Preventable infectious diseases are the primary cause of death of children under the age of 14, and children in low- and/or middle-income countries are particularly burdened by unmet health needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a framework for providing health promotion within school environments, but the implementation of comprehensive school health programs is difficult in low-income regions, particularly due to a lack of skilled and available health education providers. However, a study recently published in Pediatrics shows promising outcomes of using trained lay community members to provide school-based health education services in rural India.
The program was implemented in 22 primary schools in the Darjeeling Himalayas, 13 government schools and 9 low-cost private schools, and lasted for four years. Program activities involved health classes, school-based treatment, screening and facilitated referrals, infrastructure improvements, and modeling a positive psychosocial environment. Each school participating worked with a trained community member 1 day per week in order to provide health education and services.
Students involved in the intervention showed a 13 percent increase in health knowledge following the implementation of the program, and the incidence of diarrhea was reduced by 40 percent in the low-cost private schools. Additionally, qualitative assessments of the program by teachers, community members, parents, and students were overwhelmingly positive.
The next generation of the intervention will focus on mental health support services and an expanded geographic region.
Read more about the development of the intervention program and international nonprofit involvement.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on August 09