A program in Tanzania takes an insider’s approach to public health and advocacy, the Blog 4 Global Health reports. The program, in the Karatu district in Tanzania, works to improve public health by working within existing community structures.
The Minnesota International Health Volunteers Tanzania Child Survival Project, which is funded by USAID, trains locals to educate their peers and respond to health emergencies. The project seeks out those who are central to the Karatu community in different ways: traditional birth attendants and taxi drivers. The traditional birth attendants are trained to lead “Survive and Thrive” groups, which support single mothers and mothers-to-be by encouraging health, nutrition, good parenting, and emotional wellness. The program’s goal is to improve early childhood health and the health of women of childbearing age, and it does this by addressing “maternal newborn care, family planning, malaria, diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections.”
MIHV also trains taxi drivers to assist in both prevention and emergency response; since many drivers transport sick people to the hospital, they’re in a crucial position to offer help. But, as taxi drivers, they’re also in a crucial position to reach people who aren’t sick, which is why MIHV decided to make drivers health ambassadors—teaching them how to talk to their passengers and neighbors about good health practices, including HIV prevention, and even having them distribute condoms.
By using the peer-to-peer model, MIHV avoids, or at least reduces, public health obstacles that arise when there’s a culture clash. MIHV’s approach shows respect for the community it serves, and it helps silence the anti-choice criticism of international health work—that women in other countries don’t want access to contraception, that they don’t want to be empowered. In a program like the Tanzania Child Survival Project, the demand for health care is irrefutable, because the locals are delivering the care themselves.
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