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1.  ‘Plue plun’ male, ‘kath klei’ female: gender differences in suicidal behavior as expressed by young people in Cambodia 
Few studies from low- and middle-income countries use qualitative methodology to explore suicidal behavior among young people. In Cambodia, young people face the challenge of rapidly changing times and are vulnerable for suicidal behavior as revealed by research in transitional economies. This study seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the suicidal phenomena from a gender, psychosocial and cultural perspective. Six focus-group discussions were conducted among boys and girls, aged 15–19 years, in two secondary schools in a suburban area close to Phnom Penh, the capital city. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis approach. The participants highlighted the gender difference in suicidal behavior by describing the suicide-prone, acting-out male as ‘plue plun’, while suicide-prone females were described as caught in constricted, tunneled-thinking behavior, expressed as ‘kath klei’. Parental attitude and family environment were also pointed out as the chief causes of discontent and there was a strong wish on the part of young people to find space for modern values within the traditional family. The young people's awareness of their challenges in everyday life suggests that school-based programs to prevent suicidal behavior ought to be gender-sensitive and peer-focused.
PMCID: PMC4066927  PMID: 24999370
young people; focus-group discussion; suicidal behaviour; Cambodia
2.  More than a checklist: a realist evaluation of supervision of mid-level health workers in rural Guatemala 
Mid-level health workers (MLHWs) form the front-line of service delivery in many low- and middle-income countries. Supervision is a critical institutional intervention linking their work to the health system, and it consists of activities intended to support health workers’ motivation and enable them to perform. However its impact depends not only on the frequency of these activities but also how they are carried out and received. This study aims to deepen understanding of the mechanisms through which supervision activities support the performance of auxiliary nurses, a cadre of MLHWs, in rural Guatemala.
A multiple case study was conducted to examine the operation of supervision of five health posts using a realist evaluation approach. A program theory was formulated describing local understanding of how supervision activities are intended to work. Data was collected through interviews and document review to test the theory. Analysis focused on comparison of activities, outcomes, mechanisms and the influence of context across cases, leading to revision of the program theory.
The supervisor’s orientation was identified as the main mechanism contributing to variation observed in activities and their outcomes. Managerial control was the dominant orientation, reflecting the influence of standardized performance criteria and institutional culture. Humanized support was present in one case where the auxiliary nurse was motivated by the sense that the full scope of her work was valued. This orientation reflected the supervisor’s integration of her professional identity as a nurse.
The nature of the support health workers received was shaped by supervisors’ orientation, and in this study, nursing principles were central to humanized support. Efforts to strengthen the support that supervision provides to MLHWs should promote professional ethos as a means of developing shared performance goals and orient supervisors to a more holistic view of the health worker and their work.
PMCID: PMC3973852  PMID: 24602196
Mid-level health worker; Supervision; Performance; Motivation; Realist evaluation; Guatemala
3.  Translating Community Connectedness to Practice: A Qualitative Study of Midlevel Health Workers in Rural Guatemala 
ISRN Nursing  2012;2012:648769.
Background. The performance of midlevel health workers is a critical lever for strengthening health systems and redressing inequalities in underserved areas. Auxiliary nurses form the largest cadre of health workers in Guatemala. In rural settings, they provide essential services to vulnerable communities, and thus have great potential to address priority health needs. This paper examines auxiliary nurses' motivation and satisfaction, and the coping strategies they use to respond to challenges they confront in their practice. Methods. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 auxiliary nurses delivering health services in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Results. Community connectedness was central to motivation in this rural Guatemalan setting. Participants were from rural communities and conveyed a sense of connection to the people they were serving through shared culture and their own experiences of health needs. Satisfaction was derived through recognition from the community and a sense of valuing their work. Auxiliary nurses described challenges commonly faced in low-resource settings. Findings indicated they were actively confronting these challenges through their own initiative. Conclusions. Strategies to support the performance of midlevel health workers should focus on mechanisms to make training accessible to rural residents, support problem-solving in practice, and emphasize building relationships with communities served.
PMCID: PMC3477764  PMID: 23097715
4.  ‘It’s the sense of responsibility that keeps you going’: stories and experiences of participation from rural community health workers in Guatemala 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):18.
In 1978, the Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care (PHC) recognized that the world’s health issues required more than just hospital-based and physician-centered policies. The declaration called for a paradigm change that would allow governments to provide essential care to their population in a universally acceptable manner. The figure of the community health worker (CHW) remains a central feature of participation within the PHC approach, and being a CHW is still considered to be an important way of participation within the health system.
This study explores how the values and personal motivation of community health workers influences their experience with this primary health care strategy in in the municipality of Palencia, Guatemala. To do this, we used an ethnographic approach and collected data in January-March of 2009 and 2010 by using participant observation and in-depth interviews.
We found that the CHWs in the municipality had a close working relationship with the mobile health team and with the community, and that their positions allowed them to develop leadership and teamwork skills that may prove useful in other community participation processes. The CHWs are motivated in their work and volunteerism is a key value in Palencia, but there is a lack of infrastructure and growth opportunities.
Attention should be paid to keeping the high levels of commitment and integration within the health team as well as keeping up supervision and economic funds for the program.
PMCID: PMC3464661  PMID: 22958409
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration
5.  Suicidal expressions among young people in Nicaragua and Cambodia: a cross-cultural study 
BMC Psychiatry  2012;12:28.
Whereas prevalence of suicidal expressions among young people is fairly similar in different countries, less is known about associated risk factors. This study compares young people in Nicaragua and Cambodia to examine if the pattern of association between mental health problems and suicidal expressions differs.
368 and 316 secondary school students, from each country respectively, participated. Self-reported suicidal expressions, exposure to suicidal behavior in significant others and mental health problems among the students were measured using Attitude Towards Suicide (ATTS) and the Youth Self-Report (YSR) questionnaires.
Prevalence of serious suicidal expressions (plans and attempts) during recent year, did not differ between countries. Cambodian young people scored significantly higher on all eight YSR-syndromes, except for withdrawn/depressed. In Nicaragua, all YSR-syndromes were significantly associated with serious suicidal expressions in both genders compared to Cambodia where only one syndrome showed an association in each gender; Withdrawn/depressed among girls and Somatic complaints among boys. Associations between being exposed to suicide among significant others and serious suicidal expressions also differed between Cambodia and Nicaragua.
While the magnitude of serious suicidal expressions is similar between these structurally similar but culturally different countries, determinants behave differently. Qualitative studies are warranted to further explore cultural specific determinants for suicidal expressions among young people.
PMCID: PMC3359217  PMID: 22463077
Suicidal expressions; Adolescents; Young People Cross-cultural comparison; Nicaragua and Cambodia
6.  ‘If no one else stands up, you have to’: a story of community participation and water in rural Guatemala 
Global Health Action  2011;4:10.3402/gha.v4i0.6412.
Access to water is a right and a social determinant of health that should be provided by the state. However, when it comes to access to water in rural areas, the current trend is for communities to arrange for the service themselves through locally run projects. This article presents a narrative of a single community's process of participation in implementing and running a water project in the village of El Triunfo, Guatemala.
Using an ethnographic approach, we conducted a series of interviews with five village leaders, field visits, and participant observations in different meetings and activities of the community.
El Triunfo has had a long tradition of community participation, where it has been perceived as an important value. The village has a council of leaders who have worked together in various projects, although water has always been a priority. When it comes to participation, this community has achieved its goals when it collaborated with other stakeholders who provided the expertise and/or the funding needed to carry out a project. At the time of the study, the challenge was to develop a new phase of the water project with the help of other stakeholders and to maintain and sustain the tradition of participation by involving new generations in the process.
This narrative focuses on the participation in this village's efforts to implement a water project. We found that community participation has substituted the role of the central and local governments, and that the collaboration between the council and other stakeholders has provided a way for El Triunfo to satisfy some of its demand for water.
El Triunfo's case shows that for a participatory scheme to be successful it needs prolonged engagement, continued support, and successful experiences that can help to provide the kind of stable participatory practices that involves community members in a process of empowered decision-making and policy implementation.
PMCID: PMC3185331  PMID: 21977011
community participation; community organization; water projects; Guatemala; social development councils

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