Community Health Specialist

Before You Apply

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Project Description

The purpose of the Community Health Program is to empower health care workers, individuals and communities to reduce maternal, neonatal, and child morbidity and mortality, and prevent and mitigate Malaria, and HIV and AIDS. Community Health Specialists often work alongside health professionals in rural health facilities including HIV Treatment Centers.

Community Health Specialists are expected to conduct certain activities throughout their two years of service. This work requires personal motivation, dedication, and resiliency to accomplish.

Program Goals:

i) Community members will adopt behaviors and practices that contribute to improved maternal, neonatal, and child health outcomes

ii) Community members and community outreach agents will adopt behaviors and practices that lead to a decrease in morbidity and mortality due to malaria

iii) Community members will adopt healthy behaviors and practices to decrease the spread of HIV and mitigate its harmful effects.

Community Health Specialists will accomplish these goals through four key areas of intervention:

1. Education of individuals and groups on mother and child health and improved nutritional practices

2. Mobiliization of communities to support mother and child health and nutrition

3. Formation and strengthening care groups that address mother and child health, nutrition, malaria, and/or HIV prevention

4. Linkage of people living with HIV (PLHIV) to treatment and other HIV services

Cameroon promotes gender awareness, gender-equitable norms, as well as girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in country and will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of their work, Volunteers will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:

• Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health

• Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing

Desired Skills

Most successful candidates will have the following relevant qualifications and qualities:

• Five years of professional work experience in the field of public health

• Familiarity with health work particularly maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and malaria

• Desire to work at the community/rural level to meet the communities’ health needs

• Willingness to work in a team environment as well as be a dedicated self-starter, independent and resilient

• Strong communication and relationship building skills

• Flexibility and willingness to learn new knowledge, skills and attitudes

• Experience in project planning is an added advantage

• Interest in development work in general, health promotion/education, and behavior change

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker
Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study and a subsequent placement test (score of 50 on the French College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI)).

French language skills are needed to successfully navigate work and community life. It is also necessary to travel safely and to interact and to communicate effectively in Cameroon. All Volunteers must attain a functional French level by the end of 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). Some Volunteers will learn a language in addition to French that is widely used in the local community.

It is highly recommended that Invitees take an intensive French course before departing USA. While Cameroon has two official languages: French and English, most Volunteers will speak French, some will also speak Fulfulde and use an additional local language while at site. While language is an important factor in selecting the Volunteer’s site, many other factors come into consideration. Volunteers are expected to be flexible for his/her assignment and give his/her best in order to promote good health practices in Cameroon.

Living Conditions

Cameroon is a wonderful and complex country. It is referred to as “Africa in miniature” due to the variety of ethnic groups, religions, and its geographic diversity. It is also a country in which two of ten regions have English as their official language, and the other eight have French.
Due to the current political unrest in the English speaking regions (Northwest, Southwest, North, and Far North), Volunteer assignments will be in the French speaking regions of Cameroon. These include the West, Adamawa, Centre, East, Littoral, and South. These regions are in the Guinea Savanna, humid forest and Western highlands ecological zones.
Peace Corps/Cameroon has enjoyed uninterrupted service since 1962. Living conditions in Cameroon vary greatly from one Volunteer community to another. Volunteers must be flexible, resilient and willing to live in very modest conditions without electricity, running water, and limited access to the internet.

Cameroon has restrictive laws that target same-sex couples. Same sex acts are punishable by imprisonment. Cameroonians do not identify themselves as LGBTQ due to severe societal stigma. Volunteers will need to be mindful of these cultural norms and Cameroon-specific laws which means that LGBTQ Volunteers cannot serve openly. Peace Corps staff and currently serving Volunteers will share support mechanisms for incoming trainees, provide support to a diverse group of Volunteers. LGBTQ Volunteers serve successfully in Cameroon. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Job Location
Most Community Health Specialists are posted at a health facility in small villages (1,000-4,000 inhabitants), though a few others are posted in small towns (~25,000 inhabitants). Extension work will likely take you to small communities surrounding your primary assignment. The audiences with whom you work may be an individual one day, a community organization or a group the next day, and an entire community the day after, as well as alongside health professionals in HIV Treatment Centers.

Work Schedule
Your work environment will be field-based which is very different from an office setting. Your schedule is often seen as 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While the health facility may have certain hours of operations you will find that your work extends beyond these hours and into weekends.

Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace
Cultural and linguistic integration is critically important for success as a Volunteer. Accordingly, Volunteers eat local food, speak local language(s), and fully participate in ceremonies such as funerals and weddings.

Dress code
Volunteers quickly observe that dress is very important to Cameroonians. As a Community Health worker, coordinator and facilitator, you will have to be mindful of the way you dress and the dress code will vary depending on the occasion. During work hours at the health facility, women can wear pants, a skirt, or a dress that covers knees, and a long/short sleeve shirt. Men can wear nice pants and a shirt. In official and other ceremonies, Volunteers should dress in business casual or in locally tailored outfits. Most Volunteers have clothes made locally.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Cameroon: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Cameroon

  • Cameroon may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; some types of gynecologic support; seizure disorder; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten, lactose, peanuts and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Cameroon, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

Cameroon is host to a set of tropical diseases known as filariasis. The types of most concern to Peace Corps Volunteers are Onchocerciasis and Loa Loa. There are no preventive medications, but reducing the number of insect bites lowers the risk of infection. This can be done with wearing long sleeves/pants and applying insect repellent. Volunteers are screened for infection during and at the end of service through blood testing. Your medical team will further discuss filariasis with you during training.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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