Our Guest Posting by Erica Kuhlik describes a project in which she was involved for the MSPH degree requirements at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. STOP Malaria is a USAID funded project managed by JHU’s Center for Communications Programs.
Schools have been found to to be an ideal place for young people to learn about malaria. The Stop Malaria Project (SMP) in Uganda has been using an exciting approach to combat the high prevalence of malaria in rural communities: a school health program that teaches children about malaria and empowers them to act as agents of change in their communities. Previous study in Kenya has shown that school children can learn about malaria and other common diseases and have an influence on their peers and families.
The program uses active and participatory learning techniques to teach children about malaria transmission, infection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Participatory learning methods show children how certain behaviors can reduce malaria and also allow children to practice the behaviors, thereby improving their self-efficacy to perform them.Â A “Talking Compound” as seen in the photo is one way to help students learn. In these ways, participatory learning empowers children to adopt the promoted behaviors.
The students are also encouraged to share the malaria messages with their peers and families, effectively acting as change agents in their communities.Â By empowering children to act as agents of change, school health programs can reach secondary audiences in the community at little or no cost.Â Â Taken together, the use of active learning methods to teach and encourage children to be agents of change is known as the child-to-child approach.
Despite its recent launch, the Stop Malaria Projectâ€™s malaria education program already has significant reach.Â In its fourth year alone, SMP reached over 350,000 students across Uganda through thousands of health education sessions using the child-to-child approach (The Uganda Stop Malaria Project Annual Performance Report: 2012 Year 4. Kampala, Uganda).
Discussions with these children have shown them to be highly knowledgeable of SMPâ€™s malaria messages about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and can demonstrate correct insecticide-treated net use as seen here.Â Their teachers have used participatory learning techniques by integrating the malaria information into songs, poetry, drama plays, drawings, and posters.Â Some children have even reported behavior change in their households as a result of sharing the malaria messages with their parents.
The experience of the Stop Malaria Project demonstrates that school health programs using the child-to-child approach can be implemented in developing countries.Â As we can see, the children have developed their own malaria messages. These programs offer the opportunity to reach vulnerable children and their families with valuable health information to improve the local health conditions.
[All pictures were taken by the author with permission from August to October 2012.]