A Crucial Public Health Lesson: Let the Women Speak

” . . . people have their own hope and power which they need to discover.”

Illustration by Gingermoth for AJN.

Do some public health projects fail to live up to their ambitions because they were conceived in a conference room rather than in dialogue with those they are trying to help? It seems possible. Terms like client or community “buy-in” are now fashionable, but maybe what’s really meant by such terms is that people are given a chance to state their needs and their concerns ahead of time. And that someone is listening.

In this month’s Reflections essay by nurse practitioner Mark Darby, he remembers a valuable lesson once imparted to him through example by a Dominican priest. “Shut Up and Let the Women Speak” doesn’t flatter the younger version of the author who once visited the Dominican Republic on a medical mission.

It’s refreshing to see some honesty, in fact, about the less-than-altruistic reasons people sometimes go on such missions and about the ways smart young idealists may think they already have all the answers.

This engaging short essay evokes a vivid scene in a very different country, the essential role of women in knowing what their community needs, and the lesson about listening that the author took to heart—one he now tries to apply when he talks to patient groups in the community in which he works.

The article is currently free to access. Your comments and experiences are welcome.

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

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