Autumn Newsletter from Sacred Valley Health

Our latest newsletter went out via email a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve heard that it landed in some people’s Promotions folder. So we’re re-sharing it via the blog. Enjoy!

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Why are we doing this work?

The Sacred Valley is home to many small, geographically isolated communities that lack access to basic health services. These communities suffer from poverty, limited education opportunities, and social exclusion, contributing to the poor health outcomes seen in this region. Sacred Valley Health (SVH) health campaign data from April 2014 show that 64% of children under five years old in Greater Ollantaytambo are severely underweight, according to World Health Organization (WHO) body mass index (BMI) standards, and 72% of children over five years old are severely underweight with respect to those standards.

Sacred Valley Health aims to improve healthcare access and equity in these underserved areas. We train promotoras de salud (community health workers), empowering them to become health leaders in their home communities. Promotoras who complete SVH’s training programs become frontline health workers, providing their neighbors with basic first aid services, disease-prevention education, and referrals for more advanced medical care when necessary. SVH seeks to improve health outcomes by increasing health knowledge and building relationships between rural people and the government health clinics where we hold our promotora training sessions.

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A promotora uses a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heartbeat.

Our impact by the numbers

On September 26, 17 promotoras from 14 communities graduated from their core community health worker training. In the past two years since the Promotora Program’s launch, there have been 551 total patient encounters (a/o July 15, 2014) where promotoras treated their neighbors’ ailments and/or imparted relevant health information. Promotoras led a total of 50 General Assembly presentations and 35 secondary presentations where they educated community groups about a diversity of health topics. SVH community coordinators have embarked on 90 community visits to support the promotoras as they perform health interventions or give presentations. Community coordinators have also assisted the promotoras with mapping their communities. To date, 100% of the participating communities have been mapped using GPS.

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Promotora program update

The inaugural group of promotoras has completed two years of once-per-month training sessions. The second group of promotoras is close to completing a more intensive program, which involves semi-monthly trainings over the course of a year. Since the program’s inception, we have been collecting data on common illnesses and community problems. This data is now being used to guide new programming. At the same time, SVH is moving towards a more sustainable staffing model, where health knowledge and authority will be transferred to an increasingly Peruvian staff. We will be interviewing and selecting veteran promotoras to become full-time SVH employees. These Docente (Mentor) Promotoras will, with our support, supervise a new cohort of promotoras-in-training selected from some of the more outlying communities. This transition will provide leadership opportunities for more local women and will also minimize cultural barriers between community members and SVH staff. All promotoras in the first two groups will benefit from bi-monthly continuing education opportunities, in addition to leadership workshops. SVH Community Coordinators will continue to support them through onsite visits, periodic reviews of training materials, and data collection. 

Promotoras with their botiquines, or bags of supplies.
Promotoras with their botiquines, or bags of supplies.

New faces

Good work attracts good people…in our case, a lot of good people. Over the past few months, the Sacred Valley Health team has doubled in size, welcoming volunteers and staff from Paris to Seattle. These new employees bring skill sets from diverse backgrounds in public health, medicine, human resources, and social justice. New positions added to our roster include a Public Health Specialist and a Media and Development Coordinator.

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University partnerships

Back in March, SVH hosted 12 students from SUNY Brockport to carry out health campaigns for youth in the communities we serve. The six nursing majors and six Spanish majors collaborated to deliver lessons related to basic hygiene and healthy dental practices as well as to perform physicals for school-age children in the towns of Palomar, Piscacucho, T’anac, Pachar, and Ollantaytambo. The group also led a talk about puberty and nutrition with the female adolescent residents of El Dormitorio, a boarding school run by a non-profit called the Sacred Valley Project.

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Maternal health and community beliefs

SVH is excited to roll out some new projects in the coming months. We are organizing Centering Groups for expectant mothers in rural communities we visit. In these prenatal care groups, resident promotoras will facilitate discussions related to pregnancy and childbirth, creating support systems where the participating women live and work. An obstetrician from a government clinic will also join the groups as her schedule allows in order to answer questions. By bringing together women who can share life experiences and exert positive peer influence, we hope that expectant mothers will be encouraged to seek out prenatal medical care, such as vitamins and well visits. Ultimately, we believe increased communication between women will improve maternal health and birth outcomes in these underserved areas.

Another initiative we’ve launched is Creencias, or Community Beliefs, a program designed to help us learn about traditional health practices in the areas served by our programs. During Creencias meetings, community coordinators and promotoras gather groups of community members to chat about widely-held health beliefs. From these conversations, health practitioners on the SVH staff learn which homemade remedies are being used in the communities.

Sacred Valley Health receives 501(c)(3) status

Last month, we received exciting news! After many months in the IRS pipeline, SVH received full 501(c)(3) status. This means that all future donations will be tax deductible and previous donations will become retroactively tax deductible. If you have donated to support SVH, you will receive a charitable giving receipt in the next few weeks. We thank you for your generosity!

Contact us

Learn more about our programs and how you can get involved by visiting our website: You can also follow our blog, Into the Valley. For daily updates on our adventures, check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles.


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