Yesterday I traveled with a RedeNUTES team to a quaint little town called Água Preta (translated as black water) don´t ask me why, sounds like another public health concern altogether. We left Recife at about 7:30 am and arrived in Água Preta at about 10:00 am, not the 50 kilometer trip I thought it was supposed to be. The state of Pernambuco, where I am, has four different regions. One is called the coast, where Recife, the capital city (where I´m living) is. Água Preta is located in the forest region. You can tell it used to be a forest, based on the lush green tropical geography coloring the region. But now, most of the area has been converted into sugarcane fields. Brazil is number two in the world for sugarcane exportation. They also use this sugarcane as biofuel, apparently better outcomes than the maize we use for ethanol. Read more about this here.
Back to the story at hand. Água Preta is a small town, their livelihood is based on tending to the aforementioned sugarcane fields. So, there is a new PSF team there and NUTES wanted to train the new team on how to use the equipment they provided. RedeNUTES is government funded and provides one computer, CPU, digital camera, desk, chair and other equipment to any city that is willing to pay an internet fee in order to receive the RedeNUTES services. Services like online training seminars concerning issues like dental, mental, and sexual health, as well as second opinion consultations with specialists located in the medical center in Recife. The camera is for pictures that can be submitted as a sort of case study for doctors in rural areas that may be unfamiliar with symptoms presented by one of their patients. There´s even a way to teleconference. It seems like the RedeNUTES motto is: Where there is internet, there is a way. Unfortunately the biggest problem with the programs is just that. The internet connection. The government funds the entire health information program and the consultations and other health services are available to PSFs free of charge. The only stipulation is that the city in which the PSF team is working, must pay for an internet connection.
When we arrived at Água Preta , two of the RedeNUTES team members asked to see the RedeNUTES equipment. Apparently, there is a bit of turnover with the PSF teams-they get paid well to work out in the boonies, but don´t stay for long.- So RedeNUTES trained a team in Água Preta three years ago, but that team is gone and it was time to train the newbees. A common problem is that some of the equipment goes missing along the way, and these RedeNUTES ladies did not start training until all of the original equipment had been returned to the workstation NUTES provided Água Preta three years ago. There was also a bit of reprimand to the Água Preta ministry of health, because the equipment belongs to the federal government and shouldn´t be used for personal reasons (think baby pictures on the camera´s SD card) These RedeNUTES people don´t mess around. First thing was that a questionnaire was handed out by RedeNUTES to the PSF team in taking the redeNUTES training in Água Preta. Questions including how often each member used the internet, whether they had taken a health information technology class before, were included in the questionnaire.
After the questionnaires were completed, each person was given a login name and taught how to login to the site. Present at the training session were the Internet technician (who didn´t seem to know much about computers), a nurse, a dentist and seven community health workers.
Then we began an in depth training session of the entire redeNUTES site, (it´s a vibrant one full of useful information). The purpose of every page on the site was explained, and when necessary props, like the camera RedeNUTES provides, were used. I´ve got pictures, as soon as I figure out how to upload them, you will see for yourself.
In all, the training took five hours and although the internet was working, it was really slow. Towards the end of the training session, we tried to view an online seminar. It didn´t work, the bandwidth for the internet connection was too low. City of Água Preta claims they will fix it within the month. RedeNUTES people tell me it´s unlikely.