in the medical system of developing nations is difficult, but training CHWs is nonetheless a worthwhile global health project to increase healthcare coverage for hard-to-reach populations.

– Timothy Ramseyer, MPH Intern


1. Malcarney, M. B., Pittman, P., Quigley, L., Horton, K., & Seiler, N. (2017). The Changing Roles of Community Health Workers. Health services research, 52 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), 360–382.

2. Olaniran, A., Smith, H., Unkels, R., Bar-Zeev, S., & van den Broek, N. (2017). Who is a community health worker? – a systematic review of definitions. Global health action, 10(1), 1272223.

2021BlogEl SalvadorGraduate StudentsInternsOrganization Updates

Expanding the Texistepeque, El Salvador Project to Reach More Communities

In June 2017, 16 Community Health Workers (CHWs) were trained in the city of Texistepeque, El Salvador through Oasis de Gracia Iglesia. In 2019, the community partner and IHELP decided to expand the project to reach the rural caserios (villages) surrounding Texistepeque. However, COVID-19 put that plan on hold. It wasn’t until this past spring that IHELP was able to fully start the project again.

As I started my internship in May, this new project became my top priority, as it is one of the largest projects IHELP has taken on. After meeting with a community leader, we learned that 48 potential caserios are looking to participate in the CHW training. To ensure these future CHWs are trained effectively, I have spent the last two months researching Texistepeque, analyzing community assessments, developing project plans, working through program evaluations, and compiling the training curriculum.

Since COVID-19 is still a very present global issue, the CHW training will likely not occur until January 2022. However, these next 5 months will allow us to build our project capacity to meet the needs of this vast project. By putting in the time now, we can ensure all CHWs are effectively trained to end preventable diseases throughout the rural caserios of Texistepeque. I look forward to spending the remaining time of my internship on this project and doing my part to further the mission of IHELP.

– Madeleine Burkholder, MPH Intern, Saint Louis University


Profiling a Country for Community Health Worker Trainings

International HELP’s mission is to  “educate, empower, and equip people in need to be health leaders in their community.” We do this by traveling to different places in need and training local volunteers to be community health workers who spread their knowledge and resources to help those around them. However, before we get on a plane and travel to a different country, we must be prepared and knowledgeable about what is happening there, what their needs are, and what resources they already have. To help us understand these aspects of the country, we conduct thorough research to create a country profile that includes information about the country’s demographics, health statistics, and health practices.

When creating a country profile, it is broad enough to be related to the entire country rather than one specific area. This is intentional so that the country profile can be used for multiple projects in different regions of the country. We later gather community-specific data to further concentrate on the issues of that specific community. The broadness of the country profile allows us to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the country as a whole while also being able to make important decisions related to training programs. For example, it is beneficial to know if a country has a wet and dry season to ensure that our organization and community members traveling from other areas can make it into the rural community that we are heading to without barriers such as flooding. This is just one example of how profiling a country allows us to create a training program that is the best fit for the community.

Another crucial aspect of a country profile is that it helps us better understand the people of the country. As an organization, we aim to work alongside the community members while being sensitive to their culture and still addressing their needs. When creating the profile, we consider factors such as cultural practices, superstitious beliefs, and religions. This is important because we never want to be disrespectful or harmful to a community; understanding these factors before working with them allows us to do our best to create positive partnerships and build rapport. As an organization, we aim to create a training program that is appropriate and as beneficial as possible for the community so that it can be sustainable and change the course of the community for the better and this starts by ensuring that we know as much about the country as we possibly can.

– Joslyn Solomon, Intern

2021BlogCommunity Health WorkersDisaster PreparednessGraduate StudentsInterns

Community Health Workers and Disaster Relief

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted individuals who assist in improving health through promotion and education, help with chronic disease management, and provide necessary social support, counseling, and patient care access to members of their community.1,2   Although they occupy several roles and their work has been repeatedly linked to health outcome improvement, an additional discipline where Community Health Workers may provide valuable support is disaster response. When a community is faced with disaster, they may be able to step in and offer emergency aid in two main areas to include:

1.) Providing emotional and social support

Following disasters, community members are often anxious and fearful due to the loss of vital resources such as food, water, and housing. Inevitably, stress, and in some cases, depression may have an impact on their health and wellness.2 It is often necessary to acknowledge what is termed “secondary disasters” when catastrophe impacts a community. These secondary disasters refer to the psychosocial well-being of everyone affected by the disaster and encompass addressing their mental and emotional state.2 Based on their training, community health workers may be able to provide counseling to those in need, and if they are unable to meet their needs, they can provide referrals to the appropriate professionals for those services.2 Due to the established relationships that community health workers often have with community members, they are likely to confide in and trust these individuals and be receptive to the care that they offer.2 Additionally, they may aide in equipping community members with appropriate preparedness knowledge, and awareness on what to expect in the days and weeks to come, helping to ease anxiety and fear.2

2.) Assessing resource availability and medical needs

Community Health Workers may be key in linking community members to necessary resources for food, water, and shelter, in addition to more advanced emergency aid when necessary.2 They may work to assess the need and assist members in signing up for post-disaster recovery aid.Being that community health workers often live in the communities they serve, they are aware of the everyday needs of their fellow community members and are therefore able to conduct an accurate assessment of the loss and availability of resources following a disaster. Community health workers are often trained to provide limited direct medical services routinely, and their knowledge of how to address basic medical needs may become useful during a disaster, especially when access and transportation to medical facilities may be limited. Additionally, family separation is a common result of disasters, which can be detrimental for individuals with chronic diseases who rely on familial support and care for their condition.2 Community Health workers may step in and work to provide that support and temporary medical care.2

The value of Community Health Workers is boundless. In the area of disaster response, with appropriate training and incorporation of these individuals into disaster preparedness plans, they may be of substantial assistance in helping to sustain communities when they are faced with foreseen and unforeseen circumstances as a result of catastrophe.

– Kayla Vanhook, MPH Intern


  1. Role of Community Health Workers. (2014, June). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from /healthdisp/role-of-community-health-workers.htm
  2. Nicholls, K., Picou, S. J., & McCord, S. C. (2017). Training community health workers to enhance disaster resilience. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 23 Suppl 6 Suppl, Gulf Region Health Outreach Program, S78-S84. doi:10.1097/PHH.0000000000000645
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Cultural Awareness in Community Partnerships

Cultural awareness is essential in administering programs and delivering training materials in ways that are understandable and acceptable to the local community. Encompassing a community’s beliefs, values, and attitudes, culture greatly influences perspectives on health, leading to various health practices and outcomes. Although culture varies greatly across countries and continents, taking the time to understand and learn about a community’s cultural beliefs strengthens partnerships through the establishment of trust and communicates respect to the local people. Respecting other cultures and incorporating their beliefs into training materials makes a huge difference in the success of programs and the acceptance of health behavior change from these communities for more positive health outcomes.

Cultural components, such as language, religious beliefs, diet, family morals, and values contribute greatly to individual health behaviors and therefore, must be taken into consideration when creating training materials and programs. As an undergraduate intern at International HELP, I admire the effort, research, and time that goes into understanding a community’s cultural beliefs about health and how the organization uses that information to modify its training materials and deliver classes in a culturally aware way. Although the logistical content behind community health work is highly significant, it is cultural awareness that makes these programs long-lasting and successful and one of the reasons why International HELP has had so much success in working with diverse populations and training 226 community health workers across 8 countries.

– Jana Rafi, Intern

Summer Interns 2021 Collage

Meet Our 2021 Summer Interns

This summer we have a new group of interns helping to advance our programs. We will be focusing on implementing a Maternal Health Certification training in El Salvador, creating additional health trainings for our current health workers, and preparing to resume Community Health Worker trainings in El Salvador and Sierra Leone at the end of this year! Additionally, some of our interns are working on the beginnings of new projects in Honduras and in the US. Welcome to the team!

Michala Geraty

Hi there! My name is Michala Geraty. I am one of the undergraduate student interns this summer at International HELP. I am finishing up my third year at Liberty University with a Public Health, Health Promotion major and a Spanish minor. I am so excited for this internship, as I have a real passion for Global Health and fighting disease. I hope to continue in my education and get a Masters of Public Health. I am from Pennsylvania, but I am in Virginia for school and I have loved my time here so far. I can’t wait to see what this summer has in store and all the great work I will have an opportunity to be a part of!


Quin Buisch

I’m currently a rising senior at Long Island University, majoring in Global Studies. I’m interested in global health, cultural sensitivity, and communications. My goal is to work in an intersection of the three to be an agent for change to solve global issues such as ending preventable diseases, world hunger, and period poverty. I am so excited to join the International HELP team this summer as a Social Media/Marketing Intern!


Evelyn Argueta

Hi my name is Evelyn Argueta I am currently serving in the U.S. Air Force, I am also a graduate student at Liberty University, working towards a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health. I received a Bachelors of Science in Public Health at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I have public health volunteer and work experience through a number of organizations including The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Global Health Brigades. Through my practicum at International Help, I hope to apply the skills and knowledge acquired through my graduate education in order to make an impactful and lasting difference in communities abroad.


Madeleine Burkholder

I am currently a student at Saint Louis University in the process of earning a Master of Public Health, and I am concentrating in Global Health and Biosecurity/Disaster Preparedness. I had intended to pursue a medical degree, however, my eyes were opened to the idea of public health when I worked with a diabetes prevention program. After that experience, I knew working to prevent disease was my newfound passion, rather than treating disease. I look forward to learning from International HELP and serving local communities this summer, as I hope to take this experience and my degree to vulnerable communities around the world to aid in disease prevention.


Arushi Ishwar

Hi everyone, my name is Arushi Ishwar and I will be an undergraduate health intern this summer at International HELP! I’m currently living in the greater Philadelphia area and just finished the first year of my undergraduate at Haverford College. I am currently a prospective psychology major and health studies minor on the pre-med track. In the past, I have worked on a few global-health-related endeavors with companies like Child Family Health International and Amnesty International. In my free time, I enjoy baking as well as learning new languages like Spanish and Hindi. I’m very excited to learn more about global health and cultures and assist with International HELP’s mission this summer!


Timothy Ramseyer

I am in the Master of Public Health program at Liberty University online and will finish the degree after completing my practicum. Since seeing the incredible health needs of communities in developing nations while on a mission trip to Nicaragua in High School, I have known that I want to work in the global health sector to develop sustainable solutions to health problems. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and will be starting a residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology in July 2021. I believe the experience gained through this internship will help me use my training in pathology to increase the availability of medical laboratory services in underserved communities. I am looking forward to working with International HELP, and I believe the projects we work on will contribute meaningfully to the health of the communities served.


Jemima C. Stanley

My name is Jemima C. Stanley, I am a student doctor currently finishing up medical school in the USA. I did my first five years of medical school in China and am originally from Singapore. I am passionate about Global Health and enjoy research as well. I am currently the Vice-Chair of the International Committee at the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association.  I have done a Global Health fellowship with Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. I have also completed a public health research internship with the Colon Cancer Foundation, which involved working with Dana-farber’s Cancer Institute. I have worked on a couple of volunteering programs with the United Nations regarding WASH projects, telehealth implementation, etc. I have also published a paper through an university-funded research project on IgA Nephropathy and have experience with research on Covid-19 as well. I plan on doing electives in Sri Lanka, India and other countries over the next two years before starting my residency here in the United States. I love debating and participating in water sports recreationally.


Samuel Smejka

My name is Samuel Smejkal and I am currently finishing up my Master of Public Health from the University of Lynchburg. I started the program back in 2017 and in addition to all that has happened this past year, I have seen the need for providing people with knowledge and best practices for keeping individuals and communities healthy. I have a strong passion for educating the public and developing programs that make the most impact on their well being. This goes hand-in-hand with what I am currently working on with International HELP. I am assisting in the development of a Parent Class aimed at Child Safety, continue the development of a Community Health Worker certification program and assisting in the search for funding for these programs. In my time outside of work, I enjoy playing with my children and spending quiet evenings relaxing with my wife while watching one of our shows. I am also an avid disc golfer. I look forward to seeing how much work I can put in with these projects and I can’t wait to see them implemented.


Sureena Mann

As a rising senior at Santa Clara University studying biology and public health, I first became passionate about public health after witnessing the health disparities present in the rural villages my parents had grown up in. I was drawn to International HELP after seeing how this organization is directly working towards decreasing gaps in healthcare access across the globe. I have always been passionate about enacting social change in my own local communities and I hope that I will be able to continue to act on this passion at International HELP. As a Health Intern, I am excited to have the opportunity to help this organization grow by creating training curriculum for community health workers and exploring new ways to expand the current training process to an accessible virtual format.

2020BlogCommunity Health WorkersEmpowerGraduate StudentsInternational HELP ProjectsInterns

Making a Difference, One Project at a Time

Diana M., RN, and MPH Intern shares her experience developing public health projects for International HELP.

Having had the experience of being part of International HELP has been encouraging and eye-opening at the same time.  Over the past few months, I have been involved in creating health education materials for community care needs.  These materials will be utilized to train Community Health Workers (CHWs) who will in turn enable communities to better care for themselves.  I have had the opportunity to add to the teaching material that is already in place to train CHWs.  Some of the projects I have had the privilege of working on include creating a Spanish health questionnaire survey for Montgomery County, MD, and teaching material to add to the training material including first aid basics, Zika virus, cold/flu, and smoking cessation.

The teaching material will provide knowledge, increase confidence in what to do in case of an emergency, delay the worsening of a condition, ability to save lives, and increase awareness of preventive health.
The Hands and Feet of Communities

CHWs live in the community in which they serve, frontline public health workers, they have the ability to help reduce health disparities by providing training to the local people on how to manage their own health.  CHWs share language, ethnicity, and are aware of the culture they serve.  CHWs are able to provide health training and promote wellness in their community, provide assistance in accessing medical services, translate, interpret, mentor, provide social support, and can act as a liaisons between health services and the community to improve their quality of living. 

By increasing health knowledge, it empowers one to become more aware of their health and ways to improve quality of life.

Although my role in the whole of this tremendous endeavor is small in comparison, I know that the portion I have accomplished will be able to transform individuals to better care for themselves on a daily basis, one project at a time.  This endeavor, once implemented, can transform the need for crisis care in communities to a community that cares to prevent crisis.

– Diana M., RN, MPH Intern

2020BlogCommunity Health WorkersCommunity Health Workers in ActionEmpowerImpact

The Importance of Empowerment

Audia F., International HELP MPH Intern, shares her perspective on how International HELP fosters an environment of empowerment and individual growth. There is always more to what meets the eye in each community and not every challenge is the same.


Community Health Workers Provide Extra Hands in Areas with Few Resources

Many times, health systems fail due to lack of access to care, lack of resources, and lack of knowledge of health professionals. In my 18+ years of working in the healthcare industry, I have found there are great benefits in obtaining increased knowledge and having a few more extra hands that are willing to help as opposed to working short-staffed. It increases your performance level which enables you to provide good quality care which in turn, leads to a more healthy population. Community Health Workers are the key members of the health team by assisting in all of these areas of concern.

The beauty of it all is the return investment in having a community that is empowered to get healthy and to stay healthy
Community Health Workers are typically found working in underprivileged areas where there is a lack of resources; far away health facilities, lack access to quality healthcare, and have cultural or religious beliefs that may hinder the type of services that can be received. You also have to keep in mind that these workers merely volunteer their services and do not receive monetary compensation. I find this to be the most admirable thing one can do, having the desire to help without looking for something in return. The beauty of it all is the return on investment in having a community that is empowered to get healthy and stay healthy.

Empowering Locals for Health Improvement

International HELP’s mission is to educate and empower local people to develop their own communities for health improvement. Through this initiative, Community Health Workers are given the knowledge and the confidence they need to be valuable assets in their communities. Working with International Help has been a great experience. It is so fulfilling to be associated with an organization that aims to be a part of lifelong change.

– Audia F., MPH Intern

El SalvadorGraduate StudentsInternational HELP ProjectsMake a DifferenceMeet Our Team

The Difference Community Health Workers Can Make

As a physician practicing full-time in the United States, I see firsthand every day the end effects of people’s poor long-term health and lifestyle decisions…What I discovered was oftentimes people simply didn’t know a healthier way to live.