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Traveling to Ethiopia fills one with gratitude for all that is possible through physical therapy. In June of this year, Rebecca Stephenson and Tracy Spitznagle traveled to Mekelle, Ethiopia. The trip was twofold, one to participate in the medical school collaborative and the second, to provide education to the third cohort of master’s students at Mekelle University.  This was GWHI’s second trip to educate master’s level physical therapy students.  They both presented to the Sixth Annual Mekelle Medical Education Collaborative. The conference was sponsored by the College of Health Sciences, Mekelle University, and the Worldwide Fistula Fund.

Dr. Rebecca Stephenson did four days of education for the master’s students on Obstetrics. During the sessions, the graduate students learned about anatomical and physiological changes in the pregnancy and postpartum periods, modification of evaluations, and differential diagnosis amongst many other topics. The students were challenged with labs and testing as well as visiting the labor and delivery floors to see some of what they learned in action.

During the same time, there was the Annual Mekelle Medical Education Collaborative conference going on with Urogynecologists from across the USA visiting and presenting to the school’s faculty. Dr. Spitznagle presented the most recent research on the kinematics of intra-abdominal pressure and the associated effect on pelvic organ prolapse. In addition, she provided culturally related cases on Ethiopian women and the effect that their specific functional activities create along with the potential for pelvic floor impairments.

Dr. Stephenson presented on the ripple effect that has occurred with providing education on pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy within the Mekelle Medical school. As part of the presentation Belay Adugna PT, MS presented his master’s thesis plan associated with teaching obstetric physical therapy associated with pregnancy and postpartum to practicing physical therapists within Ethiopia.

This program is designed to build capacity and awareness for the management of pregnancy-related musculoskeletal conditions and to optimize women’s health in Ethiopia. The awareness of obstetric care providers towards the role of physiotherapy in the management of common physical complaints of pregnant and lactating mothers in Ethiopia is very low. Awareness of women about the existence and importance of physiotherapy services is also very poor.

The availability of proper physiotherapy treatment for complaints during and after pregnancy is currently a need that is not met. The general objective of the project is to address health problems and improve women’s quality of life through the prevention and treatment of pregnancy-related musculoskeletal conditions, using trained physiotherapists in Ethiopia with a multidisciplinary team approach and a referral system development.

Watch for more news on this exciting GWHI project.

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