Glen White Trains Peruvian Medical Professionals To Care for People with Spinal Cord Injury

RTC/IL Director Glen W. White, PhD, made three trips to Peru in 2012 to teach medical rehabilitation professionals how to better care for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). 

In March, he went to Lima, accompanied by Sam Ho, a University of Kansas Honors Program student who is majoring in biology and plans to attend medical school. In July, White provided trainings in Arriquipa and Lima, and in December he visited Chiclayo.

People with SCI often experience secondary health conditions such as pressure sores and urinary tract infections. White has previously delivered a series of workshops to Peruvians with SCI about strategies to prevent or reduce the severity of secondary conditions.

For these visits, he focused on training medical professionals who treat SCI patients. He collaborated with other health professionals from major medical rehabilitation centers in the U.S. to re-frame the workshops for the new audience. 

“We expect the benefits of this project could be much further amplified through the health care professionals who treat SCI patients versus just giving the workshop to those who have sustained a spinal cord injury,” said White.

More than 100 people attended the trainings, including medical rehabilitation professionals, physical therapists, physicians, occupational therapists, speech language therapists, psychologists and physical therapy students.

“We want these medical professionals to build capacity in Perú for understanding SCI and to eventually train their rehabilitation colleagues. To support this goal, we also provided a package of secondary condition training materials in Spanish and a facilitator's guide,” White said.

The first series of six workshops was conducted in Lima, Perú from March 15-25. White conducted sessions on sexuality, depression, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, and intestinal dysfunction. Ho developed and presented one session on obesity.

The project is supported by a Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eight other Americans attended the summit. Also participating were KU master’s student Chiaki Gonda and KU International Visiting Scholar Toshiyuki Chiba. The U.S.-Peru summit culminated in a presentation in the Senate chamber of the Peruvian Congress.

This was White's fourteenth visit to Peru since 1998. As a person who uses a wheelchair, he knows first-hand that the physical and cultural environment for people with disabilities in Peru could be much improved. Yet that has not stopped him from visiting Machu Picchu and other places in Peru that can be challenging to navigate even for the nondisabled. 

White and his colleagues bring the same determination to improving the quality of life for Peruvians with disabilities.The Independent Living (IL) Working Summit focused on ways to improve services and advocacy for Peruvians with disabilities. The American team met with leaders in the Peruvian disability community to discuss issues including transportation and equal opportunity laws. They also analyzed ways specific Peruvian communities could benefit from creating a Center for Independent Living (CIL).

In the U.S., federally funded CILs are located in most major cities. They advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and provide them with training programs and support services to help them achieve self-sufficient and productive lives.

More than 150 people attended to learn about the IL movement and philosophy in the U.S. The American movement focuses on social attitudes and physical barriers rather than a person’s limitations. It emphasizes policies and practices that promote accommodations to help people with disabilities live more independently.

“During my first visit to Peru in 1998, I conducted a survey about problems that frustrated Peruvians with disabilities, such as inaccessible neighborhoods, lack of employment, discrimination, and lack of accessible transportation,” said White. “Since then I’ve had a vision of bringing an Independent Living ‘Dream Team’ from the U.S. to help establish an IL movement and a Center for Independent Living in Peru. We want the momentum from this summit to continue so that real changes can be made to benefit Peruvians with disabilities.” The U.S. team is continuing to meet to make plans for the future.

In recent years White has also helped bring Peruvian disability leaders to IL conferences in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., to learn more about American approaches to IL. He credited his colleagues in Peru for developing increased leadership capacity by conducting workshops for emerging disability leaders on community problem solving and advocacy. In this work, they have used materials developed by the Research and Training Center on Independent Living as well as materials in Spanish from KU’s Community Tool Box, a project of the Work Group for Community Health and Development.

Secondary Condition Booklets

White and Ho provided the Peruvian medical professionals with a package of secondary conditions training materials in Spanish.

The RTC/IL offers a range of secondary condition booklets in both English and Spanish.