The primary focus of Health by All Means (HbAM) is to create change and change agents from within communities to improve health outcomes and the general wellbeing of women and girls, especially in the global south. HbAM started in 2009 in rural Kenya as Health by Motorbike, providing health education for women and adolescent girls through “train-the-trainers” programs and through the basic distribution of health services on mobile clinics via motorbikes. The project has since expanded to the Gambia, Bolivia, and the Brazilian Amazon.
HbAM provides long-term health training and community health outreach for adolescent girls, training them as youth health workers. The program uses service learning as a major method of health promotion, and students are trained to translate their UW-Madison learning into action and service. All project goals and activities are shaped by four core principles:
• A gender transformative approach: In each site, the project seeks to identify the upstream causes of gendered inequities in health outcomes and supports women and girls as they support each other to challenge the status-quo in the spheres of gender norms, educational opportunities, and poverty.
• Non-hierarchical relationships: The project ensures that the activities and relationships between academia and the university are driven by community priorities.
• Mutually beneficial programming: Student programming centers expressed community needs and dedicated reflection and time to build meaningful, human connections.
• Fluid sequencing: The passage from one stage to another is a constantly evolving loop: feedback from initial activities spurs new initiatives; ideas from community members help to creatively adapt implementation to more accurately reflect cultural realities.
Since 2009, HbAM has reached approximately 70,000 people in Kenya through its Community Health Center for women and girls, and through the Mama-Toto Mobile Clinic—one of its most successful programs—to reach the most isolated communities. Sixty community health workers have been trained on basic health promotion and disease prevention.
Since 2015, HbAM has worked with Bolivian activist and women’s health leader Nidia Bustillo to compile knowledge of women traditional healers. Approximately twenty adolescent girls and boys in the mining communities of Oruro and Potosí were trained in topics identified by the community: disease prevention; hygiene promotions; and domestic violence and abuse prevention.
HbAM has partnered with Gambian organization Starfish International in the village of Lamin to discuss partnership strategies to replicate the model with adolescent girls and adapt it to the local needs.
In each location, HbAM works with local civil society organizations and government agencies in a process of mutual learning and capacity building.
For five years, twelve undergraduate students each year participated in a year-long course of study and health promotion curriculum preparation for a three week intensive field course in Kenya.
Ten graduate students have conducted independently supervised internship, capstone, and research projects in partnership with HbAM, on topics including: women’s family planning practices and needs; re-forestation, sustainability, and wellbeing; and eco-feminism, and peacebuilding; and an evaluation of the overall HbAM approach.
An international partnership was established between UW-Madison and the Autonomous University of Madrid, the institutional home of Women’s Knowledge International (WKI).
Teresa Langle de Paz and Araceli Alonso have a forthcoming book: “Health by All Means: Women Turning Structural Violence into Health and Wellbeing,” to be published by Deep University Press in a series on Academic Deep Activism
In 2013, the project received the UN Award for Public Service for its work with women and girls, health, and sustainable development.
• Incorporate traditional medicine and knowledge from traditional healers into health services where appropriate (i.e., Bolivia).
• Implement an evaluation plan as new sites launch to gauge the resources and challenges that each individual community faces. Assess cultural- and context-specific concerns across communities using participatory action research principles.
• Continue networking begun in 2017 in the Brazilian Amazon with organizations, hospitals and clinics, and the Brazilian government around wellbeing of threatened
indigenous communities. Plan a 4W/GHI/GWS summer field course for community health outreach in several indigenous communities.