New Research by Bay Area Non-Profit Reveals Methods to Strengthen International Service-Learning

Mid-wives on the way to the training

A research collaboration between Bay Area Non-Profit Child Family Health International, the Mexico Ministry of Health, and Northwestern University has revealed both positive impacts of international development efforts, as well as the modesty of those impacts and cultural hurdles in evaluation.

The term capacity building is used to describe the expansion of knowledge, skills, and bandwidth within a particular workforce.  The burgeoning field of global health emphasizes the importance of capacity building as essential to improve the health of individuals and communities amongst the world’s poorest.  While capacity building is an admirable goal, evaluation of programs and efforts to ensure they are having their intended impacts have been hard to come by.

Bay Area global health education leader, Child Family Health International, is setting the standards for both providing opportunities for students and university faculty to have impactful experiences around the world, as well as highlighting the importance of evaluating to understand impacts.  In the most recent addition of the International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, Child Family Health International’s United States and Mexico-based team collaborated with Mexico Ministry of Health, and Northwestern University to sustain a longitudinal program training lay midwives, known locally as parteras, now entering its 8th year.  

The article highlights both positive impacts of international development efforts, as well as the modesty of those impacts and cultural hurdles in evaluation.  Researchers found that the parteras showed improvements in their understanding in 5 areas: uncomplicated pregnancy, complicated pregnancy, complicated delivery, anatomy, and prenatal care.

Significant changes in knowledge were not found in two areas- postpartum care and nutrition.  Interestingly, the parteras initially were not completing the survey because it was using the idea of improvement in “confidence” to qualify the impacts.  The researchers recognized the incompleteness and looked into it.  They found that “confidence” was not a concept that parteras were familiar with, so they hesitated.  Researchers had to adjust how they were asking questions in order to make the questions clear to the lay midwives.

“The study highlights not only impacts but the program structure necessary for those impacts which is super important,” comments Executive Director, Dr. Jessica Evert, “too often programs are put together hastily and don’t have the longitudinal engagement partner, such as CFHI in this instance.  Also the Ministry created the curriculum, not outsiders, which is critical to delivering accurate, locally relevant, and culturally acceptable training.”  This research adds to CFHI’s contributions to evaluating impacts, both for communities and students, participating in global internships, electives, and fieldwork.  

About Child Family Health International

Child Family Health International (CFHI) provides community-based Global Health Education Programs for students and institutions. Our unique model fosters reciprocal partnerships and empowerment in local communities, transforming perspectives about self, healing and global citizenship.

CFHI is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations.

Source: Child Family Health International


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