Lehigh Team Wins Pittu Laungani Best Paper Award


Lehigh doctoral students and faculty who evaluated a training program for community health workers in rural southeast Haiti have won the 2017 Pittu Laungani Award for best paper published in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education.

The paper, which offers recommendations for building effective volunteer-led training programs, was written by then-doctoral students Brandon A. Knettel and Shay E. Slifko; Arpana G. Inman, chair, Department of Education & Human Services, College of Education; and Iveta Silova, former associate professor of comparative and international education. The Institute of Health Promotion and Education announced the award winners in its March 2018 newsletter.

“This is really interesting, important work because it focuses on an interdisciplinary process,” Inman said. “It brings in experts from the fields of counseling, comparative and international education, as well as health workers, and medical professionals. It's a great interdisciplinary team approach to examining and working with the local NGO [in Haiti] and the Ministry of Education.”

The work was related to Lehigh’s collaboration with Becton, Dickinson and Company, a medical technology company headquartered in New Jersey, in partnership with Heart to Heart International, a global humanitarian organization.

The paper, titled “Training community health workers: an evaluation of effectiveness, sustainable continuity, and cultural humility in an educational program in rural Haiti,” evaluated the efficacy, sustainability, and cultural compatibility of an annual volunteer-led training program for community health workers in Haiti. The training program aimed to expand the maternal and child health literacy of 126 Haitian community health workers.

While results showed that participants’ knowledge of course content had improved significantly, participants felt that logistical, material, and financial barriers were hindering them in carrying out their work as community health workers, according to the paper. The Lehigh team’s evaluation showed a gap in the cultural understanding between the sponsoring organization and the program participants.

In the paper, the Lehigh team made several recommendations for building effective volunteer-led training programs that uphold the principles of participatory action and cultural humility. Among the recommendations:

  • Conduct more frequent trainings to improve knowledge retention.
  • Implement a thorough cultural orientation for all community health worker partnerships working with short-term volunteers.
  • Involve Haitian instructors in ongoing training programs.

Since the initial trip, Inman said, other graduate students have built on the program evaluation work in Haiti, including then-doctoral student Asmita Pendse and current doctoral student Xiaoran Yu, who used focus groups, surveys, and field observations to help strengthen efforts in training programs to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in Haiti.

In other evaluations, she said, graduate students Netta Admoni and Christine Gravelle went to Peru to help with the assessment of outreach from a medical clinic into the local community, and doctoral students Maria Lauer-Larrimore and Sam Hopp went to El Salvador for evaluations of diabetes assessment, management, and education programs.

Inman said Lehigh’s College of Education is pleased to be able to be a resource for communities in providing these program evaluations. Each of the projects focuses on working with local stakeholders and building capacity so that local communities can continue the work, she said.

“That's been exciting about the work [Becton, Dickinson] has been doing, which is one of the other reasons why I felt good about our students’ involvement,” she said. “We weren't projecting U.S.A. perspectives as much as we were learning the processes there and developing tools consistent with the culture.

“The other piece,” she added, “is that the College is providing opportunities for our students to engage in interdisciplinary work and interdisciplinary collaborations where they are able to identify the kinds of questions to ask and negotiations that need to be made within the context of interdisciplinary cross-cultural teams. And finally, it's an opportunity for students to learn about the cultural nuances particular to international situations as compared to local diversity.”

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