The following are descriptions of some of WellShare International’s programs from 2006-2013.

Smoke-Free Riverside Plaza

Riversize Plaza is the largest multi-unit housing facility in the Midwest, and is home to more than 6,000 people, 70% of whom are ethnic Somalis. In 2011, with funding from the city of Minneapolis, we worked with the management and residents of Riverside Plaza to pass smoke-free policy for the entire complex. In 2012, we continued to work with the management and residents to prepare them for the implementation of the policy at the beginning of 2013. To do so, we created a video explaining the detriments of second-hand smoke and the details of the policy. We also organized a resident meeting to distribute information.

Minneapolis Statewide Health Improvement Program – Healthy Living Program

We partnered with the city of Minneapolis to promote healthy resources in Northeast neighborhoods, where many East African residents live and work. In 2012, we helped three corner stores carry fresh produce. Additionally, we created a healthy resource listing that includes these corner stores, farmer’s markets, food shelves, physical activity resources, smoking cessation services, and clinics that offer preventative care.

Hennepin County Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing

We worked collaboratively with The Association for Non-Smokers of America to promote smoke-free policy in multi-unit housing in Hopkins, MN and Eden Prairie, MN. We identified where many Somalis live in these two cities and connected with management staff and Somali resident representatives at these buildings.

Minnesota Department of Health Asthma Project

We supported MDH’s Asthma program by recruiting children with asthma from Section 8 housing, many of them Somalis, to participate in the program. Once enrolled in the program, families received home visits by a nurse who educated them about self-management of asthma, assessed their home environment for potential triggers of asthma, suggested environmental improvements, and provided products such as an air purifier, bed and pillow encasements, and an allergen vacuum cleaner to help reduce asthma triggers in the home.

Fruits and Vegetables – Somali

In partnership with Dr. Mary Hearst from St. Catherine University, our staff facilitated a pilot study on the impact of nutrition education for the mothers of young children. Our community health workers offered a series of four classes on nutrition, healthy cooking, and navigating a grocery store.

Emergency Room Utilization Education

Together with HealthPartners, we provided a joint project to educate HealthPartners’ members about the health system including when to utilize the emergency room for health care and the importance of preventative care. This project reached 58 individuals with an initial visit and 37 members with a follow-up visit during its five months of implementation.

University of Minnesota Tobacco Project

WellShare is partnering with the Center for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota. The partnership has conducted focus groups with Somali male smokers in order to understand contributors to their smoking, cultural/religious view on smoking, and their view of various smoking cessation supports. In 2013, the project is working with youth to identify reasons Somali youth smoke and to develop public service announcements to support smoking prevention.

Uganda Child Spacing Project

UCSP trained family planning community health workers and worked through family planning implementation teams to build the capacity of public and private providers and to improve family planning knowledge in Sembabule and Mubende districts of South-Central Uganda. Major accomplishments over the life of the project include an increase of Couple Years of Protection (CYP) across both districts from 2,726.52 in 2007 to 17,789.29 in 2011. A total of 428,099 beneficiaries were reached. Users of contraception increased dramatically, from 6,942 new users in 2007 to 21,429 in 2010. In 2011, there were 34,681 total users of modern and natural methods alone.

Scaling up Community Based Access to DMPA in Uganda

This program funded by USAID’s Flexible Fund trained 48 community health workers in community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives in Sembabule District Uganda and assisted 4 other organizations in learning how to implement community-based family planning through a structured learning visit to Mubende District. WellShare also hosted a “lessons learned” meeting for 31 national family planning stakeholders to plan next steps for scaling up community-based access to injectable contraceptives in Uganda.

Uganda HIV/AIDS Program

In 2012, WellShare completed the Partnering for Positive Livelihoods Program (PPLP) which started in 2008. Among the project achievements, WellShare and its five faith/community-based organizations partners reached a cumulative 11,143 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS with home-based care, nutrition and psychosocial support services through home visits by 601 trained volunteer community caregivers, supervised by 77 trained trainers of trainers. A total of 1,455 orphans and vulnerable children received school uniforms and supplies and 8,405 home based care kits were provided to people living with HIV/AIDS. Promotion of best practices in infant and young child feeding was provided to 10,131 clients. A total 405 kitchen gardens were also established as a result of the project. Finally, the project reached 8,012 youth with abstinence and/or ‘Be Faithful’ messages. The proportion of young people who had ever had sexual intercourse in Mubende District, Uganda dropped from 57% at baseline to 35% at the end of the project while Sembabule District saw a decrease from 49% at baseline to 34% at the end of the project.

Healthy Housing, Health Communities

We work on behalf of the residents of Riverside Plaza to increase access to physical exercise, improve nutrition, and establish smoke-free policy. In 2011, we worked with management and the tenant association to create smoke-free areas, provided nutrition classes at the on-site elementary school and neighborhood mosque, set up a bike rental system and bike event, started fitness classes for Somali elders,  promoted a youth photo-voice exhibit, showed health education videos on the in-house television station located in the high rise buildings, and surveyed resident opinions on the accessibility of produce in local corner stores.

Uganda Malaria Communities Partnership

This three-year, USAID funded partnership, implemented in 7 districts of the West Nile Region including Arua District, began in 2007 and was successfully completed in 2010. A total of 539,421 beneficiaries were reached with several key objectives: a community model for malaria control, improved coverage of insecticide treated nets, improved proportion of children under five receiving treatment within 24 hours of fever onset, improved proportion of pregnant women receiving treatment during pregnancy and improved demand and utilization of prevention and treatment services. The project distributed 102,876 insecticide-treated nets and trained 1,087 village health team and health facility staff in malaria prevention and treatment. A total of 134 capacity-building activities for CSOs resulted in a 25% to 63% improvement in CSO capacity to implement community-based health programs including HIV interventions.

Improving Transportation, Livelihoods and Health Service Provision through Bicycles and Community Health Workers

This project provided 135 bicycles to WellShare’s community caregivers and their supervisors in Sembabule and Mubende Districts, Uganda. Household income for the bicycle owners increased from an average of 109,832 to 127,886 Uganda shillings. There was also an increase in the number of clients able to be reached per day: 2.5 at baseline to 3.3 at final. Additionally, there was a decrease in the percentage of Community Health Workers who had to walk to provide services to clients from 40.6% to 12.3% and an increase in the amount of supplies they could carry.

Somali Women’s Breast Cancer Project

We launched this project in 2005 to reduce breast health disparities among Somali women living in the Twin Cities. Four focus groups conducted with 35 women revealed that many Somali women did not know about breast cancer methods for prevention or screening. 548 women were reached with home visits. Thousands more were reached through the broadcasting of a Somali-language video, produced in collaboration with Twin Cities Public Television.

Somali Cervical Cancer Video

This video was produced in 2007 to help curb the tremendous stigma in the Somali community around cancer issues. The video used a “story drama” format with several women highlighting the need for cervical cancer screening.

Partnering with the University of Minnesota on an International Health Course

We partnered with the School of Public Health in 2006 on a graduate level course entitled “International Project Planning and Management.” The course was first taught in 2005 and was designed to provide practical and theoretical tools for graduate students who anticipate working on international health issues during their career.

Ssembabule Women’s Goat-Rearing Project

The overall goal of this project was to improve the lives of underserved rural women in Uganda by increasing their income, and establishing women’s groups to achieve their goals for themselves, their families, and their communities. We formed and trained 675 women in goat-rearing, and recruited and trained 90 mentors to provide support and expertise to the women’s groups.