Sunday, November 4, 2007

This presentation is part of : International Team Projects
Health Promotion in the Amazon Rainforest
Rojann R. Alpers, PhD, RN and Roxena Wotring. Arizona State University College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Learning Objective #1: The learner will be able to describe the process of establishing an international nursing program.
Learning Objective #2: The learner will be able to identify the challenges and opportunities of participating in an international nursing initiative.

‘Nursing in its purest form’ was the lesson learned by all who participated a health fair in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.  The setting was primitive (thatch-covered community center with banana leaves for table coverings), teaching materials were developed and translated by candlelight (under the watchful eyes of the resident tarantula family), and the supplies brought from the U.S. were few due to the ‘raiding and ransoming’ by airport security.  However, the hot and humid atmosphere crackled with excitement and anticipation for this ambitious project.  This inaugural project was the first time U.S. nurses had ventured into the indigenous communities the Amazon rainforest.

            Planning took almost a year.  Negotiations were time-consuming, slow and not in English.  Securing planning data was challenging, and transporting materials and supplies required vigilance, bravado and extra cash.  But once ‘in-country’ the health fair was momentously welcomed.  The project included screening and education for diabetes, hypertension, Tuberculosis, lice, hygiene, dental care, and safety.  Attendance exceeded  estimates and expectations.  Data was collected on the noted health indicators, growth and development, immunization status and demographics. Health records were created turned over to the local public health nurse, who had been unable to establish such a database due to constraints on time, resources and personnel.

The outcomes from this experience were numerous. This project established contact with these Amazon communities and laid the foundation for future collaborations.   Important and needed health information was collected and communicated to the local health officials and a follow-up program has been established.  The word-of-mouth publicity of the health fair has garnered invitations to re-create this project in four other Ecuadorian communities.  Most importantly, a positive relationship has been instituted  with the tribal presidents and Shamans.

This presentation will highlight the process of establishing an international program, securing funding, launching collaborations, and surviving the Amazon.