Each year during the winter holiday break, The College of Health Professions (CHP) offers an interdisciplinary travel opportunity to Nicaragua for approximately 20 students and faculty to provide health-related services for Nicaraguan elders in partnership with the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation (JFR). The JFR Foundation is a local, non-political, non-religious charity organization with a focus on improving the quality of life of older adults both domestically and abroad.
Nicaragua ranks as one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. Limited pension programs and government healthcare programs exist for elders in Nicaragua. Many elders who can no longer work and have no family to care for them live in hogars (i.e. elder centers). Each hogar houses 35-45 elders and relies on foreign aid and municipal assistance for funding. Some centers are operated or supported by local religious orders.
The first CHP trip to Nicaragua was initiated in the winter of 2007. A team of students and faculty members from various programs within the college of health professions performed a needs based assessment of the health needs of elders in Nicaragua. Student and faculty testimonials revealed that the interdisciplinary team approach deepened participants’ understanding of what each profession offers as well as promoted collaboration to enhance interdisciplinary practice and educational experience. This initial trip laid the foundation for on-going collaborative and educational opportunities. It also provides sustainable services that benefit Nicaraguan elders. Participating programs in the College of Health Professions include; Dental Health, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy.
The students provide community based rehabilitation within the hogars in Nicaragua. According to the World Health Organization, Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) focuses on enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families, meeting basic needs and ensuring inclusion and participation.
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