Activities and Impacts
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Gender Equity in Health and STEM Education
HbAM’s current work focuses on promoting gender equity in health and uplifting STEM education. In the summer of 2019, 4W scholar Mengyao Niu led a team of UW graduate and undergraduate students in developing a commercially available, affordable, and portable paper microscope (foldscope). Foldscopes were used to teach basic science education to women and girls in thirteen villages in Kwale County, Kenya: Lunga Lunga, Godo, Perani, Umoja, Maasailand, Jirani, Mpakani, Tsuini, Mgombesi, Juakali, Kidomaya, Ngweneni, and Pangani. HbAM is working to train secondary-school girls in community health and science to achieve the following objectives:
• Increase girls’ long-term interest in science and build their confidence in STEM subjects in school.
• Increase girls’ pursuit of science careers by teaching a simplified process of scientific discovery (studying soil with the foldscope, observing soil microorganisms, and isolating antibiotic-producing bacteria).
• Introduce healthcare careers and viable paths to pursue them.
• Deepen girls’ knowledge of community needs and basic barriers to obtaining quality health.
In 2019, HbAM also began collaboration with engineering students at the University of Wisconsin- Madison as part of their course, “Interdisciplinary Engineering 170: Design Practicum,” led by Katie Kalscheur and Rebecca Alcock.
Students did in-depth research about the villages in Kwale County, Kenya, including reading Alonso’s co- authored book Health by All Means: Women turning structural violence into peace and wellbeing. Using the UW Makerspace, they then designed three types of ambulance carts (like stretchers) to transport sick people – particularly unconscious patients and hemorrhaging pregnant women – from their villages to a nearby clinic.
Though students were unable to finish constructing the medical stretchers due to COVID-19 working restrictions, they found innovative solutions to still help the women of Kwale County. Instead of sending physical stretchers, students are preparing detailed drawings and instructions that can be easily translated to Swahili so that community leaders in Kwale County may begin building these stretchers themselves. Additionally, in spring of 2020, Lennon Rodgers, Director of UW’s Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab, donated electric bicycles to HbAM. These e-bikes are made specifically for women to ride during emergency transportation, which is not customary in many villages where only boys and men own motorbikes.
As of April 2020, approximately 100 undergraduate and 10 graduate students at UW-Madison have participated in HbAM projects. Our current scope will allow even
more young scholars to engage engage in our work and build skills in leadership, communication, and public service. Following the Wisconsin Idea, our goal is that all participants in HbAM health and science projects — UW teams and local partners — become experts in their own health and science fields and use that expertise to improve education, health, and quality of life for communities locally and globally.
COVID-19 Response Model
In reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, HbAM Leader Araceli Alonso developed a simple, community-engaged surveillance and response model that could be effectively implemented in rural communities in Kenya by local HbAM leaders.
In less than two weeks after the model was created – and before the Kenyan government announced the first case of COVID19 in the country – the women of Kwale County had reached approximately 1,200 families with the HbAM response model; distributed thousands of medicated bars of soap; delivered large quantities of acetaminophen to those in need; and built hundreds of tippy taps (hands-free washing devices) for their communities. The women also conducted workshops to teach others how to safely and hygienically build and use the tippy taps. Additionally, through the Nikumbuke Tailoring School, a Health by All Means vocational training and health initiative, women began sewing masks to distribute throughout their communities.
Thanks to their rapid implementation of the Health by All Means model, villages in Kwale County, Kenya were better equipped to manage COVID19-related health issues and could share their methods with others via Facebook and WhatsApp.
- Lunga Lunga Health Center
- Kwale County-Kenyax Kinondo Kwetu Hospital
- Kwale County-Kenya Nikumbuke Community Health Center
- Lunga Linga-Kwale County-Kenya
HbAM has been supported by UW-Madison’s Ira
and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the Undergraduate Global Health Education Program, and the Global Health Institute.