Mothers Reaching out to Mothers
Sunday, May 9th, 2010
Marta Angélica Fernández Romo, 34 is one FEMAP’s 1,100 Promotoras de Salud Comunitaria (Community Outreach Volunteers). These promotoras organize educational health care outreach programs that reach out to more than 200,000 people in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua. Marta, a mother of two boys, had been approached by FEMAP coordinators to volunteer in this program. Her duties were to include becoming educated about prenatal care and family planning so that in turn, she could impart that knowledge to other mothers and help coordinate impromptu clinics in her neighborhood. These clinics are vital because the closest hospital to her neighborhood is FEMAP's Hospital Santa Maria which is 20 miles away.
"At first, I did not want to get too involved," explains Marta in Spanish. "But then I started attending the classes and learning about our bodies and parenting and health. These classes helped me decide to only have two children so that we can better provide for them with regard to health, emotional support and education.” Marta soon realized that through these classes she was becoming a better mother, but one particular event helped her realize how important her role as a Promotora could be to others.
"I was asked to help coordinate an impromptu clinic at a community center located across the street from my house." FEMAP's medical staff sets up this type of clinics at sites within marginalized neighborhoods in Cd. Juarez to ensure that the population has access to preventive medicine and testing. Cervical and uterine cancer detections are provided as well as diabetes and cholesterol screenings.
This clinic was successful in that it attracted more than 120 individuals. "The last patient was my son's teacher," remembers Marta. "I picked up my son at school one day and I convinced her to come to the clinic. The day of the clinic, she underwent a cervical cancer test. When lab exams returned, she discovered that she had tested positive. Not only that, but the cancer was so advanced that there was little that could be done to save her.” Had this woman been tested sooner, she may have been able to seek treatment.
It was that day, that Marta made it her mission to not only educate men and women about family planning, dispense birth control, and speak to them about the importance of prenatal care, but she also insisted that FEMAP's medical units provide more cervical and uterine cancer testing and education in her neighborhood.
In response to this story and many others, Graciela De Leon, FEMAP outreach community coordinator and Dr. Manuel Fernandez, Chief OB/GYN at Hospital de la Familia and Hospital Santa Maria SADEC developed a pilot project where a truck is equipped with a colposcope - a large, electric microscope. This microscope helps Dr. Fernandez examine specimens so as to detect and treat cervical and uterine cancer on-site. "We call it the colpomovil," laughs Graciela. A colposcopy is a simple and painless, 10- to 15-minute procedure that is usually performed at the hospital.
Graciela is searching for funding to retrofit a vehicle into a mobile colposcopy clinic that will provide cervical and uterine exams throughout Cd. Juarez neighborhoods. If the diagnosis is abnormal, the woman will immediately undergo electrosurgery or cryosurgery on site. "This will most definitely help us save many lives because we can provide treatment instantaneously. We don’t have to worry about having to find the patient later or wait until we visit the neighborhood at a later date," she says.