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Public Health Educator

Project description

Public Health Educators work with Guinean community health workers, youth, caregivers, pregnant mothers, fathers, and all who promote and support the health of young children and mothers. The main goal of the health program is to increase the knowledge and skills of all these groups to improve maternal child health in Guinea. Guinea’s Ministry of Health is committed to reducing the maternal mortality rate from 724 per 100,000 births to 517 per 100,000 births and the child mortality rate from 123 per 1,000 births to 77 per 1,000 births by 2025. The global maternal mortality rate is 172 per 100,000 births, and child mortality is 31.2 per 1,000 births. Public Health Educators promote maternal and child health and teach about reproductive health, nutrition, immunization, and malaria prevention. In addition, they assist health center staff in daily activities, provide training on educational activities related to hygiene and sanitation, strengthen the capacity of community health workers, and support health sites in digitizing the community health system through data collection and management.

With more than 70% of Guinea’s population under the age of 30, young people face high rates of unemployment, inequitable gender norms, and adopt positive sexual and reproductive health practices at a low rate. The Government of Guinea seeks to improve maternal and child health outcomes by strengthening the existing health system through increased health coverage and services provided. To meet this priority, Volunteers live in communities located near rural health centers or health posts.

Guinea's public health program focuses on the following activities:
• Prenatal and postnatal health care for pregnant mothers and newborns
• Promotion of family planning
• Promotion of breastfeeding up to 6 months
• Introduction of complementary foods after 6 months
• Prevention of communicable diseases, pneumonia, and sexually transmitted infections
• Prevention and fight against malaria
• Promote the vaccination of children under 5 years old
• Training on educational activities related to water, hygiene, and sanitation
• Strengthen the capacity of Community Health Workers
• Support health centers in the digitalization of the community health system

One of the primary goals for Volunteers is to encourage the use of local healthcare facilities by community members. Public Health Educators form strong, collaborative partnerships with community members to provide information and training on health issues ultimately related to preventative maternal and child health. Public Health Educators conduct outreach with a local counterpart through individual home visits, group meetings, youth groups, and school presentations.

Guinea’s Public Health program focuses on increasing the knowledge and skills of the following groups:
• Women and men to adopt practices that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, good postpartum health, and a healthy newborn
• Child caregivers to improve the health of children under 5 and to prevent childhood illnesses
• Adolescents (10-24) to improve their health and well-being through health and life skills education (reproductive health, STI, family planning )
• Health workers to adopt practices that strengthen the community health system and services

Public Health Educators will have the opportunity to pursue secondary projects based on the needs and resources available in their community. Collaboration with Agriculture Volunteers is highly encouraged, particularly in Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture. Volunteers may teach gardening skills and encourage local preparation and consumption of nutrition-rich vegetables not commonly eaten in the community. Collaboration with Education Volunteers is encouraged, as school garden projects, youth groups, and classes are great venues for outreach on a variety of public health topics.

Required skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired skills

• Studies, as part of a major or minor, related to Public Health, Epidemiology, Global Health, Community Health, Environmental Health, Anthropology, Sociology, Social Work, Biochemistry, Nutrition and Nursing.
• Any work experience in Public Health, Community Health, and/or Social Services related projects or programs.
• Familiarity with health work, particularly maternal and child health and youth sexual and reproductive health (YSRH).
• Any experience working in a Public Health related endeavor such as HIV/AIDS outreach, contraception and family planning, counseling, youth outreach, and/or community health programs.
• Demonstrated leadership experience or experience in community organizing and mobilization.
• A desire to work with diverse rural community groups and in grassroots health.
• A strong willingness to learn a local language of Guinea and a basic level of French.

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. French is the official language of Guinea, but it is used almost exclusively by professionals and as a second language. Six indigenous languages are more commonly spoken and have the shared status of national languages. They are Pular (or Fula), Maninka, Susu, Kissi, Kpelle, and Toma.

Public Health Educators will be taught to speak a local language based on their assignment and will receive 120+ hours of local language training during Pre-Service Training.

During the first half of PST Volunteers will be taught to speak French until they reach the level of high novice before switching to the appropriate local language of their community. Volunteers receive between 10-20 hours of French lessons a week during PST to provide them with the basic language needed to navigate transportation and basic needs. Invitees are highly encouraged to take a French course prior to service and to continue with tutoring during PST and after arriving in their community. Volunteers are provided with a monthly allowance for language tutoring.

Public Health Educators work with counterparts who are Community Health Workers (CHWs) who are selected by the community based on their willingness and ability to speak French and communicate with the Volunteer.

* Many of the professionals assigned to health centers around the country are not from the region and often do not speak the local language. If the Volunteer is collaborating with Community Health Workers, the CHWs can serve as the link to the health centers as they are already required to report there. However, many Volunteers enjoy working directly with the professionals in the health center and thus need to speak French. Community placements nearest to health centers are based on levels of French.

Living conditions

The health program places Volunteers in two regions of Guinea. Volunteers are assigned to rural villages, where the need is greatest. These villages can range in size from several hundred to a few thousand people. Volunteers are expected to live at a level appropriate for their community in housing provided by the community.

The Peace Corps works with communities to prepare housing and ensure that it is safe and secure, near a source of water, accessible to a market, and within walking distance of clear cell phone reception.

Houses are typically simple round huts with one to three room structures, with either metal or thatched roofs. Many are situated within a family compound. Public Health Educators live in communities that are located near rural health centers. Most Volunteer houses do not have electricity or running water. Houses may have inside toilet and shower areas, but most have nearby or attached access to a private pit latrine and bathing area.

Cell phone services improve each year but fluctuate by location. Phones work in almost all areas of the country, but internet access can be limited at the village level. A basic cell phone is given to Volunteers. During training, Volunteers are also provided with a one-time allowance to purchase a tablet in country. Current Volunteers have found it helpful to bring their own laptop for personal use in their community. Regional offices are also equipped with computers with internet access.

Personal appearance is important to the people of Guinea. During Pre-Service Training (PST), the standard professional dress code is business casual. Following PST, when you are placed in the community, you will need to dress appropriately for socializing in the community and for working. Respecting Guinean culture and tradition by dressing appropriately helps you gain respect in your host community. It will also facilitate integration and increase your credibility and effectiveness.

Volunteers are provided bikes for transport should they choose; however, many communities are within walking distance to the Volunteer’s worksite. For longer distances, Volunteers use small passenger vehicles to go into the regional capital or to gain access to public transportation.

At most main meals, rice, maize, cassava, or local grain called “fonio” are eaten, along with leaves (like spinach and potato leaves), with a peanut or tomato-based sauce served with vegetables, meat, or fish. Fruits such as mangoes, avocados, pineapples, papayas, oranges, and limes are available seasonally. Vegetables are not as common, and those that are, are usually cooked into sauces. One of your goals is to work with community members to highlight the importance of eating these vegetables in new ways.

Though people in Guinea are generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are well defined and there are restrictive laws that target certain sexual behaviors. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and other currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

During your service, you will have an incredible experience that will have many challenges, but will undoubtedly bring incredible rewards as you develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, learn to communicate in local languages, develop an understanding of local expectations and customs, along with an appreciation of local foods, and learn to live and work in Guinea, where the concepts of comfort and necessity get redefined.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guinea: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

Your partner must qualify and apply for the following position:

• Agriculture Extension Volunteer

Couples will likely be separated during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training and live in different dormitory or host family accommodations. Once in their communities, couples will share a home that meets the same standards for all Volunteers. There will be times during service when couples will spend days and nights apart, such as when one is attending a specialized in-service training, a committee meeting, routine medical appointments, etc.

Does this sound like the opportunity for you?
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