In addition to the medical services provided by its tertiary care hospital in Goma, HEAL Africa supports community-based healthcare by training health care professionals and conducting health research in the conflict-ridden region.
HEAL Africa addresses the health care crisis in the DRC by intentionally training healthcare professionals and conducting medical research. Verifiable statistics for the DRC are difficult to obtain, however, it is reliably estimated that there isless than one physician for every 10,000 persons. In this context it is critical to train physicians and other medical personnel in county.
HEAL Africa’s hospital in Goma is a highly regarded teaching hospital for training healthcare professionals. It offers training in Family Medicine, Gynecology and Obstetrics, General Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Radiology, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics. HEAL Africa’s programs, done in conjunction, with DRC universities are credentialed by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education.
In spite of urbanization, nearly two out of three persons in DRC live in rural areas with limited access to health care. One of the cornerstone programs for HEAL Africa is the specialized training of the Family Practice Residency Program. This four year program provides the opportunity for young doctors to upgrade their knowledge, interact with physicians from around the world, and to specialize in Family Medicine, without leaving Africa. These doctors are trained with an eye toward service in non-urban contexts.
HEAL Africa staff also provides training in rural health centers for nurses, many of whom have received only basic first aid training. HEAL Africa helps train midwives to assist in birthing process and to recognize the signs indicating the need for more specialized care. HEAL Africa also serves as a UNFPA and UNICEF training site in northeastern DR Congo for fistula repair.
HEAL Africa also provides technology and laboratory education.
Helping practicing physicians remain current is a major challenge within the DRC and surrounding areas. Medical advances take place constantly. New treatments and new regimens offer new hope for patients. A critical component in HEAL Africa’s educational commitment is Continuing Medical Education for practicing health care professionals. HEAL Africa hosts lectures given by international visiting doctors for the medical community of Goma and eastern DRC. Medical teams recruited individually, by churches, or institutions in North America, Europe, and Australia volunteer at HEAL Africa, teaching theory and practice in addition to working with Congolese doctors in the wards.
Research undergirds medical advancement in diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately many physicians in developing countries, especially those in rural areas, lack access to the results of the research and information. Interaction with and practice of research, fosters on-going evaluation and monitoring of the outcomes of various interventions for effectiveness.
Research that is focused on the diseases most frequently encountered in DRC and surrounding areas is of special interest and assistance to health care professionals serving in these areas. HEAL Africa highlights the importance of continuing research in a number of ways. All residents complete several supervised research projects over the course of their training. Many faculty members engage in research and are published. In addition, each of the Continuing Medical Education (CME) conferences feature segments in which the research done in the DRC is presented to those gathered for the CME.
This program provides specialized training in Family Medicine. It is especially useful training for those who face the demands of rural primary health care. The curriculum is rigorous. It features instruction and supervised rotations in the following specialty areas: pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, general surgery, orthopedics, internal medicine, ophthalmology, dentistry, public health and management.
HEAL Africa has established the DOCS Teaching Chair in Family Medicine in recognition of its roots with DOCS (Doctors on Call for Service) and as a way to strengthen the program of providing specialized Family Medicine training.
Volunteer instructors from across the world are recruited to teach students and interact with them during short term educational trips to DRC.
Access to adequate health facilities or care remains a challenge in Congo. As a preventative measure, HEAL Africa conducts public health education focused on the treatment and prevention of HIV, as well as basic health and hygiene. In distant villages, HEAL Africa sends medical practitioners and community development workers to offer health care and to support local health facilities with services they are not equipped to deliver.
The prevalence of AIDS/HIV is immense in Africa, and eastern DRC is not exempt. HEAL Africa focuses on three categories of children with HIV. Those born with HIV positive mothers, those who are confirmed HIV positive, and those who have been orphaned as a result of neglect by caregivers and / or community upon contracting the disease.
HEAL Africa’s staff offers personal counseling and medical assistance. The outreach staff also conducts community education projects in communities that focus on prevention, support, and reducing the impact of HIV in a child’s life when they are born from infected mothers.
The majority of illnesses can be prevented through basic health and hygiene practices. HEAL Africa’s staff examines current behavior and use dialogue with community members to discuss practices that can prevent basic health issues. For many communities who are organized, leaders through the Nehemiah Initiative, are often trained to educate other community members for effectiveness and efficiency.
The Safe Motherhood program also offers another avenue for public education. While learning about maternal health proper birthing practices, HEAL Africa’s outreach staff maximizes the opportunity by teaching women about continued basic health practices. Within the same community, HEAL Africa also provides similar training for both young men and women with a sex education component.
The shared experience at HEAL Africa and Tuungane School often develop into friendships. These relationships can provide an emotional cushion for children.
Investing in children is critical to the future health of Congo and HEAL Africa believes children deserve a chance to thrive. Children wandering around HEAL Africa's compound is a regular sight. Many have come with family members who are seeking services or are need of care themselves. Many street children come for chapel services and stay on the grounds. In either case, their education can be interrupted for indefinite periods. HEAL Africa connects children to educational opportunities.
HEAL Africa supports the operations of a primary school, where over 250 vulnerable children attend. Located in a rural village known as Mugunga, the school serves as the closest opportunity for any amount of education. Many of the children in attendance come from refugee families who have settled into their temporary housing as a result of continued conflict.
In operation since the 2005-2006 school year, the school has implemented a practical component to their education by learning about agriculture and the benefits of breeding livestock. The project, although small, has produced several benefits. It has not only provided school children with skills for their future, but it acts as a tool to engage parents, while generating some level of income to assist in the school’s limited financial capacity.
Children wandering without parental supervision within the walls of HEAL Africa is not an unusual sight. Many come for chapel services early in the mornings and remain throughout the day. Some children must remain at the hospital, as they or their caregivers receive treatment. Because treatments can vary in length, children are often left with limited supervision.
In their new environment, many will develop friendships with other children and explore the hospital grounds, often disturbing the hospital’s operations. More critical however, is the interruption in their education.
Started by a group of women volunteers under the leadership of the late Lyn Lusi, a mentoring center for children at all levels began in 2006. Each year over 200 children attend the school. They are provided with school kits that include basic hygiene materials, to allow them to participate in their education with dignity.
On Sundays, HEAL Africa holds a chapel service with an open invitation to all patients, staff and residents outside of the HEAL Africa hospital grounds, regardless of religious affiliation. Between children outside HEAL Africa’s gates and children of hospital patients, the Sunday School program attracts approximately 300 children. HEAL Africa uses this opportunity to address the spiritual needs of children, by providing lessons with sound values so that today’s children will contribute to a safer future for their community.