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Vietnam Listening to Dragonflies: Project Updates from CSPP Faculty Dr. Suni Petersen

Alliant International University
Reviewed By
Published on: 10/02/2014
Last Updated: 05/26/2023
3 minute read

Listening to Dragonflies Project in Vietnam

For three years we have visited the village of Phong Binh training 13 health advocates and 13 village leaders in three training sessions.  These people worked with twelve families each for a total of 156 families.  In addition we screened approximately 140 elderly people for hypertension.  My students trained over 600 school children over the years from pre-school to fifth grade in dental hygiene, hand washing and the importance of clean water in their environment.  We were then invited to a second village, Ha Trung, in which we are in the midst of training 23 health advocates and 7 village leaders. These health advocates again are visiting families.  We now have 279 families undergoing the training. In addition to the schools we began a new project with young mothers focusing on child development, child malnutrition (due to parasites) and the importance of breast feeding.

The students who accompany me now number 23. They are trained not only in the theories and application of health behavior but learn to work through interpreters, learn about the culture, and experience themselves and their own privilege in new and different ways.  I am currently conducting a study to ascertain the impact on them from one to five years since their return.  Unequivocally, they all say it has been the greatest learning experience of their lives.

Of course, in addition to these human aspects, there is the scientific goal of the project, to reduce parasitic disease rates through behavior change. At this point though the only thing we can measure is behavior change with soft indicators of the impact, such as household practices and self-reported health of the families.  However this too is showing great results.  To date three papers have been written and we have presented our findings at 7 national conferences.  The following pages tell the results of the study and the pictures tell the story of the people.

All the donations go to the village in the form of paying the health advocates for training and their visits to families (they do this in lieu of weaving fishnets for extra cash).  In addition, we use the funds to pay for interpreters, transportation to the village each day, assessments, translation of the assessments, follow up data collection, and supplies.  For example, the school children each get a packet with individual toothbrushes and toothpaste. In Ha Trung, Hepatitis B is rampant because families share one toothbrush. This makes a huge difference in their lives to have their own.)  In other words, all the donations go to the people.  All of our travel is paid by the university and the students.

With Gratitude & Warmth,

Suni Petersen, Ph.D.           
California School of Professional Psychology
Stonebridge Research Institute

For more information please contact Suni Peterson at

If you would like to make a donation to support this project, please click here


Check out the article written by a student who went on the trip to Vietnam, it was submitted for APA publication. She paints a picture of the joys and the work. To check out the full article click here.

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