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Johns Hopkins nursing study finds pigs can benefit women, families living in the Congo

Women and families in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been beaten down physically and mentally by years of war, poverty and violence, but a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore and her team suggest a baby pig can turn despair into hope, even reducing symptoms of PTSD and depression, according to a news release.

Since 2009, Nancy E. Glass, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, professor at Hopkins SON, has helped families in the DRC improve their income and health through her Pigs for Peace program, which gives residents pigs to breed, sell and eat. Through the program, the families’ household incomes have increased, and women have been able to meet the nutritional, educational and economic needs of their families, according to the release.

Glass said in the release that a recent further study also found that as pig and other animal assets have increased and become more successful, symptoms of PTSD and depression — present in many of the women who have been exposed to traumatic events — have simultaneously faded. The study, conducted in 10 villages in eastern DRC, included 705 women, according to the release.

“Using pigs is culturally acceptable and a gender-neutral intervention for the DRC, which allows men and women to work together to improve their outcomes,” Glass said in the release. “It provides psychosocial support to address mental health needs, and it supplements the family’s economic security. It’s really a win-win for all.”

The DRC has few government-funded programs and health centers that can help with psychotherapeutic treatment or mental health issues, and doctors and nurses don’t receive timely training for diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Pigs for Peace provides support for the residents to develop and implement their own program to improve mental health, which is crucial to ending a dependence on international aid and well-meaning but limited help offered by nonresidents, according to the release. Glass said internal resources and support will make a difference for the community.

“Pigs for Peace give these families opportunities,” Glass said in the release. “They can maintain food for themselves, and create a savings account for when needed. We know that livestock and microfinance will not solve all the problems faced by the DRC residents, but they are powerful steps in the right direction of sustainable development.”

The study’s findings will contribute to the science base for large-scale implementation of sustainable, community-led animal/livestock economic programs that not only increase household wealth and status but also improve health in areas where women and other household members have extremely limited access to high-quality health and social services, according to the release.

The research team included Glass; Nancy A. Perrin, Center for Health Research, Portland, Ore.; Anjalee Kohli, Johns Hopkins Sschool of Nursing; and Mitima Mpanano Remy, Programme d’Appui aux Initiatives Economiques, Bukavu, DRC.

The full study, “Livestock/Animal Assets Buffer the Impact of Conflict-Related Traumatic Events on Mental Health Symptoms for Rural Women,” was published Nov. 24 in the journal of the Public Library of Science. It can be viewed at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0111708.

By | 2015-01-08T00:00:00-05:00 January 8th, 2015|Categories: DC/MD/VA, Regional|0 Comments

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