We have been doing interviews with elderly residents of KG and with clinic users for the last two days. This experience has been very informative. I have learned how helpful the clinic has been to the community in providing health care, dietary advice, emotional support, and diagnostic screenings. Although the clinic does not offer as many services as some residents would like, it is awesome to know that although this facility is only open once per week it is able to make a positive impact on the health of community members. It is also interesting to see that many of the health issues that are plaguing the Black community in the United States (e.g., cardiovascular disease and diabetes) are also affecting Black South Africans. I am personally interested to know what community members believe are the causes of these diseases. I am looking forward to talking with more residents and learning more about health beliefs and attitudes in this community.
Yesterday, Morgan and I conducted an interview with a gentleman who had a stroke a few years ago. We learned a lot about how helpful the community clinic has been to him and he provided some great feedback about how the clinic could be improved. What was most interesting for me was how he has transformed as a person since having the stroke. He talked about how he was working and felt healthy and the next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital on his back and being told that the left side of his body was paralyzed. He talked us through his journey, telling us that he spent two years in that position - on his back. He talked about the experiences that led him to start to try walking with a cane. He discussed how he felt as a father that was no longer able to do for his family what he was accustomed to doing, what he loved to do for them. He talked about the what I saw as the silver lining in the clouds - he isn't able to have the life he once had but he is able to have a life. Needless to say, the stroke had impacted him physically, emotionally, and mentally. Remembering all that he shared with me makes me think of some of the inadequacies in our health care system. First, we have a system that is largely reactive. More money is spent on surgeries and medications than on prevention efforts. Imagine how much money and heartache would be saved if we placed our focus on successful prevention initiatives. Secondly, efforts to "heal" and help people are rarely holistic. Instead of creating environments where collaborative efforts are made to address the totality of people's health issues (physically, mentally, and emotionally), our system encourages them to a medical doctor, psychologist, and/or a psychiatrist. This to me speaks to the importance of practicing holistic medicine and psychology - understanding and actually addressing the fact that physical and mental health will never be independent of each other.
We are also still continuing to work with the youth from KG. Tomorrow is the last day they will take pictures in the community. I am excited to see what they will come up with on their last day. I have been so impressed by their creativity over the last week and I know they will continue to “wow” me until my last day here. Their energy is still giving me so much life. I love how I have connected with them – they are so warm and accepting, so inquisitive and inviting, so smart and charming. I am anxious to see what the final photo voice project display will look like. I know it will be nothing short of amazing.In peace and love,