So what's so unique about the HOPE Centre approach compared to other projects? This is a question that I have had to answer many times when presenting this project to potential donors. My answer goes something along the lines of this:
"The HOPE Centre approach is unique first and foremost, because there isn't anyone else in the country doing exactly this! Secondly, while some organizations are thinking about working in chronic disease, they are not thinking holistically. They think curative only (or in this case management) rather than preventive first, curative second."
That's what I think will make this project stand out - it is an integrated, holistic approach to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in a setting where resources are extremely limited and where people struggle to survive on a day to day basis.
The HOPE Centre will tackle chronic diseases in a number of ways:
- Clinically - we will open a chronic care clinic that is staffed by a professional nurse, with additional help from volunteer specialists such as doctors, podiatrists, ophthalmologists and pharmacists. This clinic will receive referrals from the government clinic and will serve a catchment area of over 300,000 people. People will be able to receive comprehensive screening, counseling and medication for their conditions if needed.
- Peer Support - Arguably one of the most important factors in managing a chronic disease, or trying to modify ingrained behaviors so that you don't develop a chronic disease is support from peers who are in the same situation. Patients who have been screened by the clinic or who have been referred to us by other partners will be encouraged to join these support groups. They will meet on a weekly basis for a period of one year. During these weekly meetings Project HOPE and its partners will provide comprehensive health education, counseling, nutritional assessments, vegetable gardening and cooking classes, physical activity assessment and classes as well as continued health monitoring to make sure the disease is under control and stable. After the one year period these peer groups will "graduate" knowing how to manage their disease well, what to do if something goes wrong, and will become "change agents" in the community - being able to encourage others not to live in a way that puts them at risk of getting a chronic disease.
- Education and Screening - we will be working with the Department of Health to provide training materials and develop screening techniques that Community Health Workers can use as they go door-to-door in the communities making people aware of diseases such as diabetes, HIV, TB etc. Project HOPE will empower these Community Health Workers to be able to act as the "first line" in preventing chronic diseases in communities by educating them on the diseases, risk factors, and then helping them to identify potential cases and allowing them to refer them to clinics so that they can be seen before it is too late.
To ensure quality of the highest standards, Project HOPE will be working with the University of Witwatersrand in all phases of the project - from determining the current chronic disease priorities through a baseline survey, developing and fine tuning the interventions including curriculum development, monitoring and evaluating of the project and publishing the results in various academic and non-academic forums.
All of this is getting me VERY excited!! I hope to update you next week with some pictures of our new clinic and of the communities that we will be working in.
Thanks for reading!
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