On Friday, January 10th the Sacred Valley Health office was transformed as we held a health day for our wonderful promotoras (community health workers). Each promotora had the opportunity to get a head to toe physical, a pap smear offered in partnership with CerviCusco, and supplemental training on reproductive health, family planning, and breast self-exams. Finally, the promotoras were treated to manicures and delicious fresh food!
The Promotora Day of Health capped a busy week in which SVH hosted a team of nursing students and professors from SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Brockport. Our promotoras worked hard and we wanted to show our appreciation. We also wanted to provide an opportunity for them to receive medical attention themselves, since they are typically focused on providing accompaniment and education to others. When CerviCusco reached out to us and suggested doing a pap smear campaign with SVH, we knew that this would be great opportunity for our predominantly female cohort of health promoters to receive a much-needed service to which they otherwise would not have had access.
According to CerviCusco, cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in Peruvian women 15 to 64 years old. Peru has a very high rate of cervical cancer compared with other countries, and the majority of Peruvian women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages when treatment options are limited and survival rates poor.
There are many reasons for Peru’s extremely high rate of cervical cancer. Although the Papanicolaou (Pap) test can detect pre-cancerous disease, few women can afford to get one. Laboratories are hindered by poor quality control and lack of uniform standards, scarcity of properly trained personnel and inadequate materials and supplies. Because of the scarcity of properly trained providers, women who get a Pap test frequently receive overly aggressive treatment of precancerous disease (total hysterectomy) which results in unnecessary morbidity. Please check out CerviCusco’s website at www.cervicusco.org to learn more about their lifesaving work.
Additionally, the visiting nurses taught our promotoras how to do breast self-exams, as breast cancer screenings are also uncommon in rural Peru. We reviewed family planning methods and reproductive anatomy, and the promotoras had the opportunity to receive physical exams from the nursing professors.
A big thank you to the visiting team of nursing students and professors, and to CerviCusco for making this day a big success!
To see more photos from our health campaigns, promotora trainings, and office life, follow us on Instagram @sacredvalleyhealth and Twitter @sacredvalhealth.