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Submitted by Nina M. Riccio on January 8, 2013

Professor Lydia Greiner and colleagues recently gave a presentation on their work with students in public health nursing at the annual meeting of the International Association for Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Since 2009, Professor Greiner has been taking 10-12 undergraduate, RN-BSN and second degree students at a time to the Ayapal neighborhood of Managua, Nicaragua, to do health assessments and work on community health projects. Fairfield’s partner in this endeavor has been the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua, and social work students from UCA work in partnership with Fairfield nursing students.

“When we asked the residents to prioritize their health concerns, it came out that their first concern was for HIV/AIDS education,” says Prof. Greiner. “Specifically, they wanted an educational DVD for each family to watch privately. There is too much stigma attached to the disease for them to be comfortable watching a film or hearing a lecture in a community setting.” Indeed, an initial assessment showed that significant numbers of residents had misconceptions about the disease and its transmission.

The script, music, and images for the DVD created to meet residents’ needs were developed collaboratively by UCA and Fairfield students, with oversight by faculty and community members. Narration was done by an UCA student studying at Fairfield University. In spring 2010, 400 Es Tiempo DVDs were distributed by students to the residents of the neighborhood; a subsequent group of students reassessed knowledge in the community and results indicated a significant increase in knowledge about disease transmission.

Over the course of the project, more than 50 students from UCA and Fairfield participated either directly in Ayapal or indirectly in the production of the DVD. The academic benefits include  the recognition of the value of community partners and the assets they bring to any health initiative, the opportunity to link theory to practice, and the chance to work closely in teams of students where nuances of language and culture are continually brokered by bilingual students.

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