It’s no news story that many families struggle to get access to quality health care. As Jacob’s Well developed its strategic plan that focused on wholistic community development, one aspect that became apparent was to support a proactive approach to healthy families. This is partly addressed through current and future clean water and sanitation efforts, and is also being addressed through one of our newest team members! Meet Lisa Whittom, a nurse practitioner from Kansas who is now full time in Brazil supporting the efforts of Jacob’s Well in Brazil. Following are takeaways from a recent interview with her.
What is your background in public health? How is your experience relevant to the needs in rural communities in Brazil?
I have been a nurse and nurse practitioner for more than three decades in rural Kansas where I worked at a health clinic that catered to low income families from the region. These families were largely working in agriculture and had minimal access to health care services. My work was focused on women’s health needs, family and baby care, and preventative initiatives.
As I have settled into Brazil, I realize more and more that my background has uniquely prepared me for the needs of the rural, agricultural communities Jacob’s Well works in. These communities are often far away from hospitals, and there are many opportunities to provide healthy living education to women and families.
What are some of the needs in Riacho da Porta? How might you address these needs?
There are immediate needs in the areas of adolescent and early adult education in the areas of family planning and gynecological health from a Christian perspective. Rumors and “wives’ tales” have taken the place of facts, and there are currently few opportunities to bring women together to discuss these kinds of topics.
Also, baby and child care education are critical. Understanding dietary priorities will help young mothers raise healthy children, and an overall move by the community away from a high sugar and carbohydrate diet to a more balanced one will help prevent future health problems.
Right now, I am learning Portuguese and am building credibility with the community leaders and women. I plan to address these needs through regular educational clinics held at the Jacob’s Well building that is currently getting remodeled.
Are there any other needs or services that will help these families going forward?
Beyond my health education as a nurse practitioner, I obtained a post masters certification in psychiatry. I believe this will come in very useful in addressing mental health needs and providing counseling to families on a number of subjects in support of strong marriages and families.