Engaging the Education Sector in STH Control

Tue, 2012-04-24 16:07 -- Eric Strunz

Kim Koporc at Joint Task Force Meeting Lao PDRHealth programs aimed at children are increasingly relying on the infrastructure and personnel at schools to carry out simple health interventions like deworming and hygiene education. This makes sense because teachers are often the most informed people to determine the best time of year to carry out mass drug administration campaigns and the types of messages that resound with students of various ages. At CWW, we recognize the enormous contributions the education sector can make to STH control efforts. For this reason, we examine ways to collaborate and strengthen partnerships with Ministries of Education and their equivalents in our program countries. CWW has additional plans for building bridges with the education sector in the coming years.

 

Around the world, health programs aimed at children increasingly use schools as their primary platform. Schools have the infrastructure and personnel that support carrying out simple health interventions like deworming alongside skills-based health education. In this way, they can serve as a base from which to expand interventions to the larger community.

Ministries of Education (MOEs) can also add valuable insight into operational issues such as the best time of year to carry out mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns and what messages are age-appropriate to disseminate at the various grade levels. Teachers also often have a relationship with the children and the larger community, which makes spreading the message community wide much easier. Therefore, Children Without Worms (CWW) will expand its collaboration with the education sector to promote comprehensive control of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH).

CWW recognizes the valuable contributions that the education sector can make to deworming efforts. For this reason, we have long focused on engaging MOEs or their equivalents in MDAs and integrated health programs to break the cycle of STH reinfection. Examples of past work in which we’ve engaged the education sector include:

  • Partnering with PAHO and the Izumi Foundation in Nicaragua to create health education materials that the country will incorporate in their national school deworming program. (See previous Quarterly Dose article on this topic)
  • Working with Helen Keller International and the Cambodian MOE to develop, pilot and roll out an STH education curriculum for schools in Cambodia. (See previous Quarterly Dose article on this topic)
  • Donating mebendazole to the Lao PDR Joint Task Force for School Health, an organization that is housed at the MOE and includes members from both health and education sectors. The Joint Task Force for School Health wields influence to develop and implement policies related to school health and nutrition. (See previous Quarterly Dose article on this topic)

We also plan to further strengthen collaboration between the health and education sectors. For example, to help ensure we incorporate the perspective of the education sector in our discussions, decisions and initiatives, CWW will include a representative from the education sector with experience in school-based deworming to serve as part of the STH Advisory Committee.

In addition, we will work more closely with MOEs in our program countries, getting their input into how to implement successful school-based STH control programs. Our Technical Assistance Workshops will provide MOHs and MOEs the opportunity to collaborate and strengthen their relationship. We will tap into the expertise of and strengthen our ties with those in the education sector.

CWW will also partner with other NGOs, like Fit for School to promote successful, sustainable and scalable integrated school health programs using evidence-based models. Fit for School is an integrated school health project piloted in the Philippines with support from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). The program, which is managed at the national level by the MOE, integrates a bi-annual school-based deworming schedule with daily skills-based activities like teeth brushing and hand washing to provide a comprehensive school-based health program. The Fit for School model will be expanded into Cambodia and Lao PDR in 2012, and CWW’s support of school-based deworming in these countries will provide opportunities for collaboration.

Finally, we will pursue partnering opportunities with multilateral global education initiatives like the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). GPE, a World Bank-supported initiative, is donating approximately $1 billion to countries in which education sector plans include school health and nutrition. Deworming programs are of interest to investors due to their relatively low cost and high returns, such as increased wages and hours worked, improved test scores and increased time spent in school. CWW will also explore engaging with the Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH) coalition. This organization includes WHO (www.who.int), the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, and other organizations that promote healthy school environments in which children have access to proper health, nutrition, water and sanitation services, along with skills-based health education. 

CWW will continue building on its long history of reaching out to engage the education sector. We understand and value the unique perspective and resources the sector provides to support successful STH control programs for school-age children.