Cholera outbreaks, disputed elections, civil unrest and earthquakes are unlikely to deter the commitment of Tulane researchers to improving the infrastructure of Haiti. Tulane’s staying power is due in part to the way in which researchers work within the country.
“We’ve got explicit goals that are not political goals,” explains Carl Kendall, professor of medical anthropology and community health at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and director of the Center for Global Health Equity. “No one is denying the need for more health staff and training for a nurse auxiliary staff. We think that public health can be a less politicized aspect of the state.”
Kendall and colleagues are developing a training program for nurses and nurse assistants. The nurse auxiliary course begins in Haiti this year and will have a cholera module first, says Kendall. The team is also organizing a two-day cholera training workshop for health staff.
Kendall and colleagues work with the Ministry of Health whose staff is likely to remain in place regardless of political upheaval.
“Building local capacity to respond to the needs is flying below the radar. It helps to have local staff who can blend in, who are plugged in to Haiti, who have families and systems of intelligence so that if there’s going to be a demonstration passing by the office they get a call ahead of time and clear out,” explains Kendall.
In addition to building on these relationships, Tulane researchers often arrange a complete program package.
“You do what you need to get things done, so for example with our training program, we have to purchase all the desks and furniture, computers, projector . . .and our partners have trust that whatever we commit to doing, we’ll get it done,” says Kendall.
— Madeline Vann