Claire Williams, MD
Claire Williams, MD
Pediatrics · Minneapolis, MN

Public Health Pediatrics in Chilimarca, Bolivia

April 29th
Chilimarca Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Project Description

As a second-year pediatrics resident with a background in public health, I plan to build on the partnership between the University of Minnesota Center for Global Pediatrics, represented by Dr. Cindy Howard and Dr. Kate Shafto, and Fundacion una Brisa de Esperanza, represented by Dr. Jose Miguel de Angulo and his family. This partnership has historically focused on prevention of sexual violence, best practices for supporting sexual assault survivors, and fostering positive childhood development and health through research-based initatives. In the past, this work has led to a 2018 "Congreso" attended by over 400 experts and stakeholders. I hope to provide material assistance to some of FUBE's projects, including a branch of the Reach Out and Read program, assist in background research for publication of FUBE's work, and learn about establishing community-centered public health initiatives, such as home visiting programs and health advocacy workshops, in a resource-limited environment.

Population Served

I hope to bring my skills as a fluent Spanish speaker, clinician, and public health professional to aid our Chilimarca partners in distilling the lessons learned from their multiple projects in home visiting, advocacy, and workshops and providing the research and framework to assist in publication. Being able to share their stories and best practices can help other communities facing similar challenges as well as seek valuable funding sources. I plan to spend some of my time with my peer clinicians in the local primary care clinic, sharing our knowledge of pediatrics, insights, and local practices. I believe that I will also benefit from this partnership as I seek to become a primary care pediatrician in low-income, inner-city, Spanish-speaking populations in the United States with the goal of forming community partnerships that can advance the health literacy, emotional health, and early childhood education of my patients.

Expected Impact

I hope to be able to share the work of our partners in Chilimarca via assisting them in publication of their programs and outcomes. I will share my insights and experiences with the Global Health Consortium through the University of Minnesota, including professionals who work and practice in many countries across the world. While the COVID-19 pandemic has briefly disrupted the physical meetings of the partnership between Bolivia and the University of Minnesota, we believe that this trip will be the resumption of many clinician visits back and forth between our countries sharing practices, research, and learning.

Trip Photos & Recap

On my last day at the FAMISAL compound in Chilimarca, Cochabamba, Bolivia, I had two googly eyes stuck to my headband, a glittery bowtie around my neck, and my hands held by children as my husband and I danced “The Caterpillar Dance” surrounded by dozens of families in celebration of Bolivian Mother’s Day.

It was, in a word, different from my usual rotations.

It is part of the ethos of Fundación familias saludables (FAMISAL) and its sister organizations to include all and I had felt welcomed from the moment I arrived. FAMISAL is rooted in and of the Cochabamba community, with staff living in the area surrounding the compound and many staff members’ children attending the associated school.

One of FAMISAL’s central programs is Desarrollo integral de la infancia temprana (DIIT), which focuses on the first 1000 days of a child’s life. From the time of pregnancy, families are enveloped in a multi-disciplinary model that seeks to support the healthy development of children and their families. Their classes and workshops focus on five pillars: physical nutrition, self-agency, cognitive nutrition, healthy emotional bonding and attachment, and safe and stimulating environments. While children eat healthy, vegetarian meals, you will hear their teachers discussing the importance of nutrition in growing up strong. When children line up for their morning symptom screen, they are spoken to directly, rather than deferring to the parents as is common in Bolivian culture. When children are found to be ill, parents are provided accurate information on health promotion, including discrediting common myths (such as that colds are caused by insufficiently warm clothing).

FAMISAL is so successful at what they do because of their commitment to explaining the neuroscience of childhood development to every member of the organization, from IT support to administrative assistants to teachers, psychologists, and health professionals. Everyone joins together in supporting the mission of raising healthy children - and at no time was that more clear than in the center of all those families, celebrating.