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Author: Beth Davidson
Tags: Ghana , Ghana Health Services , training , weekly awesome
On June 22, 2012, five health and agriculture volunteers kicked off the first Strategic Training of OMOA Malaria Peer EDucators (STOMPED) workshop in conjunction with the Organic Mango Outgrowers Association and Ghana Health Services. The 13 community representatives in attendance learned about the basic science of malaria, prevention and treatment, and how to properly hang and care for a mosquito net. Also discussed were common misconceptions about malaria and strategies for disseminating clear and accurate information. The goals of the STOMPED workshop were to educate participants about malaria prevention and control, train participants to effectively communicate with their communities about malaria, and design specific community malaria outreach programs ready for implementation.
After having successfully completed an HIV education tour in the three dozen villages under the OMOA program, the PCVs assigned to the Outgrowers Association, along with the HCN members of the association’s health team, chose to target malaria as their next education topic. With nearly forty communities in the OMOA program spread across the entire Northern Region, PCVs found it easiest to split up the villages into zones – small clusters with five to seven communities – and work from one zone to the next. The central zone – Gushie – was the obvious place to start as four volunteers lived within those communities and the OMOA project office is located there.
The workshop required about 2 months of planning prior to the event. In May, PCVs Katie Kirouac and Carlee Nelson met several times with Mariama Abukari of the Diare Health Clinic. In these meetings, the volunteers and GHS employees discussed their objectives and how to successfully attain them. Their goal was to provide five villages with on-the-ground resources to ensure that community members were knowledgeable on how to prevent and treat malaria, as well as how to properly utilize LLINs and their importance in malaria prevention. They decided that a workshop with community representatives selected by the village leaders would be an effective way to disseminate accurate malaria information and encourage behavior change. They created a workshop outline based on their objectives.
In early June, Katie and Carlee visited each of the five communities within the Gushie zone, spoke with their village mango chairmen and had them choose one person (male or female) for every 500 community members. Ideally, those chosen would have some clout within the village, be passionate about the health and welfare of their community members, and not already be burdened with previous commitments (Ghana PCVs have found that many times village health volunteers, while an excellent resource, are overworked and often called upon for every sort of initiative in the community – they wanted to avoid this potential pitfall and spread the knowledge to possibly untapped resources within the village). While it wasn’t a determining factor, it was also suggested that those who hadn’t attended school or were unable to speak English also be considered for selection as they would be more representative of the general population in northern Ghana. The mango chairmen and their committees made good on their commitment to the program and thirteen community members — six men, seven women, young and old – were selected to attend the first STOMPED workshop.
The workshop started off with PCVs discussing the basic science of malaria and common misconceptions. Afterwards, GHS officials presented about the services available at the different levels of healthcare facilities. Community counterparts, Mohammed Abukari and Karim Amin, translated all the material into the local language, Dagbani. PCV Beth Davidson presented a session about the cost-benefit analysis of prevention vs. treatment, which helped the participants realize how serious of an issue malaria was in their communities and that easy prevention efforts could save lives and money.
In the afternoon, STOMPED attendees were briefed on the upcoming bed net registration and distribution. GHS officials encouraged participants to reach out and help their community health volunteers in preparing their villages for the nets. Each participant then practiced making neem cream and received neem start-up supplies and a modified version of the “Journey of Hope” malaria kit. Each village team partnered with a PCV to design a malaria outreach program specific to its community and presented their plan to the group. During one of the presentations, one team leader proudly announced, “We will be doing everything we learned today!”
Overall, the attendees found the workshop very informative, with the biggest revelations of the day as ‘malaria comes only from mosquitoes’. Participants left with the message that even though an ailment may have some typical malaria symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is malaria, so testing is important.
In the weeks following the first workshop, two of the five village teams hosted malaria prevention activities in their communities. The teams reported that the events went well and yielded positive results. PCV Jennifer Bryant mentioned that she witnessed one of the STOMPED participants, Safura Alidu, conducting malaria education home visits and selling neem lotion in a neighboring village. Jen was thrilled to learn this because her presence in the village was not premeditated. She described how he proudly displayed his education materials to her (which were propped up in his bicycle basket) and told her that he’d been teaching people about bed nets and covering water barrels throughout his village.
This STOMPED workshop was the pilot for the rest of the OMOA villages. The PCV/OMOA team plans to execute similar STOMPED workshops in subsequent zones (clusters of villages) throughout the rest of the year. Within the next few months, the team hopes to reach more 35 villages in four districts of the Northern Region and at least 100 more people. The STOMPED workshop is also serving as a model for the Ghana Malaria Team to use in trainings to be held throughout the country, whether at the community, district, or regional level.
Ghana Malaria Coordinator Beth Davidson claims, “Malaria education is a big task, but we know if we work together – PCVs, health officials and everyday people – we can accomplish something worthwhile, which is why our team motto is: Nubila yini ku pii kugili (One finger cannot lift a stone – a Dagbani proverb).”
-PCV Beth Davidson