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Pilot Courses of Occupational Health in Rural Areas of Latin America

Rural work in Latin America is diverse. The development of communities depends on the work of their people throughout the value chain related to the use of natural resources, such as in fishing, livestock, agriculture and handmade products. Unfortunately, work-related fatalities mostly affect rural workers. Informal employment and the lack of basic occupational health services widen the gap to reach decent work in these areas.

Within the CIHLMU network funds projects 2018, a group of lecturers and alumni from the CIHLMU Master program in International Occupational Safety and Health carried out the project “Pilot courses of occupational health in rural areas of Latin America”. The purpose was to develop a training program (under the “train the trainers approach”) to enable primary health care teams to address workers’ health issues in rural communities in Latin America. Four partner universities (two from Peru and two from Chile) participated in the project. A team composed mainly of academics involved in the training of students in primary care and rural internships, and workers from rural health centers was set up in each university. These teams participated in two 3-day workshops. The first workshop was on the use of risk mapping for the identification of health and working conditions under a community-based participatory approach. Afterwards, each team implemented the participatory diagnosis with a rural community. The teams again participated in a workshop on Teaching Interventions using didactic methods to address a local problem. Based on findings from the diagnosis, they planned and implemented a teaching intervention with the community.

Overall, the pilot program met the objective of providing basic occupational safety and health tools to teams involved in primary health care in rural areas. In addition, the teams were able to broaden their perspective on the communities’ health problems, by integrating and linking determinants such as work and environment. The teams highlighted that the methods used made it possible to respect the particularities of rural areas (e.g. culture, meaning of the health-disease process, etc.). Likewise, the methods promoted the empowerment of communities in the diagnosis and solutions of their problems. Through the project, the need for networking and exchange between different actors involved in the well-being of the communities (e.g. local authorities, decision makers, institutions), and to enhance knowledge on workers’ health among health care providers became evident. This project was the starting point for some teams to develop further interventions to address work-related health problems in the community. The CIHLMU team in Latin America is currently working on publishing the results of this experience.


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