CONTAINMENT

contain + eliminate = no parasite

Archive for May 2011

Mobilizing Communities Through Positive Deviance

leave a comment »

Members of the Buddhist clergy certainly have an important role to play in positive behaviour change when it comes to malaria prevention, writes CONTAINMENT’S Moeun Chhean Nariddh.

Malaria campaigners are increasingly using monks to help disseminate preventive messages. Pix by WHO/ Sonny Krishnan

In a spacious, yet unfinished dinning hall at Serey Mongkul Pagoda near the Cambodian-Thai border in Battambang Province, young and old villagers sing songs and play games with health workers and malaria experts at a handover ceremony, to local villagers, of a positive behaviour change communication project to fight malaria.

Men, women, boys and girls brave their usual shyness and stand up to answer quizzes and questions posted by communication and public health experts from Cambodia’s National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM) and the international NGO Malaria Consortium to test their knowledge and understanding about malaria.

In contrast with the mostly blue-collared polo T-shirts worn by staff from CNM, Malaria Consortium and community leaders, about half a dozen monks in saffron robes watch and listen with great attention to how the villagers answer the questions and quizzes.

In fact, these monks are here with a reason. In the campaign to fight malaria, Buddhist monks have been involved to help educate villagers about malaria and how to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne disease.

It is here that Malaria Consortium and CNM, with the support of the World Health Organization’s Containment Project, pioneered an innovative behaviour change communication strategy called ‘Positive Deviance’ or PD. Three villages, Kampong Chamlang Leu, Ploav Praim Muy and Samsep, selected for the study were from Sampov Loun, a district of Battambang province.

The PD approach initiates community dialogue, respects local wisdom and provides social proof by identifying positive practices from within the community which ensure acceptance and expedite the process of behavior change. It allows community members to be active beneficiaries, engaged as full partners to play a role in their own health and protection from malaria.

Venerable Pich Bunthoeun...a malaria champion in the community. Pix by WHO

“I preach Buddhism and teach people about malaria and dengue fever,” explains Venerable Pich Bunthoeun, the 45-year-old abbot of Serey Mongkul Pagoda. He adds: “The monks have a very important role to educate people about malaria.”

Venerable Buntheoun says people give more respect to the monks and will follow their advice when they tell them to do good things.

“When the monks say anything, people listen to them more than ordinary persons,” he says.

The abbot says he and other monks attended a three-day training seminar in Battambang province in April 2009 and learned various knowledge and skills on how people can prevent and get treatment for malaria.

The Venerable says he got enough knowledge to teach people and that people have also known a lot about the disease partly thanks to the teaching by the monks.

“I am happy that people and children have good health,” Venerable Bunthoeun says with a smile, adding that he hopes that he will continue the work to fight malaria.

Loch Yoeum, 60, says she has lived for 13 years in Komrieng District’s Takrey Commune, where Serey Mongkul Pagoda is located.

She says there used to be a lot of forests around these areas and that people were falling sick from malaria, including herself.

Yoeum says the monks have told people to clean the environment, sleep in mosquito nets and to wear long-sleeved shirts to avoid malaria.

“People are poor, so it will be more difficult if they get sick,” she explains.

The findings in Malaria Consortium’s report titled: “The ‘Positive Deviance’ approach to improve malaria outcomes among mobile and migrant workers in Cambodia” indicate that most of the community members and migrant workers believed that men especially mobile and migrant workers, ‘kamakor and kachport’, (corn collectors) are the high-risk group for malaria. The female mobile workers also noted that men are most vulnerable to get malaria as they work at night in the farm or forest.

The Malaria Consortium report, however, has several positive stories one of which is on a migrant worker’s wife.

“A migrant worker’s wife always pack a hammock net in her husband’s luggage, whenever he goes to the farm and reminds him, ‘Eing eing mon chol dek kom plech chang mong’ (Darling! Do not forget to use the bed‐net before you sleep to avoid malaria).”

Dr. Meas Tha, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM), says malaria experts and campaigners would involve the monks to help educate people during big festivals such as the World Malaria Day and other national holidays.

He says the monks are more influential and people think that when the monks tell them to do anything they mean to advise them to go along the right path for their happiness.

“The monks are the role model for people to follow,” he says.

Written by malariacontainment

May 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm