This week I am in Ethiopia with Save the Children observing frontline health workers as well as the programs they implement for the betterment of their communities. An underlying theme I have taken away from this observational trip is that learning by modeling healthy behavior is key to ensuring sustainable health outcomes.
In a new program in Ethiopia called Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM), families in communities can be selected as “model families” to show the rest of the community the merits and benefits of healthy living. Some of the indicators that prove healthy living in rural Ethiopia are separation of the kitchen from the main house so no one inhales cookstove smoke, using a bed net to reduce the possibility of getting malaria, getting children fully immunized, and having a latrine to discourage public defecation that leads to death and disease.
We met a woman in Hawassa, Ethiopia who is the mother in a model family. She was extremely quiet, almost shy, but she was proud of having a model family and works hard to maintain it and her elevated status in the community.
In Africa and many parts of the developing world women’s kitchens are in their home so their family must inhale the thick smoke from their cookstoves. As a model family, they have a house for living and a house where they cook.
Here is the mother’s kitchen in the second home in her compound. Cooking without a clean cookstove or separate living quarters causes many ailments such as asthma, emphysema, cataracts, cancer, and heart disease according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
The use of a bed net reduces the risk of malaria. This is another reason this family was chosen as a model family by her health extension workers.
Furthermore, in a village that is declared “open defecation free” it is imperative for families to build their own latrines. Per government regulations they must be between 6 – 10 meters deep in order to keep bacteria and parasites from causing disease.
We met another “model family” mother today, but this time in the Remeda district. As the aforementioned mother, she has two homes in her compound; one for living and the other for cooking. She also has a latrine and uses bed nets. She was able to use the service of health workers when her youngest daughter was severely ill with pneumonia. Now she spreads the word to her friends in the community the benefits of using health post services.
To learn more about health workers visit Every Beat Matters, a new Save the Children campaign that seeks to reduce under five years of age mortality for children.