Written by: Alisha Kerr, nutritional volunteer in EBPP Health Team
17 October 2012
I have been volunteering as a nutritionist with the EBPP Health Team since September. I studied nutrition, ethnic studies, and sustainable agriculture in California, USA. I am a 25 year old world traveler and am inspired to help others and continue my education as I hop from country to country. The learn-by-doing philosophy has created a very positive work environment where each of us are continuously learning, creating, challenging ourselves, and solving problems. EBPP is unique in its integrative approach towards enriching the lives of those living in Desa Ban by tackling the effects of poverty from several angles, enabling the locals to help themselves.
I work primarily with the monthly Posyandu program. EBPP health team staff members travel out to each of the 27 village health posts offering medical services, nutritional evaluations, and education to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children ages 0-5. Proper nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infancy is critical to proper growth and development, requiring additional medical services, and education at these health posts. We are currently developing materials for weaning and breastfeeding education, skin infections, malnutrition prevention and evaluation, and personal hygiene.
We use growth charts to identify and assess each child in the malnourished category. We do full patient assessments on any children of concern in the malnourished and severe acute malnourished range on the growth charts. We have identified seven cases of severe acute malnourishment and 21 cases of malnourishment during the September posyandu’s. Our first step is to identify the malnourished, then obtain a full patient assessment and interview with the mother, we then document each case with an attached picture, and follow up with a home visit in critical cases. The purpose of the home visit is to get a better grasp of why the malnutrition is occurring, educate the mother in private about the causes, consequences, and treatment of malnutrition, to bring any needed supplemental nutrition products, and to clearly go over a dietary plan.
We continue to monitor the child’s health and nutrition status after each home visit to assess how the child is responding to the diet plan, whether or not the weight has increased, and indentify any barriers to adhering to the diet plan. Each consecutive month we continue to pay close attention to the cases of malnourishment by analyzing the growth trends, and talking with the mother. If the child’s weight is staying the same or decreasing we continue the frequency of home visits, and outreach. Our goal is to identify individual child malnutrition early on before it gets severe, and educate the mothers as clearly and frequently as possible.
Each day I am inspired by the laughing children, and the hardworking mothers, who seem to rise up above all challenges. Seeing the effects of poverty up close has motivated me to continue this type of work. Each day another layer is peeled away, revealing more and more about the culture and people. I share a reciprocal relationship with the other health team members, where I am able to educate, as well as learn from them and their culture. It is a very respectful work environment, filled with cheerful smiles and family like conversation. I am happy to be here, and so thankful for all the teamwork enabling such a program to sustain itself.