Colombia: Indigenous Community Health Agents

Colombia: Community health agents revive and promote traditional knowledge

Aída Chindoy, a community health
agent, works in her village in the
Sibundoy Valley in southern

The Grupo de Estudios de Sistemas Tradicionales de Salud (Study Group of Traditional Health Systems) from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rosario, in Bogotá, in collaboration with the Centro de Estudios Médicos Interculturales (Centre for Intercultural Medical Studies, CEMI), has launched an intercultural project called Gestores Comunitarios de Salud (community health agents). This program aims to equip indigenous community leaders with tools for reviving and promoting traditional health knowledge and practices, recovering and preserving ancestral food production technologies, preserving the environment, and promoting community health.

A first cohort of 11 indigenous health agents successfully completed their training in 2005 and returned to work in their communities of the Colombian Amazon and the Vaupés region in southeastern Colombia. CIET supported the evaluation of this project. (A brief 2006 report of the first year’s activities is available from our library.)  Another 17 health agents from across the country graduated in early 2007 and are now working in their places of origin.

The institutions running the project have provided training for indigenous health promoters working for the Arhuaco-managed health services, also known as Dusakawi EPSI, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in northern Colombia. CIET has provided technical support and some funding for a study of the health, cultural, and environmental situation in this region which served as the evidence base for the design of this training. Click here for more details about CIET’s work with Arahuaco healers and communities.