Experiencing Outreach: Bridging the Gulfs
As an organization, we have struggled at times to reach a younger audience with our public educational message, pre-menopausal women in particular. The cumulative stresses of pregnancy and childbirth, including obstetrical trauma, are looming risk factors for the development of pelvic floor dysfunction - incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse - in later years. We are therefore summoned to educate younger audiences of these risks. Most women when they are pregnant are not concerning themselves with strengthening and protecting their pelvic musculature. They often disregard their own weight gains and think of pregnancy as a time to eat plentifully and opt out of routine exercise if feeling unduly tired or in need of extra sleep. And even occasional bladder leakage is quickly dismissed, even by doctors and nurses, considered "normal," rarely highlighted as signaling a warning sign of possible future stress urinary incontinence to permanently surface.
This week, in an attempt to reach underserved Latinas in the farming community of Salinas, California, the National Association For Continence (NAFC) co-hosted a public educational forum with local providers Clinica de Salud de XXXXX (CSVS) and Natividad Medical Foundation. But this time, the location was the cafeteria of a cherished elementary school, Cesar Chavez, rather than a luxury hotel ballroom. Free, onsite childcare was available. Children and adults were served specially prepared, healthy meals emphasizing fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and fibers and low fat proteins. Instead of specialists from afar, speakers were local family medicine and OBGYN doctors. The entire program was in Spanish, and it was widely promoted by the growers to their employees and to parents through local schools with flyers. Posters and flyers were distributed at popular shopping locations and Catholic churches, and news about the event was broadcast on Spanish language radio and TV. Univision aired public service announcements about the program. And the event was scheduled in the midst of Binational Health Week, allowing additional promotional exposure at health fairs and related events in the area.
Perhaps most importantly, the program content centered on health and wellness, with advice on smart food choices, balanced nutrition and weight management, the importance of regular exercise for diabetes prevention, a healthy heart, and a good start for the baby, and a detailed description of how the female body's is impacted by pregnancy and childbirth. This was followed by an explanation of bladder and bowel control problems that may accompany childbirth or ensue years later, with information about treatment options.
A strong emphasis was placed on changing the traditional Latina mindset of unselfishly disregarding self-care in lieu of caring for others and altering behavior and lifestyle. Subtly, the link between disease prevention and weight management.....and in turn bladder and bowel control.....was established. After speaking, doctors took questions from the audience as well as individually in confidence at curtained tables. Women waited in line to meet privately until it was time to close and clean for the following school day. Even a few husbands stepped up to ask questions!
With a concerted grassroots effort, attendance was strong and largely comprised of Latinas in childbearing years. Some were accompanied by their husbands, who sat attentively throughout the 90 minute program. Truly, we were performing an outreach service! To close the gap in health disparities, outreach is all about reaching across the gulf: the gulf between languages and cultures, the gulf between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the gulf between answers and questions, and the gulf between understanding and ignorance. In Salinas, those gaps were narrowed by the contributions of many, hands offering hope, direction, and a healthier lifestyle. I feel so proud for this tiny but important milestone in NAFC's mission and work.
Published On: October 20, 2010