GHF2006 – PS09 – Community in Action for Health

Session Outline

Parallel session PS09, Thursday, August 31 2006, 11:00-12:30
Chair(s): Nicolaus Lorenz, Switzerland, Beat Stoll, Switzerland
Peer Education: Strategies of Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections; The Case of Nylon Health District in Douala, Cameroon 
Alphonse Um Boock, Regional Representative for Africa, Association aide aux lépreux, Emmaus, Switzerland 
Innovative Grassroots-level Initiative to Address the Challenges of Social Determinants of Health in Under-developed Areas in India
Alok Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India, New Delhi, India
Arising Awareness about HIV/AIDS and Coping Strategies in the NGO's Work: The Example of Memory Work at the Level of Aidsfocus, Switzerland 
Irene Bush, REPSSI, Regional Programme, Terre des hommes schweiz, Basel, Switzerland

Session Document

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Session Report

Submitted by: Stephanie Berry (ICVolunteers); Contributors: Dr Beat Stoll (UNIGE), Martin Elling (ICVolunteers), Jennie Hery-Jaona (ICVolunteers)

The Million Memory Project work serves as an instrument to help HIV positive patients to mature and gain strength. Image: Viola Krebs, ICVolontaires.org

The traditional top-down approach to development is widely criticised as being inappropriate to meet the needs of local populations, especially the very poor. In order to improve this situation, some development organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) favour approaches that integrate local communities in policy formation and implementation. Health, an important aspect of development, necessitates active involvement of the local population. The community remains the key actor in improving its own health standards and communicating its requirements to governments. The speakers A. Um Boock, A.N. Mukhopadhyay and I. Bush each provided examples of how health can be dealt with at the grass-root level.

Dr. A. Um Boock, Regional representative for ALES (Aide aux Lépreux Emmaüs-Suisse), kicked off the Symposium with a presentation focusing on Cameroon, a country particularly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the past, Cameroon experienced serious shortcomings in the management of the disease and sexual education. More recently, however, an innovative approach incorporating a "peer education" strategy to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease has been adopted. As Mr. Boock explained, part of the strategy involves setting up "clubs de santé" or also known as, interactive discussion groups. These groups target youths aged between 8 and 21 years old with the focus on improving HIV-prevention by reducing risk behaviour, determining the level of knowledge in the local community and engaging parents in sexual education. These groups seek to facilitate the exchange of information regarding sexual issues and to raise awareness through distribution of flyers and posters. The results of this initiative have been promising, particularly in delaying the onset of first sexual intercourse and reducing the frequency of sexual activity amongst youths. Equally important, the youths have been the most motivated group offering their own thoughts and views to the debate on HIV prevention.

Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), described how the reality of India is divided into "two cities", with 600 million people living in a thriving emerging economy, while another 400 million people have virtually no access to the corresponding benefits. Mr. Mukhopadhyay illustrated how VHAI endeavours to establish cooperation between the government and the local communities so as to promote economic and medical development through the KHOJ ('search' in Hindi) experiment. According to Mr. Mukhopadhyay, "Health is not everything, but everything is nothing without health". To sustain development, strengthening local health and development expertise as well as local community initiatives is vital. The KHOJ strategy has brought about successful improvements with its income generating programmes that focuses on sustainability. Notably, alliances have been built with farmer associations to improve food production and security, engineers to construct wells, and the government to provide more equity to minority groups. Mr. Mukhopadhyay well summarised the project's experience with a heartening quote: "Paths are made by walking".

Mrs. I. Bush, Terre Des Hommes Suisse, emphasised the importance of addressing the wider social well-being of affected groups. She provided an overview of the Million Memory Project that was initiated in 2003 which seeks to apply the method of Memory Work to 10 million HIV-affected children by 2010. This method involves simple actions such as "remembering, writing down and paying attention to people" to help affected people to overcome their tragic experiences that may include psycho-social problems, financial troubles and parents' disclosure of their HIV status to their children. Through this project, creativity is fostered within affected families and alliances are built with families concerned by HIV/AIDS to form new perspectives. The Million Memory Project work serves as an instrument to help HIV positive patients to mature and gain strength. Mrs. Bush urged the audience to practice the method of Memory Work so that they could experience the positive effects themselves.

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