MPH student accepted into Peace Corps

Sophie PhilizaireSophie Philizaire, a Master of Public Health (MPH) student in Stempel College’s Department of Health Policy and Management, has been accepted into the Peace Corps as a community health support agent in Senegal, Africa. Philizaire’s position will help her gain a global awareness of public health and access to quality health care.

The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated visionaries to engage in a community abroad, working alongside local leaders to tackle the most tenacious present-day public health challenges.

Philizaire, who embarks on her journey on February 25, 2019, will be working with the Peace Corps’ Community Health Project, which aims to support a reduction in maternal and child mortality in Senegal. The project assists community health workers (CHW) in delivering quality health care and prevention services, as well as improving the utilization of community health services and the uptake of healthy behaviors, predominantly among pregnant women and mothers.

“Because my heart aims to serve others, I am extremely excited to embrace a new culture, a new language and a new outlook on life,” said Philizaire. “I am also eager to understand how other cultures implement health care.”

Sophie Philizaire with child

Sophie’s passion for helping others is exemplified through her 2014 mission work, where she helped communities recover from a typhoon in Cebu, Philippines.

Philizaire’s role consists of: i) organizing individual and group capacity building activities for CHWs; ii) working in schools to create youth health clubs that train students to be informal CHEs; iii) supporting a cohort of pregnant women and mothers to adopt evidence-based maternal and child health (MCH) behaviors; and iv) conducting regular home visits to follow-up on the cohort of pregnant women and mothers of children two years and under to ensure the utilization of MCH services and recommended health behaviors.

Because Senegal’s health system is unable to meet every need of the local population, the Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) is promoting community health as a means of enhancing access to basic health care and prevention services for the majority of the population, particularly those living in communities with limited access to clinics and hospitals.

The MSAS has formed a network of basic health units termed “health huts”, each of which is managed by two community health agents (CHAs), otherwise known as community volunteers who have received training to provide basic health care. CHAs are supported by community health educators (CHEs), who are responsible for enlightening the community on the adoption of healthy practices and disease prevention. Both the CHAs and CHEs make up the area’s community health workers (CHWs).

Philizaire has wanted to join the Peace Corps for years, placing it on her bucket list as an adolescent. Receiving this opportunity has empowered her to continue setting and accomplishing her goals. She is certain this opportunity will provide her with a new perspective on life, by humbling her and inspiring her to keep following her dreams.