Our focus at DCI is on prevention of all preventable diseases through health education and sensitization using different modes of information dissemination, including relationships with the community and mass media.
Living healthy is not only about physical health but goes beyond to mental, internal and spiritual health. But prevention of sickness is much easier and more affordable than treating disease and injury. Especially where proper healthcare is often not available. Knowledge and behavior change are the keys to prevention, so the DCI Community Health Education Program focuses on teaching people of all ages to live healthier lives.
Our research has shown that a wide range of health issues plague our communities, including malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections, Hepatitis B, and even hemorrhagic fevers such as Marburg, an outbreak of which in our area was quickly stopped in 2017. But now, even “modern”, western health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are quickly growing in our rural areas. Local health providers and traditional community knowledge are not prepared to deal with these “new” risks.
To address the issues of lack of knowledge and lack of access to healthcare, DCI currently runs a three-pronged approach to community health education, including rural schools, local communities and homes, and mass media including newsletters and radio talk shows. We believe that with limited resources, these will have the greatest impact and allow people to take charge of their own health.
OUR HEALTH STRATEGY
School Visits Strategy
A major component of our health education program is visiting schools to sensitize them about common diseases in day to day living. But just a visit or two will have little impact. We are running a long-term program designed to build relationships with schools, working with their students and staff, to guide them into new habits and lifestyle change. The knowledge and facts we teach are important, but so is their attitude about them.The school visits are a combination of general student assemblies, meetings and training of teachers, and deeper workshops with student health clubs.
We have designed a curriculum based on local health issues and lifestyles, with flexibility to respond to current epidemics and public health priorities.
Most of the rural schools we visit are not near a properly functioning health center or clinic. So in addition to the knowledge we share, we also conduct health day clinics including health screening, basic medicines and treatments such as deworming, and professional referrals. We also provide first aid materials and basic training.
Community Visits & Sensitization
The communities surrounding the schools we visit have asked for health programs like the ones we offer to schools. Community leaders think and that the families of the children also need to understand health issues in order to be able to make their homes healthy and safe for their kids, and to prosper in community.
We have expanded the school health program to include neighboring communities, but working through local health committees and model homes.
Meetings include local leaders and opinion makers, as well as many interested families, who then go on to become health advocates to their neighbors. We are seeing transformed homes, and children able to attend school more regularly.
Radio Talk Shows
Mass media can be an extremely efficient way to reach many more people than in-person visits. We conduct radio talk shows six days a month at two radio stations in both Sebei and Elgon regions, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. The stations we work with have towers high on mountaintops, giving them very broad coverage.
Our radio topics cover a wide range of health issues, giving people the tools they need to take charge of their own health, and spurring much discussion within the communities we reach. We plan out a series of topics which build upon each other, and cover all aspects of health and lifestyle, as well as responding to urgent health crises in each community. Often we will invite an expert on a particular subject to discuss issues with our health program manager (who is our radio host.) The second part of each show includes a call-in time, which is very active with lively discussion and deep questions.
Measuring the impact of mass media such as radio is harder and less exact than with in-person home visits. But we are blessed to receive many testimonies from call-in listeners as well as people approaching our health program manager on the street or in our offices. People have been able to catch cancer just in time, treat formerly unknown diabetes and correct pre-diabetes, and help their friends who have not been addressing major health issues. They also use the knowledge gained from our shows to start conversations with friends and neighbors about health and lifestyle.