Church Elder: Championing reduction of hypertension and diabetes cases in Maai Mahiu and its environs

Mr. Oshoto attending to a client during an outreach in Gathuma village,Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

For centuries, communicable diseases were the main causes of death around the world. However, with medical research around it, development of vaccines and antibiotics the trend shifted and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) started causing major problems across the globe. The rise of NCDs in Africa and throughout the world poses a threat to human health and economies.

 According to KEMRI, NCDs such as hypertension, diabetes and others account for 27 per cent of the total deaths and over 50 per cent of total hospital admissions in Kenya. This has warranted new approaches for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of such afflictions.

North Star Alliance through our partnership with Medtronic Foundation is implementing a NCDs project at our Blue Box clinics in Kenya and Uganda. The project is working with Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who doubles up as champions in the fight against NCDs in the community. We had a talk with one such champion, Peter Oshoto, at our Maai Mahiu Blue Box Clinic and he delightedly shared with us his journey in community work and in championing for the reduction of hypertension and diabetic related deaths in his community.

Mr Oshoto attending to a client during an outreach in Gathuma village, Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

AO: How long have you been a community health volunteer?

PO: I have been a community health volunteer for about fifteen years now. I am delighted to be among the pioneers of the Maai Mahiu Blue Box clinic when it was set up in 2010.  I have seen the clinic grow both in clientele and geographical coverage. As a community health volunteer, I cover seven villages of the thirteen villages in Maai Mahiu and its environs and it has been an awesome experience traversing these villages with health information and services.

AO: What motivates you to continue in this role as a community health volunteer?

PO: Being church elder, I interact and connects with lots of people in the community. I share personal information on health, gender-based violence and issues related to the families. Seeing bright faces in church but same faces shifts to gloom whenever they are out of the church compound bothered me. I wanted to help but I didn’t know how. Therefore, through a friend we decided to offer counselling to families on marital, health and social issues that were affecting majority of the communities and more importantly my people in the church. When opportunity came, North Star trained us on peer education, basic community health and mobilization. Knowing that I am giving a chance to someone to live a healthy life motivates me to continue serving as a community health volunteer.

AO: Why are you so passionate in combating NCDs in the communities you serve?

PO: Just like it is written in the bible, many people are perishing because of lack of knowledge. I am passionate to pass this knowledge to the next person and help put a smile on their faces and aid them to live a healthy life. Sadly, many people suffering from NCDs do not show any worrying symptoms until it is too late to reverse their condition. However, if they have themselves screened and tested early, it would increase their chances of survival as it is easy to control NCDs through counselling, diet and medication. 

AO: How would you describe your typical week in the community?

PO: First, at the inception of the NCDs project, North Star trained us on how to carry out screening and testing of diabetics and high blood pressure among our clients. We were given tools for the screening and testing. The tools include weighing machine and Blood Sugar Metre. We measure blood sugar level and pressure and then refer abnormal cases to the clinic for further screening, counselling and treatment. We have a book where we capture the data of the clients we see every day.

As a champion, I also play key role in planning, coordinating and more importantly mobilizing clients during North Star’s weekly community outreaches. During the outreaches the clinical team offers a more comprehensive health talk after which screening is done and those found to be hypertensive put on counselling and medication. The outreaches also, provides an opportunity for those on medication to get drugs without travelling to the clinic.

AO: In your community perception on NCDs?

PO: Just like in other communities in Kenya NCDs such as high blood pressure, diabetic and others are considered only to affect the rich. Other myths the community hold include NCDs are mainly diseases of the elderly, all NCDs are preventable, no cost effective solutions exist for NCDs and that one cannot manage NCD using human behaviour. Therefore, in the community as champion, I do not only help with the screen and testing of clients but also demystifying myths around NCDs in the community. As community champions we are doing our best to ensure communities are enlighten about the diseases. 

AO: Your last words?

PO: I would like to reiterate the fact that NCDs is with us and it is killing our people silently, so a lot needs to be done to help this underserved population through provision of quality healthcare and information around NCDs. Together we can end the NCDs’ burden in Kenya.

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