The heart of the issue

June 19, 2013
Puffer Friis training

By Alyssa Zamora
DGHI Communications Specialist

HIV/AIDS is a major health issue in Kenya. According to UNAIDS, there were more than 34 million people living with HIV in 2011. 

Many people and organizations are pouring money and resources into how best to address the problem, treat the disease and prevent it. While these efforts are needed, DGHI faculty member Eve Puffer is going deeper.

What kinds of issues do African families face? How do family dynamics potentially impact risk behaviors? What kinds of conflicts arise and how do family members communicate? How does the family deal with adversity and struggles?

It is one thing to hear about poverty, but another to see it. During my trip, I've seen families living without some of the things others might take for granted. Clean water. Food. Electricity. A job. Access to health care. One woman told me how she has been looking for work for a while. I asked her how she supports her kids. She said God provides.

So, how does the family unit fare through adversity? How do they make a living? What happens when a family member gets sick? How do these and other circumstances affect their mental health? What do they turn to when things get tough? During my trip, I was surprised to learn that alcohol and drug abuse are common.

Puffer and Kenyan partners are exploring their health and well-being by first studying the Kenyan family dynamics. She and Duke Master of Science in Global Health student Elsa Friis completed training last week with a group of Kenyans who will lead focus group discussions with family members in several communities. One facilitator told me she is excited to be a part of a project that she believes is blazing a trail in her community.

Instead of treating the problem, the work gets to the heart of the issue -- family.