By Luke Campanella
Alisa Langford is a Peace Corps Volunteer located in the Western Region of Ghana. In April, 2012, she was sworn-in as a health volunteer and has dedicated her service to the fight against malaria. Before she even had a chance to settle in at her new home, she participated in World Malaria Day and helped teach people at a lorry station how to hang and mend insecticide- treated nets (ITNs).
During the first few weeks at site, Alisa and her counterpart, Osei Nkuah Jonas did a lot
of “house to house” education throughout their community. For four weeks, they went through the community twice a week inquiring whether the households were using the ITNs recently distributed by Ghana Health Service. If needed, they provided education about the importance of using a net and showed the household how to hang the net. They educated about fifty households, about 400 community members, and hung ten nets. This is roughly 20% of their community’s population.
Alisa and Osei vary their education efforts in order to avoid information fatigue. Therefore, after a period of discussing other health issues, they revisited malaria education beginning five weeks ago. Currently, they visit approximately four households each week to discuss malaria prevention using a BCS (Behavior Change Support) malaria flip book. They’ve touched about 100 people with this effort.
Alisa and Osei also held a community durbar (community meeting) a couple months ago where they utilized the Participatory Analysis Community Action (PACA) Tools to create a community map and conduct a needs assessment. Roughly 150 community members, including the elders attended the meeting. Alisa facilitated the meeting with the help of Osei who also translated into the local language of Sefwi. The community cited malaria as the biggest health problem and 15 people (men and women) stepped forward to participate in a new community health club, which was the intended outcome of the meeting. The purpose of the health club was to have a designated group of people to address the health concerns of the community. Alisa and Osei wanted more people on their side to help with health education and the organization of community labor to build a local clinic.
The community health club is quite vigilant about meeting regularly and has taken malaria prevention as their number one priority for an entire month. Alisa and Osei have shown up to every bi-monthly meeting as advisors and facilitators. They want to ensure their efforts are coordinated with those of the health club. They decided not to take official roles to help promote sustainability but they educate the members on health topics such as malaria, sanitation, and family planning.
Within these efforts, the health club members are walking around the community and instructing households to clean up mosquito breeding grounds, including uncovered water, weeds, etc. The first week they spoke with homeowners, and the subsequent two weeks they conducted follow up efforts. Alisa states “I’m impressed with their independence and dedication and am hopeful it will be sustainable.”
Alisa and Osei hope to continue with the house-to-house education, but plan to revamp the information provided to keep people interested. None of the information seems new to anyone, so they are currently focusing on ways to trigger behavioral change. On September 7, Alisa will present the importance of malaria prevention / signs of malaria to the women at the local baby weighing. Isabella, the nurse from Suiano clinic travels to the community once a month to hold the baby weighing. There are usually about 50 women present.
She will also conduct SHEP lessons to the JHS students and hopes to trigger them to teach the primary students through a newly-formed health club. Alisa is also working with a popular Sefwi radio DJ to make announcements during his set to sleep under a mosquito net every night. She mentions “he promised he would but I have no idea if he did!” She plans on following up soon with the DJ.