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Category: 2021

2021BlogCommunity Health WorkersInterns

The Importance of Nutrition for Community Health Workers

Being a Community Health Worker (CHW) is a difficult job at times, especially when it comes to the topic of nutrition. Nutrition is a very important component when CHWs are doing their work as it is the key to a lot of the health issues that are faced in society, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. CHWs must always make sure they emphasize a healthy lifestyle through nutrition because if people are eating healthy, then their risk of developing chronic illnesses or diseases in the future is decreased.

One thing that has to be remembered with nutrition is that the Community Health Workers (CHWs) must take the economic and environmental status of the people they are teaching into consideration. A good CHW will tailor their nutrition recommendations based on these factors. 

Nutrition is something that is often ignored when addressing health issues at times. It is important when addressing several health issues. As a community health worker it is important that nutrition is always being addressed. 

– Ashley Mason, IHELP Intern

2021Community Health WorkersInterns

Cultural Competence in Public Health Work

Cultural competence is defined by the CDC as “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations”.

The term “culture” in this sense encompasses the different patterns of human behavior demonstrated in language, thoughts, communications, actions, institutions of race, ethnicity, customs, values, beliefs, traditions, religion, or social groups.

Competence” is having the capacity to effectively work as an individual or as an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs that are demonstrated by the target community. Within the realm of public health, cultural competence can significantly impact how well a program is received and sustained within a community. Public health organizations and officials must be culturally competent and fully aware of the community before implementing any health behaviors.

Understanding the culture of the community you’re working in can be advantageous to containing the spread of diseases, improving sanitation practices, and help communities understand the importance of changed health behaviors. For example, the utilization of gendered roles in a community at risk for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) creates a more efficient approach to community surveillance and treatment in areas lacking proper health infrastructure. Supporting women and men in their cultural gender roles by educating women on how to treat family members, quarantine procedures, and personal protection from transmission can reduce the strain put on a country’s limited hospitals/clinics. Likewise, giving otherwise unemployed young men surveillance and community supply management roles has aided in preventing social conflict by giving them the sense of purpose that their culturally propelled role strives for.

Cultural Competence requires that organizations:
  • Have defined values and principles, and demonstrate attitudes, procedures, behaviors, and structures that enable them to work efficiently cross-culturally. 
  • Have the capacity to value diversity, manage the dynamics of differences within the community, research and implement cultural knowledge, and adapt to cultural situations and contexts of the community they are serving.
  • Have the ability to incorporate all of the above aspects regarding policy-making, practice, service delivery, as well as pass on these abilities to potential stakeholders and employees for future sustainable programs. 

International HELP utilizes different resources as well as thorough research to assess the cultural needs of the communities it targets. Cultural norms, traditions, beliefs, and religious aspects are all taken into consideration when planning a public health outreach within this organization to ensure an effective and sustainable program is implemented.

– Hayley DeHart, IHELP Intern


Cultural Competence. CDC Website. 2015.

Lack of Cultural Competency in International Aid Responses: The Ebola Outbreak in Liberia. Frontiers in Public Health. January 31, 2017;5(5).

Cluster of Ebola Virus Disease Linked to a Single Funeral — Moyamba District, Sierra Leone, 2014. CDC Website. 2016.

Fall 2021 Interns Photo
2021Graduate StudentsInternsMeet Our Team

Meet Our 2021 Fall Interns

This fall we have a new group of incredible interns helping with a variety of projects over the coming months. Those projects range from finalizing program details for training expansion in rural El Salvador, completing country profiles, and analyzing the needs of the community in Uganda and Zimbabwe, as well as updating and helping develop our Google Classroom software for remote training in Syria. We’re so excited to see all the amazing work they will do and the support they will provide to help us equip, empower, and educate local people around the globe. Welcome to the team!

Bassima Alodini

Hi! I am Bassima and I am from Yemen, which is known as Happy Yemen. I studied medicine and practiced many medical aspects focusing on primary health care. Volunteering and participating with young people and communities are the main drivers of my passion. Then studying global health in Bonn university, enhances my knowledge in empowering communities, organizing and planning projects and trying to manage the environment’s issues. As we need everyone to be healthy, this will not be without treating the unanimous health issues globally, and that is why I am here in this esteemed, valuable organization.


Giselle Correia

My name is Giselle, I live in Houston, Texas. I am currently attending Southern New Hampshire University, completing a Masters in Public Health Program. Global Health is my concentration and I am very excited to be a part of this program.


Kaitlyn Keely

I’m from Washington, IL, which is a small town 2 hours South of Chicago, and have recently moved to just outside of Asheville, NC. I’m currently a Senior at Boston University studying Health Science with hopes to pursue a Law Degree after graduation. In my free time, I love to explore the city of Boston and find new restaurants or sites to see.


Abigail Lipe

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m currently finishing up my Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. My area of focus is tropical medicine and infectious disease, with particular interest in HIV and women’s health. Ultimately, after a few years of experience in the field, I hope to continue on to get a PhD in Epidemiology and become a professor of infectious disease!


Deena Ayesh

Deena is currently an undergraduate chemistry student at the University of California, Irvine. She aims to eventually study medicine and achieve her dream of becoming a pediatric intensivist for an international organization such as the World Health Organization of Doctors Without Borders. Alongside her full-time courseload, she works as a Starbucks barista and a freelance artist in her spare time. Her hobbies include human rights advocacy, jewelry-making, and learning different languages. During her internship with International HELP, Deena hopes to gain more insight in the process of addressing disparities for health education programs in underprivileged communities.


FEMA, Floods, and Fundamental Infrastructure: The Importance of Disaster Preparedness for Community Health Workers

As a student living near the Mississippi Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina, I experienced firsthand the incredible power of nature and its ability to grind civilization to a halt.  Unfortunately, I also witnessed how such damage can be compounded by inadequate planning or coordination from government agencies, insurers, and aid organizations.  Six years later, these events were close to mind when the Souris River overran its banks and flooded the city of Minot, North Dakota, where I was stationed.  My role as a new Air Force physician taking care of aircrew and nuclear surety morphed into assisting our helicopter squadron assess the damage to critical healthcare infrastructure along with providing medical care/transport to stranded personnel.  I discovered that some effects of that disaster, like black mold or depression, might be hidden initially but can far outlast the floodwaters.

In these crises and many others around the world, people have the capacity for tremendous resiliency.  Wounds heal, homes are rebuilt, and livelihoods are restored.  However the people vulnerable to lasting injury are nearly always the poorest, sickest, oldest, youngest, and most physically or mentally disabled among us.  International HELP is committed to not only training community health workers to prepare these underserved populations for disaster but also providing those workers with the tools necessary to become effective first responders in the event of an emergency.  Every year, extreme weather events cut short tens of thousands of lives and cost hundreds of billions in damages.  And due to climate change, such disasters are only expected to increase in frequency and severity in the coming years.  I hope to leverage my background in medicine, experience dealing with natural disasters, and training as a FEMA-certified emergency responder to assist this organization in accomplishing its mission: to educate, empower and equip people in need to be health leaders in their community.

Here are 5 tips to preparing for a disaster in your own life:

  1. Understand your threats – What are the most common and most dangerous risks for your situation?  Learn everything you can about those and develop a plan.  
  2. Have an emergency kit – You remembered canned food but don’t have a can opener?  Credit cards and ApplePay don’t work when the phone lines are down.  Check out this helpful guide from FEMA.
  3. Develop useful skills – Take a course in CPR and learn how to handle a fire extinguisher.  Know how to board up windows and identify utility shut-off sites.  
  4. Don’t forget your pets – Are your pets microchipped?  How would you navigate a scenario in which your pet is not allowed in a hotel or public shelter?
  5. Help one another – Pay particular attention to those friends, family, and neighbors who may be infirm or otherwise require special assistance.

– Josh Stevens, Spring ’21 Intern


Nutrition and How It Relates to Community Health Workers

Nutrition is a very specific category with a vast array of coverage when pertaining to Community Health Workers (CHWs). The concept of nutrition is more than what we eat but how it is used by our bodies and how it can benefit our overall health. The burden of malnutrition is a deep issue many countries deal with, especially with vulnerable population groups like young children, older seniors, and individuals who are immune-compromised or have preexisting health concerns.

CHWs are on the front line experiencing how people suffer from malnourishment, growth stunting, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and the symptoms and/or side effects of the NCDs. There is a level of hardship when facing people who are suffering in their own ways, and CHWs are capable of providing the necessary aid to these communities with the support of groups like IHELP.

Currently, IHELP is formulating a secondary nutrition education certification for CHWs to equip them with the more in-depth knowledge they will need when out in the field. IHELP aims to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and culturally/traditionally acceptable methods of nutritional food intake. Research is currently being compiled through country data profiles, peer-reviewed scientific study journals, and connecting with IHELP’s current CHWs. There is a distinct need to address malnutrition globally and with this education certification, which will empower future interventions, it is the best-calculated step in the direction of lessening its prevalence around the world.

– Ruk Siva, Spring 2021 Intern

2021BlogInternational HELP ProjectsInternsMaternal Health

Maternal Morbidity & Mortality Around the World

International HELP is currently finalizing program components to establish a maternal health certification program for our Community Health Workers (CHWs) across the globe. In the next year, we will be conducting a pilot project in rural El Salvador for our previously-trained CHWs who have not only expressed specific interest in obtaining this specialty training but have also presented a community need for more accessible basic maternal health care and education.

At International HELP, we strive to empower CHWs to help combat the risk factors behind maternal mortality and morbidity. Although there has been global progress in decreasing maternal mortality/morbidity, it is evident that there is still work to be done. According to the World Health Organization1:

  • About 295,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017.
  • Approximately 810 women died every day in 2017 from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 94% of all maternal deaths occur in low and lower-middle-income countries.
  • Young adolescents (ages 10-14) face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women.
  • Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally.

– Evelyn Argueta, MPH Intern


Developing Nation Impoverished Houses
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