By Claire Hutkins Seda, Writer, Migrant Clinicians Network, Managing Editor, Streamline
Over one year later, Hurricane Maria continues to haunt Puerto Rico. Blue tarps still top homes in villages and towns across the island, as residents struggle to afford the necessary roof and structural repairs. Yet something else hangs on tightly to Puerto Rico since Maria, the opposite of the physical destruction that is still so evident: Puerto Rico’s resiliency and determination, which define the post-Maria era.
“These communities were isolated after the hurricane — but there were strong people there, who showed resilience, and who were the key to developing the capabilities to work through [the aftermath],” recalled Marysel Pagán Santana, MS, DrPHc, MCN’s Program Manager in Puerto Rico. “Through it, they were protecting the health of the community — and that’s something anyone can be proud of.”
It’s also something important to replicate and advance, to assure health centers will be ready and mobilized, when the next disaster strikes. Migrant Clinicians Network’s project, “Mobilizing Communities in Puerto Rico to Meet the Needs of Vulnerable Populations Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster,” is a multi-year effort supported by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation that seeks to apply a community mobilization framework to emergency preparedness and to reinforce, replicate, and institutionalize the leadership efforts that community health centers showed after the disaster, in preparation for the next one.
In the first year, MCN is piloting the project with two community health centers in Puerto Rico, Hospital General Castañer and Corporación de Servicios Médicos. Both health centers have partnered with MCN before on several initiatives and programs, including environmental and occupational health, and Zika prevention. Now, the two community health centers will lead the way in this new effort. After the initial pilot year, the project will launch in additional health centers.
“We developed this project in close coordination with our partners in Puerto Rico, in response to requests from frontline clinicians after Hurricane Maria,” noted MCN’s Amy Liebman, MPA, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health. “We are confident that this Puerto Rican-led effort will further fortify the amazing resiliency that health centers have shown in the event of another disaster.”
In November, Pagán Santana joined Liebman and Alma Galván, MCH, Senior Program Manager, to facilitate the first in-person trainings of clinicians from the two partner health centers. The cross-sectional group of clinicians, including outreach workers, gathered to assess their community resources, networks, and skills that they used after Maria, and can further develop in preparation for the next big disaster.
“We look forward to our continued collaboration with our Puerto Rico community health center partners to address emergency preparedness through the lens of community mobilization,” Liebman added. “We have so much to learn from their resiliency and leadership.”
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MCN's emergency preparedness initiative in Puerto Rico is supported by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.
Read this article in the Winter 2019 issue of Streamline here!
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