Ms. Sophie Philizaire, a Master of Public Health (MPH) student in Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work’s department of health policy and management, has been accepted into the Peace Corps as a community health support agent in Senegal, Africa. Ms. Philizaire’s position will help her gain global awareness of the issues facing public health and access to quality health care.
The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated visionaries to engage in a community abroad, working alongside local leaders to tackle the most tenacious present-day public health challenges.
“Serving as a key example of Stempel College’s student involvement outside the classroom, Ms. Philizaire has demonstrated that she is focused on making the world a better place by targeting her efforts on one significant humanitarian crisis,” said Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of Stempel College.
Ms. Philizaire, who embarks on her journey in February 2019, will be working with the Peace Corps’ Community Health Project. Her role will include supporting efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality in Senegal. The project assists community health workers (CHW) in delivering quality health care and prevention services, as well as improving the utilization of community health services and the uptake of healthy behaviors among pregnant women and mothers.
“Because my heart aims to serve others, I am extremely excited to embrace a new culture, a new language and a new outlook on life,” said Ms. Philizaire. “I am also eager to understand how other cultures implement health care.”
Ms. Senegal’s health system is unable to meet every need of the local population; therefore, the Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) is promoting community health as a means of enhancing access to basic health care and prevention services for the majority of the population, particularly those living in communities with limited access to clinics and hospitals.
The MSAS has formed a network of basic health units termed “health huts,” each of which is managed by two community health agents (CHAs) who have received training on providing basic health care. CHAs are supported by community health educators (CHEs), who are responsible for teaching the community about healthy practices and disease prevention.
Ms. Philizaire’s role will consist of: i) organizing individual and group capacity building activities for CHWs; ii) working in schools to create youth health clubs that train students to be informal CHEs; iii) supporting a cohort of pregnant women and mothers to adopt evidence-based maternal and child health behaviors; and iv) conducting regular home visits to follow-up to ensure the utilization of health services and recommended health behaviors.
Since she was a child, Ms. Philizaire has wanted to join the Peace Corps. Receiving this opportunity has empowered her to continue setting and accomplishing her goals. She is certain this opportunity will provide her with a new perspective on life, by humbling her and inspiring her to keep following her dreams.