Edwin Peñaherrera

Photo of Edwin Peñaherrera
  • Fellow, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre


Background and Professional Interests

I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Social Sciences of the Faculty of Public Health Sciences, at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, UPCH, a professor of the Faculty of Psychology at the Universidad de Lima, at Peru, South America.

Moreover I am currently a candidate of a Doctoral degree in psychology at Universidad San Martin de Porres in Lima. I have both an MPH and a master in science of Health Promotion studied at Brunel University at London, UK and also a B.S. in Psychology. I have extensive experience with drug abuse prevention and community-based programmes, especially those focused on youth empowerment and social capital improvement.

During the last few years I have been committed to several health promotion community-based initiatives, giving technical advice to the Ministry of Health and NGOs in order to systematize and evaluate its processes. I am now working with Pathfinder International, collaborating with their Global Fund in the reinforcement of preventive and health promotion actions against the Tuberculosis in my country.

Research Interests

My research interests are in community-based participatory research, particularly with a health promotion focus, evaluation, and systematization processes. In our country there are important community-based initiatives, but there are few of them published. Improvement of evaluation methodology of community processes as community management, political incidence, social capital and empowerment are some topics of my interests. Moreover, I am also interested in qualitative research to allow me to understand social and subjective aspects behind behaviors, such as beliefs, values and cultural characteristics. I am also interested in evaluation of health promotion processes.

Why I chose to be engaged in this work/How I came to be engaged in this work

My interest in Community-Based Participatory Research projects began at the beginning of my career when I developed drug abuse preventive programmes in school and municipality settings. The activism of all the social actors was relevant, but their efforts lacked use of evaluation methodology, so it was difficult to show the effects of their intervention. On the other hand, as a Director of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health I came into contact with numerous and valuable community-based experiences existing in our country, but again, because of the lack of evaluation it wasn´t possible to show effects and social changes as an evidence of positive experiences.

The importance of supportive social and health policies was another highlighted topic. During a workshop organized by PAHO and IUHPE I had the opportunity to meet the Kansas University Community Tool Box team and they have engaged me in projects of mutual interest. During that last few years I was involved in the systematization of two community based experiences developed in my country, one from a government side and other from a private NGO. Both of them focused in drug abuse and the importance of promoting healthy environments and healthy lifestyles. These experiences, based on social capital and empowerment-building, reinforce the ideas I have in regard to the need to develop in-depth research and evaluation processes. Participatory processes decrease the gap between academic and lay knowledge/common sense; both necessary to build community processes which guarantee sustainability. Otherwise, community will expect that the professionals are the only social actors responsible for the construction of better life conditions.

Description of the work I am engaged in

As a professor at the undergraduate level, I introduce my students in the project design and evaluation processes, particularly in community-based projects. At a postgraduate level, I encourage my students (most of them policy makers) to set up a technical and political agenda focusing in community-based health promotion projects, emphasizing that it is a must to improve participatory diagnosis and evaluation processes. This year, 2010, as a member of Pathfinder International, I become involved in the Eight Round of the Global Fund Program, focused on the reinforcement of preventive and health promotion strategies to fight against tuberculosis (TB) in my country.